The Prophet Lailoken sighed. This would be his last vision to share. The last words he would speak. The vice like grip tightened around his heart. Wait a little longer, they must know; remember and prepare.
On the world of Cerahya, nature’s harmonious balances and checks have been disturbed; interfered with. She rails against such abhorrent intrusions and struggles to regain order. Unfortunately re-establishing control unleashes deadly, calamitous events on the island continent of Sofala, catching the inhabitants of the western kingdom unaware.
The High King, Gareth Beaumont calls for assistance from the Ashmourne Academy of Magic. They respond by sending their infamous 'Pace Alastriona Knights', led by Commander Atesh and Captain Ballard. Their first battalion of magic-enhanced, ale-swilling, knuckle-busting, gag-pulling, sword-dancing, fierce warrior misfits join forces with the King's personal regiment. Together with mystical allies, they race to reduce the fallout to life, love and liberty upon their homeland. As they search for the source behind the malevolent machinations at work, they uncover truths so repugnant, it will send them reeling.
Will interpreting the strange riddles and finding the ancient prophecy hold the key to the game of life; playing out before their eyes?
Time, he knew was prophecy's mistress, ever self-possessed, in control, yet temperamental as nature itself. Could it also be its enemy; opposing and fickle? As the elders sat around and inhaled the eerie smoke emanating from the fire pit; The Prophet Lailoken sighed. This would be his last vision to share. The last words he would speak. The vice like grip tightened around his heart. Wait a little longer, they must know; remember and prepare.
Lailoken gazed at each of the elders. They swayed to the flame's inherent rhythm. Eyes closed, hearing words that were not spoken aloud. He realised that this prophecy would unfold in its own measure; over several millennia. As with most visions; their tales told around camp fires at night will change. Memories fade, generations renew and time twists and turns, ever the mistress again. History would be forgotten. Thus, the continuum of life events for the inhabitants moves along. Their indefinable progress of existence shall lead them unknowing; towards their destined fate.
THE LAST PROPHECY:
In times yet to pass, in a world out of reach;
Three Masters of all will sunder a breach.
The test they will fail; the power be too grand.
Sucked into a vortex and thrown on new land.
In time they shall Reign, many wars to be fought.
Their bloodlines to mingle and peace will be sought.
When days start to cool; from the bleaching hot sun;
Two souls will be born; instead of just one.
Far in the west, three blood lines of old.
Will converge bright in one; the second behold.
The first will be strong, a friend to the King.
The second shall dance; the blue flame she will sing.
A struggle to live; her will shall be strong.
Her mantra, her soul shall not falter or wrong.
A leader of men, for peace she will fight.
The evil that chides, then steals in the night.
The ancients of old will know when they see;
The one that’s foretold will set the world free.
Three gifts she shall find, to help with her quest;
But to win, play the game; may cleave her heart yet.
The Prophet Lailoken:
In the far future: The prophecy awakens from its slumber.
“Ballard, watch out behind you.” Commander Atesh yelled as she leapt off her war stallion. She somersaulted over Captain Ballard to thrust her scimitars into the large hairy neck, of an angry beast. They fell to the ground together with a deafening thud. Atesh then rolled away to avoid being crushed by the massive dead weight. She bounced up onto her feet and ran to assist the other men of her unit; Ballard in step beside her. Frowning together at the scene unfolding before them, they dove into the fray.
A pack of fierce corpulent grey wolves with gleaming eyes battled the unit of Pace Knights as they made ready to return home from the northern border. The creatures had sprung up and over the mounted knights; dragging several off their steeds. Cries rang out, as large fetid claws raked with ease through human flesh. Snarling cavernous maws, generous enough to fit a human head; kept on tearing, biting and gnashing. The rancid breath and drooling gore that hung like tendrils from the creature’s jagged canines, often had the knights gagging; as they fought up close and personal.
“By the ancients that stink is worse than your feet Ballard. Who or what did they have for breakfast?"
