Chance listened closely as his mother pointed out all the areas on the map that showed where the Dark King’s army now occupied, displacing thousands of her people. It was depressing. He had returned just in time to prevent complete annihilation but too late to save all those that had been lost. He cursed the fact that his life was full of being in the nick of time … both on Aristal and now here in time for the prophesy to be fulfilled.
Though being in time used to be the most exciting part of being a vigilante back home, it no longer held any appeal, especially when it became purely a defensive war they never seemed to win. That was until he came into his inheritance and took the omegas out at last.
But, here, on his mother’s world, the people were still fighting a defensive war. For Jake and he, it had only been going on seven years when he finally ended it, but he simply couldn’t wrap his mind around a war lasting a century. He shook his head mentally. To be fair, his mother was faced with impossible odds. The King’s army totally overwhelmed the Light Fae’s at least 300 to 1. How could she possibly win?
However, he and Jake were used to playing against high odds, so, though it was on a larger scale, he knew they could make a difference and end this war with the weapons none were familiar with here. So, all he had to do was convince a war weary council that he wasn’t blowing smoke up their ass.
His thoughts were interrupted by his mother concluding her briefing and possible strategies for ending the war. Glancing over at the Dark Fae, Chance was puzzled by the look of surprise on Tochere’s face. Why was that? He was supposedly on the front lines, shouldn’t he have been aware of the progress of the war around him and just how much hell it had caused?
So he asked, “Why are you surprised, General Tochere? Weren’t you being kept briefed?”… giving the Dark Fae a suspicious stare.
Tochere grimaced, a flash of unhappiness and anger in his red eyes. “I was given all that it was necessary for me to know,” he said stiffly. “The King apparently felt I didn’t need to know more than that, and I had no opportunity to see for myself as I was kept constantly occupied with his endless commands. It was only when Prince Lugus called me to his side that I was finally able to see the whole sordid picture.” He didn’t specify, but Chance guessed what he didn’t say … that this loyal warrior had been appalled and dismayed at the state of his leader’s mind.
“That must have been very hard,” he murmured sympathetically.
“It … was sobering. I felt anger that I and my fellow generals were kept in the dark, but it was our fault for ignoring the rumors. But, who would believe such a thing? Not I! The rumors said the King had been cruelly felled by some kind of mind disease with no cure. It began to manifest in bouts of paranoia and mad schemes for taking over the world, but it was so slow that none realized what was going on, least of all the prince. But, it was he that began to see the signs of madness sooner than us. I only knew that my orders were becoming more strange and confusing as time went on, enough that I grew uneasy but still I didn’t question. Our King had insured none questioned his orders … ever. It was death to do so. He had always been a cruel and harsh King but never sadistic. So, when I stood before him days ago, I recognized not the one I knew when I first became a soldier in his army. A stranger sat on the throne with a fell light in his eyes. Only then did I know the rumors were true, that and the terrible devastation I witnessed on my travels to your kingdom,” he freely admitted.
“So, you had no clue just how torn your world had become?” Chance asked, sadly.
The general’s expression was answer enough.
“Which is why I’m just glad I came when I did. I promise I hurried as fast as I could with my training once I learned who and what I was, but arriving at the last minute is just something that happens to my friend and I all the time. Why should now be any different?” Chance snorted. “So, what we’ve brought with us will be what wins the war. You’re not that familiar with science since it’s not very compatible with magic, which is why it will be the single most important thing that will tip the balance for you all now. Yes, I possess full magical powers, but it is science that will keep more of our people from being killed. The prophesy says I will kill the King but not how, so I’m assuming both my abilities will do it.”
“And, just how will this science help us?” General Zinar demanded, skeptical.
Others of the council also didn’t look that hopeful either.
“You heard our jet … uh … flying machine that I landed back there in your entry cavern?” Chance asked.
“That craft contains weapons that will disable or kill your enemies. Let my friend Jake explain; he’s my weapon’s officer,” Chance said, stepping to one side to expose the smaller tom to the many eyes watching.
