Tyber and Zachary seemed to realize what was happening then, and they looked to each other for an answer. It all happened so quickly, not even the greatest mage could have countered it. Damon gave very little indication he was gathering power and none at all when he released it.
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The air around him blackened and the sky above went pitch, all signs of the clear spring morning gone. The land of Veir began to wither and what remained of his army died where they sat. Victory watched dark mists swirl around the Veirasha lords, and they seemed to disappear in its embrace. With a roar, the magic consumed Veir with savage hunger, and then standing in the midst of it all was Damon, stepping from the black mists like some terrible wraith.
With a pale hand, he gestured toward the ships and then to the east, toward Merro and the Lord who had sent these disasters upon them. The magic seemed to swirl faster and part of the blackness gave way, leaving Veir seemingly trapped in twilight. I claim destruction. I claim the mantle, and if any dare challenge me, let them do so now, Damon said in a voice as cold as ice.
He waited for a long moment then turned to his sons. Their once silver armor was darkened to black. A halo of shadows seemed to surround them as they moved. Veir is gone, what remains shall be Oblivion. They sent death and destruction to us, so we take it now and make it our strength, Damon said to his sons. They looked at him with faces devoid of emotion and solemnly nodded. Victory gave a slight shudder at the sight of Zachary so cold. He had known him for half his life and Zach had always been vibrant. He seemed a shell now after the magic. Damon motioned toward the encampment below and shadowy and twisted forms began to rise.
They bore the vague shape of a man but nothing more than that. All humanity had been stripped from these souls in death. These are your subjects now, Tyber. Manage them well for they will always be eager to destroy. Keep them on a very short leash, and when you find the accomplice, remove that leash. Never remove the strength of Oblivion from them. To do so would be to surrender them to death. His sons knew better than to speak when he used that tone. Victory shivered slightly as he watched and glanced up to Havoc.
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His scry began to flicker and then died. His strength was too far gone to maintain it summoning the serpent had simply been too draining on him. What in the name of the Aspects was that? He just destroyed his own lands, Havoc muttered. Out of all of them, Lord Veirasha will be the closest to a true god. He has just claimed destruction , a mantle no other dared to take up, Victory answered. He had never thought to witness such a thing. His gaze turned toward Merro. Woe be to his enemies," he muttered. Havoc remained silent for a long while as he stared at the distant black cloud where Veir had once proudly stood.
So we report to Caspian now.
Havoc sighed. Victory shook his head slightly in disagreement. No, now we do what? Let me rest and regain a bit of power, and then we go to see what remains of Merro, he corrected in a quiet voice. He doubted they would find anything remaining at all. In the conflict of Merro and Veir, there was no victor.
As Damon had said he would do, he had ended it. A Veirasha was always good for their word. Havoc gave a slight nod of acceptance. Whether he was walking or not I believe I just witnessed the death of a friend. That creature in the black armor was not Zachary Veirasha, he said in a quiet voice, his expression solemn. Zachary Oblivion now, I suppose, or something of those lines. We will know in time, Victory said, as he unrolled his bedroll and wondered if he actually could sleep. The sky was lightening with dawn when the first of the noises started below.
She listened carefully, straining her ears for the sounds. Then the heavier tread of her father as he headed downstairs. She had learned that there was a proper time to leave her room. Silently, Jala adjusted her position in the windowsill and watched the last of the stars fade from the sky. Father would, of course. She had huddled for a time, snuggled against Cap, and the dog had eased some of the terror.
The amulet had helped, too. She lifted her tiny fingers to the necklace. Her Aunt Carissa had given it to her when Father had told her of the dreams. She was a priestess of Fortune, and said her god himself had blessed it. A whine came from the bed behind her, and she turned to see Cap poking his black and white head from under the blankets.
By now, the collie was used to the routine too, and he had heard the telltale rattle of breakfast. With a quick nod to him, she slipped back down from the windowsill and pulled her boots on. She had dressed hours ago but had known better than to put on shoes. Bare feet could move silently, while booted ones would not. Cap stood, waiting silently by the door by the time she crossed the room, his shaggy tail wagging as his eyes gleamed at her expectantly. With a grin, she ruffled his head.
