During our last chapter, the goddess had tasked Isabel and Julius to create a castle. The Grandmaster Wizard Sparrow had volunteered to give his aid to the chosen of the goddess. When we left them in the Fallen Oak Inn, the goddess had fulfilled a promise to Sparrow. She had also announced the presents of her chosen in a very spectacular way to the Elven people. We open as the scene unfolds within the Fallen Oak Inn.
Magical Hearts chapter 13
The Elven King still had not moved remaining on his knee. I say, “Please kinsman rise, it is not the practice of the elves to go to the knee. No need for you to do that I am merely the messenger of the goddess.” There is more than one gasp, and many realize their derogatory comments understood and directed at the chosen of the goddess. I spoke in the elves’ language and just called their King my relative.
The room is silent except Sparrow’s daughter asks, “Father, how am I here? I should be dead.”
Sparrow with happiness in his voice says, “All will be explained, but first I must introduce you to the chosen of the goddess.”
I turn helping Sparrow back to his feet, and he then assists his daughter to stand although she still is a bit wobbly and leans on him for support. The ranger on the ground looks at his hand in wonder and Ben offers his hand to help him stand as well. Both Brook and her companion stand in shock not expecting to be alive and whole.
Smiling Sparrow says, “My daughter Brook it is my great pleasure to introduce you to our distant cousins. This is Grandmaster Wizards Julius and Isabel Cowan, Prince and Princess of Cowan, and the chosen of the goddess Aphrodite.” Brook’s eyes go wide and if it was not for Sparrow holding her I think she would have went back to her knee.
Ben catches her companion and says, “Julius does not wish that.”
Smiling I say, “It is no longer the custom of the elves to show respect in that way. I would not have it renewed, I am not the goddess merely her chosen messenger.”
Brook asks, “Was it you that healed me?”
Isabel is always quick to point out says, “We are but the messengers through which the goddess shines, we are mortal and do not take credit for what the goddess does. Give your thanks to the goddess it was her power that healed you.”
The high priestess smiles, even for an elf the look of great age is on her face. The Elfin people usually do not show their age until they are very ancient. She walks to Isabel. Looking into her face she asks, “Child, who told you to say that? Why do you not take credit?”
Isabel smiles and says, “Only my heart has told me. Only the goddess has the power to do so much. Why should I take credit when it is not my actions?”
I smile and say, “My soul mate has spoken true. The goddess’s power heals. We are only the messengers through which it shines.”
The priestess asks, “What of you, you other two couples, I saw you shine with the goddess’s power also are you two chosen?”
Justin says thoughtfully, “I believe because we swore to help Julius and Isabel that the goddess give us her gift as well. We are both blessed couples, but it began with Julius and Isabel through them we became blessed as well.”
The priestess nods her head yes, before she turns back to me. Looking at me she asks, “Tell me your story of your life, I know the goddess has named you chosen but please I need to know if you are the one foretold or I still must wait.”
To honor her long years of service, after bowing to her I begin, “Much of the story I learned after my identity was discovered but I should tell you from the beginning. Please everyone take a seat the story will be quite long.” Only then did people move from the knee, as Isabel brings a chair for the priestess. The room is silent once all have taken their chairs I begin the story in full. “Twenty years ago on the day after the winter solstice I was born to King Patrick and Queen Carissa Cowan. When I was still but a babe my father had my mother seeks sanctuary in Britney, the Duke there betrayed my parents ambushing my mother before she could enter the city. My mother sacrificed her life to protect me, praying to the goddess for my salvation. Her giving up her life for love of me moved the goddess, and she answered my mother’s prayer.
I was so young I did not know the goddess placed me into a home with a loving woman and a gentle man. On my fourth summer, Raiders attacked the village in which the goddess placed me. She soften the heart of the Raider who killed the only parents I knew. He branded me as a slave instead of killing me. At that point, I had no name other than slave.
I endured slavery for four years, when the Master Wizard Justin freed me from the slave market in Camarillo. My plight moved the crowd, the Duke, and then the King who ended slavery in Cowan. At least my suffering for the four years ended the suffering of many.
No one knew my true name not even I, having no name the Master Wizard Justin called me, Julius for the child he had searched for but could not find. He had healers try to remove my strikes and brand although none could. During my ninth year, Justin discovered I have magic, and Justin became my teacher as well as my guardian.
During that time, Justin spent many months in the dwarves’ land. One day I helped a dwarf move a stuck wagon. We both fell into the mud as the wagon suddenly come loose. That was the day I met Granite Strong-Arm. I think he saw more in me than I could see in myself at the time. He and Justin arranged for me to begin to train with the dwarves as a fighter with the ax as a way to help me to recover.
During my early years, I grew strong and quick of step, I grew in power as a mage. I showed promise as both a mage and a fighter with use of the ax. By my fourteenth year, I could stand against six fighters in the ring without the use of my magic. I had become skilled more than any other than Granite would believe possible.
“During that same year I met the girl that would later be my wife. Finding her face beautiful, I cast a light spell telling her that was her Halo. Only later, did I found out that the spell lasted and impossibly long time. Apparently, the gods had taken notice of us.” I smile as Isabel comes to my side. “This next part I will let my wife tell.” Mentally I tell her, (do not forget to share your connection to your namesake.)
She looks up into my face and I can hear her thoughts telling me, (I am going to get you for this.)
Looking back to the crowd, she focuses on to the face of the high priestess and she begins. “I was born Isabel Morgan, my clan was originally formed by Morgan youngest son of Cowan the wise and Queen Isabel. I am one of their direct descendants. I had fallen in love with Julius. Being a young girl I cared not about names, I only knew my heart. My father kept us from seeing each other, on my fourteenth year the Duke of Camarillo at that time, insisted that I marry his second son of only ten years old. I did not love the boy, but my father prepared a dowry that was required. I ran away, not wishing to marry.
I was going to go to my uncle who I had not seen for four years and request for him to train me as an apprentice. On my way there, I ran into a servant of my father. His name was Remus and he insisted that I return with him to father. Before we can go to my uncles for the night a werewolf attacked killing poor Remus as it struck him he cried out. I was so frightened I could only hide a short distance away.
Then out of the woods came a cloaked wizard, from my hiding spot I cannot tell who he was, and I feared the Duke’s mage had found me. I wave of his hand knocked the werewolf off his feet. Then a mighty burst of lightning killed the beast. When the wizard turned and headed straight for me I panicked and ran.”
I mentally tell Isabel I will resume from there.
I begin again, “Once I had convinced her I meant her no harm. She calmed, and I set about the gruesome task of incinerating the two bodies. We then proceeded onto Master Justin’s home, which I shared. When we arrived there, Isabel told her uncle of the events earlier that night.
I cannot believe my good fortune when he insisted that we were betrothed. After casting the love’s discovery spell, he found us bonded strongly. Isabel and I were unwilling to leave each other’s arms, he went back to making the fire as Isabel, and I took the opportunity to kiss. We did not know at the time that we shared a blessed bonding.
The next day I gathered my dowry, and we traveled by an enchanted carpet Isabel granted me the power to create. We arrived in Camarillo, greeted by her father. While waiting for her father to decide if he was going to take my dowry, I was to present, Isabel and I kissed.”
(Isabel giggles in her mind and thinks Rebecca is going to be disappointed for leaving her out of the story.) Looking at my wife’s face, I chuckle and say, “My wife has reminded me how large a part my youngest sister-in-law Rebecca played into the story at this point.
Rebecca had seen us arrive, and had noticed a kiss Isabel and I had upon our landing, and how we glowed. Isabel and I had not even known until she asked. How did we glow like that? Is then that Justin informed us that we glowed with every kiss. In the tent of her father, Rebecca begs us to kiss again so she could see the glow once more. During the kiss, a priestess of Aphrodite entered the tent and seeing us glow proclaimed that we were a blessed bonding and no other marriage could be arranged for us.
She knew of the Duke and his plans for Isabel that he insisted that she marry his son for what purpose no one knew. Jeremiah insisted that she inform the Duke. Jeremiah with no other option, agreed to see my dowry. He found it acceptable.”
Justin laughs the sound carried in a quiet room seeing all eyes turn to him he finally explains, “Julius is dowry knocked my brother-in-law off his feet. It was Isabel’s weight in gold, and a third of her weight in uncut diamonds.” The priestess smiles, but the King and sparrows mouth drops open. There is many a gasp throughout the room. For only a second a quiet murmur runs through the room.