Only a little nervous to be under such scrutiny, Jake clung to his expertise to carry him through now. “Right. Uh … I’ve loaded the jet with iron dust, which I spray over the enemy to cause pain, death, and panic. We used it when we passed through the portal, causing the army waiting for us to scramble away. I also utilized sleep gas to prevent any from following us here. The dragons and other flyers that attacked us were repelled by the iron I covered most of the jet’s surface in plus explosive charges I shot at them that drove them off.” Jake paused when he got many confused looks.
Sighing, he continued, “Look, it would simply take too long to explain things you have no frame of reference for nor do we have time to demonstrate them now. And, even if you insisted on a demonstration, you would only be giving away our only edge against the enemy if anyone saw us. All that’s important is to take advantage of the shock and surprise our arrival caused and strike while we still can. You all know that the King has already been informed that something unusual has come through the portal. You can’t afford to waste the precious time we’ve gained you by long discussions now.”
“Jake’s right. Time is not on our side. We might get lucky that the King may not realize the danger, but we can’t take that risk. We have but a small window of time to attack with any degree of success. We must strike now!” Chance barked, invoking his Princely powers to push them to agree.
His mother felt the magical push, and, though surprised, she said nothing, smiling inwardly at this show of her son’s abilities.
Not allowing anyone to comment, Chance continued, “Here’s what I propose . . . Jake and I, aboard our flying machine, will carry a small team of the best warriors with us and take the palace and the King. While we do that . . . Mother, you will do the distraction you and General Tochere have already discussed with one proviso . . . do not close in when we have passed over the field and dropped the iron dust.”
“What? Why?” one of her generals objected. “We can’t possibly cause enough of a distraction if we are too far away.”
“Just how far away are you suggesting, nephew?” Prince Conall interjected at the same time, as he had an idea why his nephew insisted on this action and Chance’s answer confirmed that suspicion.
“Because the iron dust will harm and/or kill your people as well as the enemy when it’s dispersed. You must stay back so you aren’t in its path nor can you charge in when the enemy falls as the dust will still be floating in the air and on the ground.”
“But … but … then we can never use the land again,” a councilor objected angrily.
“Calm yourself. We have a way to ‘clean up’ the dust, but that will have to wait until after the war is won. Just use common sense as to where it’s safe and where it isn’t by how your enemies react in a given area and keep the enemy from escaping the area we spray,” Jake explained.
“Though a bit hampering, still it is an excellent strategy, my prince,” Prince Conall said approvingly.
“I knew iron was deadly to us but never considered using it as a weapon,” General Zinar said, thoughtfully, surprised by this unusual form of defense.
“Of course not as it is just as deadly to you as your enemy, so no way would you use it since no one can handle it and not be harmed,” Chance said, shrugging. “As Jake said, we also have other, more devastating weapons that can do a lot of damage as well as scare the hell out of the enemy by their strangeness.”
“It sounds fantastic and a little too good to be true,” General Zinar said, still skeptical but resigned to this course of action as he could see the Queen and Prince Conall were fully on the side of this stranger who was supposed to be the heir, which he still held some doubt about.
“I’m certain it does, but again, that’s because you aren’t familiar with science. Enough talking! Action is needed now,” Chance pressed again.
Looks of dismay and chagrin came over many of the council’s faces. All should have remembered that. The Prince was right. They were out of time.
“Though I am worried about our unseemly haste in charging ahead on the say of a lost Prince that we have no personal knowledge on his fighting prowess or magical skills, I’m forced to admit he is correct. If he can do what he says he can, then delaying even another moment will be catastrophic for us all. If the Queen is convinced this is the proper course for us, then I will stand by her,” General Zinar decided.
Several other generals and some council members still weren’t convinced, but the Queen rode over their obvious reluctance.
“The prophesy has proclaimed Prince Lorcan will save us and kill the King! His arrival now in our direst time of need already shows the prophesy is real and coming true. Now is the time to arm up and take our world back!” the Queen proclaimed firmly and loudly.
Everyone bowed to her will, no more objections.
Pleased by their capitulation, Sorcha turned to her son. “How many warriors do you require, my son, and, as your uncle had asked but you have not answered yet, how close do we approach before it endangers us?”
