36 the AFTERMATH
Zeba's rhythmic knock came only by a fraction of a second as she entered Prodea's solitary quarters which appeared quite smugly to Prodea. She's letting her know she doesn't fear her anymore by not waiting outside and doing what she wants to do for a change but that doesn't quite bode well for her as she witnessed inside a cheerful Prodea clasping her hands as if awaiting her arrival.
"Good evening, Zeba. Look! I have a surprise for you."
She pointed right in front and saw a new titan kneeling to Prodea. A man with a figure that is darkened by the black smoke engulfing him. As if the smoke akin to the black fumes of a bonfire smothers his appearance being blurred.
Zeba walked in curious to inspect and asked. "Isn't that the Earl, Eryk Caden?"
Prodea smiled still peeled at the kneeling titan with a bow. "I told him I always come through with my promises. Indeed, I honor my word more than anything, and when I say I'd do something, I always try and follow through with it."
The titan mumbled to find words and only managed to choke on a few letters.
"You have my permission to speak," Prodea ordered as if enjoying herself.
"This is not what we discussed," he said with a depressed tone, almost angry but shaking to soften every word to provide respect to his new master. "You said I will marry Lime..."
"Oh! Indeed, this is what we've discussed," Prodea refuted. "I told you, you will marry someone within two months. If that doesn't happen, I make you a titan. And now here you are. A titan. Does this not please you?"
"You said I will marry Lime you witch!" he said almost crying. He managed to shout but was forced to bow his head lower than before for his impudence.
"Again? I thought you understood what my answer is days ago? I thought that searing pain has branded my answer on your thick skull."
"You betrayed me..."
"What I said is you'll marry. I didn't say to whom, nor specified it to be Lime. I already told you Lime will take time but no, you insisted you be married within two months and so here we are. If you took a step back to notice, it clearly is your fault. You shouldn't have forced me to take this path."
"You've cheated me."
"You think you feel cheated? What about me? Have you considered my feelings too? Clearly your transformation is virtually a waste of good slaves. You're of much use to me as a personal butler especially with that kind of power you obtained. Simply pathetic!"
Tears accumulated on her carpet for about half a minute till Prodea laughed again to mock him.
"You know who you should blame though?" She paused for a while letting go of her leash on the titan to make him look at her eyeing on Zeba. "Now, I don't want to play the blame game, but I was legally dead for forty-one days and she's the one planning your marriage. I don't want to insinuate but I think you know where to point the finger."
"Me!?" scoffed Zeba. "I'm not the one who turned him into a black- s-shadowy- dark smoking man, or whatever it is that he is now!"
"Well you should own after your own mistakes Zeba. After all, Illyriah escaped because of your ill-planning. If the marriage took place weeks ago, he shouldn't have been like that and I would've gotten a better Titan. I mean look at him? Does that look like a titan that I can use when I battle out Kuya-Artemus? His skill is to disperse in the air for goodness sake! What the Yit'ard is that!? Sure, he could dodge a punch but what then? What then!?"
"You should've thought of that before you made him titan!" Zeba proudly responded which made Prodea gasp being entertained in her streak of petulance. "Or better yet, you should've modified his skill to what you like. Isn't that the purpose of sacrificing slave lives? To give your titans power?"
Prodea just smiled and waved her hands to the crying Eryk to dismiss him. "Go ponder with your mistakes at the catacombs and don't leave there till I call you. That should probably dull your tongue blunt."
With this, he was forced to disintegrate and turn into a black mist that rushed outside the door, closing what Zeba forgot to shut.
Zeba smiled smugly as she turned away walking to the door till Prodea stopped her.
"Oh!? I didn't recall dismissing you, my dear sister-in-law."
Zeba turned around smiling appreciating Prodea's newfound kindness and respect that she has exhibiting and pegged it to the humiliation she suffered on her insults earlier. "What is it, Sister?" she replied. "Do you want me to further insult you on your embarrassing failure?"
"Well, for one thing, I have my mood high up today that I didn't really mind your unintelligent blather earlier. Surely, Bathala have not granted you an inkling of intellect to grasp Dim'ion's intricate spells so I'm not going to take it out on you. You most certainly won't get mad if a dog does not speak now, won't you? And you most certainly won't take it against her if she doesn't understand what you're saying."
"Am I just here for your insults? I don't like wasting your time so if that's the case, then I think it'll be more productive if I just leave."
"Oh goody! So, you know how to analyze? That you're the dog I'm referring to? My, my, that will speed things up splendidly."
Zeba just smiled having a nerve tweaking just before boiling point and turned around. Prodea upon seeing this called her again.
"Oh, Zeba, look what I got here."
Zeba humored her and turned once more rolling her eyes now showing her irritation. "What is it this time?"
Prodea opened her palm and showed her a vial with a wooden stopper. Inside this vial lays a single metal pin, just rolling inside as she moved her hands to play with it.
"Hurrah! You have a needle pin! Let us announce this to the kingdom!"
