XI – The Battlefront


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TOC: Prologue | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11

“How go your preparations?” Tovorash said to the gang leader.

“The wall is coming along nicely, Master, but we will need a few more days at the very least. Our men our tired, and the mortar does not dry quickly enough. If the flamewarden was here to help us…”

“You’ve told me that before, Geof, but Marthulus cannot just run around at the whim of gang workers to help them dry their mortar. A few days is not good enough. The Vith will troops will arrive before then. Will you be able to go faster if I leant you some of my soldiers?”

The gang leader seemed to take offense. “My men are the best, Master. Your soldiers would merely get in the way. If a few days is not satisfying to you, I’m afraid there is not much more we can do.”

Tovorash sighed. Since the war, he’d had to leave his position as bodyguard to the Everking and return to his own lands which were at the border of the kingdom. How had the blasted Flamelord of Vithr known to attack them at this time? He had no intel on their weaknesses, yet he always seemed to know where they were. There had to be someone on the inside feeding him information, but Tovorash could not imagine how costly it would be to try to find said person.

The knight-guardian still did not understand what had happened in Vithr. It had just all come so quickly. The succession, the growing tensions, then suddenly the announcement that the Asythians were suspected of having sent the assassin in the first place?

“Master?” the gang leader interrupted Tovorash’s thoughts. “Are you done with me? I have a wall to build.”

“Yes, yes,” Tovorash waved tiredly. “Do your best. If it comes down to it, I will have my men try to distract the Vith advance.”

“As you say, Master,” the gang leader said, bowing and exiting the war-tent.

As the man left, a woman, a straight stick in her hand, entered, tapping the ground in front of her. For a moment, Tovorash was surprised at her strange behavior, but when he looked at her face and saw her eyes, everything was clarified.

“What do you want—”

“Evermistress,” she offered with a slight smile.

“Pardon me,” Tovorash said, getting to his feet and touching each of his shoulders in respect. He instantly felt ridiculous doing so, realizing she could not see it.

“Sit back down, Tovorash,” the strange woman said with familiarity.

The knight-guardian did as he was told, but studied her face in the meantime. Despite her disability, she was quite striking, and her features carried with them a sharp beauty.

“What is the purpose of your visit, Evermistress? I don’t recall being notified that someone of your rank would be arriving. As I’m sure you are well aware, Vith troops are nearly upon us.”

“There are few that know of my visit, Tovorash,” she said, seating herself as well. How did she know there was a chair there? “And you are correct in assuming my knowledge of your predicament. I am here to offer you my assistance.”

Internally, Tovorash groaned. Another courtier believing they could help him with their political intrigue.

“I’m sorry, Evermistress, but unless you can conjure up more gang workers for me, I am afraid there is not much you can do to help.”

She smiled and leaned back in her chair. “You judge me by my title and by the fact that I cannot see. But let me tell you, Tovorash, that this blind woman can see better than you can.”

Tovorash groaned internally again. A crazy courtier.

“I am sure you have the best intentions, Evermistress, but as I said before, we need more manpower. I don’t think I understand what you mean by seeing.”

“How do the Vith know where to attack? How do they know where our weaknesses are?”

“There must be an informant or a spy, no doubt.”

“And this informant is giving their armies sight, albeit a different kind of sight, but sight nonetheless.”

“Are you offering me spies?” Tovorash exclaimed in disgust, rising to his feet. “There is no honor in underhanded means and deceit.”

“No. I am offering you sight,” the woman said quietly. “Sit back down.”

Instantly realizing his mistake, the knight-guardian quelled his outburst and sat back down. “I thank you for your offer, Evermistress, but I must decline.”

“As you say, Tovorash, but I will tell you this: The commander of the approaching Vith army keeps his palanquin in the rear right corner of his army. Cut off the head of the serpent, and the body will writhe around helplessly.”

Rising, the woman turned, her intricately tied hair cascading over her shoulders, and left, her guide stick tapping gently on the ground.

Tovorash sat back in his chair, silently brooding. Whoever she was, she had intelligence and was not some simple courtier. This concerned him. The stupid ones he could deal with, but he was not a man given to political intrigue and subterfuge. If he got on the wrong side of someone like her… he feared the worst.

She had given him valuable information, even though he hadn’t asked for it. The rear right corner of his army…. It wouldn’t be difficult to send a band of his best-trained men around to flank them and capture their commander. That would throw the rest of their army into chaos, which might force a retreat.

It was decided. He summoned his elite captain and informed him of the new plan. The man listened quietly and nodded, before making a few suggestions, which Tovorash took into account. He may have been the leader, but this captain had a certain knack for strategy that sometimes left Tovorash feeling dumb.

