The Scrolls of Icaria by Jamie


Part III – The Alliance


Chapter 31


After taking my seat, I was better able to study the large, circular room that hosted the summit. From my vantage point, I had a perfect view of everyone at the table, and almost everything in the room. If I tilted my head back, I could see the amazing, clock-like mechanisms of the orrery silently spinning the heavenly bodies high above our heads.


Hundreds of candles rested in their ram’s head sconces; their flames danced and flickered, casting ever-changing patterns of light and shadow on the endlessly curving surface of the cylindrical wall that enclosed the room. The maps and writing that they half-illuminated gave the room an eerie appearance.


Suspended from the center of the ceiling, directly above the great table, hung a large chandelier. Its ornate frame supported over two hundred candles, set into mirrored holders. The light they shed cast a warm illumination over the entire center of the room.


Looking down at the large circular stone that the table had been built around at close range, I was even more impressed by its immense size. Although there were some small cracks and fissures in it, it appeared to be one solid block of stone – quarried, cut, shaped, polished, and carved. The only flaw it had – albeit, a large one – was the fact that part of the carving itself was missing.


The stone was completely intact, but someone or something had defaced the carving on over a quarter of the stone’s surface. It almost looked as if the top surface of the great stone had been deliberately chiseled or chipped away. Nic, Charles, and I had been placed at the table so that we were directly facing the carved map, and I suspected that this had been done deliberately. From our position at the table, it was easy for us to view the remaining three quarters of the map that remained intact and undamaged.


The map depicted a great landmass, entirely surrounded by water. The sea that the large continent seemed to float upon was rendered on the map as a smooth and flat surface, and had no marking or identifying name. In marked contrast, the landmass was carved in a bas-relief style so that it was three dimensional in nature; cities, towns, mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, and plains were all depicted and identified in great detail. On the undamaged portion of the map were six distinct regions that appeared to be kingdoms or countries.


I was, of course, familiar with Kalas and its capital Konassas, but the map revealed that it was in the Kingdom of Kalas that Nic’s and my coffin, along with the coffins containing Cody and Lance, had been placed. I could see a number of cities within the borders of Kalas, one of which was Tardon, where I had suffered my earliest misadventure after absorbing the essence of the Orb of the Snake. Now that I was getting a better view of the world according to the great stone map, I could see that all of our time had been spent in Kalas, with the sole exception of Eagle’s Eyre – the monastery of Abbot Gude.


On the northwestern border between Kalas and the kingdom of Vorhalla, the name Eagles Rock had been inscribed. I recalled my first meeting with Charles in the library of the abbey, when he’d bid us “Welcome to Eagles Rock.” I began to suspect that Eagles Rock, the site of a great educational academy in Philippe’s tale, and Eagle’s Eyre, the present day monastery of Abbot Gude, were one and the same. The map seemed to support this idea: the abbey had been located in a great mountain range, and according to the map I was now carefully studying, it was evident that a group of mountains labeled ‘Sirenese’ formed the western border of the kingdom of Kalas. One of the mountains in that range was named Mt. Savat, and as I looked closer at this tallest peak rising from the Sirenese range, I observed what looked like a large complex located near its summit.


To the west of the Sirenese mountains was another large area that had been outlined with a distinct border and labeled ‘Vorhalla.’ I noticed that the largest city within the territory of Vorhalla was Wrenstatten. To the south of both Vorhalla and Kalas was an area labeled ‘Xannameir’ that was larger in territory then both Vorhalla and Kalas combined; its largest city was named Tahkor, and I assumed that it was the capital of the kingdom. To the east of Kalas was yet another area defined by a border that appeared to be slightly larger than Kalas and was labeled ‘Aradamia.’


To the south of Vorhalla and the west of Xannameir was a small territory that also had its own border and was labeled ‘Ghröum.’ Finally, almost directly in the center of the map was a small pocket of land completely bordered by mountains that had been labeled ‘Taldor Valoren.’ I was lost in thought when Jonathan, who had wandered over to stand next to me, quickly brought me back to reality.


