Fiction: A Lady's Prerogative Book II: Wounded Aerth - Part VIII by Brian Joseph Johns

Brother And Sister: Sanctum Bound

The twins walked hand in hand towards the altar together and though they were literally as one this was not a ceremonial union. The twins who were currently in their mid twenties, exuberated the fertility of youth and the power assuredness. They had been interbred by the Culdar Rath carefully for generations, each successive generation yielding two children: a female and a male making them the tightest bloodline in all of history.

This line had been watched carefully for it bore what some regarded as the original blood of the magi. The ability to manipulate the weave and the aether to one's will. The first of the Culdar Rath and the first Power Lord was the father of this line and his name was Lorr. He was powerful with the ways of the weave having an innate ability which he'd further developed for decades before meeting his wife to be, Lyra. Lyra herself was just as adept and even more intuitively tuned with the weave and its connection to the universe. Together they'd parented the first twins though Lyra had parted from the plan of the Culdar Rath when she'd learned of it. She fought to take her children with her only to be excised from her own family by her own husband.

Lyra in turn began teaching others of the weave and the ability to wield magic was soon in the hands of others outside of the Culdar Rath bloodline. Lyra's students and followers expanded to teach others of the arts and to care for the Aerth, its people and all of the fauna thereupon. This had become the foundation upon which the first Sanctum would be built, while its location was one of the most important secrets those of the Wytch kind kept. The records from the very beginning of time itself was  kept there in the Librum Universalis Codex, a repository of history and knowledge to which all of the students of Lyra had direct access. Where ever they were they would be connected to the Codex through their very being.

Throughout the history of human kind, the students of Lyra fought many wars with the Culdar Rath, who sought to enslave humanity while keeping the secrets of the weave solely for their bloodline. Lyra herself during these wars was lost, and the students and followers of Lyra practiced her teachings and her ways, which she'd called the yearning and the learning. The motivation for all conscious living beings to thrive and prosper. The curiosity of the soul, when pondered by the heart she'd explain it. That longing to know who we are and what our purpose may be alone and together. To explore and understand outwardly into the world around us while doing the same inwardly into our psyche, soul and being within the aether. The very drive and knowledge that powered the magic that constructed the first Sanctum, which would be lead by two lovers. Yirfir Lacharme and Jasmer McKavanaugh.

Lorr, who'd survived the ages had his forces infiltrate the Sanctum where they seduced Jasmer to the lure of absolute rule and power. They'd convinced him that all of human kind's ills could be solved by a motivated leader. By one who followed the teachings of the yearning and the learning, yet to them Jasmer was merely their puppet. The puppet master being Lorr himself. Jasmer and Lorr joined forces and the first Sanctum fell. Yirfir had managed to escape with the Eternal Globe, a bowling ball sized sphere which acted as the storage medium for the Codex.

Yirfir had mustered her strength to lead the remnants of the Sanctum in a counter attack that brought ruin to the Sanctum yet expelled the invaders, crushing stone and brick alike under the intense energies of magic and the weave. The aether: the very fabric of being was none to be discarded for it was everything and Yirfir and the remnants respected it far more than Lorr and the Culdar Rath. That would be their eviction from the Sanctum and it crumbled to dust once again.

Years on after they'd regrouped they rebuilt it, bringing into being the New Sanctum. A structure of unbelievable sturdiness and fortitude that many believed would be impossible to lay siege upon. Within they rebuilt the Librum Universalis Codex with the Eternal Globe, and became the record keepers of the history of all. They would over time come to understand the immense burden that this would place upon them whom were connected to it. They would feel the pain of imbalance and the sway of the forces that shaped humanity and all living creatures of which they'd known. This became their means of keeping in touch with everything and knowing when something was awry for they'd feel it as if it were their own pain.

Prior to the events of the Battle Of Alivale Jasmer had returned to the Sanctum having been liberated by his love, Yirfir. Together with Mila they fought Lorr and overcame his treachery but not for long. After all, for the original Culdar Rath it was all merely a part of his plan. Plans he'd made ages before and plans which he'd seldom have to change. 

