Chapter 25 – Training Day


Sixteenth of Learning 1142

Leata stared at her four pupils, expression unreadable. She had met them in the kitchen, far earlier than she expected to see them, and they insisted on a lesson while they ate, apparently because they decided today there would be a wedding. She didn’t know whether to be impressed or annoyed. As it stood, she was both.

“So, since you’re arranging the world around you these days, would you like to tell me what I should be teaching?”

She was certain the three young royals didn’t miss the sarcasm she had allowed to slip into her voice, which didn’t prevent Dahr from answering.

The Pelaro Chikir

“Actually, I was curious about King Mavros and his victory over Twyl. How did he get past the walls? It seems impossible. Everyone says so.”

Leata nodded. “That’s as good a place as any to begin today’s lesson. One point before I start. King Mavros didn’t win a victory over Twyl, because it didn’t yet exist. King Mavros founded Twyl after he defeated the Kingdom of Lethe, or at least the city of Rish. As he took territory, he renamed the Kingdom Twyl, which in the Andaran tongue means victory.

“As to how he won, Mavros had a lot of advantages. His army was vast, not made of just one tribe, but almost every tribe in Andara. A good portion of the Andaran population had marched with him, not just men either. In Andara, men and women are considered equals. Both could become warriors. Lethe only allowed men to fight in the war, making their army significantly smaller.”

“But that’s the same as Twyl,” protested Eric.

“Now yes, but not before Mavros’ victory, which you’ll remember was against Lethe. Lethe was ruled differently and founded at a different time. Twyl was more…enlightened, for lack of a better word. Many of Twyl’s customs originally come from Andara, as you might imagine. In addition to his larger army, Mavros also had a great mind for strategy. No amount of people could have gotten through the gates without siege weapons, which he didn’t have.”

“Wait,” interrupted Eric. “He didn’t have siege weapons?”

“He did not. Nor did he lay siege to the city.”

“Then how did he get through the gates?”

“If you’ll stop interrupting I’ll explain. King Mavros’s army was too large to hide. Scouts were able to track the army easily as soon as it got into Lethe. But what no one knew was that King Mavros had sent hundreds of men before him in the guise of merchant caravans and craftsman to come to the city, long before he got there. He had hundreds of his soldiers inside. No one realized, because they were spread out. They kept in communication through a network of messengers, with each group knowing one or two people from the other groups.”

“They had money with them, mostly taken from those already killed in Andara, before the rout. There were enough funds for an extended stay, and they settled down in various inns across the city, waiting for news of the Andaran army, which everyone was talking about. When the army stopped just out of range of the walls and started building fires at night, every one of the Andarans inside the city knew about it. It was all anyone was talking about. The army was visible from anywhere on the east wall and was so vast, it could have surrounded the city. Instead, the men that had been waiting inside converged on the West gate, which had been the plan all along. With almost the entire guard stacked on the opposite side of the city, there was barely any opposition. The Andarans already in the city took the west gate and opened it, allowing more soldiers into the city through a gate King Mavros’ forces now controlled.”

“You see Mavros had divided his force, quietly sending his men and women around the city in the dark, so no one could see them. A significant number were waiting outside when the gate was taken. Once they were in, they left the gate open and they ran to the east gate and took it with their superior numbers, after which they opened it to the main army. Both the East and West gates had fallen before any kind of alarm could be sounded. The entire Andaran force made their way into the city. It was too slow to be considered a charge, since they had to move through a choke point. It’s said the city had already fallen before all the Andarans had made it through the gate.

“Lethe wasn’t prepared for such tactics. They were not only over-confident that their walls could keep out the Andaran barbarians, but they were disorganized, because they had never prepared for a battle inside of Rish. In a very short time, the entire city was taken, except for the palace itself.

“When King Herrold of Lethe tried to flee, he was cut down. After that, the defenders gave up the castle, not because they were disloyal, but because they felt abandoned and had no leadership. King Mavros had taken Rish.

“Other cities in Lethe weren’t as well defended. In fact, Lethe had relatively few cities. They had various nobles in castles elsewhere, surrounded by farms, but these holdings weren’t a match for the Andaran Army.

“People surrendered because they were terrified of Mavros after the bloodbath that had occurred at the capitol. They didn’t have the stomach for it. They gave up the kingdom, because they were too scared to fight for it.”

“That’s awful,” said Chari. “They deserved to lose the kingdom if they wouldn’t defend it.”

“A lot of people feel that way,” said Leata. “But you have to remember, they were unprepared to fight this kind of war, and the reputation of what they called the barbarian hordes overwhelmed them. They lost the battle because of lack of planning as much as anything else. This was a kingdom that had fought any number of internal skirmishes, but it only had one war, and that was the one they lost. They never really had a chance.”

“According to Maynor, most battles are won and lost not on the basis of strength of arms, but on the mental conditioning of the people fighting. Never giving up is as important as knowing your skills,” said Eric.

Leata pursed her lips, a clear sign that she didn’t completely agree with Maynor’s assessment. “It’s true many battles are lost before the first sword is drawn, but it’s a lot more complex than that. Strategy, heart, bravery, even luck can turn the tides of a great battle. Is anyone eating that last pastry?”