"Nuh-uh-ah!" Prodea smiled devilishly clicking her tongue getting close to her. "Please don't mock the person who's going to help you, Zeba. That's just plain disrespectful. Oh wait, I mean: Don't bite the hand that feeds you. And wouldn't you know it?! It's another dog analogy! You're in a roll here Zeba!"
Zeba's interest was piqued so she humored her again with an unconvinced question. "How's the pin going to help me this time? You're letting me stitch your gown? Did you rip one again?"
"No but I'm offering you a way out to stitch your own life. But this comes with a cost, your soul in fact. But that's your decision. You're a big girl now, and I think you should have one. For old times' sake."
Zeba smiled raising her eyebrows in disbelief in Prodea's further insult. She would've retaliated but Prodea anticipated this and continued forth.
"You see Zeba, there's a certain caster asking the palace constable's aid to summon you for twenty-nine counts of murder and another count for both conspiracies to murder and treason. I mean can you believe that? That you're capable of doing something like that? A noble mortal like you committing high crimes like this? Well, I think its madness. No?"
"Impossible. You are just tricking me again and I'm not going to fall for it this time!"
"Her name is Kei. I believe you've already met?"
Zeba's eyes widened now losing the smug smile that she's harboring earlier. "S-she's one of those casters you assimilated at Bakunawa's..."
"Great! Your memory is still intact, and we won't have any time wasted! Anyway, she-"
"How did she come to be?!" Zeba cut in quite angry. "How did she come back?!"
"My, my, Zeba. It's disrespectful to cut me in while I'm telling a story that you may want to hear. Might as well pucker that cesspool of a mouth that you have and listen to my story if you want me to help you, you ungrateful petulant dog!"
Zeba scoffed. She could not do anything but to shush giving Prodea a broad smile for a few seconds savoring her obedience till she continued.
"Now the constable said that she's accusing you of murdering twenty-nine of her brothers and sisters in the Caster's medical division who have been missing these past few months. She said that she barely escaped with her life. She suffers now from dehydration, some painful injuries, and a minute memory loss due to the trauma she has sustained, that poor girl."
"But you're the one that killed them all! You're the one who called them all up and gathered there, not me!"
"Yes, but, see, it's very hard to say that when she remembers that it's you." Prodea pouted mocking her eyes harboring tears like a dam. "She's even saying that you poisoned Karr and buried his body on the side of the road to Bakunawa. They haven't searched for Karr's remains, but I assure you, they'll find it there. I checked. I think she's leaning on the fact that Karr protected them from you, but you killed him to eliminate them all. If I'm the judge, I'll be inclined to believe that. Oh wait! I am! I forgot that I am the Chief Magistrate. Silly me."
"This is madness! This is your doing! You're resorting to blackmail now?!"
"Oh, but that's not it actually. There's more distressing news coming your way. See, remember the night you played that garter string thing with Sarram and Gantee on the common room of the west wing just two hallways from the Queen's chambers?"
"The night of the assassination..." she mouthed looking furious at Prodea.
"See, I told you, you have a knack in remembering things. That's why I made you my right hand in this thing we're doing. Anyway, she saw you as you left for thirty minutes on that same night as you let four men slip by the windows to execute their plans. Your Daomagarian brothers I believe, but it's just conjecture, I'll let the evidence decide on that one."
"That's preposterous! I was preparing a midnight snack for my husband and son! I have witnesses!"
Prodea inhaled sharply as she continued on with a derisive chuckle. "Ah... the problem with that story is that your witnesses are her witnesses too. She said your plan is to kill all the medical casters so that when the assassination happens, the Queen will not receive any medical help to help her quickly recover, no one to give her first aid. She said you plan for her to be left alone to die in her chambers. Alone to die, Zeba, are you hearing that correctly? That's a mighty accusation to disprove! Every evidence is against you and I'm sure the citizens of Nagozul will not let you state your case. I heard that the first time and I'm shock beyond belief, that a Daomagar can do this to his brother Nagozulian. This is a disastrous thing you committed. I only wish there was a way for you to escape. I wonder what it could be..."
"You... You planned this whole thing for me! All your machinations are intended for make me take the fall! To make you Queen!"
"Oh no, Zeba, I don't intend to be your Queen. I am true to my words when I said that you could be the Queen in this pathetic Island. You could be Queen of the Holy Lands for all I care. And surely, I love you so much, as my pathetic dense sister-in-law to make you take your fall."
"What then? What are you planning here then?!"
"Seriously Zeba? You're not piecing all of this together? Unbelievable! I'm showing you a needle pin? And you're seriously talking about you, you, you? Bathala did leave you an empty skull, didn't he? I'm not going to be surprised if your head floated like a buoy."
"The pin is for..."
"Yes! The pin is for her! Yit'ard, Zeba I thought you have some brain to figure that one out for yourself. I don't really have to spell everything to you. Seriously, you're like a newborn child rolling around on the ground.
"She's the only thing impeding you on your goal and being branded as a traitor. Being exiled out of the Holy Lands is not really optimal for you. After all, the Yagisiv Haya's Priestess can remove the Bathala-given powers that you have received and that would really be troublesome for you in the real world outside our borders. You've seen it right? You know how harsh it is to mortals? Especially to women folk."
