The Scrolls of Icaria by Jamie
Part III – The Alliance
Silence hung in the air as thick as the heavy velvet wall hangings that framed either side of the doors behind the bench. I looked at Nic, then at Charles. Finally I stepped forward, took a deep breath, and looked up at the men towering above me, seated at the high bench.
“My Lords, I am James, Wizard of Icaria…”
But a member of the High Council immediately interrupted me.
“What is this Icaria? I’ve never heard of it,” he said, as most of the others murmured or nodded their heads in agreement.
“Well, it’s our kingdom, and…” Once again, another member of the council interrupted me.
“There is no such kingdom in any of our records.”
“But if you would just let me explain…” I tried to continue.
As if unaware that I’d spoken, the Council members summarily cut off my comments.
“I don’t know why we’re wasting our time with these monsters,” another member of the council said with an angry tone in his voice. “After the damage and destruction they’ve caused, they should be executed immediately.”
This was going badly. I looked over to Charles who was staring at the floor, frowning and shaking his head at every word I said. Suddenly one of the seated figures, sitting immediately to the right of the man with the skullcap, stood. He had glossy, black hair that came to his shoulders and was wearing a long, flowing robe. In his left hand he held a staff, and on his head was some type of diadem.
“My Lord Ottavia,” he bowed toward the man to his left, “may I have your permission to address the counsel?”
“Or course, Artus,” Ottavia said. “This one claims to be a wizard, and since you are the most powerful mage in the five kingdoms, perhaps it would be best if you dealt with him.”
“Thank you, my lord,” Artus smiled, and once more bowed toward the man he’d addressed as Lord Ottavia. Then he turned to me and his smile was replaced by a smug smirk.
Nic glared at the man with a steady, unblinking stare, and I was surprised to see my mate looking very much like a viper ready to strike. From the corner of my eye I could see Lance casually resting his hand on the hilt of his sword, and the twins openly reached for their daggers, making no attempt to hide their intentions.
“So, you’re a wizard?” the man called Artus said. “You seem to me more like an insolent little boy with wings. In fact, you all look like something that the alchemist Dross conjured up after a night of drunken revelry.” For effect, he turned and smiled at the members of the council, who all joined him in a laugh.
“I am of the Farzetti line,” Artus continued, “and our ancestry traces back to the ancient ones. Our numbers are few – even from of old. Our abilities are not something liberally passed from one generation to the next. So to come here and claim special skills and powers was a big mistake. You might fool an ignorant band of peasants, but you drew an unlucky card when you came here. If anyone can smell a rat it is I, and I perceive a great deception.”
“I am a wizard, my Lord,’ I said, gritting my teeth as I felt my face flush with both anger and self-conscious embarrassment at his little joke.
“I would think ‘Wizard of Nightmares’ would be more appropriate,” Artus continued, once more giving me a mocking grin. “May I point out to you that a wizard is one highly schooled in the arts of magic and the supernatural… not a little boy with wings created by some drunken alchemist.”
The members of the council were now laughing harder. Although I hadn’t thought it possible, Charles hung his head even lower. Nic was red faced, and I was feeling like a fool.
“But…” I began.
“Be silent, little devil,” Artus continued, suddenly stern. “The sacred texts warn us about such creatures as you, and although our representative from The Holy Office is not here at the moment, it is clear that the old prophesies, which some have doubted and called into question, are in fact true.”
At this, Artus drew himself up and from where I stood, it appeared that he was looking at one or two specific members of the council, whom I noticed made furtive eye contact with him and then hung their heads as if in shame.
“Apparently the teachings of The Holy Office, and their warnings, are to be taken seriously,” he said, once more pausing for effect and slowly passing his eyes over the membership of the council. “I don’t think the council needs to waste any more of its time on these creatures; prison will be an appropriate place for them. There they can be questioned, then placed in the hands of The Holy Office and dealt with as the demons they are.”
The rest of the council shifted in their seats, and the others in the room who’d been surrounding our little group eyed us uneasily.
“Wizard indeed,” Artus added with a sneer, and sniffed as he looked down at me in contempt.
By now the laughter had stopped, and most of the members of the High Council were peering down on us with either scowls of disapproval or looks of anger.