“I’m tired of standing,” he quietly said.


“Its ok, love,” I replied as I swept him up in my arms and carefully set him on my lap, whilst trying to avoid getting slapped in the face by his wings.


Once Jonathan was enthroned regally on my lap, I turned my attention to those who were both sitting at, and standing around, the table.


Although the room was large and would have easily held a hundred people, it was quite sparsely occupied. In addition to the kings and those of us who had entered with Chancellor Dunham, there were a few soldiers standing near their kings, along with men who appeared to be aides, or perhaps ministers. There was also one servant who was going around the table filling goblets with water and attending to the needs of those of us seated at the table. Conspicuous by their absence were galleries full of observers and spectators. Pondering this, it occurred to me that this was to be a working meeting, where policy might be formed, not a ceremonial meeting for the masses.


As I looked at the highest-ranking occupants of the room – those seated around the table – I could see that they were quite a varied group. To our left at approximately eight o’ clock, was King Oslo and his son Crown Prince Drakis. The old man was thin and wizened – his paper thin skin looked as if it could be peeled from his face like the skin of one of the onions in Master Arnod’s kitchen. He sat stroking his long white beard, and never seemed to take his eyes off of us. The prince on the other hand – a tall, slightly overweight man of fifty – had some documents in front of him and appeared to be reading and studying them with great interest.


At the ten o’clock position sat Lord Ottavia, who by now was an old friend to us. And although he gave me a slight smile when my eye caught his, I could see that he seemed slightly preoccupied and possibly a little nervous. We were, after all, guests of his government, and a negative outcome directed at us could possibly damage his and the High Council of Kalas’ position within the balance of power I was sensing existed within this room.


Because Nic, Charles and I were sitting in the six o’clock position at the table, that placed King Wilum and his son Crown Prince Andrew, who were sitting at the twelve o’ clock position, directly across the room from us. There was no doubt that Wilum – a tall broad shouldered man of fifty with a rugged appearance – was the leader of this assembly. His attitude, posture and mannerisms all pointed to the fact that although there were two additional kings sitting at the table with him, he was definitely the first among equals. I surmised that part of this was due to the fact that Xannameir was the largest kingdom on the continent and since I knew that it also was responsible for the defense of the Kingdom of Kalas, I suspected that it might have greater power and resources than the other kingdoms.


Wilum’s son, the boy that I now knew as His Royal Highness Crown Prince Andrew, was very different from his father. Where Wilum was dark of eye, hair and complexion, Andrew was blond haired, blue-eyed and fair skinned. Wilum, like Oslo, also stroked his closely trimmed beard – that seemed to have as many white hairs in it as it did black – although not as frequently as King Oslo. Sitting as he was with General Zakaria behind him, it was remarkable how similar the two men seemed. Both were strong-willed, no-nonsense figures that could easily dominate any room or group they were in through sheer force of personality. Whereas Oslo and his son were well dressed and gave off something of a frosty regal air, Wilum was plainly dressed and appeared more curious than contemptuous of our presence.


Prince Andrew interested me a great deal, and for a few minutes I sat looking closely at him. I’d first encountered him many months ago in Tardon, on the fateful day when Nic rescued me. At the time, because of both my fear and the whirlwind of chaos that surrounded me, I hadn’t really taken much notice of him. Now that I was sitting directly in front of him, I could see that he was a youth of about eighteen. He didn’t look that much older than Nic, but where Nic was lean and muscular, this boy was lean and thin. He was a bit taller than Nic, but not as tall as his father, who overtopped him by almost a full head. While not frail, he appeared delicate, perhaps a bit softer and gentler than his robust father.