Once a room quiets I continue, “The Duke murder the priestess of Aphrodite when she refused to go against the goddesses wishes. The wicked Duke then ordered the temple of Aphrodite to suffer the same fate, because they too would not go against the goddess. He ordered my arrest and Isabel to be taking to his Castle. Once within the walls, I suffered three hours of torture until the sunset. The goddess is justice came with the setting sun. Isabel and I freed of our bonds after I was thrown onto the bloodstain of the priestess.”
Justin again adds, “Do not forget you shared the warning that all the righteous should leave the city the afternoon before.”
I give him a nod of my head and say, “My uncle is correct, before the Duke did drag me off I did give warning that I received from the goddess that the good people of Camarillo was spared.”
I hug Isabel, giving her a smile I continue. “Once free of the bonds Isabel and I moved into a kiss that lasted for the entire night. In the morning, the goddess caressed our faces. All the wicked people that remained within the city perished along with the Duke. That ended the night of judgment. Isabel and I were the only two left alive in the city and that was because the goddess protected us.”
As we left the city in search of Jeremiah and the survivors who fled the city, Isabel noticed the sails of a Raiders ship at sea. We found the survivors a short distance away out of sight of the city.
Bringing some guardsmen and kinsman to the walls, I knew it would not be enough to stop the hundred strong that would assault us. With Jeremiah’s aid, Isabel’s father, we met them at sea. We destroyed all but a few before they could reach the shores and captured the Raiders left alive. The rest of the day we spent preparing for our journey to New Cowan, we created five enchanted carpets, and three magical chest to move the house of Morgan.
Seeing the confusion among the elves, I mentally call our carpet we loaned to sparrow, and it flies through the broad doors and over the heads of the elves. It lands before us between the high priestess and the King. Stepping on it, Isabel and I rise into the air for a moment. We command it to land.
The following day, we arrived in new Cowan just after the noon meal. By dinner, Isabel and I wed, the goddess herself proclaimed as husband and wife.
George interjects, “Do not forget she also said you are the example of what love could be, beautiful and wondrous, joyful and lustful all things in the one.”
Martin with a chuckle says, “Leave it to you George to remember that.”
The room breaks out into laughter, when the room quiets again the priestess asks, “What words did you have for each other?”
Sparrow smiles giving us a nod, and Isabel and I repeat our words to each other. As Isabel and I gaze into each other’s eyes I begin, “You fill my heart with beauty, with love and joy. I was a blind man walking through this world until you open my eyes.”
Isabel says, “Your words bring joy to my heart. My life began when you held me in your arms for the first time.”
I say, “You are my Angel, with halo bright seen with each kiss. You are the light that I see by, the love that I feel knows no bounds, and surely, it makes us stronger. You are my soul mate. I think the goddess for making us as one.” The priestesses takes in a sharp breath hearing our statements looking wide-eyed, they watch as we move into a kiss. As each time we kiss the glow surrounds the two of us, this time the glow reaches out and caresses the high priestess who has a bright smile on her face despite her age.
She clears her throat and says, “Just a little more and I will be satisfied please continue.”
I continue, “When we kiss the goddess come forth, that is when she proclaimed us the example. That was the second time we saw the goddess. When Isabel and I kiss next, the glow spread among the congregation healing all there, many with ailments that other healers could not.
At our wedding feast, the King had us kiss at dusk, allowing our glow to fill the dining hall.
In the morning is when my birthright was discovered, where the brand had been there was no feeling before that morning, the skin itched so much that I was forced to rub. When I did I moved my clothing, as my mother-in-law entered the room I turned and my father was the one to notice my birthmark first.
Justin adds, “I thought the King was going to have me flogged. All that time you were in my care and I did not know you for his son.”
With a chuckle I say, “I think the goddess prevented that when she arrived for the third time. She explained how she had hidden me to protect me and honor my mother’s sacrifice. She also warned father that he would have need of me. That was the third day in a row we had seen the goddess.”
The head priestess eyes are now closed, and I notice she draws no more breath. I moved to her side lifting her hand there is no life left in her body. I am not sure why, but Isabel is at my side and tears freely fall from us both.
The King draws a soft sad breath before he says, “The prophecy has been fulfilled, her long years of waiting for you are over.”
Isabel and I turned tear streaked faces to him and he says, “She was the priestess who married King Cowan and Isabel. Seeing them glow with the blessing of Aphrodite, she allowed her prejudice to come forth. Saying a derogatory remark the goddess made her stay in her service until your return. The goddess then gave the current high priestess the prophecy, which you have fulfilled. It is not the full measure of what you will accomplish just that we will know you by its fulfillment.”
With Isabel’s hand in mine, we turn back to the priestess. We both reach out and caress her cheeks in a ragged voice I say, “May you find the peace your long years of service have earned.” As our hands, still caress her cheeks our tears flow, her years are erased her body reverting into the beauty she was in her prime. A smile now is on her face as she slowly fades is as if we see her waking in the afterlife with the goddess.
Priestesses take the now empty dress that once held the high priestess. Bowing to us, they leave. The King takes in a breath and says, “That was not expected or foretold very few in our history have been taken to the afterlife that way.”
Brook comes forth bowing to the King, then to us. Turning back to the King she addresses, “Sire may, I have leave of your service. I owe much to the goddess; too much, far too much only to give praise. I would aid her chosen.”
The King looking at Brook says, “Your service was sworn into your death. What I have witnessed tonight I hold your service fulfilled. Your new life is your own my niece.” The other Ranger steps forward joining Brook too. The King chuckles and says, “My words holds for you too Gabriel. I would have one more report before I release you.”
Bowing both acknowledge what the King said. “Yes sire.” Gabriel continues, “It is as we feared the orcs are on the move south in great numbers.” A murmur runs through the crowd at hearing the grave news.
Justin sets white faced, looking at Selena he says, “I would pray that we do not have to fight. Perhaps, we could enchant weapons for the younger ones.”
I learn what Justin had lost during the last Orc war. An arrow fired by a dark elf took his wife. If it is in my power, I will answer his prayer. I will plead with Father that Justin and Selena held in reserve. Allow them to enchant weapons for our warriors, but not allow him again to suffer the dangers of battle, especially with Selena at his side.
Sparrow looking to his King says, “There is many things we must accomplish. We must prepare for the invasion of the orcs and the invasion from Izmira into the south of Cowan. It is not coincidence that both should come at once, it is also not coincidence that Julius and Isabel the Chosen have come to us. We will need their power, because it is not just the human lands that this evil seeks to destroy, but all the allies.”
If an attack Fleet sailed from Izmira, they would arrive about the same time as the orcs. Our forces would be too divided to defend against both. Perhaps the only way to do this is to meet the fleet at sea, before they can reach our lands. Damage them so badly forcing them to return home, or destroy them.
That may barely give us enough time to gather our forces to meet the onslaught of orcs.
We may have to face the orcs first. Try to drive them back destroying as many of them as we possibly can. Then Edmonton tried to withstand the onslaught of Izmira’s invasion. Trusting Edmonton’s walls of the keep and citadel to withstand them long enough until we can bring our full forces to bear.
The only thing I know for sure is our plans need to be constantly adjusted, flexible to the situation that best serves us. If we destroy the fleet, the defenders of Edmonton can stand against the orcs. If we destroy the orcs, the forces that would stand against them can attack the armies of Izmira.
Although ships have a weakness, lightning bolts destroy their planking, and fireballs set them on fire both would be enough to turn them away. They would have to leave earlier than the orcs, possibly just after midwinter so they could arrive in the early spring. If we only use fireballs, destroying their sails the ships would still reach our shores but the voyage would take far too long for many of the soldier and sailors to survive.
The larger question is how many ships, how many of their sailors and soldiers will we face. As I feared, Izmira must have learned of the plans, and of the alliance, we were going to gather too great of a force so they sought to destroy us first. How could they organize with the orcs, now that makes me wonder what greater evil is behind them.
As if in answer to my unasked question, the Elf King comes forward. King Sky Firemoon informs me, “We have long believed the Drow control many kingdoms, using humans for their dark purposes. Izmira is one of those kingdoms we suspected. The Drow or dark elf separated from our people long ago when the goddess condemned the use of slaves. They rejected the goddess and her teachings. Since that time they have sought to destroy the followers of the goddess.” Many suspected that fact, but very few would ever think an elf would admit that, let alone their high King.
Cowan has been one of the strongholds of worship for the goddess of Aphrodite. Her worship strengthened during the time of the first high King and Queen. During that time, many more began to follow the teachings of Aphrodite. Several of their descendants also have found bless marriages, but Isabel’s and my marriage is the first blessed in more than a hundred years.
King sky asks, “What is your thoughts Julius?”