"W-what does it do? W-what will it do to her?"
"Kill her." She smiled pocketing it inside her gown. "That simple. She's at the infirmary now. They are treating her with everything since she's dehydrated and suffering from multiple wounds, wounds she has sustained from you somehow. For now, they said that she's being delusional, so everything has been a secret. Only I and the constable know of this so if you do this now, no harm will befall you."
"How can I be sure of this? That you won't do this again?"
"Ah! Here's the thing," Prodea went close to her as she gulps in tension. "I will repeat this again, and again, and again, every time you're feeling up for insubordination, Zeba. This way you get to kill those casters that I have assimilated. This way you get to have your hands bloodied for your own pathetic gains. I am tired shouldering everything on my own. It's time for you to prove your worth for once."
Zeba tried to contain her fury gnashing her teeth in irritation. "What is it? What's in the needle? Another one of Dim'ion's Arts?"
"Well, I'll let you in on a little secret. See, Juni and my brother, together with Dal'Gur, have managed to research about the tiny, tiny critters that causes illness to people. These critters sometimes harbor on the brain and defile it so that it can cause hallucinations or paranoia to the patient, the brain sickness as they call it. Now, I have engineered this critter, with Dim'ion's Magick of course, making their growth accelerate into dangerous levels. One prick and she'll sleep for good. It won't feel a thing since she'll die convulsing after a few hours. After that, there will be an autopsy and I'm sure you could guess what they will find in the brain."
"I-I'm not sure I can live with this."
"Oh, please. I'm sure you can't live with a lot of things, you sanctimonious Yit'Vit. Please, let's stop pretending to be something we are not. I'm sure you can't stand losing your husband and son and I think you will kill a thousand innocent people just to save them. But the weird thing is that you'll kill ten thousand more to save you. That's how selfish you are. You may contest to that but we both know you're just going to lie to yourself. If you're too noble you would've backed-out from this and reported me long ago, but you didn't. I know you too well, Zeba. I know you're not a Hero. I know you're a coward. And that's a fact!"
Prodea grabbed the vial and placed it in her palms snickering as if disgusted at her. Zeba was stunned, motionless, speechless. Prodea passed, her by opening her doors in exit, till she stopped her.
"What is it that you want in return?"
Prodea looked back and closed the door again to answer her shuddering. "Nothing. This time it's free."
"You're giving me this, out of the goodness of your heart? I don't think so! Everything has a price with you."
"Well, you could cut that sharp tongue of yours, that's a start. But I honestly only did that to prove a point." Prodea walked slowly to her with malicious eyes that pierced her soul and whispered. "That I could really hurt you in a number of ways. Be thankful I'm not your enemy, you disrespectful rotten goblin." She stepped back and smiled again, only this time she's enjoying the sad look on her face. "Besides, this is a warning. The lowly mongrel follows the pack master. Remember that I am your benefactor, your guardian, your master. The moment you forget this again, you will lose your teeth. And by teeth I meant I will kill Sarram and Gantee in front of you and bleed them dry, just to help you picture this out since you can't analyze for yourself - but I'll let you kill everyone I assimilated living inside me first before doing that. Just so I could see you crawling in the mud falling on your high horse."
Prodea strode to the door smiling still till she stopped her yet again as she was about to clutch the doorknob.
"You won't get away with this. Everyone knows all your plans have failed. Rumors in the city are spreading like wildfire. One of these days you're going to pay for what you've done!"
"Oh really? Well firstly, this little thing that we're experiencing? I call this a setback. It's not really a failure since it's your fault not mine, a fault I could easily fix. Secondly, If I'm going to pay for my crimes, you're going to pay for yours too! Don't you forget that one bit. And since we're talking about paying from crimes, Sarram is not too innocent too since he's been seen blatantly harassing Sayed in the Hishma's so that's a little added bonus in the feature."
"You're laughing now but one of these days Artemus's Army in the north will come and will dispose of you! They're not going to bother themselves with us. They're going straight to you! And when that time comes, I will gladly roll the carpet to your whereabouts!"
"Why thank you, Zeba," Prodea smiled which confounded her. "I'll say let them come and fight the might of the spawn of Dim'ion."
Zeba's face turned white hearing her words which got her attention.
"Oh? You know that, huh? Glad to see you're remembering your elementary education. Because of the scrolls I acquired from Eryk, I can now imbue Leonus's army with the powers of Dim'ion. It will take time, I know, but six months is all I need to create a hefty regiment fit to battle with his. And with my six titans as their generals, I think I could reverse the tides of success here. So, yes. Try and frighten me about that but just so you know, Zeba, five months from now, I know you're going to change your mind about that."
Zeba turned stuttering in both fear and dread, "What will you gain from all of this? You don't want to be Queen? You don't want the Holy Lands? What is the purpose of all of these!? What is it that you want!?"