Chance turned his head and gave Jake a questioning look.
“I can’t say for certain until I check the prevailing winds. That will determine how far the iron dust will drift when we blow it out of the jet. And, since it’s unlikely anyone here knows how to tell the weather with the accuracy I require, we’ll have to take to the air and check it first. That means leaving a communicator with whoever is leading the charge below us,” he answered promptly.
Many gave him confused looks, but the Queen and Prince Conall had no problem following what Jake had said. They both had spent a lot of time on Aristal. Sorcha herself had listened to endless tales by her late husband about his home so was familiar with many of the terms Jake had used.
“I will be leading the charge, Jake, and I’m familiar with some of your strange devices. Merely instruct me on how to use it,” she said with confidence.
Jake smiled, relieved that he didn’t have to waste any more time. “No problem, ma’am.”
She nodded then turned to her generals. “Arm up and meet me at the Iron Forest. I want archers and horsemen with me. General Zinar lead the Giants and the Dwarves and have them flank us, but leave two of the largest Giants to provide a blockade behind which my group can fire their arrows. The centaurs will join my horseman for they are excellent with bow and sword. Banshees and hippogriffs will guard the air, but make them remain over our army and stay close. I would not have them harmed by the iron dust,” she warned. “Finally, have the Jaberwockies guard our rear to prevent any from trying to close in on us.”
Jake’s eyes widened at the names of some of the creatures the Queen had mentioned. Some were part of kitten fairytales he’d heard when young. Now he knew they were real creatures, and he’d be seeing some of them.
“You have your orders, depart and make haste. We will gather in less than half a candlemark,” the Queen finished.
The room cleared quickly except for Chance, Jake, Prince Conall, the Queen and the Dark Fae delegation.
Tochere had said nothing during the Queen’s rapid fire orders to her people, but now he spoke. “My officers need to return to inform Prince Lugus of our plans while I remain. Can you give them safe passage to the border, Queen Sorcha?”
“Yes, of course. Allow me to write a missive for them to give to the Prince. It will add validity to what they relay of what has transpired.” Sorcha was given paper and quill by an attentive servant. Taking a seat, she quickly began to write.
“Thank you. In the meantime, where am I to be taken while you are away?” he asked, unhappy he would miss the battle to come but resigned to his part in this alliance.
“Actually, if mother doesn’t object, I could use you with me,” Chance abruptly interrupted. “Mother, I suggest you tell Prince Lugus to be waiting for us.” He turned to Tochere. “Are you very familiar with the palace . . . any secret ways in that you could lead us to and where the Prince can be waiting?”
Tochere’s eyes widened then narrowed in thought. He was stunned the Prince would be willing to trust him on so dangerous a mission but quickly recovered. If it got him into battle, he was all for going along with the enemy.
“Yes, I do know of a secret passage into the palace, Prince Lorcan. Taking me is a bold stroke for, if I can appear first, the guards will be unprepared for you coming in behind me, which will give us an edge.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Chance said, pleased the general was able to divine his plan. He knew the general had been surprised by his choosing to take the Dark Fae along, but Chance was used to making snap judgments about people, and he felt he could trust Tochere. He wouldn’t have risked everything to cross enemy lines and see the Queen if he didn’t feel the war was wrong and needed to be ended. “Also, I haven’t forgotten that you said there were many more who objected to the King’s rule and would not interfere when we came in and took him down.”
“That is true, young prince,” Tochere nodded, beginning to gain some respect for this most unusual tom.
“I have no objection, my son. The plan has more chance of succeeding now than before you arrived. As to the warriors you wish to take with you, I will notify them and have them meet you at your flying machine,” the Queen said, finishing her writing, sanding the ink, then applying a seal of wax with her heraldic symbol on it before handing it off to one of Tochere’s officers.
“Conall, send four of my guards with them. Lend them horses to speed them on their way,” she said then turned to Tochere’s officers. “Fly like the very wind to Prince Lugus as my son’s vehicle will get there before you can provide warning. Oh wait, General Tochere you have not said where the Prince should be waiting at,” she said quickly before the officers could leave.