I look to the King and say, “Separately we will never survive. My life has taught me one thing. Each of the allies has strengths. The elves are the best artisan, archers and Rangers on our entire world. The dwarves are fierce fighters; they are the best weapon smiths for ax and sword. The humans are inventive and fierce when protecting their own and their friends. Magic runs strong in them as it does the elves. We will combine all our strengths together we are stronger. Together we can stand and we can survive.”
The King smiles as he bows to me. In a clear voice when he rises he says, “Truly the son of your father and heir to the line of King Cowan the wise.”
One of the elves who made a disparaging remark on our entry comes forward. Judging from his dress, he appears to be a noble. Going to his knee before me, he begins to apologize, “Chosen I wish to apologize for the words I said. If I had known...”
I go to him and lift him off his knee stopping him from apologizing by my actions. Looking into his face I say, “I took no offense because of your ignorance. Not for the fact, you were ignorant that I am the chosen. However, prejudice is carried by the unknowing. Prejudice is a cruel master. It will make you a fool if you allow it. Do not let prejudice rule you or your heart.”
The noble elf looking into my face blushes and begins to laugh. The laughter seems to spread throughout the whole of the inn. When again the room quiets he says, “I have never thought a human to teach me wisdom. I would do what I can to return the favor. Now this fool of a sword master is at your service.”
With a smile I say, “I would take you as no fool, because only a fool does not learn from his mistakes. You demonstrate the capability to learn.”
Bowing to me, he raises with a smile and says, “Yet another lesson, I have received. I will strive not to underestimate you chosen.”
With a smile I say, “Please just call me Julius.”
He begins, “My apologies, I am Eldeone, and at your service.”
Bill has wrapped Brook and the light green cloak he wore. Her body may be healthy again, but her dress still shows the signs of the struggle she had gone through. Gabriel accepts Samuel’s cloak. The two are roughly the size of Ruth and Ben. I ask Ben, “Would it be all right if I offer our two newest companions Ruth and your armor, until we can get proper armor for them?”
Ben whispers into my ear “Do it quickly before Bill is too enamored.”
With a chuckle, I nod my head, but I believe it is already too late. With a wave of my hand, I pull the armor from three thousand miles away, from where it rested in its enchanted crate on Hound Island. I hand the armor to Brook and Gabriel. I say, “For the time being, we will have to hunt a Drake probably two to get enough hide for the three of you.” The serving girl leads them off to a place where they can change.
Sparrow gives me a nod in thinks. King Sky with a smile asks, “Was that Drake hide armor?”
George being true to his nature says, “Yes sire, Ben and Ruth’s armor. We each have a set, Julius and Isabel along with all his companions.” Seeing the King raise an eyebrow George joyfully continues, “The first Drake I saw Julius kill was to protect a group of us. The second a thief was using it to intimidate travelers out of their money. The third and fourth came at one time, and they were attacking a dukedom, feeding on cattle that belong to the farmers living there.”
The King asks, “You did not hunt them for their hide alone?”
I give George look and he remains silent except for his chuckling he is trying to suppress. I say, “Each Drake we were forced to kill. I would not see their death as being useless. The hide we received from each I tried to put to good use. Although I fear the next, we will have to hunt. I would not see my companions go into harm’s way without as much protection as I could create for them.”
King sky asks, “You would not kill such a dangerous creature just to be rid of it?”
I shake my head no before I say, “Giving another choice I would prefer to see it survive. They are a creature of nature, and of the wild places. Drakes are territorial, if left alone in the deep forest they can coexist with civilization. Unfortunately, once the move their territory and they come in conflict with men or elf they would give us little choice. I would not see people hurt, but the Drakes death is still regrettable.”
King Sky chuckles before he says, “There is two Drakes that attack our herds, not far from here. I would considered a great favor if you remove them from conflict with the elves.”
I look to passing serving girl and ask, “I wonder if they are rooms available for the night?”
King looking at my party says, “I have guests already, or I would put you up gladly.”
Brook returning says, “My father takes one room to store all his items, leaving me but a single bedroom.”
Isabel giggles, “We can come back in the morning.” Looking at the disappointed faces around the room, she sighs. “I guess one night here would not be too long away.”
Our one night there, quickly stretched into three nights. We did take care of the Drakes the next day at dawn, that afternoon we spent at the temple of Aphrodite. There was no partition separating us from the faithful who passed by receiving the healing from Aphrodite. Isabel and I both insisted on no tribute be required. The healing was for rich and poor alike. The goddess gives her love to all she thinks deserving.
The second day there, father arrived upon request from King Sky. Along with a very old friend of mine Granite Strong-Arm of the dwarves. That is when I discovered he is actually King Granite Strong-Arm.
Our meeting was not what anyone other than a dwarf would expect. At first, we threw insults at each other. Followed by us wrestling until Granite was on top with my hands held within one of his strong hands, I was forced to submit as he ruthlessly tickled me into submission.
The only reason the dwarves would expect that, it is how we met for the last few years. Granite have become my Guardian among the dwarves. Of course, it was not anything official. However, he was as close to a Dad or big brother that I had to until father discovering me.
Justin had warned father and the Knights, Isabel held back my companions, having received my warning. Isabel strolls forward with little Patrick when Granite had released me. In mock anger Isabel says, “Is that anyway for a Prince to act? You are going to teach your son bad habits.”
Granite eyes widen looking at my grinning face. He looks to Justin who only shakes his head yes. Turning to my father he asks, “This is the pup you looked for, for so long?”
Dad is chuckling before he pulls himself under control and says, “Yes my friend that is the pup I lost, and only found less than three years ago.”
Granite laughs, “I always knew you were more than you seemed. Now you are this prince, I keep hearing about every time a merchant enters my borders.” The six of his kinsman all are shocked as he. Jokingly Granite says, “From the stories the keep telling I would swear you were shorter.”
Following suit with our normal banner, “and from the stories I heard of the dwarves’ King you could chew star silver and spit nails.”
One of his guards laughs before saying, “Get him mad Pup, you will see it is true. Why else would we make him King?”
Granite changes the subject. Gesturing to Isabel and Patrick he asks, “Who this be lad?”
With a smile, I introduce Isabel and our son, “King Granite Strong-Arm I like to introduce you to my wife and son.”
Justin whispers in my mind, (do not forget Grandmaster.)
After a quick look back to Justin and both he and Sparrow nod yes. I continue, “Grandmaster Wizard Princess Isabel Cowan and our son Patrick Cowan the fifth.”
Granite those full well what the implications of the titles are with a smile he says, “That is a mouthful Pup. You had a nice big long title too.”
With a chuckle I say, “Grandmaster Wizard Prince Julius Cowan the seventh. But you can just call me Pup like you always do.”
Granite says, “If you start calling me King, or sire, or your highness I take me ax to your backside.”
Chuckling I say, “Only if I am out of range, and need star silver nails.”
Granite looks me shaking his head. He says, “Let you out of me sight, look what you went, and become grandmaster wizard and a Prince on top of that. I almost had the Council ready to adopt you.”
Justin chuckles, “Was that because of dead man’s pass?”
Granite kinsmen chuckle and Granite gets aglow in his eye before he says, “Eighty-two to eighty, we killed a hundred and sixty-two orcs between the two of us, and those six setback and watch.”
Granite kinsman says, “There was barely enough room in the pass for the two of them, two tornadoes with an ax head sticking out of each.”
One of the other that was with us there says, “When one Orc would run from Granite, Julius was there to end it. When they ran from Julius, Granite would end their miserable life. Did you see Julius lean on his ax and let Granite had the last two.”
I throw my hands up in surrender to Granite before I say, “They were headed your direction, and I was too tired to chase them.”
Granite smugly says, “Pup you knew I had those two before you could get close.”
Nodding my head yes, I say, “I was not about the fight you over them. Besides, you taken that last ones head was the funniest thing I ever saw.”
Granite six kinsman laugh, before one says, “He took the head and it flew up in the air landing back on its own body and it bit its own ass.”
Isabel is looking at me with wide eyes, along with all my other companions including Brook and Gabriel before Brook says, “I wish I had you two with us day before yesterday. We only had two hundred orcs between the two of us. With you two standing with us in might have been a lot more fun.”
Gabriel with a grim face says, “We would not have died. That would had made it more fun.”
Now this really gets the dwarves attention. Granite asks, “Lass where? Where were these orcs you battled?”
Brook is almost shaking after taking a deep breath she says, “Just north of your border, not more than ten miles north of dead man’s pass.
Granite says, “That is not good land to fight on. Way to open, all the orcs can surround you, press you from all sides. No wonder you lost, if it was only two of you how be you alive to tell the tale.”