"Let's see..." Prodea sighed and thought hard till she turned to her with kind eyes that suddenly disrupted Zeba's frantic outburst. "World peace. While you're selling your soul for the chance of being Queen of Nagozul, I'm selling mine for world peace. That's something to think about, huh?"
She then opened the door and left her alone with the poisoned needle in her clutches, still bewildered with what she meant. Depressed and scared and furious, but dumbfounded, nonetheless.
The rain unleashed an angry rhythmic bash on the roofs as it pounded them like drums for longer than a day now. Weather in Nagozul has gone awry and everyone knows why. The Immortal Bakunawa has fervently managed the skies of Nagozul as his part on keeping the Holy Lands safe. With him now missing, nobody's watching over them anymore. No one's minding the tides of the seas too. Everyone now came to appreciate his efforts but it's too late. And with rumors of his alleged assassination by the usurping Grand Princess, everyone is in panic. Everyone is now in the mercy of fear's tight clutches, especially after the rumors of the sighting of the first snow fall in Nagozul. Nobody has seen or felt the devastating effects of a cold blizzard for a thousand years and now they will bear witness its destructive effect only this time without their Bathala-given Elemental Energies which practically will increase the potential danger even more.
"My King, are you sure he will comply with your summons?"
Artemus smiled wide looking at the bowing Master General Jeng and replied. "I'm not king yet, Master General. Though I am truly grateful for the gesture, I can't resume my position without the unification of the whole of Nagozul and I can't do that while Prodea is still at the Palace. I would appreciate it if you tone it down a bit. I do not want to incite a rebellion after all."
"Forgive me, Grand General, it is not my intention to put you under that position."
"It seems we made a good decision inviting you in the Omega Tribe's roster, Master General Jeng," Narra chuckled. "Just try showing your loyalty at the minimum when in public. We can't have anyone snooping around being suspicious, especially to Prodea's minions. We know she has spies here now. We must take every precaution needed to ensure our organization's secrecy."
"He will come," Major Camyl smiled leaning casually against the wall. "He's not practically late yet so please be patient. There is serious flooding at the Southern Part of Nagozul but that doesn't mean he'll suddenly break his record of punctuality. He's indeed the most punctual man in Daomagar. We haven't had rains this long since the Elven Rebellion so please forgive his slight delay."
Everyone in the room just nodded in agreement. Even if one wants to add to further their conversation, one will think twice before even attempting because of the heavy rains that roared fiercely as if getting in between them.
They could have talked with the people at their sides, but they didn't. They have been practically distressed by the destruction of Hishma, for one thing. What they want to say to the nearest person, they want to share to everyone, and this made them contemplate in silence awaiting the right moment to bring this discussion to their secret council.
A faint knock on the door snapped them all out of their meandering daydreams. They all stood straight as an arrow in anticipation but relaxed without grabbing their weapons at the ready.
"Good Afternoon, everyone," greeted Deito with smiling eyes, pushing the water right out of his raincoat stashing it outside before entering. All Daomagarian soldiers knelt down with their clenched fists at their chest bowing. "No need to greet me my brothers," he immediately called refusing for the acknowledgement, pulling the first Daomagar in front of him who is the frightening General Enro. "We are amongst friends and thusly we are without designation or rank. Today I stand before you as your equal."
Mikael Deito, the eighteen-year-old Deito Clan's current Clan Head and the Daomagar's Chieftain, rushed to Narra and kneeled to bless. Narra didn't make him wait as he gave his arm instantaneously.
Deito is known as Narra's Great-Grandson from his brother's lineage. He's the bastard son of his grandson from his dead elder brother Pahbs the second, but a great-grandson, nonetheless. Even though he's the chief of all Daomagars, he didn't forget to give respect to the Great Narra, the Daomagar Clan's Current Clan Head, which impressed some in the room
It didn't take long for him to pull a chair at the sides with a beaming face for all of them as if waiting for the commencement of their assembly. He looks scrawny and non-threatening with his slender physique but he's without a doubt the pride of the Deito Clan bordering to genius when it comes to using his Fists of Ana'giel, which everyone thought he had mastered to perfection.
It is important to note this feat since the Deito Clan is a clan of merchants. Surely their ancestors have been famous fist fighters in the past, but they do not have any good fighters born from their clans for thousands of years and that's why Mikael's skill has been widely celebrated. He has quickly risen to prominence and has garnered the title Deito surprisingly at a very young age. The title Deito is usually given to the best merchant of the clan, but now things are different. Now they can have a reason to be proud that at last they have a great fighter in their family.
"So..." Mikael started chuckling, "Where do we start? Grand Prince?"
"Ah, I think we should be on point and first discuss your demands. Will you reconsider your order, recalling all of Daomagarians in Nagozul? That's practically an exaggerated request, considering all that is happening."
"On the contrary, Grand Prince, I think it's only fitting I recall all of my brothers and sisters especially after all that has happened. I will not let my brothers and sisters be subjected to involuntary servitude."
"Please be reasonable. My people will starve without your efficient and skilled laborers. You have become an integral part of our lives. Abruptly recalling all of them will result to famine and possibly death, especially after hearing about the arrival of winter next month."