Artus continued, “For almost a year we have been warned that there have been sightings of creatures like these. In some cases they were reported to have caused destruction, and even death. For lack of any definite proof, many have questioned their existence. As of this moment, we can all see that the reports have been true. And if I might add, I think a bonfire made up of their burning bodies would be a warning to any others that may be prowling around our kingdom.”
I looked at Nic and Charles. None of us had counted on this negative turn of events developing so quickly, but now that it had come, I knew we weren’t going to get very far with the leaders of this kingdom.
All of a sudden, Nic stepped forward. “I wish to say that we come before you peacefully. We’ve done no harm to anyone, nor have we caused damage to property or possessions. When we were discovered by Lieutenant Commander Tark, and after honorable negotiations and terms agreed upon, we accompanied him here peacefully and without opposition. He even returned our weapons and after he did, we made no attempt to harm anyone in his cohort. If anything, we struck up what I took to be the beginnings of a friendship.”
He looked at Tark, who gave him a nod of the head. “We’ve continued to offer no resistance, and have come before you to present our case. We assumed that you would have open minds and listen to our story before passing any judgment upon us.”
“If you’ve done no harm, then who was responsible for the burning of the small village of Zarastrum?” Artus asked. “The accounts are quite clear that creatures like yourselves – winged beings – perpetrated it. So before you stand here speaking of peace, you might want to get your lies straight – at least you might try and sound convincing.”
“Those of us standing here before you had nothing to do with harming anyone,” Nic said. “There is another like us, and I know of one other who has joined him – maybe there are more. I can’t deny that possibility. We only wish peace. You may not choose to believe that, but it is the truth,” Nic said.
Artus, who was still standing, was now looking at Nic with obvious disgust and revulsion. Suddenly my eyes widened as I caught a glimpse of his right hand, which had up to now been by his side and slightly hidden in the folds of his robe. In an instant, he lifted his arm and I saw a glowing ball of fire in his hand. In the second that it took me to blink in surprise and disbelief, he threw the ball at Nic. It crackled and hissed as it flew though the air, but it didn’t travel very far on its intended trajectory. The instant it left Artus hand, my own hand flew up and to everyone’s amazement, the ball of fire that had been hurtling toward Nic turned violently and flew into my hand.
I didn’t know what possessed me to attempt such a maneuver, but something about the sphere of charged energy caused me to react without fully thinking about what I was doing. I held the ball as it burned and glowed, but while it appeared similar to those I could create, it seemed to be far weaker and less stable then those I could fashion. Everyone’s eyes were upon me as I squeezed my hand around the ball and it disappeared.
Artus stood and stared at me in disbelief. I could see the obvious shock on his face. I, in turn, glared back at him with a look that I hoped showed my utter contempt for his actions. It was then my temper flared, and pure anger exploded inside my head. Much like a blazing fire burning wildly out of control, I felt the rage boil up from deep inside me – the same rage that had consumed me when Loran attempted to attack Nic on the day we discovered the coffin of Matthew and Lancelot.
In the seconds that it took to extinguish the fireball, the anger burning within me grew to an inferno. We had come in peace – voluntary surrendering ourselves. Instead of killing the soldiers that had come upon us, I’d convinced my companions to cooperate with Tark and his men and accompany them to this place in the hopes of gaining more knowledge and possibly receiving help in our quest. Now a man claiming to be a mage had shown us base treachery, and had tried to harm Nic.
I gave the High Council a steady smoldering glare, and stepped forward. It was as if some unseen force was guiding me. And although I had no explanation for my actions, I could sense that the force goading me on was so intense, I couldn’t have stopped if I tried. Even without calling it up, the screen suddenly blossomed in my mind, directing my attack. But although I felt as if things were spinning out of control, I also found there was a part of me that wanted to fight back. I raised my finger and pointed at Artus. Suddenly there was a loud explosion and in an instant his body was enveloped in a reddish glow. He froze, unable to speak or move.
The members of the council were caught in a panic. A few shouted curses at me, others jumped up from their seats. One man leapt to his feet so quickly that the carved and gilded chair he’d been sitting on crashed to the floor. Those standing on the same level as we were, headed for the doors. Someone shouted for help from the guards outside.