More than once I caught him glancing at us from his vantage point across the table, but whenever my eyes met his, he would abruptly look away or down at his hands, which were resting on the table. He was dressed in a military outfit, similar to Zakaria’s soldiers, but once he had taken his seat, the old servant who had been going around the table pouring water handed him a thin golden band that he placed on his head. I guessed that it was a type of crown or diadem to mark his status. On his right hand I could see that he was wearing a ruby ring similar in design to his fathers, but much smaller and more delicate.


Although the young prince had caught my interest, my eyes eventually landed on the final member of the council, a man whom I hadn’t initially noticed, but who now quickly gained my attention. King Juston of Aradamia sat by himself. No princes, aides or servants sat or stood near him. He appeared to be alone at his section of the great table. I was intrigued by his appearance, which was the first thing about him that caught my eye. His brightly colored clothing seemed a bit finer and more stylish than that of the other monarchs, Wilum in particular. The fabric had a sheen and softness to it, and I could see many places where extra embellishment – gems and fine embroidery – had been added.


I guessed his age to be around thirty-five, which made him by far the youngest king in the room, even younger than King Oslo’s son, Prince Drakis. In addition to his fine clothing, he also wore a fairly substantial amount of ornamental jewelry. He had at least two rings on each hand and a beautiful gold chain draped and pinned around his shoulders. Each of his ears had two golden rings hanging from their lobes, and a small gold ring resided near the top of his left ear. On the right breast of his tunic was a large ornamental pin or broach, and on the left appeared a series of medals. Even the buttons of his coat were highly polished and ornamental. Instead of a crown, he wore a soft, black velvet hat that had a short plume of feathers springing from its left side, and a beautiful golden pin graced its right. He gave me a genuinely warm and sunny smile; out of all of the individuals sitting around the table, he appeared to be the most relaxed and pleasant.


After Chancellor Dunham had officially called the council to order, a few seconds passed where no one said anything. Then King Wilum looking directly at the Icarian delegation began to speak.


“In addition to being a man of few words, I detest long meetings. I would like to begin this council by telling you that I’m not here to waste my time on idle chatter. We have convened this meeting for a number of highly important reasons. We’ve already been in close discussion with Lord Ottavia and the High Council of Kalas, so we know something of your circumstances and your appearance among us. General Zakaria has also informed us of his opinions and…” Wilum paused and a sour look appeared on his face. “…We have received a letter from the Holy Office regarding this matter as well.”


At the mention of the words Holy Office, everyone around the room became silent. King Juston shook his head back and forth, General Zakaria began to scowl, and Lord Ottavia cast his eyes down at the table, but I could see that King Oslo – and Prince Drakis even more so – had resolute and firm expressions on their faces.


We’re here to learn what you can tell us, and to allow us to question you. We also understand from Lord Ottavia that you have proposed an alliance with us, and we are prepared to discuss that topic with you. In addition, we are interested in what you can tell us about your planned journey to the place that we call the City of Light – the city you call Küronas. At this point we know about your resurrection and your desire to establish a kingdom that you will call Icaria, but there remain many unanswered questions. We realize that you yourselves may not know all of the answers, but before we agree to any action, this council will gain as much knowledge as possible.


“You have come at what many of us feel is a crucial juncture for our civilization. We have lived for centuries in war, turmoil, and ignorance. Finally, it seems that we are emerging from the darkness and whether you can be a force to assist our further emergence or a plague that will throw us back into chaos, is something that both interests and troubles us greatly. We come here with no preconceived ideas or prejudices against you.”


Without warning, Prince Drakis loudly cleared his throat. Wilum gave him a cold stare and continued, “At least some of us don’t. But we will take no action unless we are in complete agreement as a council. So tell us, why should we support you?”


At the end of his statement, Wilum sat back in his chair and looked at Nic, Charles and me. Again there was an awkward period of silence, but it only lasted for a second or two because Nic was now on his feet and began to address the council.