Ballard smiled at his Commander, rolled his eyes and nodded as he sliced into the hide of the creature beside him. Atesh and her unit had never experienced such wild, blood lust ferocity before. She noted numerous wounds on her men, oozing through shredded leather uniforms, pooling the blood onto the rocky ground below. The knights however, fought on resolute. They slipped and slid alongside their foe, as they struggled for their lives. Atesh knew her first battalion were well trained. Their daily exercise routines gave them an advantage of flexibility, agility and speed; which may have been the only advantage they possessed. Or so Atesh believed.
Perhaps it was the scent of the knights' terror that encouraged such selfless acts of bravery, or the possibility of losing a loved companion. With no thought to the consequences, Atesh watched in awe, as the knights' muscled war steeds joined in to protect their riders. They kicked with their powerful back legs and bit into the creatures' hairy flesh. This gave the knights the distraction they looked for; to take the lead in the lethal fight. It turned into quite a melee. Many of the dead and dying creatures enhanced the gore fest, covering all in the vicinity with their living essence. It was a jacket bloodbath with their spilt foul smelling innards and green body fluids. Many hours later the knights acquired the upper hand. By mid-morning the last of the ‘doggies’ were defeated.
Arriving home to Ashmourne Island from their eight day mission up at the northern border, the Commander and her unit were greeted by the two bridge guards. They were the height of three grown men, both created from magic infused crystal and stone. Their weapons, the largest swords ever crafted in the known world; were held balanced before their enormous frames. Atesh often wondered if ever, the guards had cause to use them. Though she would not like to find out the hard way; how fast they would be.
“Good evening Commander Atesh.” Their voices reverberated around the stone bridge loud and soulless. Observing the state of the tired unit and noticing the wounded. “Anything interesting come to pass on your tour?” As one they bent down to eye the knights.
Atesh arched her neck back, as far as nature allowed. Her eyes squinted to see up at the two rock faces. It is so eerie how they always speak in unison.
“You know I cannot divulge my mission; nice try though.” Boy for stone soldiers they’re so nosey. I wonder when they will give up asking me. Perhaps it is a test...before we are allowed to cross.
"I believe Captain Ballard has some gossip for you.” Atesh turned to face her Captain. A mischievous grin adorned her face as she winked at her second in charge.
Ballard's face paled. “Damn you caught me again. You owe me a great favour Commander. No wait...that makes two.” Pinching his nose between his fingers, head bowed in deep thought, he chastised himself for again falling into one of Atesh’s traps. He turned to the fellows behind him. “Think men think, or you are all going to be stuck here with me at this gate for hours.”
Groans and curses were mumbled. Ballard had them ensnared.
“The Master wants to see you as soon as possible Commander. He has been in quite a dizzy mood of late.” The guard’s booming voice seemed to bounce inside her skull.
“Oh no not again, thanks for the warning gentlemen.”
Turning to address her unit, she noticed by their roving eyes and nodding gestures they were wracking their tired brains for a piece of gossip to satisfy the guards. Though, knowing Berend and his merry group of troublemakers they would be devising a plan, payback for Ballard and herself. Well...it keeps their minds active and challenged. Still Atesh had difficulty containing her mirth. “I will meet you back at the stables Captain. The usual applies men; the injured, your horses then home. Well done to you all, you have again made me proud to be your leader.”
With a whoop Atesh leant forward over Kayne’s withers and both moved off over the stone bridge in a synergistic rhythm; one that only they could hear.
Ciaran was perched atop Atesh’s head; wings unfurled, but arced to allow the air to glide smooth over their surfaces. His snout, face and scaly body buffeted by the racing wind were in no danger. He had both claws secure; imbedded in a head of sun kissed coloured hair. “Ach this is the only way to fly lassie, woo-hoo.”
Atesh surveyed her surroundings as she moved towards the Ashmourne academy of magic. It was known also as the Wizards' compound; housed within a large island off the east coast of Sofala. She marvelled at the majestic flow of the energy it produced. She felt unfettered, free.
“Make for the bridge; we need to cross the river before dawn.”