But I was only vaguely aware of the activity around me. As a small group of courtiers attempted to open one of the doors in the back wall, I summoned a lightning ball and hurled it at a spot just above the door. There was a scream, one of the velvet hangings caught fire, and the large chunk of plaster and brick that fell in front of the door stopped any more attempts at fleeing. One of Tark’s men jumped on the raised platform, ripped down the burning cloth and stamped it out.
As black smoke curled up from the smothered fire, I threw a second ball, followed by a third, and finally a fourth. The sound was deafening in the chamber as one after another, the lightning balls struck the wall behind the bench, ripping out large pieces of it. The bright flashes of light were blinding and concussive explosions rent the air. Bits of crushed marble, plaster and dust flew everywhere, striking the members of the High Council, who by now were taking cover under the great bench.
And then Nic was at my right side with Charles at my left, grabbing my arms and fighting with all their strength to restrain me.
“Let me go, Nic,” I snapped. “Let me go, NOW. They tried to kill you!”
But he didn’t let me go. And even though I managed to wriggle out of Charles’ grasp, Nic grabbed my left arm and pinned it together with my right.
“Jamie!” he barked angrily. “Jamie!” he shouted a second time, “I’ll only release you if you promise not to harm them!”
By now he was standing directly in front of me, gripping both of my arms, staring wildly at me and shouting in my ear. Finally he reached his arms around me and hugged me, pinning my arms to my side. I struggled like a fox caught in a trap. I buffeted him with my wings in order to escape, but Nic only hugged me tighter. His strength was far greater than mine, and soon I began to tire until I was no longer able to struggle against him.
“Please Nic, let me go!” I almost screamed at him.
“Only if you promise not to hurt anyone Jamie,” he said, keeping me locked in his grip.
“No Jamie, it’s over… I think you proved your point.”
And in fact, it seemed that I had. Every member of the High Council was now hiding under the bench, and the rest of their accompanying entourage was babbling like a gaggle of geese, off to the left side of the high bench, utterly panicked.
“Promise me,” he said, making it sound more a command than a request. “Jamie! Promise,” he shouted, giving me a stern look.
Although I was still angry, the emotional fire that had consumed me was rapidly burning out – partly due to the energy I’d expended sending the lighting balls flying through the room, but mostly spent on my futile attempt to break free of Nic.
“I promise.” I said, angrily spitting the words out through gritted teeth – in part because I was still mad but mostly because Nic was squeezing me so hard I couldn’t take very much air into my lungs.
Then, almost as if nothing had happened, he simply released me. I stepped back and took a deep and much-needed breath.
Silence now filled the room. Then with a loud crash, the soldiers guarding the door burst in and they rushed into the room, I could see even more lined up behind them. Lieutenant Commander Tark and his troops, although still on their feet, appeared to be somewhat in shock. I saw a few heads tentatively arise from behind the tall council bench.
Lance had his arm around Cody, whose head was buried in the battle angel’s chest; Luc, who’d apparently jumped on Jonathan and shielded the little angel with his equally small body, climbed up from the floor, pulling Jonathan along with him. I’d seen him dive for the floor pushing the blind little angel down with him, and even in my anger noticed how he carefully folded Jonathan’s wings before jumping on top of our littlest angel to protect him. Philippe, who’d remained standing but huddled close to Miro’s side, stared at me with eyes like saucers. Only Miro and David seemed completely unphased, as both of them looked at me with great grins on their faces.
“It’s over,” Nic shouted, turning around to face everyone in the room. “No one is going to get hurt. I promise.”
Slowly I saw the counselors stand up from behind the bench. My first thought as I watched them emerge from hiding was of a group of small frightened animals tentatively emerging from their burrows. One by one they retook their seats. An aide righted the chair that had toppled over and held it out for the man who’d been sitting on it. At first he looked uneasily at me, but when he noticed that the man called Lord Ottavia had brushed the plaster off his chair and was beginning to sit, he took the proffered seat.
In a short time, everyone was seated, although by now Tark, his men, and the other guards who’d entered the room were surrounding us. Those sitting at the bench were as still as statues, and their eyes were glued on me. I certainly didn’t have to enter any of their minds to easily read the fear and terror that were writ large on all of their faces.