The battle went exactly as planned. The Vith army broke the instant their commander went down, and Tovorash had the satisfaction of watching his own men stand firm and advance in an orderly manner that left nothing wanting.

It wasn’t until he had returned to his tent that Tovorash realized he would have to thank the courtier who had given him the information. He sighed. It still rubbed against his honor slightly that he had used information that she had most likely gained through undercover means. The knight-guardian was honorable to a fault, and he could not imagine stooping low enough to send out spies.

With a grunt, Tovorash stood up, grabbed his battle hammer, and headed outside. Asking for directions turned out to be fruitless, as few had taken notice of the humble-looking blind woman and her small retinue when they entered the camp. After almost an hour of searching, Tovorash finally found something of note. The courtier had been seen just on the east fringe of the camp earlier that day.

When Tovorash arrived, the watch told him that she had spent some time moving back and forth along the east side, as if looking for something, but had then abruptly turned and left when their battle had started. They informed him that she had headed to the nearest town, which was an hour-long walk across the border into Vithr.

At this point, Tovorash considered giving up. She probably didn’t even care whether or not the battle had gone well, and if he told her that her information had helped, he would most likely have to fight her again over not accepting her league of spies. Beyond that, she seemed like a crazy courtier anyway. Regardless of whether or not she had appeared intelligent before, Tovorash had never met someone of her rank who walked everywhere. Beyond that she had spent the afternoon pacing outside of his camp?

But honor eventually won Tovorash over, and telling his men to continue keeping a sharp watch, the knight-guardian headed out towards the town.

The sun had fallen low on the horizon by the time he arrived. Dirty-faced children fled as Tovorash walked boldly into the town. He knew there would be no garrison here after the battle that had just transpired. Farmers stared grimly at the knight-guardian who did his best to ignore the attention while also trying to find the woman he’d come to find.

In the end, she found him.

“I thought you might follow me, Tovorash,” a strong, clear voice rang out from behind him.

He turned, surprised that she’d snuck up on him.

“I came to offer you my thanks for your assistance. The battle went smoothly due to your information.”

“Sight, Tovorash. It was sight.” She smiled.

Before the situation had a chance to become awkward, both Tovorash and the strange woman sensed a shift in the air, and they tensed. In the tense seconds that followed, Tovorash scanned their surroundings, taking in any possible hiding places.

There was a tall bush nearby that offered substantial cover for potential attackers. The corner of a cottage six cords away could hide four or five men. Tovorash glanced briefly at the gap between a nearby tree and the cottage, but looked past it, telling himself that it was too open for attack.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, a shadow moved. He turned, instinctively raising his hammer. There was a clang of metal on metal as he blocked the attack, but he saw no one. He groaned.

Of course the attacker had to be invisible.

Tours yruly

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VII – The Enigmatic Enomatic [Eternity: P1]


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TOC: Prologue | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11

Everybody in the courtroom murmured and whispered excitedly. Tovorash did not really understand what the fuss was about. Sure, an Enomatic had not been summoned by the Everking for over seven hundred years, but that was no cause for such an uproar. Even the king himself seemed a little annoyed at the fuss that everyone was making.

As if they had all come to some agreement beforehand, everybody fell silent as the large doors swung open. In, first, came the messenger. Tovorash recognized her instantly as Evelle. He did not know everybody by name, but female couriers were few and far between, and she had caught his eye a long time ago due to her unwavering dedication to her task and her straightforward loyalty.

Following the messenger, in simple robes, was the Enomatic. For some reason, he did not ring rightly with Tovorash’s impression of these recluses. Rather than bearing the haughty soberness that one would have expected, this Enomatic seemed to carry with him an air of mischief, and despite the simple garb, he strode with the bearing of a king.

Evelle moved forward quickly, as the cleric paused, waiting for her to announce him. Bowing deeply before the Everking, Evelle waited for his permission to speak.

When he nodded, she stood and proclaimed, “Your Everness and your Dawnesses, I present the Enomatic.”

She moved aside as the cloaked man stepped forward. He threw back his hood, and Tovorash caught a glint in the man’s eye that spoke of a sly intelligence. The Enomatic bowed deeply, but when he righted himself and looked the Everking directly in the eye, Tovorash could not decide if he was bold or stupid.

“What is your name, priest?” the Everking asked.

“Time, your Everness. Justin Time, and just in time, as I have heard.”

There was an awkward pause, before the Everking spoke again. “You know why you are here, I assume?”

“I am here because the Everking wished for an Enomatic, and as I was the only Enomatic available, I have come.”

“But you know of— the incident?”

“Yes, of course. The terrible apparition in the court that everyone hears rumors about, made even more notorious by the flamewarden’s inability to pronounce anything definitive about it.”

