The Scrolls of Icaria by Jamie
Interlude - The Fourth




The Sirenese Mountains – the oldest range on the continent – began in the foothills of the Ardentin forest, extended northward, and terminated on the seacoast, at the Bay of Dane. Forming a natural boundary between the kingdoms of Vorhalla and Kalas, the land the range traversed was, for the most part, desolate. The heavily forested mountains, with their many small valleys and occasional gorges, were steep, difficult to traverse, and isolated. It was the principle reason the Royal Academy of Eagles Rock had been built on Mt. Savat – the range’s highest peak. 

A few hundred miles north of Eagles Rock lay the Gorge of Tamlin. Formed a hundred thousand years after the end of the geological era that created the Sirenese, the gorge had been fashioned during a subsequent ice age, when great glaciers advancing toward the south of the continent scoured the tall, rocky Sirenese, grinding and wearing them down to softer, rounder peaks. The gorge – formed by the action of the glaciers and enhanced by the mighty flowing rivers that came at the end of the ice age as the glaciers melted – was a breathtaking sight. Broad and deep, it extended for many miles. 

The sun had just set as the former Prince of Hypernia sat astride his horse, and looked down into the rapidly darkening gorge. In every direction he turned, he could see hundreds of campfires running up and down the floor of the gorge. Most of the campfires were congregated near the river that flowed through it. Spurring his horse, Hippolito began his descent into the gorge and called to his traveling companions – Geoffrey of Batwig and the members of the Legion of Red and Black – to follow.


In a field tent at the bottom of the gorge Loran, candidate for the wizardry, sat at a table finishing his evening meal. Tall, lean, and muscular, Loran appeared formidable. Anyone seeing the twenty two year old Loran and his teenage brother James side-by-side would have easily observed a familial resemblance. Although he was taller and older, Loran’s face closely mirrored that of his younger brother. Like all Icarians, while he was quite strong, he wasn’t highly muscled. His strong, taut and highly efficient musculature gave him great strength, but not the added bulk that might detract from flying. His long, blond hair that usually cascaded to his shoulders was tied back with a black ribbon, and he ate quietly, alone. He was just finishing his wine when the tent flap drew back and his commanding general, Matthew, entered.


“You sent for me, Your Grace?” Matthew said, executing a deep bow.


“Yes, Matthew,” Loran said, placing his empty wine glass on the table and smiling. “It’s time that we begin to put my plans into motion.”


“As you command, Your Grace. Tell me what you would have me do.”


“We left Eagle’s Rock and came here for shelter, to organize and acclimate the thrones. We’ve successfully intercepted a few caravans and raided some storage barns, but we need a steady supply of food to accomplish our goals. Every army moves on its stomach, and this one is no exception,” Loran said, looking up into the eyes of his general.


“Then what is your plan, Your Grace?”


“Although the world we lived in has drastically changed, Matthew, there are still some constants,” Loran said, standing up and moving to a map tacked on the tent wall. “Thanks to your excellent reconnaissance, I can see that this area – now called Günter Platz – is still the rich agricultural area it was in the days of the empire. Our first campaign will be there. It can’t be that well defended, and it will provide us with the necessary provisions we need to wage war.


“After that, we’ll move northward. As you’ve discovered on one of your journeys, there is a new city there, built after the fall of the empire, called Wrenstatten. A capture of this city, along with the valley of Günter Platz, will give us a permanent base of operations and put us in a strong position. From there we can move South, East or West.”


“So will we then move against the other kingdoms and cities populated by the humans?” Matthew asked.


“No, but that’s what I’ll want them to think. Such an attack on one of their principle cities will terrify them. They will assume the worst – an all out attack on their remaining cities – and will put their resources into defense. My plan is to completely by-pass them, and proceed to Küronas. Once there, we’ll have the necessary means to subjugate the entire continent. We will station a garrison in Wrenstatten, but the rest of the army will advance to the plain of Pons. We will cross the Poniçessian Mountains and the Plain of Zarkistan, and enter Küronas victorious.” 

“But what of your brother?” Matthew said, giving Loran a questioning look. 