Although most of my energy had been expended, I was still angry and I looked up at the bench into the faces of the men who had just minutes before not only been laughing at us as freaks, but also were planning on executing us as some sort of evil demons. I took a step forward and I could see some of them flinch and move back in their seats. At the same time the soldiers who now surrounded us moved a step or two closer.
“We voluntarily surrendered ourselves to your soldiers, who brought us here,” I said spitting out the words. “As you can clearly see we could have easily fought them – and won. We came peacefully and stood before you as members of another race. We actually thought you might be able to help us once we explained our situation, which we were prepared to do in a civilized and honorable way. Instead, you produced a so-called wizard who mocked us and then attempted to assault our king – my mate.” Although I attempted to speak with authority, I could feel a tremor rise up in my voice as my legs shook and felt increasingly unsteady underneath me, but I took another deep breath and continued.
“Those of us now standing here before you have never unjustly harmed anyone. That is the truth. We came in peace, and even friendship. If Artus is your most powerful wizard, as you say he is, then I would say that you are all in very serious trouble. If I wished, I could bring this building down on your heads in an instant, and I’m still tempted to do it.”
Nic put his hand on my shoulder and looked into my eyes as he slowly shook his head at me.
“Jamie, don’t.” He whispered to me.
Charles moved to my opposite side. “The point has been made Jamie. Please, no more,” he said in an almost pleading tone of voice.
I reached for Nic’s hand and gripped it in mine.
“I’m fine now, Nic,” I said softly. “Remember, I promised you I wouldn’t do anything, and I won’t. Unless they try to hurt you again,” I quickly added.
Nic squeezed my hand and I squeezed it back. Then I looked at the counselors and continued.
“You may laugh at us. You may hate us. You may fear us. But I warn you, if anyone so much as raises an eyebrow at my mate with the intent of harming him, that person will die.”
The members of the High Council continued to sit in shock and silence. I snapped my fingers; there was a loud roar and a flash of white light and Artus began to move again. He wobbled slightly and blinked at us. He seemed to be unharmed and unchanged, except that his black hair now was streaked with strands of white. Although he was fully conscious, he stood unmoving as if still paralyzed. His eyes rolled wildly as he stared down at us. One of the members of the counsel attempted to get up to assist him.
“Leave him be and sit down.” I curtly commanded, and the man quickly resumed his seat.
I stood quietly glaring up at them, still clutching Nic’s hand, and it was then that Charles stepped forward and faced Artus. I could see Artus’ eyes rest on him.
“You are as big a fool as you are a fraud as a wizard,” he said, addressing both Artus and the entire council. “You have been foolish enough to not only attack our king, but also one half of a bonded mating pair in front of his mate, who truly is a wizard. Do you realize that either of them will fight to the death for the other? And if you do actually succeed in killing one of them, the destruction that will follow that act can’t even be accurately described.”
I snapped my fingers. Artus went limp and fell back into his chair, his head slumping forward.
“You know, he’s quite right,” a deep and solemn voice spoke up.
Everyone turned to the sound of the voice, as the soldiers in the room immediately snapped to attention. I let go of Nic’s hand and felt it drop from mine. Turning in the direction of the voice, I stared in disbelief as my mouth dropped open in surprise; there before my eyes, standing in the unblocked doorway behind the bench, stood General Zakaria. He calmly strode to the empty seat on the left side of the bench and without even bothering to brush the dust off of the seat, sat down. For a few seconds his eyes glanced about the room and I could see that he was taking in every detail. Finally he looked down at Nic and me.
“I can see that things have gotten a bit out of hand here,” he quietly said.
I almost seemed to detect a glimmer of a smile on his face, although I knew from previous experience that the general was not prone to smiling.
“I was unexpectedly delayed on my way to this meeting,” he said. “But from the looks of things, I don’t know if that was good or bad. I would suspect it was bad for the council chamber room,” he said, pausing just long enough to brush some of the plaster and dust off the bench in front of him. “But it may have been good as far as the council itself is concerned. I think this boy named Jamie and his demonstration may have gotten your attention.”
There was no doubt now, even though Zakaria wasn’t really smiling, he was definitely looking at Nic and me with some warmth and even affection. Then he pointed to Nic.