Mikael's face turned sour as he replied. "Slavery is the worst slap on Bathala's face and I will not tolerate such actions under my current leadership. You know I respect you and because of this I will do my best to preserve our relationship. Just be glad that we did not resort to war. We have waged war on Nagozul in the past for less. Be thankful that I'm a member of the Omega Tribe. Be thankful that I have calmed my people into retaliating to your sister's mess."
"I'm sorry for asking," Artemus replied. "I do not mean to offend you. I know you're trying your best to contain this situation. I appreciate what you are doing for us. I didn't realize it's worse than what I had anticipated."
"It sure is," Mikael said forcing a smile. "I barely made my council to stand down. They are planning a bitter retaliation to Nagozul, even cutting trade with your people. Now that they know that Prodea's sitting at the throne, things got uglier and even harder to control. They are even contemplating to assassinate her using the Four Pillars of Sibara if you do not fix your nation within the year - well, three now since one has been rumored to have been killed in an ambush here."
The others were instantaneously curious about the report but Artemus spoke eagerly fast disrupting their intentions to ask further.
"I see. Well you can't blame me for trying. I have to at least try and urge you to change your decision. It's my duty as Nagozul's Grand Prince after all."
"No, Artemus," he frowned. "Your duty is to take the throne and banish Prodea from the Holy Lands. That is your duty. I do not want to offend you here on your lands, but I am baffled as to why you are letting her step on everything that we believe and..."
"Stop!" Entered Narra which hindered Mikael from continuing. "I urge you to stop and think clearly, Mikael. After all, I am a part of the Nagozulian Army too. General Enro, Maskara Clan's Head, is here as well. And Camyl, and Gab, and everyone from Daomagar present in this chamber. Are you questioning our duty and loyalty as Bathala's Sentinels?"
Mikael looked down apologetic. "I'm just concerned as to why she's still in power."
"I'm sorry Chieftain Mikael," Artemus sadly replied. "Explaining our reasons will be complicated. Prodea has been using Dark Arts and that's only half of it. I have some problems with my powers too and with the Global Binding Spell in place, I'm not so sure forcing our way to the throne is optimal with our people. Taking away Prodea in the capital will require thousands of deaths on either side and we're making sure we extinguish every possible choice available before we're forced to deal with that hand."
"So, the rumors are true?" Asked Mikael. "Is she really dabbling on Dim'ion's Dark Spells?" Everyone looked at each other with a nod which answered him making his eyes widen in disgust and horror. "Then we should mobilize everyone. Let us take her while she is still at her early stage of development with Dim'ion's Dark Arts. Daomagar will pledge our support to this campaign, and I'm sure Yagisiv Haya will too if I request of them."
"And risk everyone dying by her hand?" Narra replied. "We can't do that! That would mean we're going to be responsible to the deaths of thousands of sentinels marking another dark era in our time."
"So, we leave Prodea in power? We must not! We must rally our forces to meet her in battle. That is our mandate and I'm sure Yagisiv Haya knows of this duty too. With our forces she won't stand a chance."
"I commend your eagerness to aid us, but sadly we can't do that," Artemus hurried. "Father is right, we can't expose Yagisiv Haya. It is best they remain on their island. If Prodea is with foreigners, she might have promised them the fountain of life. If Yagisivian forces are captured, she might dig deep into their minds and find the secrets of the fountain. We won't let that happen to our brothers."
"Our Mandate is the preservation of Life," Enro started with his deep voice. "We must take heed to their words, chieftain. Daomagarian and Yagisivian blood will flow on the rivers of Nagozul if we attempt to destroy Prodea. I say we let the Nagozulian King's prophecy take the helm. His way will require fewer deaths from our brothers and sisters. His way will not require the cooperation of Yagisivians."
"The prophecy, the one you mailed to me?" Mikael asked Artemus.
"Yes, my father's prophecy. It is from Bathala's providence."
"I do not intend to insult but I fear I must be frank and state that I do not believe this prophecy you're speaking of. I do not share the same faith since I do not believe mortal people can become Bathala's scribes. Only heralds of Bathala can deliver a message and even then, the heralds will communicate with the Priestess of Yagisiv Haya, not to any sentinel, and most especially not to the King of Nagozul. This has been observed for as long as we've existed. It is not possible. I find this a little convenient."
"But indeed, what you've done is included in the prophecy. When you recalled your brothers and sisters you have managed to fulfill its fruition."
Mikael sat down depressed seeing all of them having faith in this prophecy he's dubious about. "I-I, I'm sorry. I haven't read the prophecy in its entirety. But if it is unfolding as you say it will, and if what you say is true, that you're putting your faith in this and that you're placing the fate of your nation to its bidding, then I'm afraid I might have to agree now to my council and close our borders for good."
Artemus just nodded with a smile which confused him even more.
"You know I will do this?" he asked.
"Yes. Indeed, it has been written. It is much safer that way, that you close your borders, and Yagisiv Haya's too. That way we could contain the situation here in Nagozul and fewer casualties would be expected. You know what happened at the Dwendell Rebellion. We've lost so much then. I won't permit it to be repeated again."