“Your Majesty, I understand your desire to obtain information from us, and we will do our best to give you whatever we can to help you make your decision, but I must also ask, do we in turn get the right to question this council? There is much that we don’t know about the world that we have awoken into, in part due to the unfortunate loss of memory that most of us have sustained, and partly due to the many centuries that we have slept while your world has advanced forward in time.”


I could see the tiniest flicker of a potential smile from General Zakaria at the end of Nic’s statement. Earlier he’d pledged his support to Nic and the Icarians, and we’d been working closely with him in the past few weeks to forge a workable alliance. The fact that he was the commander of Wilum’s army seemed to tilt in our favor, and as I sat at the great table, I didn’t feel any negative feelings of fear or hostility toward us from the King of Xannameir. The same was true of King Juston and Lord Ottavia. Not so with Oslo and Drakis – they were definitely worried and more than a little apprehensive in confronting the corporeal manifestation of an evil prophesy, now standing before their eyes.


“Of course you may question us, Your Majesty,” Wilum answered. “The objective of this council is to learn the truth and to make serious decisions regarding all of our futures.” Again, he was looking at King Oslo and Prince Drakis. This is not a court, and you are not on trial. From everything we have seen so far, ancient prophecies notwithstanding, you have given us no reason to feel threatened by you.”


I smiled inwardly. The fact that Wilum had acknowledged Nic as a fellow monarch by addressing him as ‘Your Majesty’ was a good sign. For his part Nic, who was still standing, made no acknowledgement of Wilum’s gesture, but instead continued his speech.


“From what you’ve just indicated Your Majesty, you already know much of our history. I’m not sure what we can add, but if our presence as a civilized culture and society, small as it is, can give you reassurance then at least we can offer that as some proof of our nature and intentions. In addition, we know that if we can secure Küronas and establish our kingdom, the benefits and rewards to both ourselves and everyone else that inhabits this land will be great.”


“What makes you feel that way?” King Juston asked.


“What we know is that the civilization that created us was without precedent in all of history. We were created by that civilization, your ancestors, to build another civilization that would be even greater. Not in wealth, or power, or armies, but in knowledge and wisdom – a civilization were every individual would live a complete and fulfilling life. I speak not only of the elimination of disease and ignorance, poverty and want, but also of the creation of a civilization, jointly human and Icarian, where all members would strive for the peace and contentment that true self-actualization brings.”


“In order for us to accept you, we would have to repudiate over a thousand years of faith,” King Oslo interrupted. “One thousand years of teachings that warned us this day would come, and that we would be lulled into selling our souls to a pack of winged demons who would promise to help us, but would in reality destroy those of us left from the great plague and the Reign of Terror.”


“I know a little of what you have been taught and what you believe, your Highness,” Nic continued, “and I wish there was some way for us to prove to all of you that we are not demons. I know that we are a different species of being, but in reality we seek the same things that you do.”


“Is it true that there are no females of your kind?” Prince Drakis asked, rising to his feet. “How can you call yourselves a true species?”


“The sexual and procreational aspects of our species are a part of us, a distinct part of what makes us the unique race that we are,” Nic countered. “It’s true, from what I know, that we were created by The Enlightened ones, but nevertheless we are a separate and unique species.”


After he answered the question, Nic sat back in his chair. Prince Drakis strode from his seat to within a few feet of where Nic, Charles and I were seated.


“Since King Wilum has indicated that he wishes to not waste any time, I will say that I agree with him, and question why we are now meeting with these creatures that The Holy Office insists are demons, in order to form an alliance.”


“Enough, Drakis,” Wilum grated. “You are not the head of state for your government yet, and you have no voting rights within this council.”


 I could feel tensions mounting. Nic could, too. Once more he rose from his seat. “Your Majesties, please, we have come here in peace and it is painful for us to see that we are causing strife among you. As I’ve told you, the last thing that we wish is to foment trouble.”


 Then Nic suddenly changed his tone of voice to one a little more authoritative. “I inquired earlier if I could ask some questions of you, and you concurred. May I do so now?”