This comment sent murmurs through the crowd, and Tovorash could almost feel the tension on his weathered skin.

“Well, smart-mouthed Justin. Why don’t you see if you can tell us anything about the situation.”

“As you wish, your Everness,” the Enomatic said, bowing deeply. “I shall need to talk with anyone present during the incident, but most importantly I will need to talk with your bodyguard.”

Tovorash did not like that one bit. Things had been unsettled enough of late without him having to leave the king for an interview that could take hours, but when the Everking nodded and motioned Tovorash to follow the Enomatic, the bodyguard had no choice.

As the two men left the courtroom, Justin said, “Don’t worry, I will not take much of your time from your precious Everking.”

“He is your king too,” Tovorash said hotly, drawing some attention.

“The Enomatics serve no one,” Justin declared serenely.

The bodyguard grunted disdainfully. “Some Enomatic you are. I heard that you monks are supposed to be meek and submissive.”

“And I heard that you bodyguards are supposed to be discrete and self-controlled.”

This silenced Tovorash, but as they continued walking with Justin showing no signs of asking questions, the bodyguard found himself forced to speak again.

“You said you would not take up much of my time?”

Instead of answering the question, the Enomatic pointed at the sun. “The wanderer Shustyn once said, ‘Time is an illusion, a figment of our minds created to understand change, because we cannot conceive of change without time.’ His friend then pointed to the sun and replied, ‘You say that, but I see for myself that the sun moves.’ Who do you think was right?”

The knight-guardian was about to reply irritably, but the Enomatic held up his hand. “Please, humor me.”

Tovorash paused for a moment to think. He didn’t know why he did so. Maybe it was because the Everking’s recent philosophical reflections had grown on him. When he answered, though, he surprised even himself.

“I don’t think either of them were right. Time is not an illusion, but the sun’s motion was not proof that there is time. There are things that supersede time, however. Great works of writing for example; we call them timeless.”

Justin looked at the bodyguard expectantly. For a second, Tovorash was confused. Then it clicked.

“Timeless! The timeless! Wait. You’re saying that books are what that message was about?”

The Enomatic rolled his eyes. “No, of course not. But it is about something that is beyond time. Whatever ‘the timeless’ is, it is beyond our human parameters. And that is very concerning.”

Tovorash’s expression tightened. “And the messenger said that they were returning, which means they’ve been here before.”

“Excellent!” Justin said applaudingly. “We will make a detective out of you yet.”

The bodyguard just glared.

Tours yruly

II – Courtly Matters [Eternity: P1]


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TOC: Prologue | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11

“What shall I do with all my burdens, Tovorash?” the Everking of Asyther said to the armored man standing a respectful distance behind him.

“Let me help you bear them, Everness. I am capable, and you know where my honor lies, unlike some of the others in court.”

“And it is that very honor that helps me discern between good and evil, my friend. Though I think you fear the court too much,” the regent said with a smile. “But this is also why I cannot allow you to bear my burden.”

The two men stood in silence for a while.

“It’s a Northwind, Everness,” Tovorash Ablenar, knight-guardian of the Third Order, said quietly, watching the vicious light on the horizon.

“Yes,” the regent replied, eyes saddening. “It is.” He turned to his bodyguard abruptly. “Tell me, Tovorash, do you think me a man of honor?”

The knight answered without hesitation. “Of course, Everness.”

“But I have made some poor decisions in the past, yes?”

Tovorash was slower in his reply. “They seemed best at the time, Everness.”

“But those decisions hurt my people, did they not?”

For a moment, the man was silent, then he answered quietly, “They did, Everness.”

“And I knew they would, did I not?”

Uncomfortably, Tovorash agreed.

“And yet I made the decision. How can I be a man of honor if I deliberately do things that hurt other people?”

For a while, the two men were silent. Then the bodyguard spoke. “Sometimes, Everness, others have to suffer for the greater good. If soldiers were not willing to give their lives for the cause, the whole country could fall to external invasions.”

“And if the people are not willing? What then?”

Tovorash was silent. Instead, he watched the ruler. The knight may not have been a philosopher, but he was observant. He saw in the Everking’s profile a strong, kind man, but he also saw a man hardened by the reality of ruling, steeled against adverse consequences, but most of all, determined to do the right thing. That latter quality had gained a lot of respect from the bodyguard of late.

“Come, my friend,” the Everking said at last. “It is time I faced my demons.”

Following the regent, Tovorash kept his hand on the hilt of his battle-hammer, eyes watchful for any potential sources of danger. While he left political battles to his superior, the knight took his job very seriously, sometimes even too seriously for his employer.