"Then why persuade me to come here? Why plead then to change my mind about this?"
"Because it is his duty as Grand Prince to air the needs of Nagozul," Narra chuckled. "Artemus is really a stickler to the rules. He also needed to do that to compel me too in believing this prophecy of his."
"But you all know what that means? The consequences you will have to endure for a year? Or even longer?"
"Yes, Chieftain," Major Camyl joined. "This means those who will not heed on your call will be locked from Daomagar. We cannot go home, your grace. This means we will be stuck in here indefinitely till the matter is resolved and your orders have changed.
Enro nodded too and joined in. "You cannot risk sending in reinforcements too if we ever have the need of your assistance so as to preserve the Daomagarian army from diminishing its officers and ranks up until a full scale attack to Nagozul has been called - if such a need justifies such recourse."
"And you're all okay with that?" He scoffed turning to everyone with their heads bowed down. He was mildly irritated to see his brothers' determination to stay so he asked. "Enro, Camyl, Gab, Narra, I assume this will be your decision, but what about your servants, or the soldiers under your command? Every Daomagar here entrusts their lives on your decisions? I trust they will not be held here under threat from you. I trust you will not compel them to stay against their wishes."
"You can count on that, your grace." Enro said quickly grabbing a dagger behind. He pressed it against the palm of his hand and slid it slowly for the crimson drops to follow trickling down to the ground. "I, Bloodfang, swear on my family's honor to give my subordinates their free will to go back home. Though I can't promise you they will join your retreat, your grace."
"Maskara Clan's loyalty is undeniable," Mikael nodded. "I understand that everyone under your command will obey you and your belief so I will not take it up against you." He noticed the others grabbing their daggers too. "Oh no, please. Everyone. You don't have to take a blood oath to convince me. I understand you know your duties. So long as everyone has their choices available and no one is disadvantaged, it's fine by me."
"So, we'll move now to our second agenda?" Narra pushed.
"I concur," Enro replied sliding back the dagger on his back while crunching his hand to a fist willing the blood from dripping till it stopped. He is a master of the Deep Root, so his combat healing skills are at par to no Daomagar alive.
"What do we know of the Hishma?" Deito asked Camyl. "Are the rumors true then? Is Prodea behind its sacrilegious destruction?"
"Reports are coming in from the Eastern Sentries that it may be possible. Lieutenant Tarni stated that the Grand Princess Prodea have been fortifying the Palace of Hishma before it was destroyed with his Foreign Forces, The Lions - as they call themselves. Some Sibara are placed there too accompanying her manufactured Titan. But there is another possibility that she is not to blame for what happened."
"How so?" Narra said crunching his chin in deep thoughts.
"For one thing, they are tagging the incident as an accident. They are postulating that the repairs and renovation that Prodea has been making might have strained the foundations leading for it to crumble down. That's one theory."
"This is false," Enro contested. "I have seen the Palace of Hishma and have noted that its support beams stretched for tens of feet thick. It could not have crumbled down unless it is on purpose."
"He is right," Artemus agreed. "The metal beams that were used there have been forged by Dal'Gur himself. It will prove indestructible against any forces of Mother Earth. Only a Daomagar strong enough to create a ravine, like our very own Enro and Deito, can destroy its foundation."
"Are you saying she did that on purpose?" Deito said shocked.
"No, I'm not saying that she did it," Artemus replied with worry. "I'm saying someone else did."
"Yes, that would make much sense," Narra nodded. "Prodea has been planning to take the Hishma and make a fortress out of it. With almost forty percent in its completion, hurrying dangerously on construction risking involuntary servitude from our brothers to make it, why would she then destroy it?"
"The Night Hunters have been reported to have besieged the Hishma," Camyl added. "The Sibara have noted this since they made aware of their intentions before attacking. The reports also include that they have threatened the lives of anyone brave enough to stop them and although my Sibaran spies have been timely on their information, I'm afraid we've lost communication after the attack confirming their threats so I do not have any information regarding the aftermath. I don't want to suppose but I firmly believe that all sentinels stationed in Hishma have perished - including the manufactured titan. An impossible feat for someone but not as impossible for Yiv."
"Are you implying the Night Hunters did this?"
Camyl laughed almost snorting, "You do know who the Night Hunters are, right chief?"
"I don't understand. Are the Night Hunters members of the Omega Tribe?" frowned Deito.
"They will be," Enro answered. "In a few years or so. You don't have to worry. They are just posing as Daomagars. They do not have Yiv as a member too so that will ease up your tension."
"So, who are they?"
"They are your uncles, chief!" Camyl finally revealed smiling wide. "Or, sort-of-uncles."
Deito has been staring at them almost smiling with crooked brows still trying to figure out who they are till Artemus entered relieving his aggravation.
"They are my sons. Reus, Karus, Kayzar, and Yosh. They are posing as Daomagarians to provide skirmishes to delay Prodea's plans."