Brook takes a deep breath before she looks at Isabel and me giving us a smile. She says, “Julius and Isabel are the chosen of the goddess, my father gave me an amulet that would bring me back to him if I died. When I appeared in the fallen Oak, Julius and Isabel were there. I was barely aware, but as soon as they come together, a light surrounded me and I felt healing magic. Then I went to sleep and woke up looking into the face of the goddess.”
Seeing Granite’s disbelief Isabel and I pull into a quick kiss the light surrounds us, and reaches out and many old injuries in the room healed. Even Granite’s beard is longer, when I was ten he tried to teach me how to smith. I accidentally set his beard on fire, a grave injury to a dwarf. After that, I was solely a fighter in his eyes. I think he like to give me my lumps. It is not that he is vengeful. However, in dwarves’ society if you cannot smith you had better be one hell of a fighter.
I chuckle as Granite caresses his forearm where an old scar had been. Looking down I say, “You had better braid your beard Granite, or you will end up tripping over it.”
Granite scoffs, “Me arm is one thing, but you know you burnt me beard off Pup only eight years ago.”
One of Granite’s kinsman reaches down lifts his beard out for Granite to see. The scar was one thing but seeing his beard full once again brings a tear to his eye. In disbelief, Granite says, “The goddess do this, give me beard back.”
Isabel with a smile says, “The goddess Aphrodite knows how much you loved your beard, how big of an injury that was to you. Why would she not heal it too?”
There is a few chuckles around the room. Granite for one of the few times in his life smiles and says, “Perhaps I should learn more about the goddess Aphrodite. If she is kind enough to give me beard back, she be a God worth knowing.”
Justin smiles and says, “Granite she is your Goddess Jewel.”
Seeing Granite’s confusion Sparrow says, “Julius and Isabel are her chosen messengers. Through them she shines, her light heals those she finds deserving.”
Light of understanding is in Granite’s eyes before he slaps me on my back saying, “You knew this and did not come to fix me beard. At least you did it now.”
Accepting his anger I explain, “It is not like I did not want to come and visit. However, I have been rather busy with learning how to be the Prince. We have a few things to show you that took a few months to do.”
Dad comes my rescue. He says, “After him being away from me so long Granite do you blame me for not letting him go off to visit too.”
Granite smiles will more time, “I guess you are happy to have your Pup back.”
Isabel is giggling in her mind, (oh Pup we are going to have some fun.)
Our little get together breaks up, the three Kings go off to speak on alliance business. My comrades, Isabel and I walked back to the fallen Oak. As we traveled down the walkways the difference between now and two days ago is startling. Each elf we pass is bowing low in respect to us, and Isabel and I return each. More than a few elves are rather startled by our courtesy to them.
As we enter the door to Inn of the Fallen Oak, there is a loud scream from the kitchen. The serving girl named Dawn runs out white-faced, seeing us she pleads for us to come quickly. Entering the kitchen, one of the cooks looks like she is been on fire. I can see Brook strain to control herself. The memory of her ordeal is too recent for her to do anything else.
I order Dawn to get me cold water and towels. I cast the spell the blocks pain on the cook. The door to the kitchen is crowded with faces as they watch. Dawn is back in an instant, she has a bucket of clean cold water, and several clean dishtowels. I dunk the dishtowels into the cold water and spread them about the body of the cook everywhere a blister is beginning to rise. Then when those are covered everywhere the skin is red and puffy. Once the heat taken away from the skin Isabel and I then move into a kiss.
Someone from the doorway says, “I understand now, the towels soaked and cold water keeps her from being burned again. If they did not do it, the hot grease would simply continue to injure her.”
Only a second or two and the cook begins to move the cool towels off her face. The skin there is now clear of blisters. Her eyes are bright and clear. A smile crosses her face before she recognizes us. Her unmarred hands cover her face. In a scared quiet voice the cook says, “I am not worth your time. You are royalty, and the chosen of the goddess. I am merely a commoner and a cook.”
In a gentle voice I ask, “Do you think I am great, because an accident of birth? The goddess would not think so. I am not the King or a Prince in this land. Yes, I am the chosen of the goddess, and to her you are worthy, of her love and help. If you are worthy of the goddess, I as a mere mortal should hold you in as high esteem.”
She tentatively pulls her hands away from her face. Looking at her palms a slow smile crosses her face. When she moves her hands, she sees Isabel and my face. A bright smile crosses her face as she throws her arms around the two of us. She says, “Think the goddess for my healing, but thank you for your words. I know they came from your heart.”
Brook with a wave of her hands seem to cause the cook’s clothing to mend reverting to new looking clothing. She smiles and helps the cook to her feet. Isabel and I stand, the serving girl hugs us and says, “Thank you for helping my sister. Thank you for bringing the goddess’ healing to us.”
With a chuckle, I say, “If only we could be everywhere at once.”
Dawn says, “My Lord you need to know who needs you most, and that is where you should be.”
I glance at Sparrow and say, “Apparently the goddess knows, where we are needed the most and when. She made sure we were here for your sister.” Turning to Brook I continue, “And for Brook and Gabriel when they needed us.”
The innkeeper pushes his way through the crowd in the serving girl turns to him. Smiling Dawn says, “Father the Chosen have saved Carly.”
We have been staying in the Inn for the last few days. Elven homes are rather small. Therefore, to have our group together we took rooms in the inn.
The elf is a typical merchant after hugging his two daughters the first thing that comes to his mind is how much is his debt. Looking at us, he asks, “What is your price for the service?”
Isabel is a little aggravated at constantly telling everyone that no wage is due us, it was the goddess’s work. Looking at the elf she says, “Do you charge your daughters for your affection? For what good you do for them. We only act as her messenger, the goddess’s power flows through us and into the world where the goddess directs it to do what she wishes. The goddess does not charge for the love and healing she gives us. You owe your thanks to the goddess not to us.”
Bowing to Isabel the innkeeper is a little red-faced. Upon his rising he says “My apology Lady Isabel, it is unusual for anyone like you to do for us. I truly meant no offense.”
I place my hand on Isabel shoulder hoping to calm her. Turning her to look into my face I mentally tell her, (Love, many forgot that your house was noble. Nevertheless, being Jeremiah’s daughter, a wealthy merchant, people would do for you more than most. Remember how Carly acted, she is accustomed to people treating her poorly because of her station.)
Isabel turns back to the innkeeper, and bowing to him she says, “Your apology is accepted, if you will accept mine. My words were hotter than you deserved. You have been more than kind during our stay here. Your service to us has always been noble in action.”
There is many a gasp from the doorway behind us, and the innkeeper is more than shocked he remains frozen until his daughter again gets his attention. “Father, answer Princess Isabel.”
As if shaking from a dream he says, “Certainly Princess Isabel, I accept your apology. Nevertheless, I feel a debt larger than I could pay.”
Isabel now with a smile says, “Just remember the debt is not to us, but the goddess. I am sure if you offer your service to her, one day she will possibly accept your payment, until then give her your thanks.”
Bowing to Isabel again raising he smiles and says, “You and your Prince are the chosen of the goddess. You would know these things far better than I would. I will do as you request, and give my thanks to the goddess every day.”
One of the priestess of Aphrodite is there. Bowing to us, she says, “The high priestess would request your presence at the temple once your lunch is complete. She has a note for you. It is not of great importance.”
Dawn smiles, “This way please, I have a special table for you and your group.”
Our group follows Dawn to the Royal table. Arriving she says, “The King is not expected today. If he does come, I’ll just sit him near you.” She giggles as she begins taking our orders. It is amazing how fast our food comes. She and her sister must have moved our order so it was prepared next. Isabel and I would not wish to become accustomed to such treatment. We would not have ourselves placed before others.
During lunch Ben asks, “Was it true about dead man’s pass?”
With a chuckle I say, “Have you heard, that there is no truth as true as the truth from a dwarf.”
Ben chuckles and says, “I am never letting you have an ax for our practices in that case.”
Eldeone, the elfin sword master nods his head in agreement. Although finally he does say, “Perhaps, you should teach us the ax.”
A voice from across the room says, “Told you I would find your Pup.”
Fortunately, this table is very large, and the fourteen more men seated at it and a nearby table. Father asks, “How is the food here?”
Smiling I say, “Very good, if you like elfish dishes.”
Granite grumbles, “I guess I can survive.”
Eldeone raises an eyebrow, but I just shake my head and he wisely lets the subject drop. Sometimes it is best to remain quiet and allow stereotypes to prove themselves false. I think Eldeone is going to be a fun companion to have. I am sure there is many stereotypes of his we will challenge. For one who live so long he has traveled very little.