 “Yes, of course,” Juston of Aradamia said. “What would you like to know?”


“First, a simple question. Your most esteemed Majesties,” Nic paused for a few seconds as he looked around the room and then at the map sitting within the table. “When we were summoned to this council, it was called the Grand Council of Kingdoms. The map before us shows at least six separate territories, yet there are only three kings and Lord Ottavia sitting at this table representing a total of four kingdoms. Why are there only four kingdoms when I can count six separate territories on the map?”


The room became silent. Nic sat back down and waited. Charles looked at me and raised an eyebrow. For a second it looked as if he were going to whisper something to me, since he’d already spent many hours in his library studying these very issues, but before he could, Lord Ottavia motioned to King Wilum for recognition and received permission to address Nic.


“Your Majesty, while the question you ask seems simple, the answer is quite complex, but with the King of Xannameir’s permission I will attempt to answer it.”


Once more Ottavia looked in the direction of King Wilum. The king in turn nodded back to the Viceroy of the High Council of Kalas, and Lord Ottavia proceeded. His voice was rich and resonant, and I noted that he’d unconsciously adopted the traditional stance of storytellers among the Kalasim.


“Most of what I’m about to tell you is based on legend, but the end result is visible enough for anyone to see for themselves Do you see the region on the great map named Ghröum?” Ottavia asked, looking at the Icarians. Then with out waiting for any reply, he continued.


“As you can see, it is located on the frontier, wedged between Vorhalla and Xannameir. From the days of the City of Light, a story is told of creatures who visited our ancestors. Where they came from, no one seems to know. They appeared as monsters, for they had huge bodies that were almost twice the size of a man, they were naked, and it was said that their skin was gray and scaly. Where ever they had come from, they could not return. They were called the Ghröum, and they were granted this territory along the coast of the Sea of Infinity. It is said that they lived in great cliff dwellings along the seacoast, and it came to be called the Kingdom of Ghröum after them.


“When the plague began, they remained in their kingdom. Then, during the darkest days of the plague, something terrible occurred that destroyed the Ghröum and their land. No one knows what really happened, but what ever occurred, the Ghröum were annihilated and their kingdom decimated. Today, all that is left is a barren land covered with bare white rock. Nothing grows there, and nothing lives there. Although Ghröum was destroyed, the land – though barren and lifeless – nevertheless remains; therefore it has always been referred to as a kingdom, even though it has no inhabitants. I suspect that our ancestors perpetuated the custom of referring to it as the Kingdom of Ghröum simply as a reference point.”


“So in reality there are only four kingdoms?” Nic asked.


“Yes. Well, technically there are three kingdoms, an oligarchy and a wasteland. The Kingdom of Ghröum, while still given the honor and title of Kingdom, is in reality a fiction of tradition,” Ottavia answered.


“Then what of this small area called Taldor Valoren?” Nic asked, as he pointed to that area of the map. “I can see that although it’s quite small, it still has its own name and border. Is this not a kingdom also?”


As Nic spoke, I repositioned Jonathan on my lap so I could peer around the little angel’s left wing and looked closely at the area where he was pointing. Near the center of the map, it was the small area of land that I’d noticed before. Located on the boarders of Xannameir and Aradamia, it lay near the large portion of the map that had been destroyed. It was sitting directly in the midst of a great mountain range that was labeled ‘Poniçessian.’


The area called Taldor Valoren seemed to be in a large valley, bordered on all sides by high cliff-like mountains and other than the name, it had no other markings. It sat near the center of the continent, and if the map had been whole, it would have been in a central location – almost squarely in the middle. As it was, a few inches beyond it the ruined illegible face of that part of the map that had been destroyed began.


Lord Ottavia shot a worried look at King Wilum; once again there was silence for a few seconds. Wilum moved uneasily in his chair. Then King Juston began to speak.


“That area is not a kingdom, nor even part of any kingdom.”


