The Scrolls of Icaria by Jamie
Book 2 – 'War of the Angels'
Part I - The Golden Orb
Stepping out of the gate and back into the Hall of Heroes, the first thing I noticed was Charles standing at some distance from Ga’dhat and Ga’tann. In his arms he cradled a glowing sphere – the Orb of the Unicorn, the orb of healing and pain. He looked pale, and his expression was unreadable. Ga’dhat and Ga’tann stood quietly, but eyed him intently. If they were communicating with each other at all, it was only within the confines of their minds. As soon as they saw Charlie and I, they grunted and strode across the hall to stand next to us.
“He’s ready to go,” I told the two Ghröum.
Grunting once more, they spoke into my mind, assuring me they would keep him safe.
"It’s probably best if you go to the Cliff of Swords,” I said to the dusky-skinned Ghröum, who towered over me like two living mountains. “I think he’ll be safe there.” Then, though I knew the comments it would garner me, I couldn't help but rather plaintively add, “You will take good care of him?”
The looks I received from Ga’dhat and Ga’tann’s flashing red eyes would have burned holes through the steel plated hull of a battle hov. The thoughts they directed at me caused me to blush.
“He's my brother,” I said defensively. “I know you’re perfectly competent to look after him. Please, just make sure he doesn’t get into any trouble.”
That remark earned me a sharp look from Charlie. Ignoring it, I continued. “You have everything from the cryo unit?
“We’ve recovered it all,” Ga’tann replied in thought and gestured toward the floor.
It was only then that I noticed a small pile of objects piled on the floor near the mirror, including Charlie’s heraldic banner.
“Good, take it all with you.”
Turning to Charlie, I wrapped my arms around him and hugged him for a long time. Releasing him from my embrace, I stepped back to get one final look at him, knowing that saying goodbye and allowing him out of my sight would be very difficult. I fought the temptation to take him with me, knowing that what I was doing was right.
“Remember Charlie, you are a de Valèn, and a prince of the Blood. No matter what happens to me, there will still be important work to be done, and you must be the one to do it. I’ll expect you to keep practicing.” Then, turning to Ga’dhat and Ga’tann, I added, “He’s not allowed to slacken, and you’re not allowed to coddle him. I know you both, and it won’t do us any good if he’s not prepared to step into my place should something happen. Don’t let those beautiful green eyes seduce you,” I added, with a slight smile. “Is everyone in agreement on this?”
Ga’dhat and Ga’tann gave low growls as their oaths of assent flowed into my mind. Giving me a serious and solemn look, Charlie nodded his head. “Javer vot lossa morata,” he said, almost in a whisper.
“That’s right, Charlie, we will serve until we die. It’s both our motto and our destiny. We owe that much to Father, and to Castor. We owe it to the Kalorians of Isewier, to the Ghröum, and to all of those who sacrificed everything so we could stand here together, now. One tyrant is dead, but the war is far from over.” I paused, and closed my eyes. “I’m sorry, Charlie. I’ve been lecturing you and I don’t mean to.”
“I know, Jam,” Charlie said, looking down at the floor. After a moment of silence, he quietly added, “I know it's just your way of keeping me here with you a little longer.”
“How well you know me, little brother. You’re right, of course. When you walk through that mirror, I can't be sure when - or even if - I’ll see you again, and it hurts so much to see you go.
“Same here,” Charlie said in a low, choked voice.
“Enough,” I said, my voice rising to almost a shout and echoing through the Hall of Heroes. “Time for the three of you to go.”
With all of us, save Charles, standing before the Mirror Gate, I quickly did another incantation before I changed my mind, and the reflective mirror turned to a glowing, shimmering curtain of light.
“I wish you success.” Ga’dhat's thoughts touched me as he lay a massive hand on my shoulder. Reaching down he took some of the things that had been in Charlie’s cryo unit and then, turning away, he vanished into the gate.
Before Charlie stepped through, I plucked Spinoza off my shoulder and, with his snout a mere inch from the end of my nose, stared into his golden eyes. “You still have a job to do,” I said solemnly, as the garga lizard's forked tongue flicked out and tickled my nose. “You’ve taken good care of him so far, so keep up the good work. When this is over you can be with me again, ok?” The little lizard twitched his tail and I pulled my head back to avoid being slapped in the face by it. Giving me an akkk! of understanding, he began to flap his stubby wings. I tossed him in Charlie’s direction and, bobbing and weaving like a reveler who’d consumed too much wine, he flew to Charlie’s shoulder. Just as Charlie was ready to step through the mirror, I laid my hand on his shoulder, stopping him. With a lump in my throat, I pulled him into my arms, hugging him fiercely one more time.
“No matter what happens, stay with Ga’dhat and Ga’tann,” I said into his ear, my voice a little ragged. “They’ll protect you. Just make sure you do whatever they tell you… and practice.”