The men all followed their Commander's orders without delay, as they glanced around with faces set. The unit took off at a gallop and raced down the dark dirt track. Atesh held out her left hand with the clear crystal ring she adorned as part of her designation. It cast a beacon of light out in front; in case a surprise waited. Not long after their initial flight, a slight continuous tremble far below the surface was felt. Then the ground swayed left and right. The horses did not like the strange feeling under their feet and balked at times, almost sending their riders flying into the dark cool morning air.
“Faster men,” Ballard indicated as he brought up the rear. “Move those nags you’re on..."
The rumbling increased in volume and intensity. The groaning of the land being stretched beyond its normal limitations, grated on the entire units’ ears and nerves; it seemed to radiate all around them. The horses were faring no better. They frothed at the mouth. Their eyes were wide with fear and their ears were turned back to listen to their riders’ instructions. The knights’ foreheads soon broke out in beads of sweat as they leant forward and urged their mounts to go faster. As dawn broke through the night's darkness, the bridge over the Jangly River was spotted up ahead. Now at least a dim light filtered the way.
Without warning the immediate surroundings to their right exploded. The entire unit faltered as their heads were whipped backwards with the force of the vibrations. Hot steam vents burst through cracks and crevices. In the smallest period of time the heat began to build up; in concentration and strength. The ground groaned and bulged now to the left of the riders. As it ruptured, plumes of heated vapour sent large earth projectiles spearing high into the air. Then sizeable fissures had cleaved open the land behind the riders egging them on faster; if that was possible. A small river of molten lava spewed forth from the earth, heading in the same direction as the knights. This flung small clumps of hot lava and ash all over the riders, their mounts and the surrounding grasses. It fuelled fires and inflicted nasty burns on contact.
At the bridge Atesh stopped. She faced a singular width, poorly maintained wooden overpass. The larger bridge the wagons and caravans used was further along the river; too far to reach safely. In no time at all the river had turned into a raging mass of turbulent brown foaming and frothing water; full of dirt, burning tree limbs, ash and debris.
“Ballard, take the men across first. I will bring up the rear. Be careful, it doesn’t look that sturdy.” Atesh shouted now over the noise.
A horrifying screech assaulted all within its vicinity. All the knights in the unit froze. They turned as one, with eyes widened to their fullest, mouths agape as they pointed back to where they had been.
“What in all the pirates' pox was that?” Berend, who would stand up to a dragon, looked aghast.
Atesh and Ballard turned around. Atesh leaned over and grabbed Ballard by the arm, she bent over close to his ear. “Get them across now!”
Ballard started to cross the bridge slower than he would have liked. He was followed by the men one at a time. Once safe on the other side he shouted to Atesh; he pointed for her to turn around, his eyes were literally bulging out of their sockets.
"Oh dear ancients,” He pointed again with animated vigour. His face showed abject terror. Ballard cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled as loud as possible.
“What did you say? I can’t hear you?" Atesh placed her hands to her ears; she shook her head to acknowledge she had not heard him.
“Turn...around,” Ballard used exaggerated hand movements to indicate turning.
Atesh whipped her head around...
Atesh and Master Thaddeus Freymore were in the middle of the strategic war game called 'Chances'.
The Barkeep Ben standing behind the players was trying to explain the game to his customers. “The players work together as a team to beat the game. You can have up to four players. In this instance they must sack and take control of the castle to win. Anyone can purchase a game and play, if they possess enough innate magic. Most of the nobility, academy wizards and the like have em. Some are played in the military to teach strategy to the junior officers. Each game is somehow unique to all the others made. The Game Master who makes these is known as the best strategist in the known world. But no one knows who the Game Master is. It's all very mysterious. The rules are; there are no rules. It should simulate a real, dirty, blood lusting battle.
Then after a few years the game master made the games more interesting, requiring greater tactical skills and battle knowledge. Now with this new version, all game pieces are interactive; as you will see. As a piece is taken captive or killed they move to the side of the board and wait for the conclusion. They don’t really die of course, as they are not real people; just game pieces. Though, if you look at them, they are marvellous the way he has made them to look and act like us. A magical gift he has indeed The games arrive with a strange rhyme attached; goes something like this.
A Game of chance; the strategist call,
You make your move, the players fall.
To win the game, you must attest.
Outplay, be smart, beat me the best.”