As the meal progresses, Granite is very quiet, mostly because he and his companions have not stop shoveling food in their mouths. I have not seen him eat so quickly and quite a while. Our provisions went bad three days before our return from dead man’s pass, the dwarves appetite seems to be similar to then. Dawn had struggled to bring enough food for the ravenous dwarves.
Finally, when seven dwarves push away from the table, I can see the relief on Dawn’s face and wonder if there is anything left in the kitchen to be prepared. As Dawn clears the table I ask, “Does Carly have anything left in the kitchen?”
Laughingly she says, “Father has just got back from market. She had to send him right back out.”
When I reach for my pouch, Dawn nearly stops me but one look from Isabel starts her giggling as she retreats to the kitchen. They normally charge one silver piece per plate, but I drop a half dozen gold pieces on the table. I look at Granite and say, “I can afford to be generous now that the gods have been more than generous with me.”
Granite asks father, “You let your Pup spend the kingdoms treasure?”
Father shakes his head no and says, “He found a sunken treasure ship the day before his wedding, split it with Justin and still has more money than most of our duchies, and that is even after paying the King’s tax. I cannot even get him to take a salary as an officer.”
That is something very unlike a dwarf. Therefore, Granite’s comment is one I expected, “Pup, didn’t I teach you better? You will be a poor King if you keeps giving away all your treasure.”
With a chuckle I say, “If I ever need more money I could beg it of my wife. Her father refused the first dowry, saying it would only slow the clan down.”
Granite raises and eyebrow so I continue, “The first dowry went to Isabel, it was just her weight in gold and a third of her weight in uncut diamonds.”
Even though she is with child she seems small to the dwarfs although tall, but they know that uncut diamonds can be worth far more than the gold. Isabel and I have found and enchantment that allows a mage to tie his purse to his treasure chest. The mage reaching into the purse is the same as reaching into the mage’s treasure chest. With a giggle, Isabel tosses a large uncut diamond to Granite. The dwarfs’ eyes widened as they gaze at the stone, they all gather around Granite for a better look.
Granite looks up and asks, “Is this one of the largest?”
Isabel reaches back into her purse, as she shakes her head no. The purse stretched to its limit as Isabel removes her hand with a diamond over twice the size of the one Granite now holds. Both stones are of very high quality, and the shock faces of the dwarves matched by many of the elves. Isabel proudly says, “Now you see why my father was so shocked he could not stand at seeing Julius’ dowry. I am not even sure if this is the largest of the stones.”
Father chuckles and says, “Your father was not the only one to lose his feet seen those gems. I had to quickly find a chair myself.”
I chuckle and say what I always say about that dowry, “It is mere dust compared to my Isabel.”
Seldom in your lifetime will you ever hear a dwarf laughing. Perhaps, at the end of the great battle, where he thought his death assured. Nevertheless, my comment and the two stones had seven dwarves laughing.
Isabel and I simply pull into a kiss. Dawn seeing the gold on the table nearly scolds us, until I remind her of how many times she had to bring more servings. She does remind us to meet the high priestess.
Of our companions, only Ruth, Ben, Eldeone, Brook and Gabriel go to the high priestess with us. Entering the temple of Aphrodite, our companions take seats among the pews. There is quite a few more worshipers in the past few days. I know some have passed by us, and now returned to give thanks daily. A priestess rings a small Bell. As another leads us into a separate office off the main corridor.
We wait for a moment or two and the newly appointed high priestess enters her office. Bowing to us, she has an amused smile as we return her courtesy. With a smile, she greets us, “It is a pleasure to meet the chosen of the goddess. Our people have awaited your return for nearly a thousand years.”
Isabel and I never know exactly what to say to that. We normally change the subject quickly. With a smile I ask, “We were told you had a message for us, may we have it?”
The high priestess smiles and says, “Yes, but is the oddest thing. It came to us like a normal message, although it only addressed The Chosen. It is not normally ever done like that. I apologize my curiosity was so great that I opened it. The odd thing is there is no message. That is why said it was not of any urgency.”
She slides a blank parchment across the table, and she flips it over showing it is as she indicated. Once she releases it, Isabel reaches for the nearly blank paper. As soon as Isabel’s hand touches the parchment, writing appears.
Isabel immediately moves the parchment so she can read the letter that addresses her.
I received permission to write you this short letter. It is for you and your husband. I did not get to tell you how happy I was to meet you finally. As you know our meeting was prophesies a thousand years ago. Even for an elf that is a very long time to live. I want you to know that I have no regrets waiting for you. Truly the only regret I have, is allowing my prejudice to affect my judgment so long ago. In a way that was a very good thing, it taught me humility. A lesson I strived to share.
From here, I can watch, and I am so proud of how you handle yourself. You are much like my Isabel. I should know I was not only the priestess to perform Cowan and Isabel’s marriage, but her sister.
With my love
PS tell Rebecca hi for me. One other thing tell Jewel I left a letter for her, she is the new high priestess, lower right-hand desk drawer on the right. Thanks and have a long and happy marriage.
More writing magically appears.
PSS. The goddess wants me to remind you to get back to work on her palace. Tomorrow, bring your fathers Julius, and your companions.
Isabel giggles looking up from the letter she says, “Jewel, there is a letter for you in your lower right-hand desk drawer on the right side.”
The high priestess is shocked for an instant but almost automatically opens the drawer and retrieves a letter. Looking up at us she says, “I would have never thought to look. How did you know?”
With a giggle Isabel says, “Ines just told me in this letter. I hate to tell you this, but we need to get back to work for the goddess and will be leaving in the morning.”
Jewel is a little shocked. First, no one has told us her name, she just chosen high priestess this morning. Second very few people knew the name of the former high priestess. Her own father forbid her to use her name in her lifetime again. Therefore, from that day on she was simply referred to as priestess and then high priestess.
We take our leave of the high priestess as she began to read her letter. Our group only make it partly down the walkway when she comes in a rush. Jewel calling, “Isabel, Julius, chosen please wait.”
Still holding the letter in her hand she says, “This letter is nearly four hundred years old, and it has a second prophecy. It is a prophecy that I am to share with the chosen. Here is proof of the foretelling, it not only names you and Isabel, but myself as well. I will return with you to Hound Island in the morning.”
Now it is our turn to be a little shocked. Hound Island is unmarked on any map and is merely a nickname we have given it. Other than, Sparrow and he sworn to secrecy, no one knew where we were going to construct the Castle of Aphrodite. How could anyone four hundred years ago, long before Isabel and I were born. I guess if you accept one prophecy, you should accept them all.
Isabel and I smile, we can feel the others acceptance. I say, “Well Jewel, be packed for two weeks or more, do not worry about provisions we have those. Just bring your clothing that you will need.”
When we arrived back at Hound Island, everything is more or less the way we left. King sky insisted that we bring twelve Elfin Rangers to act as our perimeter security. We had room in the crate for additional provisions, which we purchased prepared meals from the Fallen Oak Inn. I wondered if we brought enough, although Carly remarked that should feed is for more than a couple months. Then she giggled and said if you need more, send Sparrow I am sure in a few hours he could return.
Granite was reluctant to travel on a carpet, even more reluctant to step through my spell of transportation. However, he finally did, without being on the carpet. He nervously clutched his ax, as did his six companions. In a way the dwarfs were a godsend, they were the most skilled when it came to stonework. Even though we were going to use magic to perform the labor, we could do it at their direction. Granite himself was a master Smith, and could forge anything from iron to star silver.
Off to the side is a single change to our encampment. A forge has appeared where none had stood before. Under the hammer is a small note written in the language of the dwarves. Granite reads it with a grin, hands it to me allowing me to read it.
The note reads.
Granite make the son of your heart an ax, he will need in the upcoming battle to stand beside you. While you are at it, forge one for yourself, and a few swords for your elfin companions.
With a chuckle I say, “It looks like you have your assignment from the goddess as well.”
Granite grumbles, “Give me beard back, just so I make the Pup a new ax.”
Smiling I say, “You get to make a few weapons, something you love to do anyway. I get to build a whole Castle.”
With all the additional people here, it is a good thing that we brought the Keep. We set it up near the only natural pathway down from the plateau. The adjoining forest still hides it from the Valley floor. However, the watchtowers are just high enough to have a clear view all the way down the trail to the valley floor.
Granite and his six companions stared at the keep with wide eyes, along with our new elfin friends. Sparrow only chuckles at their expressions. He asks, “Was I so on first viewing your keep?”
Isabel giggles nodding her head yes. I say with a smile, “Not as bad as your other companions. They were far more shocked than you.”