“Then what is it?” Nic asked in puzzlement.


“It was a land of disease and suffering.”


Again there was silence.


By now, I could see that not only was everyone from the four kingdoms getting visibly uncomfortable, but also a thick air of tension was beginning to cloud the room.


“They might as well know,” King Wilum said.


King Juston looked at Wilum then back to Nic before he began. “Everything we know about the era of the great plague tells us that it was an unbearable time,” King Juston stated. “After the collapse of the City of Light, many more people continued to die. Fear and terror ran rampant. Eventually fewer and fewer people died, partly because so little of the population was left, and partly because those left seem to have developed immunity to the disease. From what we know, only a tenth of the entire population that existed in the land before the plague actually survived.


“But the disease, while not as widespread, persisted in isolated pockets and cases of it continued to develop. Anyone who contracted it or began to develop symptoms was gathered up and taken to that place you see on the map called Taldor Valoren. It is in the middle of the Poniçessian Mountains – an inaccessible and forbidding place. Whoever was placed there was considered an outcast. The plague was so feared that a mother would willingly give up a sick child to protect her healthy ones. Fathers would banish sons, and sons would exile their fathers.


“As you can also see from this map, the Poniçessian Mountains are high and steep. Just getting to them is difficult, and once you’re within the mountain range itself, it’s easy to lose one’s way. They’re so high that their peaks are always covered with snow and ice. Many have gotten lost and died in them. They’re sheer and steep, and have many blind canyons and dangerously unstable cliffs. Great crevasses are hidden under the snow and ice, and many men have lost their lives falling into them. In the winter and early spring, huge masses of snow and ice slide from the summits, burying everything in their path under hundreds of feet of snow. Cliffs of ice crash into the canyons and deep crevasses dot the mountain range.


“After careful exploration, a trail was blazed and marked. Even so, it proved to be a dangerous route, and many died as they marched to their exile. Those that made it were left there, abandoned. A garrison was stationed at a key mountain pass to secure it. And for a few hundred years no one was allowed in or out – not that anyone seems to have ever tried.


“Finally, after three centuries of vigilance and long after the disease had ceased to exist in the rest of the continent – during which time no one emerged from Taldor Valoren – the garrison was recalled. Before they left, they destroyed the mountain pass in a great landslide so that it would forever remain sealed. From that day forward, no one has tried to enter that land. It has been forbidden under punishment of death even until this very day, for fear that it would reawaken the plague,” Juston said, concluding his explanation.


“So this place Taldor Valoren became a valley of the damned?” Nic ask.


“In truth, yes.” Wilum answered, “And it still is.”


“And what lies beyond the Poniçessian mountain range?”


“No one knows,” Wilum continued. “After the plague and the reign of Kartannus the Great, no one has ever ventured there. When the Holy Office was formed, it was formally declared a forbidden zone.”


“Didn’t anyone ever sail to it in a boat?” Charles asked, as he pointed to the sea surrounding the continent.


“A few explorers tried, but they never returned. Legend has it that there’s a great maelstrom and whirlpool that sucks boats into its clutches. No one has attempted it in at least a thousand years. The fact is that many times in our history, sailors have ventured out into the Sea of Infinity in search of land in the form of another continent or even surrounding islands, only to return after weeks and even months with reports of seeing nothing but endless ocean.”


“What is this ‘reign of Kartannus the Great’ that you just mentioned?” Nic asked. “Was this also part of the plague?”


“No,” Wilum responded. “The world that existed a thousand years after the fall of the City of Light was primitive and dark. After the horrible era of the plague, the population began to grow back, but even by then it was only twenty five percent of its original number. Many tribes, small and large, had formed around the old cities or in areas where there was sufficient water or fertile fields. But it was a time of great strife. Known as the Reign of Terror it was marked by constant war as the various tribes fought for land and food.”


King Wilum pointed to the map and continued.