She reached for it, but didn’t pick it up until everyone else had shaken their heads.

“You seem more engaged today than usual. Any reason why?”

“Because whatever is going to happen has already begun. Our time to prepare is running out,” said Dahr, with absolute confidence.

“You’re sure about this?”

“We are,” replied Eric. “We can all feel it. It’s happening even as we speak.”

“What is?” asked Leata.

They all looked at each other, none of them wanting to answer the question directly. For a long time no one spoke while Leata searched each of their faces for some clue as to what they might be talking about, or even what they might be feeling. Finally, Dahr answered. “The events that will force us into our new situation. And then we’re going to see how well we do against the undead in real life.”

Leata studied the young prince. He didn’t seem to be joking. Sheba was asking the princes and Princess Chari to fight the undead? It wasn’t her place to question the will of the gods, but that seemed preposterous. And yet, Leata believed that Dahr had spoken the truth. Silently, she prayed to the goddess to protect them all. They were so young, and there were so few children their age in the palace. Surely, Sheba wouldn’t let the princes die. Please let it be so. It took her a few long moments to regain her composure. She was about to continue the lesson when Maynor walked into the kitchen. Instead of breaking his fast, as he had undoubtedly planned, he was instead ambushed by three young royals, who had other ideas about what he should be doing at that particular moment.


Chari faced Eric, practice sword in hand. Eric fought with his holy shield, but used a practice sword as well. From the side of the yard, Maynor, Kalutu and Dahr watched them spar.

The two employed different strategies. Eric fought a more defensive battle, watching for an opening that would allow him to penetrate Chari’s defenses. Chari was more aggressive, her attacks relentless. They circled each other, but it was clear from the outset that Chari would be the aggressor.

Maynor made note of the skills they used and when they used them, resisting the urge to call out advice. He wouldn’t be there to tell them what to do when it mattered. Some things you had to learn for yourself.

Chari used Frenzy and Shred, often together, more often than she used Puncture. She once used Tremendous Leap to close the gap between them when Eric had dodged backwards.

Eric bided his time. He didn’t need to use Taunt at all in this situation and only one of his two passive skills came into play. Endurance kept him in the game when other opponents would likely tire. He was strategically letting Chari tire herself out, while his Endurance skill let him keep going. Which meant if Chari didn’t find an opening, Eric would win the match simply by virtue of wearing her down.

In an actual battle, Eric’s advantage would have been stronger, but most of Eric’s skills didn’t work in this situation. His skills worked best when he used them to protect other people. Taunt was useful to draw the attention of foes, the Bigger They Are was a passive skill that helped him against creatures significantly larger than he was, Reflect Projectiles didn’t help him, since Chari only had a sword, and Vengeful Attack wasn’t appropriate unless there was something to be vengeful over.

He tried a couple of Shield Bashes, but Chari was too fast and her Frenetic Defense meant his offense had to be near perfect, or completely unexpected.

The two countered each other effectively which meant, over time, Eric would win. Maynor had known this before the fight had started, but he’d been surprised before. This time however, it went as he thought it would. Eric used less energy with his defensive stance, and Chari wasted energy continually trying to get in his guard. Eventually she tired. He could see her energy flagging. He watched her lower her defenses; once, twice, any second now it would happen. And it did.

The third time she dropped her guard, just a bit, Eric advanced with a vicious set of sword attacks, but Chari surprised him. Puncture thrust past the edge of his shield, knocking the wind out of him. Chari followed the attack with a combination of Frenzy and Shred, aided by the skill Amazing Strength. Eric didn’t know what had hit him.

Chari’s gambit impressed Maynor, who tended to think of her as a straight forward attacker, using more strength and less strategy. Perhaps he needed to rethink his opinion of her abilities. He had seen both of them spar before, but he had not had them face each other. Chari had realized what Eric was doing and used that knowledge to her advantage. Eric took the bait and went all in, extending himself, momentarily dropping his defenses long enough for her to get in her strongest attacks. In a real battle he’d be dead. As it was, he was likely just a bit battered.

He was on his knees doubled over. Chari walked to him and extended a hand, which he took. He smiled ruefully, and she pulled him to his feet.

“Nicely done,” he said. “I should have expected that.”

“Maybe. But that’s what training is for. Getting to see what could possibly go wrong and learning from it. You’re less likely to make that mistake again.”

Eric nodded. Dahr came running up to them, while Kalutu approached at a more sedate pace.

“That was awesome, Chari. I really thought Eric was going to win.”

“That’s cause he’s your big brother, and I’m just a girl,” Chari teased.

“No!” protested Dahr. “It has nothing to do with you being a girl. You kick ass.”

Eric shook his head. “Dahr…”

“No, he’s right. I do kick ass. So who’s next?”

They spent more time sparring and practicing skills, and trained more on blocking and dodging, but as the time approached for them to stop, their minds were less into it. In a matter of hours, they would be married, and no amount of distraction would have been enough to keep that impending event from affecting their focus.