The three elfin wizards chuckle than the one who spoke up about the horses says, “My apologies Julius it is very unusual to see such power in one so young, even among humans am I correct?”
Justin chuckles and says, “You are correct, the power he wills is extremely rare among us all.” Given me a look he continues, “Do not let it go to your head. You are still just as mortal now as you always were.”
Bowing to my uncle, I smile saying, “I could not say why I wheeled such power. I only pray to the goddess for the wisdom to use it wisely. That I better the world for being in it and for the patients to do all things in their proper time.”
When I rise is to see many smiling faces. I see Father and Granite standing side-by-side both having looks of pride on their faces. Just standing to the side is King Sky and his wife they too smile with pride. Even Jewel the high priestess has a bright smile. Isabel wraps me in a hug and pulls me into a kiss.
King Sky originally had not came with us, bowing to him, I ask, “King Sky, may I ask how...”
Cutting me off with a chuckle he says, “That would be a very good question, I was just opening the door to the temple of Aphrodite when we found ourselves here instead of in the temple. A messenger came with a request for me from the temple of Aphrodite. We were to witness the chosen’s proclamation.”
After a pause King Sky says, “I do believe we have witnessed your proclamation. We will assist you in making the world better.” He and his wife bows to Isabel and I, and we return it. As we, both rise the Elf King and Queen fade.
Jewel says, “Worry not. They again stand in the temple of Aphrodite at Forestdale.”
Sparrow chuckles, “My brother is going to wonder if you did that. Perhaps I should send him a message to ease his mind, in a day or two.”
Father begins to laugh and all our companions echo his contagious laughter.
The dwarfs take a closer look at the Keep. The master stonemason among their group runs his hand across the stone. I only know his first or possibly his nickname as Chisel. Chisel after a long examination of the stone looks to me and ask, “You used your magic to form the stone. There is no weaknesses in the stone left by being hammered or polished. How long did it take you to build this?”
I am reluctant to tell him, and I am grateful that Justin is nearby. I am also unwilling to lie to him, so I say, “It took ten days, but as you say I use magic.”
Chisel actually chuckles, he says, “If I had your magic Pup, then you would really see something. However, you did a decent job.”
I smile, because from a master dwarf stonemason that statement is high praise. I realize why he is here. I know he cannot truly direct my magic but he could direct me in its use. Jewel the goddess wanted him to aid me, so this Palace could be the wonder it really should be. Bowing to Chisel I ask, “Master stonemason may I ask your help in constructing the Palace of the goddess?”
Chuckling he asks, “We only have ten days to build it?”
The answer comes to me without me even thinking I say, “No, the goddess Jewel will give us all the time we will need. I am to do the work at your direction. Tell me Chisel will you help me build the Palace of the Goddess Jewel. It is for the goddess and should be as wondrous as she.”
Granite slaps chisel on the shoulder, “That is what you get for giving Pup an idea.”
Chisel looking at Granite says, “Don’t you have an ax to make, if me only have two weeks I bet you got no longer.”
Granite takes the five of the other dwarves and begin setting about his task. Chisel walks to the stone we have gathered for our task. He looks at it and says, “It be fine for surface stone. But if me had me way, we be using heart stone.”
I think heart stone and I realize what it truly is. Heart stone is the stone from the very heart of the mountain. Dwarves never quarry stone from above but below. They take the stone from the very heart of the mountain because it is so hard having existed from millennia under the weight from above. I look at the four stone balls. I place my hand on the first and begin its transformation. The stone grows hot as it shrinks from fifty foot in circumference to forty. By the time I remove my hand it is again cool to the touch.
Chisel pulls a hammer from his belt. He taps the stone then begins to smile, saying, “That be the right stone now. Do the rest so we can begin.”
I noticed the fire in the forge made hot by stoking and bellowing to begin the metal making process. Apparently, Granite is very pleased with all that he found there.
Justin almost growls at seeing the size of the stone, knowing we will have to bring even more. He resigns himself, taking Selena’s hand, with our two apprentices they leave on a carpet for the stone yards. I know they will be back with more stone shortly.
At Chisel’s direction, we begin working, only after few minutes do I realize someone has brought the blueprints and Chisel is direct and me into the pattern for the first floor, even before a foundation is fully late, the walls began to rise as we walk through the halls of the storage rooms. Walls not fully formed, only raising only a couple of feet. However, each rooms outline easily seen, a thick layer stone covers the natural stone, as it is smooth to a glassy surface.
Justin and Selena return just has the last of the third stone ball is consumed. They have transformed the two they bring into heart stone. Wasting no time, after setting their cargo down, they speed away knowing we will require much more stone. A second carpet joins them, and Sparrow and his companions will gather stone as well.
Chisel’s directions become almost telepathic as we continue, he directs and stone disappears only to reassemble as he imagined. I am barely aware of time passing as the large stone structure take shape. Only the comings and goings of the carpets interrupts our thoughts.
Only when we break for the noon meal, I realize how exhausted and hungry I am, and how much we had accomplished. Most of the first floor is complete. Of all the floors in the Palace, it will be the simplest. The upper floors supported by it, and in some areas have very thick walls for that purpose. The arched double doorway is open and inviting, the hall to the main stairway that will open onto the main gallery of the Temple for the goddess has taking shape.
Isabel and I say very little as we eat hurriedly. We used all our energy reserves this morning and the food will help us recover. Juliet brings a second plate for us, setting it down with a smile she says, “I imagine performing magic does build up an appetite.”
Chuckling I say, “Not surprising, the energy to do so much must come from somewhere.”
Chisel’s appetite seems to be in good form also, as he polishes off his second plate.
As we finish Granite and the other dwarves returned from the forge, metal making can be a long process, the metal needs to be heated, folded and reheated and folded yet again, sometimes hundreds of times to create the proper distribution of carbon and other elements within the star silver. The master Smith will add powdered metal coating onto the semisolid bar before folding it, sometimes immersing the bar into liquid metal from a smelter adding a layer of fresh metal to the alloy. This creates thin layers of different metals of varying hardness. The softer metal prevents the weapon from cracking or shattering because it is too brittle. I have even heard of one master Smith using glass, very thin layers within steel to create a weapon of surprising sharpness.
Before Chisel, Isabel and I return to work, Chisel points out saying, “Pup we have a problem the floor plans call for Marvel in the temple. The stone we have not be Marvel.”
Sparrow shakes his head as he walks in, he has overheard Chisel’s remark. Chuckling he says, “For some reason I do not think you have looked outside yet Chisel. We left with normal stone, however when we arrived they had changed during the flight. You have enough Marvel to cover the entire second floor, and probably the walls of the temple.”
Chisel looks out on the milky white stone with a smile he says, “That be just like the goddess, give what you need with no warning.”
That gets a chuckle from our companions. The high priestess Jewel says, “That is a strange way of giving thanks. However, the goddess says you are welcome.”
Chisel’s eyes get large as he turns to face the elves high priestess. He asks, “The goddess speak through you, and you can hear her?”
Smiling Jewel nods her head yes, and says, “When she wants me to hear or needs me to pass the message. She loves your work Chisel. You think it is accidental that you are here now. It is not, nor Granite, or even I it is no accident we are here. We all play a role in the construction of her new temple. We will layout the plans for her new city on this island, to support a college for mages and clerics. A trade school for master Smiths, a school for all of the goddess’ attributes will educate our young here. The whole world will come together to learn here, share the best of our cultures, become friends and allies in that way we not only end slavery, but also war itself.
I smile and say, “I know of the goddess’ third name, Isis the mother goddess, the goddess of love and magic. She created all of us, each of the three races, first elves and dwarves and then humans her youngest children. We need to remember she is given each of her children gifts, to share the strength of the other, so that the weakness of each of us finds us not wanting.”
Jewel does something surprising, given me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. When she pulls back, she laughs saying, “The goddess said to do that, because that knowledge did not come from her but from your own heart Julius. She is grateful someone finally remembered her as Isis. Sorry Isabel.”
Isabel laughs before she says, “The next time the goddess wants to give my husband a kiss. I will gladly do it for her.”
On the porch Brook and Gabriel are using wood from the heart of an oak to create bows. It looks like they had begun at least a dozen or more. I ask, “Are you training archers? You have enough bows for a squad.”
Brook looking up says, “We have an idea, using a carpet to stay out of reach archers can fire down onto the orcs or ships. An arrow can fly downhill without losing much speed for a great distance. It would be easy to stay just out of their range and still do great damage.”
Gabriel says, “You have no idea how many orcs we will face. I will warn you now it is in the millions. The problem is no matter how strong our fighters or defenses are, they have the numbers to overwhelm them. Even the walls of the keep, four stories high are not high enough. They can use their bodies as ramps to breach the walls.”