The Power Lords were coming upon their time. The day that they would make claim and their plans would come into being. This was the last generation of the twins to be. Their usurping of the Aerth Mother power from Nelony had been foretold from the beginning. The twins, Malrath and Shelrath were now as gods before the modern world and those who might have been able to stop them: Yirfir, Jasmer, Mila, Shaela, Nelony, Sato and Barris were in another time. Something that had also been foretold from the beginning for they would be disposed of in the past rather than die in the future and the world would never have known they'd existed. The twins were free to rain their terror down upon the world and there was only one stone left unturned in their plan. The location of the Sanctum.

"We are prepared for the great onslaught My father, Lorr." The twins spoke in unison addressing the altar directly and the stone statue there atop.

An age old voice replied through the statue.

"You will continue the plan of the Aerth Mother to devour the Aerth by the natural order of things. The indigenous peoples know of this coming and of the Aerth Mother though they know not that she is gone. Forever. You will send the fauna of all the Aerth to find the Sanctum and when they have found it, you will consume it as you did the Aerth Mother." Lorr spoke addressing Malrath and Shelrath.

"The rains will fall and the ground will quake. The wind will fly and the oceans will churn. The mountains will erupt and the forests will burn. The living and the dead will know their end has come." The twins spoke.

"Jasmer is about to perish. His bride will fall next as will Nelony Theearin, the Aerth Mother of their time. Then you shall find no resistance from any point in the past or present." Lorr spoke through the altar statue.

"As you have asked, the fauna now seek the Sanctum and the secrets therein. The consumption of the Aerth shall begin thereafter." The twins spoke.

"Onward to the age of the Culdar Rath." Lorr spoke and his voice faded as it twisted and echoed through eternity.

From the Midspace, a group of sullen faces listened in with horror. The Sanctum had become alight with activity since Nelony had fed the contents of her package into the Codex. It had awakened and alerted the remaining high Wytches and Sorcerers of the order who sought both information and cooperation at the Sanctum. They sat in the meeting hall and expressed their concern for what they had learned.

"That is preposterous! The Aerth Mother herself? That is not something that can be taken for it is part of everything and is the Aerth herself." Jexelen addressed her fellow Wytches.

"How did we scry such information even if it was possible?" Lannay asked as he looked around the room.

"We had been trying to summon Shaela without avail. We tried Nelony and found her presence on the isle of Agrihan. We kept vigil over her clairvoyantly and witnessed for ourselves the taking of the Aerth Mother power during an ancient rite." Thara stood and responded to Lannay's inquiry.

"How did Nelony end up as part of this rite?" Lannay shot back another question.

"We are not sure and much has been a mystery since we lost the whereabouts of Shaela a few nights ago." Thara answered Lannay with calm and patience.

"Nelony was in the Sanctum a day and one half ago. I caught sight of her leaving the Librum Universalis Codex into the courtway before she vanished into one of her portals." Feylashar the healer addressed her brothers and sisters.

"We would have known if she was here much less having used the Codex herself. How were we not aware of this?" Jexelen asked again impatiently.

"There is a dark power cast over us and it may be obscuring our ability to link with the Codex. We should begin a cleansing ritual at once. Call in the rest of the Wytch kind. Student and teacher alike to assist with this peril. Advise caution on their part." Thara advised.

"Feylashar. Begin the cleansing ritual and have any others familiar with gem craft assist you." Jexelen requested.

"What of Yirfir and Jasmer in this time of need. Where are they to be found?" Lannay asked the room.

"We've seen neither them nor Mila. They disappeared at roughly the same time though it is difficult to be sure." Wendethra told Lannay though speaking to everyone.

"The highest ranking teachers of the Sanctum and they've disappeared?" Lannay once again spoke skeptically.

"Don't be too sure that they've abandoned us. Yirfir and Jasmer fought to restore the Sanctum and cast the Power Lords and Norbids into exile. They are as dedicated as any could be with regard to this conflict. It broke them apart and reunited them one and the same and years between. Mila has not abandoned us and do not forget that that she is the first of her kind having developed an entirely new craft. That is something that has not happened in nearly fifteen hundred years. I would advise that they are well into solving this problem and that they cannot reach us to inform us of this. If we fall apart here, then we have truly abandoned the Sanctum and everything that we've fought for. We must act to avert this disaster as one and deal with this dire menace. Yirfir, Mila and Jasmer would have the same confidence in us and likely do from their current whereabouts." Thara spoke confidently to the attendees.