"No..." Mikael laughed sitting at the edge of his seat. "You are teasing me here. Who are they really?"
"Indeed, they are the sons of Light," Enro replied to end his reluctance to believe. He's too serious to kid so Mikael trusted him right away.
"Oh." Mikael stopped and leaned back again in contemplation till he broke asking. "How? You are Nagozulian and Anagea is Daomagar. They have been fused with their Amplifyers on their forehead and they glowed on their birth year. It says so on record. How did they have Daomagarian lineage when they have Nagozulian blood running in their veins?"
Narra was seen tensed looking at Artemus as if swallowing a big pill. Artemus just tapped him and answered. "They have been blessed by Bathala. This is a rare feat! A Daomagarian blood and a Nagozulian blood mixing perfectly. Bathala has blessed us with this because he knows this will happen. And through them we will liberate the evil which is Prodea."
"Impossible," scoffed Mikael. "I do not believe this is happening. I don't believe Prodea will fall for this too."
"Oh no, chief! Prodea doesn't know of this so it's best if we keep this as a secret."
"How can you assure me Camyl that they are who they are? That my Uncles managed to perfectly mimic a Daomagar?"
"Your uncles," Camyl laughed thinking Mikael is older than they are. "Yes, I have seen their weapons demonstration. They fight like the Prime Perfectus with an added feature Of course, since they can incorporate elemental energies in their strike. Truly it is a splendid battle to experience. And based on the reports, it seems as though they have grown to at least ten folds from our last meet."
"So, they can Dash, use Deep Root? That sort of thing?"
"Yes," Enro joined. "The little one is rumored to have been blessed by Kyrin too. He can use the Eagle Eyes with ease. The Twins on the other hand have managed to master the Great Dash. Kayzar can step into the veil and Karus can mimic your Fist of Ana'giel. Though I can't seem to see anything Daomagar-like on Reus. Maybe he's the exception."
"Though I fear he won't need one," Camyl added. "The Sun Stealer need not use any Daomagarian Skills if he manages to activate his ultimate technique. No one can counter it since it's new. Only a few have witnessed it, and no one managed to analyze its weakness since everyone witnessing the feat is trapped inside his technique. That's a troublesome mystery for our enemy."
"I truly have missed much, haven't I?" Mikael smiled sitting back. "And I suppose there's more to it than that?"
"Yes, but let's not dwell on this," cut Artemus. "Right now, what we have to discuss is the emergence of the real Yiv in Nagozul. After ten years of retirement, he's back."
"But he's terrorizing Nagozulians now?" Enro asked. "I am dubious in his intents. What has he got to gain by making the Grand Princess angry?"
"Maybe he's operating on his own personal justice yet again," Narra answered. "Don't forget that he's the same man who accused those Daomagarian Generals of being corrupt and even exposed an assassination ring deep inside the ranks of Daomagar that vows to eradicate the main Yagisivian bloodline."
"Oh, the one you apprehended Sir Narra?" Mikael replied curious. "I thought so too. After you've captured them all, I thought Yiv would've finally given up his Shadowless Blade and disappear to obscurity."
"And yet he's here," Artemus said leaning back from his chair. "If his anger and frustration get displaced, we'll have a different type of worry to occupy us. With Prodea's erratic tactics, I'm not sure we need another dreadful matter to bother us. For now, his goals are aligned with us, but I won't take that risk, so I need you, Major Camyl, to create a secret group to hunt down Yiv and locate his whereabouts."
"Yes, Grand General," Camyl bowed snappily.
Narra concurred. "The previous month was the supply cargos to the city. A few days ago, the Hishma's Holy Palace. Let's not wait till Yiv can find something to destroy for tomorrow. We can't afford doing that to our Nagozulian brothers especially if one of our Daomagarians are at fault. It is up to us to stop him. So, I will join you on your search to find the scourge."
"I'm glad to hear that Sir!" Camyl sighed in relief. "I know we have Bathala-given skills, but I don't think my team is enough to engage Yiv. I'm confident we could take him on with you on board, Sir!"
"I did not say to engage Major, Father, just locate him. Please. I'll be dealing with him when that time comes. I'm sure it'll be some time before you could track the Shadow Fiend. He's indeed called that for a reason so this will not be a light task. Hopefully by then I'll be able to use my new bubble technique."
"Your bubble technique is not fit to fight a Daomagar that way?" Narra hurried concerned. "No offense, but I think we are more suited to fight the real fastest Daomagar alive."
"Don't worry, father. I am refining my Bubble Shield so I think I can capture him when that comes. I know he's dangerous, so I don't want to lose any of you. You two are too important in the prophecy. You must survive till the end."
"Especially you Camyl," Enro said almost with a smiling voice. "The one the prophecy called the Red General who will liberate Nagozul."
Camyl smiled nodding to reply. She's smiling not just because she gets to be reminded that she's the one that's going to lead the Nagozulian Army to victory, but because she knows Enro is complimenting her - a thing he doesn't normally do.
"What I need to do now, Chieftain Mikael, is to inform you that I will cash in on that favor you owe me," Artemus started again.