Looking at them I say, “I see what you seek to accomplish, it is a brilliant idea. We will attack the orcs and not allow them across dead man’s pass. Prevent them coming at us in number. We could put hundreds of human archers, with elfin Rangers, magic users to attack with a commander and pilot to maneuver the carpets. Bring their numbers down before they can enter the pass. Humans and dwarves to hold the pass and destroy all that pass our frontlines. Choose the land that we battle upon, make the land play to our strengths.”
Father laughs and says, “Jeremiah is rubbing off on you son. With the carpets, we can fortify dead man’s pass, with fire from above reduce the numbers of orcs entering the pass. We should be able to hold it, three or four men in the pass, with others to back them up when they become tired they fall back and another takes his place.”
I say, “Using carpets to take the injured to safety, and blessed couples to heal our injured. Should keep us from losing too many even though we are greatly outnumbered at the beginning, hopefully we will not be at the end.”
Father smiles and says, “If we can save our fighters, and the enemy cannot we will be.”
Brook and Gabriel smile, hope has reached their hearts. Gabriel says, “Even though they are very many now I feel they will know the sting of our arrows and mages before they can even harm us.”
Justin with understanding says, “I do not fear as greatly as I did before, if we can just keep our mages from having to be in harm’s way to attack as well.”
I have a memory that suddenly come forth. Looking at Justin I remind him of the campaign we were on when I was just sixteen and was his apprentice. Reminding him I say, “Justin remember that trapped chest, the one with a fireball spell within it and what happened when our thief open the enchanted chest?”
Justin, missing the point says, “I warned Joe not to touch that chest until I could figure out what was wrong about it. As soon as he opened it, it nearly killed us all.”
Bring in Justin to my point I ask, “Did you ever figure out how the mage had done that? We never could find a tome with a spell for that kind of trap. Perhaps he used the enchantment for a crate and modified it for the chest. He would not have to change the size of the chest merely use the time spell on the lid.”
Justin, Selena and Brook all look interested. Isabel knows what I am thinking through our link and says, “What if we put a fireball inside a jar, after casting a spell to halt time within the jar? Drop the jar on our enemies and when the jar broke so does the spell holding the fireball in suspension.”
The three of them chuckle, but father and Granite are confused so I say, “Once the jar broke the fireball would hit the ground and detonate. The jar dropped from a great distance, or even left on the ground hit by an arrow later to break the jar. It would put the mage in no danger after making the jar. If we put enough on the ground, we could cover near the entire area with enough fireballs to send the second and third ranks running. What do you think will happen if half their army began to retreat?”
The two Kings chuckle before Granite says, “The orcs will start doing our jobs for us. Then during the chaos your archers start shooting all the orcs not retreating.”
Dad chuckles and adds, “And any Orc or Drow that tries to stop the retreat.”
When Justin adds, “Then we again drop several score of the jars to create more panic, maybe even get a Dragon at that point.”
Jewel laughs, reminding us by saying, “You have seen only part. Granite, what happens if the dust from your coal bin blows into the fire?”
Granite perhaps has already thought of the idea says, “Not what I want to happen near me, but near a bunch a scared orcs I would love to see that.”
Now it is my turn to not understand, Granite explains, “It can explode almost as big as a fireball, but even hotter.”
Seeing what Granite explained I say, “Perhaps there is a way we can combine the two. Mix the coal dust with some other chemicals I know that burns well, with the fireball to ignite them.”
Brook says, “I know of the right chemicals. If the jar filled with the chemicals then time halted, a fireball cast would not reach the bottom to ignite the chemicals. Once the jar broke, it would look like hell on earth. Now I begin to feel sorry for the orcs. Perhaps we should offer them the chance to surrender after the first day.”
Justin is a little more cautious and says, “We will have to test this, perhaps we can use it against the ships as well. We can fly a carpet over the ships then dropping jars on to them, never being in crossbow range.”
Another one of granite’s companions says, “We could use catapults to throw the jars too. A fireball will not reach as far even if the catapult does not throw it a great distance.”
Remembering the pass in the mountainside there is a large flat area, large enough to set the keep on above the pass. Some people even call it dead man’s camp. Orcs normally patrolled the pass year-round but not in great number, usually less than fifty in a hunting party. I say, “Granite, do you believe the Keep could set on dead man’s camp. It would make an excellent spot for the catapults, is close enough to the mouth of the pass but not reachable by bow from below.
Looking around Granite says, “Barely, you may have to use your magic to shove some rocks to the edge for us to roll down later.”
Looking at father, I say, “Just in case the orcs are stubborn, we can rain fire jars down upon them by catapult, arrows from archers and push them all over to one side of the wider part of the pass. Then bring the mountainside down on the other side, make them fear coming into our lands in great number. Our fighters can hold the pass easier if not press so hard.”
Gabriel shakes his head. He says, “Perhaps before the snow leaves the pass we should prepare the ground for our battle. I know it will take some time to create all the jars we will need. Even if we employed every mage capable of the enchantments, would we have enough?”
Sparrow says, “All we can do is our best. I can have my brother order our mages to make the jars, our potters to fire as many as they can, even after the attack begins we can still make the jars. The first day will be the most effective and the surprise of their deadliness may be enough to buy us a few more days. In the confusion if we could kill enough of their leaders maybe a week more.”
Father says, “If someone can bring me back to New Cowan, I have orders to give, I can contact King Sky to coordinate our efforts. I will have potters begin making jars as well, and send every mage here to learn how to enchant them. I will suggest to King Sky that he does the same. Sparrow, you and Julius discovered the best way to make the jars. Perhaps think about it then tonight before it is time for you to rest attempt a jar.”
Before I can inject that, we lack jars, Jewel giggles pointing to the numerous jars against the wall of the keep. They do not look like a normal jar. Walking over to them, we notice their handles look odd. They have the normal loops but a wide flat piece of pottery protrudes from each handle looking like a shark fin that is wider than the narrow jar. I know there is some important reason for that but it is unknown to me. Looking at the jar it looks like a normal jar from ancient times, it has a pointed end made to set in sand so it stands upright.
The jars are all empty, and not enchanted as of yet. The goddess may wish to help, but prefers us to also help ourselves. No mother wants her children to be helpless. Even though she is the goddess of magic, she is still the goddess of love not war.
The dark ones broke their covenant with her, and then corrupted by demons. Even though once they were her children too. Now they wish to kill all who follow her. She could easily end each one of their lives but that act would be against her very nature. That act would corrupt her as surely as her dark children were corrupted.
Sparrow looking at the jars says, “I see how you want to enchant them. There are many in my homeland can do the spells needed. The only hard part will be to make sure they direct their fireball into the small opening. The chemicals must be within before the time is stopped within the jar. One capable of keeping track of all this must be on hand. If one-step missed, it could be disastrous.”
Brook is white faced and she says, “It would be far worse than my fireball that I cast at my feet. I was not going to allow the dark ones to have us.”
Isabel moves to Brook side giving her the support of a comrade she says, “We will ensure that will never happen again, you will never have to make that decision. We will always come for you. We will never leave you behind on the battlefield to be the toy of the dark ones.”
Sparrow moves to her other side giving her the support of her father. He says, “My daughter you will never be alone again, we all will stand together or we will not stand at all. We will move and attack is one, our comrades at our sides. On the battlefield or on carpets you will never be more than a few feet from my grasp.”
I say, “If it need not be, none of us will go into harm’s way. We will attack from the back of the carpets first. We will drive them back. Make them buy every foot with thousands of dark ones’ lives. Then when it is finally time to face them on foot in the pass, you and your father will stay out of range on the carpet, act as my eyes, and direct our archers, our mages to thin the number. Granite and I will meet them as they enter the pass. Allow them to draw deeper only to meet with fresh fighters. They will be hard-pressed even to get that far.”
Eldeone with Ben at his side says, “We will be the next two in line to have at the dark ones. We only wish to know if swords can be as deadly as axes.”
Granite chuckles, “Just do not slip in the blood of our kills, Julius and I will leave quite a many bodies in our wake. It might be a good idea to arrange for someone to clear them away, or merely drop them in our enemies path let them know what awaits them.”
Ben nearly says something seeing the stern look from Granite’s companions he merely chuckles and says, “That is a good idea, the dark ones having to climb over their dead just to watch more fall and to be tossed at them.”
Justin chuckles, “That will be interesting I wonder how many will try to turn back only to die at their fellows hands?”
Bill says, “Or to pause too long and my arrow find them.” Gabriel nods his head yes.