“I’ve seen this brave young King fight against all odds in order to save his boy,” he continued now pointing at me. “There are a few soldiers and ministers who would attest to that if I could resurrect them for you.
“And everything this other boy has said,” he paused, pointing to Charles, “would also appear to be true. Now, I think that it’s probably a good idea, in light of everything that has just happened here, that we all first listen to what they both have to say. No one is under any mandate or command to believe them, but I think a fair and honest hearing of their case is warranted. Wouldn’t you all agree with me?” he said as he turned and looked sternly at the members of the counsel.
“Maybe that would be prudent.” Lord Ottavia said in a hesitant voice.
“Prudent or not,” Zakaria said. “May I point out that as a vassal kingdom under the military protection of the Kingdom of Xannameir, the directives of the supreme military commander, while not legally binding, do carry some weight with his Royal Highness King Wilum of Xannameir. So I strongly suggest the council, at the very least, takes the time to listen to what these, ah… boys… have to say.”
Lord Ottavia simply nodded in agreement. The other members of the High Council remained silent as they continued to stare down at us.
At General Zakaria’s urging I stood before the great bench of the High Council with Nic at my side, and began to tell them our story as their faces took on looks of rapt amazement. For almost two hours I stood and talked, unfolding our story before the now serious and quiet members of the Counsel.
I told them about Nic and I awaking from our coffins. I described the discovery of Cody along with the amulet and the orbs. I talked about meeting General Zakaria in Tardon and our adventure in the abbey, along with what little I knew of Loran. Most importantly, I talked about Küronas and the dream of our future kingdom.
I did most of the talking, although Nic would occasionally add a fact, and a few times Charles interjected something he felt was important. Only when I got to the place where I’d been captured and taken as a prisoner to the provisional offices did General Zakaria interrupt, and then only to confirm that what I was telling the council was the truth. Finally I came to the end, and there was silence in the chamber.
“So you are telling us that this other creature we have encountered, who has been terrorizing the five kingdoms, is your older brother… Loran, you called him?” the general asked.
“Yes, my lord.” I answered; my voice by now was hoarse from my two hours of almost continuous talking. Suddenly a man appeared to my right, holding a silver tray with a goblet of water on it. I took it gratefully, thanked him, and lifted it to my lips, taking more than a few large gulps.
“What do you propose we do?” Zakaria said, turning to the members of the council.
“I propose an alliance.”
Everyone turned to look at Nic, who had just spoken.
“Explain.” Zakaria requested.
“As Jamie told you, we mean you, and all the other members of the five kingdoms you have spoken of, no harm. We awoke in this world, and for the most part have very little knowledge of your government, your laws and your customs. We want to learn more about you, as we hope you wish to learn more about us, in a peaceful and civilized manner.
“I swear to you as the King of the Icarians, that what Jamie has just told you is true. We will never seek to attack, enslave or injure you or your descendents. We only wish to find Küronas and reestablish our kingdom, and once we have done that, we wish to live in peace with you. We will even help and assist you if you so desire. But if you prefer isolation, we will honor that request also.
“It is true that Loran will probably threaten you. We ourselves don’t know as much about him as we would like. But I can swear to all of you that he is just as much a threat and an enemy to us as he is to you, and we will assist you in defeating him.
“I propose that if we can, we form an alliance. You assist us in finding and getting to Küronas and reestablishing our kingdom, and we will help defend and protect you. We will share our knowledge with you. And if we prosper, so shall you.”
“This, I must say, is a lot to agree to at one time.” Zakaria said, now rising from his seat. “If your story is really true, then there is much to ponder. But my father always told me that no man ever committed a serious error by keeping an open mind and studying a problem from all sides. And I certainly think his advice is appropriate in this situation.
“But you must concede that we have much to consider. We have a group of you… Icarians, as you call yourselves, who are in opposition to another faction of your same race in what seems to be a struggle for power and leadership. How do we know if your faction is the one we should support and assist? How do we know we shouldn’t join the other side and fight against you? Maybe we should consider opposing all of you for the sake of our own safety? Or maybe we should remain neutral in this affair? Remember, I have only been in contact with you, Niklas of Icaria, and that contact resulted in it’s own incidents of death and destruction.”