“The eastern gate on the lower levels, Queen Sorcha,” Tochere responded promptly, directing his order to his officers, who nodded understanding then left with Prince Conall.
Chance checked the time on his watch, glanced over at his partner and raised a questioning eyebrow. Jake knew what he wanted and directed his next comment to the Queen. “Ma’am, how far is this Iron Forest you need to get to?”
“A quarter candlemark.”
“Uh . . . Could you translate into our form of time keeping, please?”
She smiled apologetically. “Pardon, that would be . . . ” she thought a moment before coming up with the equivalent. “… about fifteen minutes, I believe. It’s below this mountain near the river I showed you on the map.”
“Ahh, got it, then how far is it to the Dark King’s stronghold?” Jake asked.
“Approximately forty-five minutes by horse,” she said promptly, eyeing him questioningly.
Jake was silent for a few moments as he did some figuring in his head. “Okay, that means Chance and I need to wait at least an hour before leaving.”
Tochere eyed him in shock. “Why would you delay your departure?”
“Our jet flies so fast, we’d be at the King’s palace in less than . . . uh . . . one-eighth of a candlemark.”
Now he stared with stunned disbelief. “Are you quite sure you translated that correctly?”
“Yes. That would translate into ten minutes in our time,” Jake answered him, firmly.
Tochere shook his head in amazement. “Amazing … this vehicle of yours must fly like the very wind.”
Jake coughed to hide a sudden urge to laugh. “Uh, actually we can fly faster than the wind.”
“And, this be the machine you are very skilled at flying Prince Lorcan?” the general asked, still a bit dazed by this information.
Chance grinned with pride. “Yes, I do, and it’s the most fantastic thing in the world to be above the ground so very high that things below look like ants. We’ve even been in outer space too.”
The Dark Fae made an indescribable sound in his throat. “You are making a jest.”
“No, I’m being totally truthful, sir. I have been in the darkness of space and returned.”
“But, what possessed you to do such an incredible thing?”
Chance’s face took on a more serious mien. “An alien tried to steal the water from our world to sell to another alien race for profit. It cared not that it was killing us in the process. We destroyed it and freed the race it had kidnapped to use their ship for the dirty deed. There are other creatures out there beyond our universe as there are dimensions that your people travel through,” he assured the warrior, who continued to stare at Chance as if he were crazy.
It was his mother’s turn to look rather stunned. She was familiar with the wondrous things her son’s adoptive people created, but this was not something she could have ever imagined. “I must accept what you say is true since there are things in the worlds we travel that we would find unbelievable. Though long lived as I am, I have never encountered such a thing as an alien before.”
“Uh, actually, mother, you have met alien species’ before,” Chance said, amused. His mother raised an eyebrow. “Well, my father’s people were alien to you … so are other species you visited in other dimensions … yes?”
She blinked at that. “Hmm, you do have a point, my son. I must admit, your life sounds quite interesting.”
Yeah, it’s been that alright. Anyway, Mother, I think you should be hurrying off, and I will see you again when this is over,” he said, no doubt in his voice. He pulled her into a tight hug, kissing her on the cheek. “We have a lot of catching up to do,” he murmured before releasing her and stepping away.
“We do indeed, my son. Good luck, all of you. May the Goddess watch over and return you to my side.” She turned away but paused before she’d taken more than four steps. “Jake, you need to give me that talkie thing and show me how to use it,” she reminded him.
Jake blushed in embarrassment that he’d allowed himself to be distracted and forgot she needed the communicator. He quickly rectified that mistake, handing her the communicator and giving her quick instructions. She repeated them flawlessly back at him then nodded and put it in a safe place within her armor. With a final smile and a wave, she and her guards hurried off.
With a sharp pang in his chest, Chance watched her leave. Jake said nothing except to pat his friend on the back, showing sympathy, then headed off toward the archway they’d come through.
“Let’s be off, general,” Chance said, sighing.
General Tochere said nothing as he followed close behind the pair, his mind whirling with all the strange things he’d heard over the last few candlemarks. This vehicle must be truly amazing, he thought. He wasn’t so sure he wanted to ride in it at all, but he would not shame himself by showing fear now.
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