"Then how do you suggest we take on this new threat?" Lannay assailed Thara sarcastically.

"I propose that we recall the full council and specifically the currently missing members whom we can account for. Namely Lady Naemi Soon, Jeong Soon, Xenshi, Xushu, Eban, Alam, Nadi and all others who are not currently present." Wendethra advised.

"All in favour?" Lannay checked the vote seeing a full house of raised hands.

"Proceed. Who's next?" Lannay looked around the enormous meeting hall.

"I suggest that my Order, the Order Of The Night Wytch set about trying to locate the twins. They are the key to this and though we may not be powerful enough to deal with them by force, we might find another way. We must liberate the fauna of the world and that means no harm is to befall them despite their current state having been beguiled by the power of the twins. We must lure them away from the false Aerth Mother become manifest in the twins. We have the shadow realm to turn to in this matter and they will assist us as they always have in our times of need. We must also seek to regain the lost ground with the indigenous peoples of the world and find compromise between them and the world that has left them behind. They know much of the Aerth Mother and much that even we with our vast powers do not." Thara's wisdom and leadership spoke in bounds.

"We offer thanks and are grateful for the efforts of the Order Of The Night Wytch. As for the issues regarding the indigenous people of the world, we will leave that in the hands of the Order Of The Totem and Nadi's guidance." Jexelen advised those present.

"We too will assist in earning the trust of the Aerth fauna once again and search for the twins as our eyes are the stars and we see much. I would advise that you seek to protect the Sanctum by every means possible. It's hidden location is our first bastion of defense and this secret is more protection than all of our magic combined. We must also research the activities of their collaborators by reviewing any information that might reveal them through the Codex itself. Is the secret of their collaborators as great as that of the location of the Sanctum? It will come to this in essence being the deciding factor and outcome of this peril. The Order Of the East Moon Heavens will search high and low for their collaborators." Shinli addressed the room and offering her wisdom.

"Thank you Shinli. Anyone else?" Lannay addressed Shinli and then the hall.

"Since having shared the mysteries of the Akashic record with the Sanctum two thousand years ago we have come to trust the bond that has grown between us in our times of darkness just as in times of light. We of the great Order Of The Life Well will seek out the twins by every means at our disposal and protect the Sanctum as we did the secrets of the Akashic records in the first battles our Order found alliance with the Sanctum. I agree that we must also seek out and earn the trust of the indigenous peoples of the world for they've known tell of the Aerth Mother for millennia. We will need their help in the coming peril if we are to succeed. We will protect the Sanctum just as the mother lion protects her cubs." Selna told Jexelen and those present in the meeting hall.

"Thank you for your efforts. Who is next?" Jexelen nodded gratefully to Selna.

"You have our blade and as such you have our soul in this hour of peril and hour of need. Long have we sought to protect the Aerth from the ire of the Power Lords and have lost many in this battle to protect our Emperor, our land and way of life with our shared world. I might remind you that we have lost track of one of ours too, the great Mishima Sato. Sato is friend and mentor to Barris, whom is by now Mila's fiance by your tradition of marriage. We suspect that they too are embroiled in this together and by this our alliance, you are family to us. We will stop at nothing to protect you." Kenshi spoke with fervour and determination.

"Well said and we're grateful." Jexelen agreed.

"We are at an obstacle in the history of the Aerth and together we must correct this and find our way once again. Our compass was taken from us in the night. We travel without the light of torch as well so are we blind and without direction. There is no obstacle that cannot be overcome and with the alliance of the fauna to our Order. We'll help restore the peace that the Aerth so much needs for her time of healing is at hand. This is not the end but just another obstacle to achieve a new beginning. We will help you to overcome this obstacle, so Ganesh proclaims." Athandra spoke as she summoned forth the visage of a great jewel encrusted elephant.

"We are making progress here. Thank you Athandra." Lannay spoke more the bureaucrat than Jexelen.

"Progress is made through action, not words." Jexelen challenged.