“General,” Nic said quietly. “Everything you have said is true, and I can see your need for doubt and skepticism. I think I would surely feel the same way, if I were in your position. But when the wizard vanished, my only desire was to find him and see that no harm came to him. And as you know, he’s not only our wizard, but also my mate. Who, if given the choice and means, wouldn’t save the one person they loved the most from harm, injury, or even possible death?”
The general just stood listening without any readable expression on his face, but I noticed that he removed something that looked like a small piece of metal from his coat pocket and fingered it as Nic continued to speak.
“I regret what happened at our first encounter. You may not believe that, but truly I do regret the unfortunate first impression I gave you. I would hope that I can convince you that at the time, my duty was twofold: not only to save one of our leaders, but also the most important person in my life. We really do mean no harm to any of you, and only wish to find our own kingdom – not conquer any of yours.”
As I stood listening to Nic speak, and the realization of his testimony filled my mind, I took a deep breath and squeezed his hand. The eloquence of his words and the steadfast resolve he was showing not only to me, but also to all of us, was overwhelming – if I hadn’t been convinced before, I knew at that moment that he truly was, in fact, a noble king.
“You seem to have thought this out quite well, Niklas of Icaria,” Lord Ottavia interrupted, “but how do we know that what you say is really the truth? For centuries we have lived with a prophecy that warned us that this day would come, when we would confront creatures like you. Centuries of warnings are hard to ignore.”
“Loran, and what ever forces he may have, will not allow neutrality on your part,” Charles said, speaking up and looking at General Zakaria, “I can assure you of that. And as far as joining his side, I don’t think he really wants to join with anyone. He wishes power and domination – whether it is over Icarians, humans, or both. I don’t think it matters.”
“If you won’t consider an alliance with us against Loran,” Nic said, “Then all we ask is that we be allowed to continue with our quest. We will leave your lands and your cities. I don’t think we will have success in trying a peaceful resolution with Loran, but if it were possible, we would take it.”
“I can’t deny that an alliance against a mutual enemy would be beneficial,” Zakaria said. “If, in fact, we are under as great a threat as you seem to indicate.”
“You’re under more threat than you may realize General,” Charles said.
“I have thought long about what I’m now proposing to you, General Zakaria and Lord Ottavia,” Nic said. “At this very moment, I can’t prove that we are good or evil; the only proof of that will be our future actions. I can only reiterate that none of us in this group have purposely or maliciously caused harm or injury to anyone, and we pledge to keep it that way.”
“I will also tell you,” Nic continued, “that as I came to the realization of our true destiny, I spent the long months of our journey thinking about the kingdom we would eventually establish. I will tell you that I know that it is based on a just and sound structure. Although I have only a dim memory of it since our awakening, it is still lodged in my brain and slowly, in the past months, has been emerging piece by piece. I have a much better understanding now than I did when I was first awakened.”
“Really?” Charles said with a measurable amount of surprise in his voice.
I looked at Charles and smiled at him, then turned back to Nic, who was continuing.
“Yes. While His Grace James, Wizard of Icaria and I form the central governing unit of the Kingdom of Icaria, we are not dictators. Long before we were created, plans for our government were put into place. There is a Royal Counsel, An Imperial Counsel, a Military Diet, a Forum of Ministers and The Supreme Counsel of the Noble Houses, all answering to The Wizard’s High Counsel. The twelve noble houses are divided….”
“Wait,” Ottavia interrupted. “I can see that you are describing a highly complex governing structure, and now is not the time for that. Suffice it to say that we accept the fact that you have a plan of governance. Whether we accept you as the leaders of that government is yet to be determined by this counsel.”
“Lord Ottavia, as the King of Icaria it is my intention to rule fairly and justly. But also keep in mind that the highest authority in Icaria is His Grace, the Wizard; all power flows from him, but Jamie readily agrees with what I’m telling you.”
“But as wizard, I have many obligations and responsibilities in the kingdom other than being its head of state,” I quickly interjected. “And just as His Highness has said, I also have no desire to become a dictator. I want the kingdom to be governed through the laws and constitution that we establish. And the head of that government is His Royal Highness King Niklas, First Lord of the Realm, Duke of Agramon, Lord Protector of the Wizardry, Heir to the Seat of Escalad, and High Prince of Eagle’s Rock.”