“On the Poniçessian plains, there lived tribes of nomadic hunters and warriors. A young man named Kartannus led one such tribe. He was the youngest offspring of the tribal chief’s last and youngest wife. In addition to the young Kartannus, his father had ten additional male children, all of whom were older than Kartannus.


“Upon the death of the old chief, Kartannus’ eldest brother Tarun assumed his fathers position, but was soon killed by one of his younger brothers, Ober. Thus began a killing spree by Ober that eventually took the lives of all the male heirs of the old chief, with the exception of Kartannus, who had been spirited into hiding though the actions of his mother.


“It is said that Ober himself went to the tent of Kartannus to slay him and his mother, but Kartannus’ mother, having earlier discovered the plot, had one of her maidservants sneak Kartannus from the camp that very night. By the time Ober arrived to execute his plan – and his young rival – the next morning, he discovered his youngest brother was gone. He then seized Kartannus mother and tried to force her to tell him were she’d hidden her son. When she refused, he tortured and brutally killed her in the presence the entire tribe. What Ober failed to learn from her was that she’d ordered her servant to take her only son to her former tribe where her father, who was its chief, gave him shelter and protection.


“As Kartannus grew, he learned the story surrounding the murder of his mother at the hands of Ober, along with his own close brush with death. When he was seventeen, he left the tribe of his grandfather and journeyed back to his own tribe. Under cover of darkness, he snuck into the tent of Ober, who lay sleeping after a night of debauchery. Upon finding his older brother unconscious, he knelt at his side, removed a knife from his bag and slit Ober’s throat. Legend says that shortly after he killed Ober, Kartannus encountered an Oracle, and was given a sign that he would conquer the world.


“Kartannus formed an army made up of warriors from his tribe, and in a few short years conquered all of the small nomadic tribes on the plain of Pons. After he succeeded in uniting them into one nation, it became his obsession to conquer and unite the entire continent under his rule. The Poniçessians were a fierce and strong people. Their years of nomadic life had fashioned them into great warriors.


“Over a period of ten years, Kartannus and his armies surged across the land, cutting a wide path of havoc and destruction. Those who would join him came under his control and protection, and were required to fight with him. Those who did not, were slaughtered. If a village or town agreed to his terms, Kartannus would establish a military governor for the region, draft some of the local men into his army, and make promises of security. Those towns that refused were attacked and slaughtered to the last man, woman and child. Then, if the decimated area was of strategic importance, he would station a garrison there and eventually repopulate it with people loyal to him. If it was not of any importance, it was promptly abandoned and left to decay as an example to others.


“After ten years of war, the continent that you see before you was finally united under Kartannus the Great. He divided his empire into four great Kingdoms that he named Kalas, Aradamia, Xannameir, and Vorhalla. Kalas, Aradamia and Vorhalla were given to three of his most trusted generals. Kartannus chose Xannameir as his own kingdom and the center of his empire, and built his capital city of Tahkor there.”


“Kartannus ruled his empire with an iron hand. Once during his reign, his former general Damius whom he had established as king of Vorhalla, initiated an uprising in the hopes of overthrowing him. When he discovered the plot, Kartannus took a powerful army to Vorhalla and its capital Rundstat. For months, he laid siege to the capital. When it finally fell, he leveled the city and killed all of its inhabitants. Then he burned the city and his army destroyed every building and structure. It was said of Rundstat that Kartannus made sure that everything was so thoroughly obliterated, you couldn’t find one flat stone to set on top of another. After the destruction of Rundstat, he established Wrenstatten as the new capital city for the kingdom of Vorhalla, and made another of his generals, Tartus, its king – with the warning that if Tartus became unhappy with his situation in life, he should visit the site of Rundstat and contemplate its fate


“Kartannus lived to be an old man. His reign as emperor lasted forty years and he died peacefully in his bed, but he never had any children and so after his death, there was no clear successor. Thus, another era of trouble began. The time after the death of Kartannus the Great is called The War of the Kingdoms, and it lasted for three hundred years. During this time of strife, the generals who’d become kings under Kartannus, and their successors, waged war on each other with a vengeance.