“I’ll be fine, Jam,” he said, hugging me back with all his might. “And I will practice, but you’re the one who’d best be careful.” Breaking our embrace he looked at me and smiled. “I never thought I’d be the brother of the sa’Crêsmané.”
“Just remember, little brother, your day will come.”
Giving me a grimace, he kissed me goodbye, took the banner Ga’tann handed him, then turned and disappeared through the mirror. The last to leave was Ga’tann. As he stepped up to the mirror, I gently placed my hand on his massive arm. Cocking his head, he looked down at me and grunted.
“You know what to do if I don’t succeed…” I said, but I was unable to continue as he picked me up in his arms and gave me a crushing hug.
Mentally scolding me for my negative thoughts, he set me down and his large hand stroked my head. Then he walked through the mirror and was gone. A few seconds later the mirror returned to normal, and I stood there for a moment, staring at my reflection, feeling slightly empty and very tired. Reaching up, I brushed back the shock of hair that always seemed to fall over my eyes – now made even more unruly by Ga’tann's last, rough caress. Finally, with a sigh, I moved away from the mirror – it was time to finish my business on Ajax.
Turning around, I walked across the Hall of Heroes until I faced Charles, who stood and watched me without comment. The beautiful, white orb in his hands looked like a giant, glowing pearl, and its hum was soft and steady. I’d placed it with Charlie, hoping that the security measures I'd put in place to protect him would keep this last orb safe as well.
For at least a minute I stared at Charles, neither of us saying anything. Finally, after taking a deep breath, I nodded to him.
“I’m ready, Charles,” I said resolutely. “Do it.”
Without comment, Charles lifted the pulsing white orb and tossed it toward me. I stepped out of the way and watched as it smashed to pieces on the almand floor. The plasma it contained coalesced into a ball, then rose high into the air above my head. Pausing for only an instant, it came at me like an arrow and entered my chest. The comforting warmth that flowed through my body calmed my fears and eased my anxiety. The Orb of the Unicorn – the most special of all the orbs – worked its way through my body, and soothed my troubled spirit. Minutes later, I stood strong and refreshed.
Looking across the Hall of Heroes, I saw Charles backing away from me and already halfway across the wide space, but I would have none of it. With a thought, I pinned his arms and legs, stopping him. I walked slowly toward him, stopping only when I stood a few feet in front of him. He was pale and breathing rapidly, but he remained calm and made no effort to escape the force that bound him.
“You always knew that if I got my memories back, this moment would come,” I said, in a voice far calmer than I expected.
He continued to look at me, choosing to remain silent, but slowly nodded his head.
“But I do have them now, thanks to my planning and Charlie’s Talent.”
“I know, sa’Crêsmané,” Charles quietly said.
“That title is unnecessary,” I said. “And besides, coming from your lips it sounds more like blasphemy, and mocks all Niklas and I have worked for.”
“Then should I call Your Royal Highness na’Sonobus, since you are the head of House de Valèn? Or maybe General de Valèn?”
Gazing at his familiar face, my head was full of contradicting thoughts and emotions, but no matter how I felt, I was sa’Crêsmané. It was something I couldn’t deny or escape. I’d made my promises and pledges – if somewhat reluctantly and doubtfully – to the Icarian Shadow Council. And now, every one of those who'd received my pledges was dead – murdered by the Empire, with the help of the dreaded Sh’ônfenn, the Hidden Talon. They'd been the hand of the Emperor among us, his dagger laid against our throats.
Now only a few feet from Charles, I stopped, and stared intently at him. For the longest time, neither of us said a word. Finally, it was I who broke the silence.
“Charles Roegier, ühn•ki’sh’onfenn of the Sh’ônfenn," I said slowly, speaking more to myself than to him. "Renaud refused to tell me anything when I asked. He told me I’d remember after Charlie returned my memories, and he assured me that even if we weren’t successful, he’d give me an explanation – but that’s all unnecessary now. I do have my memories, and so much is now clear. You were the real reason my protector left Eagles Rock after he was resurrected. When he saw you with us, he chose to remain in the shadows and watch. But then, there’s no one alive other than Renaud, Niklas, and me who has a complete understanding of the Sh’ônfenn – except maybe you,” I added sarcastically, turning my attention back to him. “Now it makes perfect sense to me why Damian was always agitated in your presence. I remember everything that happened. How brave he was… and how much he suffered.”
Looking at him, I shook my head in disbelief. “All this time you’ve been with us, seeing everything, hearing everything. You accepted our trust and belief in you, and never said a word. All the stories, all the lies, and all those horrible and dreadful things that happened so long ago: the plots wrapped in subterfuge, bound together with falsehood, misdirection, and innuendo as only the Sh’ônfenn could so skillfully do.
“Now, Charles Roegier, ühn•ki’sh’onfenn of the Sh’ônfenn,” I said without any emotion as I gave him a cold, unblinking stare, “give me one good reason why I shouldn’t avenge ten thousand deaths right now. Tell me, why I shouldn’t kill you on the very spot where you stand?”