Charles eyebrows shot up nearly to his hairline. He looked long and hard at me, and I frowned under his gaze. Moving closer to me, he whispered, “Jamie, that’s the first time you ever used any of his proper titles. Why? What made you remember them?”
I shrugged as if it were of no moment, but couldn’t help wonder what had prompted me to speak of Nic in those terms.
“Well, I for one believe King Niklas – at least in principal as someone of honor,” General Zakaria said. “If you could have seen his courage and bravery, you would believe him too. But for some reason I have the feeling that you have more to propose, Your Highness,” He added after a moment.
“Yes, but I hesitate because I feel that it may influence your decision in a negative way.”
“Tell us,” Zakaria said with a slightly encouraging tone. “You have nothing to lose, I came to this meeting with an open mind and it remains as such.”
“Well General, I propose that the Kingdom of Icaria and its leaders become the first among equals. If an alliance is indeed formed, I propose that we will have the ultimate say in the establishment of our kingdom and all decisions that we make, including its defense. I also propose that, once established, Icaria will provide for the protection and defense of the five kingdoms. We will demand no taxes or tribute. We will not impose our will, as long as the citizens of the five kingdoms are ruled with justice and fairness and they cooperate among themselves.”
“Then what you’re proposing is the legendary Great Alliance that existed under the Silver King,” Lord Ottavia gasped.
“I am not aware of anyone titled the Silver King, or what you refer to as the ‘Great Alliance.’ I can’t make any intelligent comments on something that I know nothing about,” Nic said. “ I do know from what Lord Charles has told us, that Icaria has means and resources, possibly greater than all five of the kingdoms combined.”
“But in order to agree to this proposal,” Ottavia began, interrupting Nic, “we must change our loyalty from the present alliance we have created among the kingdoms.”
“There is one rather serious and important point,” General Zakaria said looking directly at Nic. “As I stand here, I count ten of you. If I take into account the one you call Loran and the other who joined with him that’s twelve – hardly a serious force to reckon with. I see no army standing behind you, Niklas of Icaria.”
“That’s because you don’t know where to look General,” Charles said quietly.
Everyone turned to stare at Charles, who stood impassively before us – a look of calm self-satisfaction on his face.
“What are you saying Charles?” I said giving him a puzzled look.
“How can there be a King and a kingdom without an army?” Charles asked.
“I suppose you’re about to tell us,” I said, raising an eyebrow at the red and black winged angel.
“There is an army, My Lord,” Charles continued, looking in the direction of the general. “Of that I can assure you.”
“And you know this, because?” I said giving him a quizzical look.
“Because I am red and black,” Charles said as if that were enough to explain the creation of all the stars in the heavens.
“So?” I said giving him a skeptical look.
“The Legion of Red and Black were entrusted with much of the key facts and knowledge of Icaria – it is one of the reasons I was able to piece together what I told you of our creation and early history.”
I continued to stare at him, waiting for more. Glancing quickly around the room, I could see that I wasn’t the only curious one since I could clearly see that everyone else in the room was listening with obvious anticipation.
“Just as you and Nic have been starting to regain some of your memories, I’ve noticed that the rest of us have also begun to recall things from the past,” Charles said.
“Nic appears to remember a few details of the governmental structure of Icaria. Cody seems to have a talent for remembering certain issues of diplomacy and protocol. The twins certainly know how to fight and vaguely remember bits of an incident at Castle Rood that occurred over two and a half millennia ago. Even Damian remembered the bracelet and made sure you received it.”
“I’ve started to remember a few facts myself. One of them being a great army created to protect and defend Icaria.”
“Where is it?” Luc said, and I could hear a tone of excitement in his voice.
“I don’t know,” Charles said. “But I know it exists. Its whereabouts was entrusted to the Legion of Red and Black – keepers of the knowledge and traditions of Icaria. And at some point, I know my memory will return to a point where I will know its exact location.”
“You’re sure of this?” I said, sounding a bit more skeptical than I intended. “Is this one of those things, like red and blacks having amazing healing powers?” I added giving him a skeptical look.