“You mean the dancer?” Loran said, and started to laugh, but then his laughter quickly turned into a growl. Picking up a nearby broad sword, he whipped it around in a circle and smashed it down on the table he’d been sitting at with such force it cleft the table in two, sending his dinner plate, the empty wine glass, and a half filled carafe of wine flying through the air. Turning back to Matthew and still gripping the sword, he pointed it toward his commanding general. Loran sneered, “He can dance on the point of this.” 

“I’ll tell you this much, Matthew,” Loran lowered his voice, and threw down the sword. “I’ll have all of the orbs soon enough. I now have six, and little Jamie, only four. If I’m lucky, he’ll get a fifth.”


“But I thought…”


“You thought wrong,” Loran said. “If he gets the Golden Orb, then everything will fall to me. The Orb of the Lion will lead me to the final orb; with it, all I have to do is wait for my brother to die.”


Not understanding Loran’s cryptic words, Matthew simply blinked and said nothing. He’d learned that when Loran’s brother’s name was mentioned, his commander more likely than not would fly into a rage and become irrational. Biting his tongue, he bowed, turned, and was reaching for the tent flap when it suddenly folded back and a large, grim faced throne with the rank of Lieutenant Commander almost collided with him. Quickly stepping back, Matthew looked at the officer and frowned.


“What’s this?” 

“I was looking for you, my lord, and I was told you were here with the Wizard. It appears we have a problem, sir,” he began, jerking his head toward something behind him. “They say they’ve come to join us, and this one claims to be a friend of the Wizard. They voluntarily surrendered their weapons and haven’t given us a fight, but I didn’t want to take any chances.” 

As he spoke Matthew, looking behind the officer, could see a small group of Icarians who were unknown to him. They were on foot and surrounded by a small force of heavily armed thrones.


“I wish to see the Wizard,” an arrogant and angry voice called out from among the group of strange Icarians. “Trust me, he will want to talk to me.”  

Quickly putting his hand on his sword, and preparing to give the order to immediately drag them away from the Wizard’s tent so he could sort out the unexpected situation, Matthew was stopped when Loran, who’d been standing behind him, advanced a few steps and looked out into the dark. The light of the surrounding torches cast a glow on the faces of the strangers. Just as Matthew prepared to issue the order, he was surprised to hear his lord chuckle and welcome the aristocratic looking Icarian who’d spoken out into his tent. 

“What joy,” Loran said, struggling to control his laughter, “a surprise visit from the Prince of Hypernia.”


“Not the Prince of Hypernia anymore,” Hippolito said angrily, stepping into the tent and brushing past Matthew as if he were invisible. “Your little brother took care of that.”


“And what power does my little brother have over you, my dear prince?” Loran said, smiling an evil grin.


“None any more,” Hippolito spat out. “I’ve come to talk to you, Loran. I have a proposal for you – an alliance.”


“And what advantage would an alliance with you have for me?” Loran asked.


“If you remember, I had the emperor’s ear and that of the council.”


“The emperor is dust, as is the council, Hippolito.”


“Yes, but there are many things I know that can be of help – including the current whereabouts and plans of your brother.”


“Well, maybe they’re helpful, and maybe they’re not,” Loran said playfully, goading the stiff and proper prince, whom he’d never quite liked. “But I’ll entertain suggestions and listen to your proposal, my prince. Have a seat.”


“I’ve brought a few others with me,” Hippolito continued. “Geoffrey of Batwig, and the Legion of Red and Black.”


“Including their leader, Charles?”


“No Your Grace, he remains with Niklas and James. Along with the Princes and Scribes of the Houses.”


“Traitors all,” Loran shouted angrily, then paused and quickly collected himself. “Matthew, see that Prince Hippolito’s companions are taken care of. Get them something to eat and make sure they have shelter for the night. In the meantime, His Imperial Highness and I will be conducting a private meeting. Have one of my servants bring me more wine.” 

“Yes, Your Grace. As you command,” Matthew said, bowing and quickly exiting the tent, all the while frowning at this unexpected turn of events.