“At the end of this period the population was again greatly reduced in number, and many areas of the continent were decimated. Under King Zerfos of Xannameir, a fragile truce was forged, and although from time to time tensions occasionally led to minor hostilities, war was never again waged on the scale it was during The War of the Kingdoms.”


  As Wilum concluded, I could see King Oslo impatiently stroking his long beard. “If you want to continue the history of this land Wilum, I think you should do so some other time. We came here to discuss these creatures and their fate,” the old king said.


At first I thought Wilum was offended by Oslo’s remarks, but he only gave Oslo a thoughtful look before replying. “Yes, I would agree with you, Oslo. Our history is important, but we can always discuss that some other time. The issue presently before us is far more serious.”


“I will tell you this very second,” Oslo continued. “If you’re expecting a vote of support from Vorhalla, then you and everyone attending this council meeting will be disappointed. I’ve heard no compelling reason to form an alliance with these creatures. It upsets the current balance of power we’ve worked so hard to establish and maintain, and it will cause many problems with the Holy Office.”


Wilum looked down at the table, it was obvious he was frustrated, but he said nothing. General Zakaria took a slight step forward as if he was going to say something, but then all heads turned to Charles when his voice suddenly and unexpectedly cut through the quiet room.


“Your Royal Highness,” Charles addressed King Wilum. “If it please Your Majesties and this council, I would like to say a few words. I may have a solution regarding the current lack of agreement among the council members.”


“And you are… Lord Charles?” Wilum asked.


“Yes, Your Highness, that is correct.”


“Go on, then. We have most definitely reached an impasse; if there’s something that can be done to break it, I have no objections.”


“When I first learned that this council would be convened, I made arrangements to conduct a small demonstration for Your Majesties and ArchLord Ottavia, along with your ministers and any other interested participants in this esteemed council.”


“A demonstration?” King Juston said as he looked at Charles with interest.


“Yes, a demonstration. That’s all I would like to say for now. I believe the demonstration will speak for itself.”


“Very well Lord Charles, you may commence your demonstration,” Wilum said.


“Your Highness, in order to successfully conduct this demonstration, it is incumbent that we recess this council and reconvene in the forum of Konassas.”


“This is totally out of order,” Prince Drakis barked.


“Maybe so, Drakis,” Wilum said as he addressed the Crown Prince of Vorhalla, “but if it can shed some light on our current dilemma, then I think it may be useful.”


“I agree,” King Juston quickly spoke up.


“As do I.” Lord Ottavia loudly added.


King Oslo and Prince Drakis sat in silence, the frowns on their faces growing a bit darker.


“We shall recess and reconvene in the forum,” Wilum said. Then he asked, “How much time will you need, Lord Charles?”


“Only ten minutes, Your Highness,” Charles answered. “I’ve already made some advance arrangements so as not to take too much of the council’s time.


“Very well, ten minutes it is then. This Council stands adjourned, to reconvene in the forum in ten minutes.”


Seconds after Wilum stated his agreement, Charles, Lance, and the twins quickly left the room.


“What’s this all about?” Nic leaned over to me and whispered.


“I don’t know Nikki. As usual, no one said anything to me about it.”


I turned in my seat just as Cody bent down between Nic and me.


“Do you know anything about this, Cody?” Nic asked.


“No I don’t, but that the other day, Charles, Lance and the twins got together for a brief conversation. Lance never made any further reference to it, and because I assumed that it was just a friendly chat between them, I never asked him. I can see that maybe I should have.”


“Well, no bother now,” Nic said. “I guess we’re just going to have to trust Charles. Again.”


I heard the door to the room quietly open and shut as Charles, David, Miro, and Lance passed through it on their way to the forum, and I wondered what could possibly happen next.