"Words are made of thoughts. Plans are made of words. Actions are made of plans." Lannay responded.

"Let us not bicker over the bureaucracy of the Sanctum. It is wasted effort." Thara urged them.

"We will work with the Order of the Night Wytch and assist them in finding the twins. Our history with the Sanctum is as old as time itself and should the Sanctum fall and the Codex become lost to the Power Lords, all will be lost. It is that which cannot happen. Ever. Upon the adjournment of this meeting we shall immediately set out in search of them and we will make contact with you once we have found them. Should we be lost, you have Barris who will become the only surviving member of our Order, though he knows not his legacy. I expect that he is safe with Sato as he is with Mila for there is no stronger arm than friendship and there is no bond as unbreakable as love. Whether we like it or not. We, each and every one of us, all of us have our differences. Let those differences be our strength and not our weakness in this time. Long have we protected the Sanctum and we were there when it fell just as we were when it was reclaimed. We will stand but we shall not fall. By chivalry, honour and the freedom of the Queen and of all the people of the Aerth, we will succeed. You have our oath and determination as you do our craft." Sir Manfred addressed the assembly of Wytch kind.

"We have unity among us and an excellent plan and a direction that we must pursue at once. The remaining members of the Order Of The Aerth Mother should too pursue efforts to regain the confidence of the fauna of the Aerth. The Seers Of The Temporal will assist in trying to locate the whereabouts of our lost members and their loved ones. Once we have recalled all students and teachers to the Sanctum and the others have set about on their missions, there will be no travel to or from the Sanctum until we've secured this matter the only exception being in direct defense of it. We must protect the Librum Universalis Codex at all costs. If it falls into the hands of the Power Lords as it nearly once did, everything is lost. We are all dismissed and this meeting is adjourned." Jexelen told the rest of her sisters and brothers.

The meeting hall cleared and the plan and the former occupants of the room set about making those plans reality.

Melinda's Rescue

They arrived at the school house and found their way around to the back where Kathryn's living space and abode was situated. Before knocking upon the door, Father Wilsen called upon the Deputy.

"Deputy Darben, I need you to go see Melinda the apothecare." Father Wilsen asked him.

"She has been taken afore her trial. There be two men keeping her to watch, I bare." Darben responded.

"We should liberate her while you have your talk with Kathryn. I'll assist you Darben if you'd like. You'll find my skills most helpful." Sato suggested.

"I shall e'cept yers and yer offer. Let us be there at once." Darben replied.

Mila pulled Barris towards her.

"You're staying here with me." she told him.

"Yes dear." he replied feigning disappointment.

With that Sato and Darben made their way over to the town hall and jail house which had seen much activity in the times since the beginning of the hunt despite that fact that those days were about to draw to a close.

Darben opened the door to the jail house as Sato stayed behind him in the shadows just barely visible.

"Aye, lad. There is a matter out of doors that needs yer eyes." Darben said to the first guard.

"Where is Farnum? He was supposed to be..." the guard asked Darben.

"Go see for yourself lad. Just out the doors." Darben told him.

He marched past Darben stepping down the dark hall to the door. Sato stepped out from the shadows and a moment later, the guard was unconscious and on the floor of the hall.

Darben continued into the jail area. There sat old Hadreth making eyes at the imprisoned Melinda.

"She's a fine looking one that one. I'd be likin' to 'ave 'er." Hadreth joked to a silent room.

"You'd best not use that tongue around me Hadreth, you scoundrel." Darben spoke firmly.

"Where'd you come from. Yer s'posed be tending to Father Wilsen and his arrest." Hadreth spoke.

"The Father has been taken. You are requested to a matter of great importance outside." Darben told Hadreth whose chair barely bore his weight.

"What in the name of the thundering skies does Farnum want now." Hadreth cursed barely aware of Darben.

Hadreth stood up, his knees buckling as he walked out into the dark hallway just in time for a floor nap silently administered by Sato.

Darben grabbed the keys from the desk and unlocked the cage letting Melinda out.

"Thank you Darben. Have the charges been dropped?" she asked him.

"They are as far as be in my power to give as Deputy though it means that you must certainly leave here for good." Darben told her.