When the monarch sat in his high-backed, ornate throne, Tovorash took his place to the left and slightly behind the Everking. This position was chosen quite deliberately by the bodyguard, who, knowing his right hand was faster than his left, understood that were someone to fire a projectile at his charge, he would have a greater chance of saving the regent by throwing his right arm in front of the Everking.

Marthulus, the resident flamewarden, entered. Tovorash eyed him suspiciously as he stood in the center of the room. Closing his eyes, the flamewarden breathed deeply in and folded his hands together. Exhaling sharply, he threw his arms out to his sides. Torches lit themselves all throughout the room with real fire, something only seen in the highest of places, such as the Everking’s palace. Nobody except those who cast glyphs could control fire, and only flamewardens were legally allowed to use it.

Tovorash did not care much for mystics and their glyphs and glyphcasting, but he could not deny the power Marthulus had to possess to simply create fire. Something inside the bodyguard itched at the thought, but he suppressed the feeling and eyed the main doors as two palace guards swung them open. For a moment, the nagging thought returned as the bodyguard watched the doors swing open. What exactly was it? He glanced around the room for Marthulus; the flamewarden was gone.

As the earliest arrivals started filing into the court, the bodyguard once again suppressed his instincts and focused on his task. He barely glanced at the two puffy lords who sought audience with the Everking first; the only threat they posed was damaging the furniture by throwing up on it. The next dignitary, a slim, haughty man from the Havnar Province in the west had the guardian’s attention for a while, but was eventually dismissed as harmless.

However, when Tovorash saw a man caked with mud and dirt dash in and demand an audience with the Everking from a guard, he tightened his hold on the intricately carved grip of his weapon. One of the guards held the distraught man back while the other moved up and whispered something to one of the Everking’s advisors. The advisor then relayed the message to the regent himself, who tightened his lips upon hearing the news.

Tovorash heard a commotion at the door and mentally cursed himself for getting distracted. The messenger had suddenly broken free from the guard and now rushed towards the throne. Quickly unhooking his hammer from his belt, the bodyguard positioned himself in front of the Everking.

As the messenger rushed forward, the knight-guardian subconsciously took in details about the man. He was thin and wiry, built for running, as most messengers were. On his chest was the Vith royal insignia, and he wore a modified version of the tri-folded robe popular in Vith culture. However, what concerned Tovorash the most was the man’s face. Something about the way the man looked gave Tovorash the impression that the messenger had lost his mind.

The knight-guardian did not quite understand what was going on, and he did not want to have to hit the scrawny man with his hammer, but Tovorash stood prepared to do whatever was necessary. He held his large weapon in an opposing grip, dominant leg behind him, with exactly two thirds of his weight on it— a classic Hamdel defensive stance

However, the messenger tripped and fell before he could reach the throne. He landed face first and instantly went limp. Everybody in the court room fell silent as the guards cautiously approached the prostrate man. Tovorash felt sweat from his hands dampen his gloves, and his face hardened as he went on full alert. This smelled very much like an assassination attempt to him.

Instinct told him to survey the rest of the room. This would be the opportune moment for the real killer to strike, while everybody’s attention was focused on the decoy. Well, he would not be so easily fooled. Shadows, cast by the firelight of the torches, seemed to dash in and out of alcoves and corridors, making Tovorash scan the area frantically.

A collective gasp echoed around the courtroom, and the bodyguard cast a glance back at the body of the messenger. One of the guards had flipped the messenger over and Tovorash barely stifled an exclamation himself. The man was— glowing.

No, his face was glowing. Light poured from his eye sockets, nose, and mouth like vapor; it flowed as if it had a life of its own, spilling out onto the floor and pooling around the man. Tovorash did not know what to make of this. Nobody had seen phenomena like this since— the man didn’t know if anyone had ever witnessed something like this.

“What is it?” the king demanded, rising from his throne and pushing past his guard, who had been blocking the ruler’s line of sight.

Before the knight could stop him, the king had already reached the circle of guards and seen the messenger. For a moment he stared, then he turned away pale and stumbled back towards Tovorash, who hurried forward to support him.

Without warning, the messenger’s body rose from the ground as a strong wind burst in through the doors, slamming them against the walls of the palace. Suspended in the air, the body turned slowly to face the Everking. Tovorash shoved his charge behind his bulky body as he prepared to deal with the imminent threat. The body floated for a few seconds, before light beams erupted from its face, blinding everybody for a second.

In the excess of light, they all heard a loud voice, too resonant to be human, thundering, “The Rebirth comes. That which is timeless will return. See to the necessary preparations.”

When Tovorash had finally recovered his vision, a corpse lay on the ground, limbs twisted, body wasted.

Tours yruly