“Yes,” Charles said, “I am sure. And I don’t think I have to remind you, Your Grace, that you were a first hand witness to those healing powers.”
I continued to give Charles a steady unblinking gaze, but restrained myself from speaking. Then, as if our conversation had never occurred, he turned back to Zakaria who sat at the bench, towering over him.
And I can further assure you, my lord, that under Loran’s hand they will be used for a much different purpose than they will if they come under the command of King Niklas.”
When it was clear that Charles had concluded his revelation, one exceedingly long and uninterrupted minute of silence went by.
Slowly and quite purposely General Zakaria got up from his seat. He backed away from the High Council bench and strode down to the level we were standing on. Walking up to Nic, he suddenly drew the sword that hung at his side from its scabbard. With both hands on the quillons of the large and heavy sword, he thrust the tip downward, into the floor.
It made a ripping noise as its point punched through the carpet, followed by a harsh splintering sound as it plunged into the floor. Releasing his hands from the sword, Zakaria took a step back from it. It stood upright and unmoving – part of its blade now buried in the floor.
“I have spent a life time wielding this blade in defense of my king and his kingdom,” Zakaria said pointing to the sword, then he turned and looked up at the council, “and if I must die with it in my hand, then I shall, but I always hoped that one day I could lay it down for a while, maybe for a long while.
“Given all the information we now have, I propose that we take some time to consider all the facts that have been presented to us today. I would like to spend a bit more time with Niklas of Icaria, and then return to Xannameir with a full report for the king. This is a serious issue that all of the kingdoms must address, and I think it best if we can come to a decision that is mutually agreeable to all of the leaders of this land.”
Putting both hands back on the leather-wrapped hilt of his sword, he gave it a strong, swift jerk and it easily came out of the floor. Returning it to the scabbard that hung from his belt, he turned to Nic.
“Your highness, I, Marcus Zakaria, Eighteenth Duke of Lionsgate, pledge you a fair hearing before the kingdoms, and while I cannot make any binding decisions on your behalf, I can promise that I will see that you are treated fairly and with honor, as you state your case and make your proposal for an alliance.”
“This is unbelievable,” I whispered, turning to Charles. “How long have you remembered about this great Icarian army?”
“Shhh,” was all he whispered back.
Nic stretched out his hand to the general who clasped it in his.
“I would like to voice my support of the general’s proposal,” Lord Ottavia said, interjecting. “And I would move for the council to voice their approval or disapproval by means of an immediate vote regarding the proposal of the Duke of Lionsgate.”
One by one each of the members of the High Council voiced their provisional agreement, contingent on a final decision by something Lord Ottavia referred to as The Counsel of Kingdoms.
I stood back, looked at Charles, and suddenly smiled.
“I’m glad this is going well,” I said to him then lowered my voice and added. “But tell me, how long have you known about this great army of ours?”
“Well, logically every country has a standing army,” Charles whispered back, giving me a strange look. “And from the few references I read in the abbey library when I was a prisoner of Abbot Gude, I assumed that there is in fact one.”
“Are you telling me you don’t really know?” I said, giving Charles a look of shock and surprise.
“I’m just saying I think I might remember something about one.”
“So you were bluffing?” I whispered, my eyes growing ever wider as I stared at him.
“Something like that,” Charles said, his face showing a serene and most inscrutable expression. “But it worked, didn’t it?” Charles added surreptitiously under his breath.
“Yes, it did.” I said, giving him a quizzical smile. Then looking once more up at the bench where the members of the High Council were sitting, I whispered, “I wonder whom the thirteenth chair is for?”
“What do you mean?” Charles asked.
“There are thirteen chairs at the bench,” I said turning to Charles. “Eleven were taken, then Zakaria came and that accounted for the twelfth, but the thirteenth chair has remained empty.”
“I don’t know,” Charles shrugged.
No sooner were the words out of his mouth then a flourish of activity erupted in one of the doorways behind the council bench.
“What’s the meaning of this?” an angry voice called out.
Both Charles and I quickly looked up at the bench in the direction of the voice.
“Well, there’s your answer,” Charles said, giving me a look more of resignation than surprise, as we watched a blacked-robed monk take the thirteenth seat.