"That is music to mine. My thanks to you." Melinda replied.

Just then at the end of the dark hall, the door flew open and Farnum stepped into the hall, just barely clothed brandishing his hand arquebus.

"And by whose foul tither is this deed and malice! Be shown yer face!" Farnum screamed as he stepped into the darkness of the hall.

Darben ran to the hall and charged towards Farnum before Sato could stop him. The hand cannon was fired and Darben flew back thrown to the floor by the force of the impact.

"You are the devil in the flesh you are Farnum!" Darben yelled back gasping for breath as he struggled to maintain his consciousness.

Sato moved faster than Farnum could see and the arquebus fell in pieces to the floor. Farnum swung a blade that he brandished in the other hand hitting nothing but air. Sato moved quickly once again disarming Farnum and striking him just beneath the collar bone. Farnum fell motionless to the floor and remained still. If he'd been awake he'd have been experiencing enduring pain.

Melinda ran over to Darben on the floor and checked his wounds.

'We need to get him to my store! We can stop his decline there. Hang on Darben." Melinda said examining his wounds.

"Let me check for others first." Sato said moving down the hall.

He propped open the door to see Farnum's horse and no other riders.

"They must still be cute little puppies." Sato joked to himself making his way back to Melinda and Darben.

"The coast is clear. I'll get Darben. You stay hidden for the hike." Sato told her.

"Be careful lifting him. His ribs might be broken." Melinda informed Sato.

"Might, I beg?" Darben responded dryly.

"Stay quiet Darben. Reserve your energy. I'll do my best to carry you painlessly." he said as he struggled to lift him.

"Be grateful I'm not Hadreth." Darben joked to Sato.

Melinda stepped in behind them as they got through the door and out side into the afternoon air. They walked down the street which was relatively quiet. A couple walked by taking notice of Darben's wounds.

"My dear boy. Let me help you." the man jumped to the other side helping Sato to carry Darben.

"We need to get him to the apothecary. There I can tend to him." Melinda told the man, his wife followed behind them.

A moment later and they were in the store where they laid Darben out on a the apothecare's bed.

Melinda thanked the couple for their help and they left quietly not asking any questions.

"I'll need you to help me if you could? Fetch me the fabric knife and the cloth patches there." Melinda pointed to her cabinet sending Sato in search of the items.

He returned with them and she began the work of mending Darben with Sato's help.

Kathryn And Father Wilsen

The door slowly opened revealing Kathryn's beautiful face, a face which Father Wilsen had not seen in the years since the death of the Widow Milaise. A tear found its way into her eye.

"Father Wilsen. We've not seen each other in some time. Why do you return with the pain that was of your cause? Cause to us all? Do you wish to take me as a wytch? Has there not been enough of this slaughter to feed your lust for it?" Kathryn's words hit him full force and crushed his spirits but he held fast.

"You know not what you say for the story's been mistold to many. Please do hear me out. Allow a man. This man his dying wishes now, before your ears and heart are too hardened to truth. Please." Father Wilsen asked Kathryn keeping his sincere gaze upon her.

She stood in the doorway for along time just looking at him, the tear making the long trek down her cheek before falling to the porch in silence. She started to close the door.

"Please. I beg you." Father Wilsen stepped forward without being imposing.

She paused again before allowing them entry.

Her home was small and tidy and full of books and written material of all kinds. Mila admired it for its quaintness and content. It spoke in droves of its owner and how she kept it. She took them to the kitchen where she offered them a seat at her table.

"I have some tea from the apothecary." she offered politely.

"That will be fine for us. Thank you." Mila accepted for herself and Barris.

"As it would be for I." Father Wilsen accepted.

Kathryn went about making the tea in silence and Barris for once in his life held his tongue, clinging to Mila's hand.

Ten long minutes later and just before the silence became so thick it was unbearable, the tea was served. Kathryn sat down with them looking at Father Wilsen, waiting for him to start.

"I cannot know for sure where to begin for even I do not know from whence this took start. I will try and I can only hope that your ears are as welcoming as they were then." Father Wilsen began.