For once, Maynor didn’t tell them to fight through it. “I think we should call it today. You have a wedding to attend. You wouldn’t want to be too tired to enjoy it.”

“You’ll be there, won’t you?” asked Eric.

“Of course I will. I wouldn’t miss it. I understand there’ll be free beer afterwards.”


Aranya Freesh took one last look at the Misfits of Karmenon, who were all packed and ready to go. Beside her stood a mage capable of communicating with the highly magical chirkir. The mage dressed in deep blue robes that exactly matched his eyes, and his bald head shone in the brightness of the room. Though he didn’t work directly for her, she paid an ongoing fee that insured he drop everything on the rare occasions she needed him. That he had already been in the building on another matter didn’t even surprise her at this point. It was just one more link in a very long chain of bizarre coincidences.

They all stood in a large, empty room, with a single feature on the flagstone floor in the center, a raised, intricately carved stone ring. Those unfamiliar with the magical arts, would have assumed this was some sort of ritual circle, but it was not, nor was it made by a mage. The circle was a chirkir, an ancient and powerful creature, whose race once dominated the magical landscape. Those days were long gone.

Chirkir needed magic to survive, and were happy to trade the one commodity they possessed in exchange for it. Since each chirkir was linked, they could transport people, livestock and items over almost any distance to any other chirkir. In most cases, this was a symbiotic relationship where both sides benefited. However, there were stories of powerful mages enslaving chirkir, starving them of magic until they did their bidding. Aranya had no idea of the truth of these rumors, but her chirkir was well cared for and had been given everything it required to remain healthy.

“Everyone ready?” she asked. It was strange, but she was going to miss this odd team. It had been a while since she had been directly involved with anything this intriguing, a welcome break from her normal routine.

There were nods all around.

“Then this is it. You’ll appear in the guild building in Rish. Guild Master Andeon Walsh will be on hand to greet you and answer any questions you might have. He’s one of the good ones, so try not to drive him too crazy. He knows what’s going on, but don’t talk about it if you’re not in a secure room. He’ll give you what help you need.”

Ressssen stepped forward. “We’d like to thank you for the assistance you have provided. We could not have done this without you.”

“Don’t worry about it. If you can make some kind of inroads against the threat, it’ll have all been worth it.”

“We can,” said Merck with more confidence than Aranya had heard from him prior to this point. She marveled at the change in him. Though she had only known him a matter of days, she could almost feel him evolving before her eyes.

“I believe you. Oh, Striker, you won’t have a permit to take Stalker into the city. You’ll have to get special dispensation to take him out of the gates even. I suggest you let her stay in the guild building until you can make arrangements. I’m sure Guild Master Walsh will be able to aid you in this.”

“Thank you,” said Striker. “And if you’re ever up for some light role-playing…”

Aranya laughed. She really liked Striker. “I’ll keep you in mind. All right, no more procrastination. This mage is a busy man.”

The mage took over before anyone else could speak. “Right. I’m going to cast a spell, and you’ll appear in Rish. The experience doesn’t affect most people badly. That said,” he spoke directly to Dreek, “I’ve never portaled a phase shifter before. I suggest you enter a solid form before I do.”

Dreek nodded and did so. It only took a second.


The mage turned his attention back to the group as a whole. “Once you’re there, I suggest you find a place to sit, even if it’s on the floor, particularly if this is your first time porting. The process can be disorienting. Also, even though the portal is instantaneous, it will be an hour later in Rish.”

“Why is that?” asked Borin.

“Time zones.”

“I don’t know what that is,” said Borin.

“Then you have something to look up the next time you’re in a library,” said the man, clearly impatient to be out of there.

No other questions were asked.

“Please step onto the chirkir and move in close to each other, away from the edges.”

He waited until the group complied, taking with them the kreve and all their gear. The vicious looking, black wolf-like creature with its fiery red eyes had only given him a moment of pause. As an experienced chirkir operator, he had transported all manner of creatures and items. He made certain they were all far enough from the edge of the platform. Then he started chanting in Aldevarian, his voice droning, getting louder and deeper as the spell built. Finally, he raised both hands, a conductor requesting his orchestra to play louder.

The ring on which they stood started to glow, faintly at first, then brighter and brighter. The power level in the room swelled, so strong that even those with the weakest of magical senses could feel it, as if the air itself throbbed with arcane energy. The circle beneath their feet became so bright that they had to close their eyes against it, and even then it hurt. And then it was gone, and so were the Misfits of Karmenon.

“Thank you,” Aranya told the mage.

“That was a lot of gold to spend on a low level team.”

He was fishing for information, she knew, wondering what could possibly be behind such an unusual transaction.

“It was. But I think it will be worth it.”

He smiled politely, realizing he wasn’t going to get any more out of her.

“It was worth a try,” he shrugged.

“Mark today, good mage. I have a feeling you will be proud to have been a part of it.”

The mage gave her an odd look, not sure how to respond. Aranya returned to her job of running the Pelaro Branch of the Adventurer’s Guild, while the mage remained behind, feeding power into the chirkir to replenish it.


Forward to Chapter 26 – Confluence of Circumstance

Back to Chapter 24 – Information Revealed



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