"I see. So, when you said it's going to be a few years before you cash them in, you're really not joking, aren't you?"
"Yes, and I believe I have three if memory serves," Artemus smiled which he reciprocated.
"Hah, I should've listened to your offer then when you said I didn't have to owe you anything."
"Well, you should've but that is not the case now."
"Am I going to regret this?"
Artemus just smiled shaking his head to answer as he leaned forward to continue. Nobody knows how and when the Great Daomagar Chief owed the Grand Prince, but they disregarded the mystery as they listen closely on his demands.
"First, I would like you to lock your borders."
"But I thought I just said that?"
"No, Great Chief, what I meant was to really lock your borders from anyone. Nobody should go IN. Nagozulian, Daomagarian, or any Clan members or their heads - especially Sibaras."
"Even for me," Narra added.
"Just to point out, you want me to stop people from going to Daomagar? And allow people to leave?"
"Yes. That's exactly my request."
"But what about if, for example, there are refugees? Refugees from Nagozul? Are you seriously telling me I have to ignore them if they ask for shelter especially after Prodea's atrocities?"
"You can't trust them. They might include Prodea's spies. You'll just have to soldier on from that point."
"This will be challenging, but I will try my best to do it and convince the council. It's practically not impossible but it's almost unachievable. Daomagarians live to serve our Nagozulian and Yagisivian brothers and it's going to be a tough convincing them to refuse our brothers from our borders."
"I know this will be difficult but please bear with me. You can announce your ultimatum but please lock your borders thoroughly. Prodea is my sister and I love her, but she is dangerous. She might play tricks on us and I would be perfectly relieved knowing Daomagar is safe."
"So that you could devote all of your concentration in Nagozul and Prodea's plans, yes, that is wise. But aren't you a little bit concerned that Sibara Clan Members would flock Nagozul by then? I believe the Grand Princess has been paying them quite a hefty sum to help her here - the payments due to the other clan members who resigned from their post I believe." Mikael looked at Narra and Enro chuckling. "The fractions of your clan's fees?"
"No worries. We're confident we can manage them."
"Oh? How so? Do you have a plan you're not telling me?"
"Indeed, I have a plan, but that plan has been laid out long before. The plans mentioned in the prophecy. That will then lead us to my second request. Please read your copy of the prophecy. I believe I have given that to you years ago."
All of them laughed almost coughing containing their urge to release the boisterous guffaw that the tickling imp churns till everyone realized he's not kidding.
"Oh," Mikael figured. "To really read it? Okay. If that will make you happy then."
"But not just read it," Artemus hurriedly added. "I want you to understand it so that you could understand our plans. I need someone from Daomagar to understand what we're doing so that you could initiate my third request."
Artemus sat back and caressed his knuckles polishing it with his hands with a frown. He was silent for about thirty seconds before resuming his demands.
"I would like you to avenge us all here and reclaim Nagozul with whatever means necessary."
"Wait, you're all going to die in the prophecy?"
Artemus wanted to reply but he bit his lip as if he's in doubt.
Mikael continued asking but now directed the question from everyone who is now looking down. "So, when Bloodfang said that the Red General, Major Camyl, is important, he means that she's going to lead the assault without you?"
Narra cut in smiling. "I-it's not absolute, I-I mean it's not - we can change that, I've been telling this to him over and over but he's like a stone really. He's incorrigible."
"Ah, so you meant to tell me to give Nagozul full military support if in case your plan fails," Mikael said beaming positivity at Artemus who's practically lost the brilliance of joy he has earlier.
"Yes," Artemus finally replied. "It has been prophesized that all of our plans will fail, and we will ultimately lead to a confrontation possibly leading to civil war which will claim the lives of some of us here, including me and my family. I want you to lead your army, helping our Red General, when that time comes to make sure Prodea will not and cannot succeed. And if unavoidable- I... I... I want you to personally put her down and obliterate her remains to ashes. I believe you could do this. You can, right?"
Artemus serious eyes gazed upon him putting an unbearable load of responsibility in his shoulders. He did not know what to react witnessing dread, fear, and sadness on his face. Artemus asked again and that snapped him right out of his daze.
"Yes. Making sure that her Dark Arts cannot resurrect her? Of course, I can. For you and for Nagozul I will."
"Then it's settled!" Artemus concluded clapping his hands with a smile which bewildered them all. They know he's forcing that smile, so they forced a smile back as a courtesy.
They talked for hours more till the rain stopped. It was all casual, more on catching-up with everyone. But all of them have their hearts anchored on the reality that all they can do for now is to wait and enjoy every second of each other's smiles as much as they can. They all know that everything that follows after this is just pain and misery and by then, there will be no time to truly enjoy the peace that each company can provide. After all, the Hishma Prophecy has been fulfilled and who knows when they will meet again as complete and happy as they are now. This is the trouble about knowing your destiny. The only option is to accept it with open arms lest you will lose will and bring shame to your name. But not everyone knows of this as this path is reserved only to those damned souls with proud courageous hearts.