"You see, I was on my way to deliver the drawings I'd been working on that night. I had taken the path, the same one that I'd always found such joy and journey on a quiet and starry night. The same one that I'd always taken to see my favourite person here in Sharlesbury. I suspected nothing out of the ordinary that night but to see your face and share some tea together along with my drawings of the moon." Father Wilsen paused a moment examining her.

She looked back at him.

"Go on." she said without emotion.

"I'd made it halfway to your place when I heard a sound. The sound of foot fall nearby and turned to see the Widow Milaise." Father Wilsen paused taking a sip of his tea before continuing.

"Poor Tanara. Now you're going to tell me how you killed her? Is that it? A wytch? That is preposterous!" Kathryn scorned him nearly ready to leave the table.

"No I am not! Because I cannot tell a lie and because I did not. She had come to me in confidence. She had been set on by the first of the hunters and they sought to try her as a wytch. Much like they did her husband the year before for the blame of his damage to their yield of crop. They sought to get her the same way and she came to the only of us that she knew that she could trust. They arrived where we had been and approached us, knife drawn. They had set their charges upon her with me as witness and issued the punishment without court and before my eyes she fell." Father Wilsen told her as she listened intensely.

"I rushed to help her attempting to quench the wound to no avail. With her blood on my hands they called for the town, telling them that I'd felled her. 'Pon that moment I realized they had used me to endorse the hunt. To give it legitimacy. I went along but held in secret that I would help each and every victim of it by whatever means I could. Lending path to their escape. Many I saved but most were lost to the madness that had befallen them all. Since the strangers of the hunt had arrived to show us their ways, there has been unrest and peril for none have been safe." Father Wilsen finished his story, handing her two folded parchments that he'd kept with him for years for this very day.

"You expect me to believe this after all of the time that has passed and all of the people that have died in the name of that hunt?" Kathryn asked him.

"I cannot deceive you for this is the truth. Take it as you do for I cannot change it." Father Wilsen told her once again the sincerity was in his eyes and true as day.

She looked at him and then to the folded parchment he'd handed her. She gently unfolded it and pulled forth a note he'd written for her that night:

Dearest Kathryn,
I sat upon my place before the looking glass for the entirety of a full month to create this one for your class. I find it quite ironic and delightful that a month is really short for moonth or moon. It is with great pleasure that I give you this along with another disguise for one of its bearing and nomenclature and one that I may never of which tell.
May you and your class find joy and learning from this my gift to you.

Father Elias Wilsen

She folded the letter and put it down in her lap, another tear glimmered and spread out among her lashes. She took the next opening it to reveal the most detailed drawing that she'd ever seen of the moon. The tears fell and she looked to Father Wilsen.

"I'm so sorry Kathryn." Father Wilsen offered consoling her as best he could.

"I shall try to believe, but what grace it does fetch might not be so forthcoming. The story has been a long time the only truth there was around here." Kathryn tried to forgive but the truth was that she wasn't quite ready.

Despite her resistance to the truth, the seeds had been sewn and the ripples that this had caused found its way through time and causality and into the future where the Sanctum had once again found itself under assault.

The portal beacon to the Sanctum had been located by agents operating in the lands of the world for the twins and the Culdar Rath. It had been obvious and yet at the same time so deceiving. They had found it out in the midst of a populated urban center as the Sanctum had always needed an anchor point to this plane and in this time. The Sanctum would relocate the anchor point as often as they thought necessary which was once per twenty to thirty days. The irregular interval of this change made it unpredictable and therefore much harder to find. By spell or by scrying. With its location, those who practised translocational epicraft could use their skills to create portals directly into the realm where the Sanctum was contained making it vulnerable to siege. Despite its small size and the spells cast to obscure this proxy, it was found. It still bore walls, magical mortar and shielding which made siege very difficult, even with modern technology to assist in such an endeavour.

On this particular night just after the cleansing of the Sanctum and a recall of all of the members of the Sanctum guilds, it found itself once again under siege as it had been thirty years before. This time the attackers had gods in the form of the twins on their side. This battle would be much different from all of those that had come before.

The Siege Of The Sanctum

Jexelen paced the corridor beyond the meeting hall. Her long, locked hair clad in jeweled talismans clicked and clacked as she strode in circles.

