By Alicia Steen
Another day dawns over Camlon, and already the knights make ready for the second round of the tournament. This is where the fighting truly begins. In the Laine household, the brothers laugh and tease as they enjoy a hearty breakfast prepared by their sister. In the palace, King Certan and his servant Mernan enjoy the moment of quiet, discussing the various participants. Of particular interest are Sir Elhren and his friend, the warrior from Gathyra, who are having their own discussion in Elhren’s quarters.
“What brings a prince of Gathyra to Camlon?” Elhren inquires as he sets a simple fare on a small clean table.
“Gathyra has moved against the satyr. They flee from us in all directions. As Gathyra’s armies will soon reach Camlon’s border, we wish to know where Camlon stands.” Parkr tears off a piece of bread.
Elhren lifts a cup of hot liquid to his mouth. “Will the satyr flee into Camlon?”
“That is a possibility. They will not last long, for they have none to lead them.”
Elhren chokes on his drink and sets his cup down swiftly. “You have already slain Ba’aen?”
Parkr betrays a gleaming smile. “Ba’aen led his troops against us. We handed him defeat, as we have all the others.” Parkr picks up more bread. “It was not an easy battle. My father the king was wounded. He still lives, but he has passed on the crown to James.”
Elhren nods. “So James is now king, and the satyrs are ripe for annihilation. It is no wonder the mages that remain in Camlon are restless.” Elhren leans forward. “Tell me, what of Jeshrun?”
“Not a week past Dark Moon was besieged by shadow creatures pouring from the forest above and the caves below. The Nephilim are on the move.”
“And Synrn, my brother?”
“He has drawn the phoenix and wolves from the RedStone, though he did not participate in the battle.” Parkr drinks from his own cup.
Elhren leans back. “All is just beginning, then. King Certan will not be able to maintain Camlon’s oddly neutral stance for much longer.”
“All that awaits is a catalyst.”
That night, when the day has long quieted, a knight of Camlon makes his way to the King’s chambers. This knight, with his black hair and pale skin, is not from Camlon but like Sir Elhren hails from another land. He knocks on the double doors.
“Come,” King Certan calls. The knight opens the door just enough to walk through. “Ah, Sir Khad.”
“I would not disturb you at this hour, and at a time when we all are so busy, but I am afraid this matter cannot wait.”
King Certan gives Sir Khad his full attention. “What is it?”
“It concerns the Lady Delia, sire. She is more than she says she is. Lady Delia is a mage.”
Mernan startles. “Are you sure?”
“Beyond a doubt. I know a mage when I feel one whether they have used magic or not. You know this.”
“Indeed. Your sixth sense has served us well in the past,” Certan agrees.
“There is more. I looked into the Laine family, and it seems every female born to them has extraordinary magical prowess.”
“So you’re saying that not only is Lady Delia a mage, she is a powerful one, and her entire family knows this,” Certan says carefully.
“That is so, sire,” Khad confirms. “It seems likely that Lady Delia is the mage your father was pursuing when he had his accident thirteen years ago.”
“That’s the same time Delia vanished,” Mernan recalls.
“These are serious charges,” Certan speaks. “They amount to willing treason by a family of knights that have served me well.”
“Delia has done nothing,” Mernan pleads. “Could she not simply want to spend time with her family, and they with her?”
Certan shakes his head and leans on is desk. “We cannot allow even one mage within our borders. The security of Camlon is at stake.”
“Quite right, sire. Especially this one. She has a reputation among my people. All who raise arms against her fail utterly, never to fight again. She is called the Queen of Chaos. If you mean to move against her, sire, I would do so swiftly and decisively. If she were to gain a foothold, she would be capable of great devastation.”
“She was probably defending herself. If no one ever gave her a chance, then of course she would cause havoc wherever she went. But we do not have to make the same mistake,” Mernan counters. “If only for Dnovan’s sake. Delia is his twin.”
“Let us see what she does on the last day of the tournament.” Certan looks to Khad. “Watch Lady Delia closely.”
“Yes, sire.” Khad bows, and shows himself out.
As soon as he is dismissed for the night, Mernan makes his way quickly through Camlon’s streets to the Laine house. After a knock on the door, Arlan lets him inside.
“What’s wrong, Mernan? You have that ‘the world has fallen’ look on your face,” Dwaine calls from the kitchen, where he assists Devin with cleanup.
“The king knows Delia is a mage. Out of respect for Dnovan, he has decided not to arrest her tonight, but you must get Delia out of Camlon before he changes his mind.”
“What else is new,” Dnovan answers. He comes to lean on the doorframe between the kitchen and the dining room.
“Who told him,” Druce asks from the fireplace. “None but we and old Galen should have known Delia’s full identity.”
“Sir Khad. I don’t know how he found out.”
“He did not have to,” Delia says from kitchen. “He knew the moment he came in close contact with me. Khad is no knight, he is Nirad.”
“Who are they?” Arlan inquires.
“The elite fighting force of Nilonia, led by Emperor Nilo. Wherever shadow or strong wizards are not, there you will find Nirad. To underestimate them is fatal. We are lucky; Khad must be a rather low-ranking Nirad, or he would not have to resort to trickery to gain his way.”
“Now that I think about it, Khad usually goes after mages on his own and brings them back as dead trophies,” Aedn says from behind Druce.
“Khad fears Delia then.” Druce closes his book. “An enemy who fears you is not much of an opponent.”
“He won’t have to be if he can turn the king against you. He has already got the idea of treason into the king’s mind,” Mernan says earnestly.
“Mernan, if I leave, what then? You can count on it; someone else will turn up who pushes King Certan into the same position. I do not have to have grown up in Camlon to know that the king’s position on magic is a precarious one, a balancing act that cannot be performed indefinitely. If Camlon must fall into chaos, I will not run from it and let some lowlife take my place.”
“Or would you prefer to see Drest leading the charge,” Dnovan finishes. “I will wait no longer. King Certan must make his choice.”
“I see why he called you the Queen of Chaos,” Mernan concedes. He moves to the door. “Be careful.”
“Thank you for the warning, Mernan. We greatly appreciate it,” Delia replies.