Brook now with the determined look says, “or to group too closely, and we direct the catapult or a fireball to end their lives.”
Jewel finally says, “Now you see, together we will stand, together we will act, together we will be victorious!”
A shout rose from all of us, “Together stand, together fight, together victorious!”
Hope and determination can be as powerful as any magic, now that the leaders of our people have hope with the determination to protect our people we stand more of a chance than we ever had before. With new energy, we return to our tasks. We have an interesting reward, the number of materials have doubled for our use. Sparrow, Brook, Justin and Selena preparing to enchant jars for the rest of this afternoon.
Charles rest his hand on my shoulder turning me he says, “The chosen of the goddess will lead her children to victory. It is an old story your father should tell you before he departs. Our war was long ago, yours has come too quickly. However, I have more hope now than ever.”
Chisel, Isabel and I begin again. Soon the first floor is complete the ceiling creating the subfloor for the second floor. The marble comes into play now. A grand stairwell covered in the white stone leads to the grand chapel of the goddess. Ornate pews sloped down to a reflecting pool nearly thirty foot across in the very center of the building. The floor rises on the other side after a wide walkway. A comfortable looking loveseat is directly in front of the altar, the ceiling is quite high, and what looks like to be giant oaks formed from the marble that shifts to a brown color to form the trunk and branches. Above the branches, the marble shifts yet again to a green color. You almost can feel the trees sway in a breeze, the leaves shake and the wind.
I am surprised how quickly, how easily the building seems to come together. The heavy light gray stone that forms the core of the building, the heavy pillars that reach from the base to sixth floor and roof have already taken shape. Most of the fourth and fifth floor constructed. Marble seems to run through each room, both for servant or noble it would be hard to tell the cook from noble guests’ quarters if not for the plans. As each floor is complete, the exterior wall begins to form closing it off from the world for the last time, if not for the windows.
It is only after the roof is in place I returned to normal. I look on the finish roof with a crystal dome skylight forms the center of the roof. Looking through it a spiral stairwells surround a great open area in the center of the building. Light seems channeled directly into the reflecting pool. As the light reflects, it makes the trees looked to be a life. I remember glimpses of these things. Other things seem as I walked in a dream this afternoon.
Isabel and I fall together, we clutch to each other as our companions rushed to us. I finally look around and say, “How did we manage to do so much in so short of a time?”
Justin chuckles before he asks, “Do you realize how long the three of you worked without so much as a moment’s break?”
Isabel lifting her head says, “Just this afternoon?”
Brook bringing us water says, “It has been three days, and two nights. The three of you moved as if you were in a trance. You do not even notice Jewel crying at the sight of the temple. She called it the Vision of The Great Dawn. She said it was the place where the goddess gave birth to all three races.”
It is then that our fatigue takes hold of us. With our thirst sated, Isabel and I retreat to our bed for a much-earned sleep. Isabel and I sleep for a full day not even rising for food or drink. It is little Patrick that finally gets us to leave our bed. We bathe, eat, and rejoin our companions.
We are surprised to find our surroundings greatly changed. Strong stone houses line one side of the street with dwarves busy at making forges. Comfortable looking houses are across the square, with a large inn on the corner, the next street back now has huge oak trees supporting elfin homes.
Humans, elves and dwarves speak, laugh and work together. There are stacks of the strange jars, some with red markings stacked carefully together. Isabel and I are at a loss that so much has changed while we worked without notice to our surroundings. In the distance, I noticed the stone bridge is under repair, and another is under construction at the channel mouth to the west end of the islands. Four ships now anchored in Fox Harbor. The Keep grounds have dozens of elves and men with bows on their backs, with Gabriel and Bill giving them direction.
As we turn around to see, the Palace of Aphrodite is complete. The outer walls covered in white marble, with pillars that look to be trees that only branch out on the top floor running up the entire outer walls. The roof looks to be aged copper being green of color. Only the center with the grand skylight breaks up the roofline. Isabel and I almost fall to our knees at the side of the beautiful building. The building radiates of power, love and joy it feels like we are in the presence of the goddess.
Jewel runs from the building seeing us. In joy-filled voice she says, “This was such a wonder to watch you create it. Do you even remember?”
Isabel and I shake our heads no. Giggling Jewel pulls us with her. Just inside the grand doorway, a group of dwarves, elves and humans directed by Chisel install the grand doors. They look to be made of white Onyx. Chisel gives us a bow before returning to his task. Jewel pulls us onward, as we walk up the stairs. At their crest, we look down onto the main chapel. The high priestess from New Cowan is there performing a wedding, two elves say their vows kiss, and begin to glow. Excitement is in Jewels face again as she says, “That is the third couple to marry here, each have glowed with the blessing of the goddess.”
Jewel continues, “When word sent that you have created this in a mere three days, many have journeyed here to aid us, some finding love here or on their way. This whole island seems to have come back to life. Mages have regrown some of the trees they took, and the forest around us seems healthier for it. Roads and streets paved from here to the harbor, a new tower planned for the harbor. Once we finished enough houses, we will move the Keep to the bottom of the hill.”
“While you slept Sparrow open the channel for fresh water to enter and flow completely through the palace. While you worked in your trance, you had created pathways for the wastewater to leave the palace. Most of the rooms have baths, with toilets and sinks. Some of us find them strange because the water runs hot and cold. The water will start just a touch and be very comfortable. How did you think of making the nozzles that create rain?”
Isabel and I are at a loss. Isabel gives her standard answer, with a giggle she says, “It was the goddess of course. I have no idea what you speak of nozzles that rain. This place is new to me.”
Jewel giggles and pulls us to the stairs. We noticed doorways that are open, and I swear you can see the inside of the temple to Aphrodite in New Cowan and Forestdale. Pointing at the doors I ask, “Do those open onto the temples in...”
Giggling Jewel interrupts me. Jewel saying, “Yes they do, and the temple in Undermount and other cities. That is how so many come to be here. It is strange the dwarves do not fear passing through the magic portals to and from their homeland.”
Arriving on the sixth floor Jewel leads us into the Kings and Queen Chambers. King Sky, Granite and Father are leaning over a table. They are looking at a map of dead man’s pass, as they speak. Jewel clearing her throat to get their attention says, “Look who finally awoke. Father and Granite both moved to Isabel and me. Dad gives me a warm hug, but Granite holds me a little too tightly. He finally allows me to breathe as he pushes me back to look up into my face and he says, “I was afraid the goddess burn you out, like using too hot a fire in a forge.”
Dad says, “I too feared for you. Jewel continued reassuring us that all you need it was rest.”
Looking at the two men, I realize both love me as their son. I would do anything to have their continued pride in me. King sky says, “Your Father and Granite were going over your battle plan with me. I believe it is the best I have yet to hear. Although I do wonder what will you do about the ships from Izmira?”
I walk Isabel over to a comfortable looking sofa and allow her to set down beside the Elfin Queen. I ask, “Do we have a map of their coast?”
With a chuckle father moves his hands over the map table, the map of dead man’s pass shrinks as the entire world feels the table. Father touches the map bringing his fingertip to the center of the table. The map slides across the table allowing his fingertip to maintain its point on the map. Father then slides his hands apart in the map is looking down on Izmira. The harbor is deep and wide, to hide towers are on both the south and north sides. The odd thing is we even see the number of ships in the harbor. I looked puzzled so father explains, “A gift from the goddess. We need not send spies, the map shows the truth of what happens on the world.”
Is then that I notice a dozen ships sailing some twenty miles in the ocean, I think it is odd because they do not sail directly towards the harbor, the line of ships turned at a sharp angle having to tack against the wind. I moved my finger over the center of them and then expand the map again. There is a narrow gap in broad coral reefs where the ships turned, is the only channel that would give them safe passage through the reef. Nevertheless, what I notice is the water is still very shallow under them. Written on the map is the Straits of Izmira.
The realization is on all our faces, noticing that the Straits are several miles long but narrow in many places, some so narrow that just enough for two ships to pass without colliding. If we sank a few ships within the Straits, the shallow water would fully hold the ship, except the mask would still stick some forty feet into the air, and not allow a second ship enough room to maneuver without striking the rocks or the sunken ship’s rigging. The water is so shallow in many places that a ship on the bottom would block the passage of all others as well.
Sink the lead ships at the proper time with most their ships within the straight, while they all try to stop or turnabout, and then sink the trailing ships fully blocking the Straits. With both ends of the Straits impassable, we could easily force them to surrender, or if forced to take our time in destroying them.
Looking at the three Kings I say, “I think we found our ground to do battle on, their dead man’s pass.”