"Still not a sign of them." the last of the scouts reported in to Jexelen.

"What is our current head count?" Jexelen asked the scout.

"Our estimates have it at three hundred and sixty three. Most schools are present minus Mila's of course. Yirfir and Jasmer are still unaccounted for too." the scout responded.

"I suspect that things might be much different if they were here to deal with this new threat. I am saddened by Shaela's absence as I am Nelony's. Sato's too. They must be facing peril for there is no other reason that would keep them from heeding such a call." Thara addressed Jexelen.

"We're ready for whatever they throw at us. That is if they even find us." Lannay responded proudly.

"Historically speaking, Hubris has always been the precursor to any great downfall." Thara reminded Lannay.

"Then let us show no such weakness then. In fact, let us show nothing to our enemy." Lannay responded obliviously in this instance.

Outside the walls of the Sanctum the first of the attack force and siege engines materialized from large portals they'd opened in the Midspace. The three portals encircled the Sanctum at a distribution of one hundred and twenty degrees. Each portal was a league and a half from the others. From each of the three portals slowly emerged an army of ten thousand Norbids of the Culdar Rath.

The sum of the Culdar Rath forces quickly encircled the entirety of the Sanctum. A final set of portals opened near the back of the Culdar Rath forces and the twins floated out followed by Lorr, the first and last of the Power Lords. The battle for the freedom the Sanctum was about to take place. More importantly they were playing a contested game for the Librum Universalis Codex, the collected record and knowledge of all that had passed.

Without the Codex, the distinction between truth and lie would be lost forever and those that sought to take over from the Sanctum could create a new truth to completely erase and rewrite the past. Knowledge of humankind's triumphs and treasures and what trials and tribulations the living had experienced to arrive where they were had would be eradicated. The world from that point on would remember a new past. A completely new story that suited the new silent rulers of it all. The Sanctum would no longer be the place from which the world and life was kept safe, healthy and fertile. It would become the place from which their enslavement would come to pass. The place where who would live and who would die would be decided. Who could marry and who would toil. Who could bare child and whose line would end. Who could strive for their goals and who would be limited to none by their genealogy. A world where humankind's future would be decided from the moment you were conceived and completely without your choice. Choices made from within the Sanctum and by the Power Lord Lorr. No choice would be in the hands of the people except perhaps the choice of whether or not to live on in a world without freedom.

"Jexelen! The forces of the Culdar Rath have gathered outside of the Sanctum itself. They've breached the secrecy of the Midspace. They are preparing to lay siege!" yelled a scout as he ran into the great hall.

"We've been found?! This cannot be. Then it has begun. Join the defensive forces then. Be off!" she told him and the scout ran off down the corridor amidst the growing commotion within the Sanctum.

Jexelen cast a spell and her visage was immediately seen the Sanctum over by those occupants within.

"I address all of the forces, schools and magical orders within our walls of the impending crisis. The Midspace has been breached. I repeat. The Culdar Rath have found the Sanctum and the Midspace. We have - outside of our walls a force that plans to lay siege as many have tried and as only one of the past has succeeded. All of you have trained for this day. You are to bare your craft in defense of the Sanctum for which we've planned and trained. They are here to take away the one thing that the Sanctum protects for the world and that is the past and the records of how we arrived to the current world state at this point in time. The Librum Universalis Codex must be defended at all costs. You will be joined by all of us here from the Great Hall as our powers and weave too shall be a part of this defense. Your lives are no more expendable than ours and if you fall so do we all. We will not fall but will live on together in a world that remembers the truth. Be on guard." Jexelen addressed the entirety of the Sanctum.

Thara was already on a lookout point up high on the walls peering out from behind a parapet. They were indeed surrounded and by a force of immense numbers. They had already started preparing the siege engines in a display of their confidence. Many avians flew in attempt to assess the forces of the Culdar Rath. Thara wasted no time in summoning her own.

She pointed her hand into the air above her and verbalized one word:

"Vrecveroth" she spoke as a ball of energy above her hand opened a gate to the shadow realm.

Moments later a trio of large shadowy bird-like creatures emerged from the Shadow Plane and took the the Midspace skies. The air around the avians sizzled energetically as they passed through the Escutcheon, the magical barrier that protected the Sanctum from scrying and penetration. The aetherial tether that bound her to the avians held and with a little concentration she could see through their collective eyes.

The avians leveled their flight and turned folding their wings to dive gaining speed as they dropped. They leveled just above the heads of the attacking force and Thara could clearly see what they were up against. She surmised that their capacity for magic was far in excess of their own by numbers alone but that spoke nothing of experience using it. Norbids were known for their notorious lack of discipline and respect for the weave. An advantage that Thara accepted as that of the Sanctum. The enemy had interleaved several lines of troops with lines of magi spell casters. Likely the leading lines were magic resistant Norbids who would act as shields for the following lines of casters with their naturally inborn anti-magic aura. There were a line with breaching tools for both the Escutcheon that surrounded the Sanctum and the walls of the Sanctum itself.

A bit further back in their lines were the major casters and the siege engines themselves. The siege engines varied by operation, some by direct fire and others somewhat like trebuchet, hurling masses of concentrated magical energy for incredible effect. The major spell casters would fuel the siege engines with their magic and also seek to drop the magical barrier of the Sanctum itself by direct attack. None of their forces would be advancing until they'd dropped the Escutcheon. Perhaps the most tactically advantageous of all their forces would be that of the summoners for they could add to the overall effectiveness of their defensive forces by adding to its numbers as the battle progressed. Once the Escutcheon was down, there would be a sharp increase in the population of the attacking force due to summoning.  The summoned would be among the first to attack the walls and the Sanctum itself rather than risk their own troops to whatever the Sanctum lay in store for the Culdar Rath.

Then she caught sight of them, the Twins, a lady and a man both in their mid twenties. They stood on a an elaborately decorated floating barge, hand in hand staring at the Sanctum off in the distance. On the same barge sat a cloaked figure upon a throne a distance behind the twins. At the moment her avian approached the barge, Thara felt a tremendous pressure in her head and a wrenching pain.

"Well if it isn't the Matron of the Order of the Night Wytch herself? Taking a peek are we? That's not very fair is it? Perhaps I'll have my own peek." a voice spoke inside of her head.

Thara struggled to sever the aetheric bond to her avian. Her attempts to scream traveled through the tether to her avian who screamed for her as it fell to the floor of the barge in front of Lorr before disappearing back into the shadow realm from whence it was summoned.

The pain stopped and Thara collected herself making sure that Lorr had not somehow affected her in any way.

"You! I need you to expunge me please. Now!" she asked one of the healers of the Life Well.

The healer ran across the walkway over to Thara before he began casting. A great ball of energy enveloped Thara as a black mist slowly seeped from her winding its way through the air towards the healer.

"I need some help here! Quickly!" the healer yelled as he attempted to back away from the advancing black mist.

Another spell caster joined him in his effort a moment later casting a spell which consumed the darkness trapping it in a sphere.

"Wow! It's temperamental!" the other caster said as the sphere was thrashed around angrily by the trapped mist.

The healer caught Thara as she fell to the stone walkway as the other caster hurled the sphere through the Escutcheon and out onto the siege forces below.

"I'm OK. Thank you." Thara said standing once again free of Lorr's aetherial scourge.

She stood just in time to see the first volley from the catapults flying through the air directly at them.

"Brace yourselves! The siege has begun!" Thara yelled crouching behind the protective parapet as the energy projectiles soared through the air.

"Incoming!" others yelled from atop the Sanctum walls.

The thunder grew as the energy projectiles hurdled towards the Sanctum. The entirety of the Sanctum shook to its foundations as the projectiles collided with the Escutcheon. They exploded in a brilliant flash of sparks and energy which rained down harmlessly to the ground. Ripples cascaded around the diameter of the magical barrier bending and warping the Midspace sky through its lensing effect.

Thara stood to assess the damage to the barrier visually though she could literally feel it in her body. When she was sure that it had held she returned to her view point at the wall.

"This is going to be a long night." Thara said aloud to the ears of the healers that had just purged her.

Continued in A Lady's Prerogative Book II: Wounded Aerth - Part IX

Copyright © 2018 Brian Joseph Johns