He was gone as soon as she opened the door. She closed her door quietly and listened to the clatter as he made his way down the rough wooden stairs, then the chuckle as her father opened the back door for him. She made her own way downstairs, her pace somewhat slower, but not by much. Morning, sweetling, her mother called as she entered the kitchen.
Her brother was already seated at the small table with a glass of milk and bowl of thick porridge in front of him. He gurgled his own greeting to her and clapped his hands. With a quick hug to her mother, she surveyed the countertop to assure herself that her brother would be the only one eating the porridge. Thick slabs of bacon sizzled in the pan, and her mother was busily finishing biscuits. She concealed the sigh of relief and gave her mother another quick hug as she headed off to find her father.
As she had expected, he was seated on the back porch stairs, sipping his tea and watching the world outside awaken. She moved as quietly as she could and sat beside him, leaning her head on his arm. It was their routine. How they spent every morning. Mother would cook. And she would sit by father, and his steady presence would diminish whatever lingering parts of the dreams refused to be ignored. Going to be a good day for riding today, he said quietly after a long silence.
His voice was deep and mellow and as soothing to her as it was to the animals. Momma said I had to help in the garden today, she answered just as quietly. Her own voice reminded her of squeaking, compared to his, and she frowned. He looked down at her and smiled. Let me handle your momma. I said you could go with me to check the cows, and Blackjack will need to be exercised.
She grinned back up at him and nodded.
Want to help me feed? Not right for us to be getting breakfast when everyone out here is hungry, too, he asked as he slowly stood and set his tea mug on the railing of the porch. Your mother will be wanting fresh milk, too. Best see if you can find Daisy and round her up. With a bound, she was on her feet and racing off toward the barn. This, too, was normal, and she knew exactly where to find the old cow. He was just finishing graining the horses when she entered the barn leading the docile old Daisy.
She gave the lead readily to her father and moved to the horse stalls. Blackjack, however, looked up with curiosity as she clambered up the stall to sit on the top rail. She thought he was smaller than Buck by a good deal, but sleeker, with a coat the color of pitch, four white socks, and a thick blaze. Not a mark on him, either. He was perfect. He was by far the best name-day gift she had ever gotten, aside from Cap of course. Father had given her the collie last year and Blackjack this year.
Jala, however, disagreed. There were no children close, well, none her age anyway, and so she had her dog and now Blackjack, for company. She had her brother, of course, but her horse and dog were a lot more fun than a baby. Maybe when Jacob got older, he would be fun to play with, but she doubted it. He nickered to her quietly and pushed her gently with his muzzle. When no carrots or chunks of dried apple were produced, he went back to eating his oats and she turned to watch her father milk the cow.
He had rolled up his sleeves for the milking, and she studied the tattoos on his left arm thoughtfully. He had scars as well, long narrow ones that crisscrossed both arms and a couple on his shoulder, though she had only seen those once. Buck had scars like that too, one long one that ran down his shoulder and another smaller one across his jaw. How come Buck has scars, Daddy? He would speak of those no more than he would speak of the tattoos. Old man Walker had been trying to buy the roan at the time. Walker had laughed, and mother had swatted father lightly, and the matter had been dropped.
Her father glanced over his shoulder toward her and smiled. His dark hair fell down over his eyes briefly, and he gave a slight shrug as he pushed it back with his arm. He earned his right to this relaxing life, same as I did, he replied and turned his attention back to the cow. She frowned at the answer. He worked from the time the sun rose to when it set. She chewed on her lip a moment and considered his words.
It was no more than she got when she asked about his scars. She looked back toward Buck. But how did he earn them? She tried again, not really expecting an answer. He stopped milking and began to stand slowly, careful not to spill the milk. She clambered back down from the rail and took the pail from him. I suppose the simplest way would be to say he was a soldier. His voice was quiet and thoughtful. He rolled his sleeves back down and turned his gaze to Buck. She remained silent, hoping he would continue. He smiled down at her and took the pail back knowing if she carried it to the house, she would spill over half of it despite her best efforts not too.
The simplest answer is not always the best answer though. He started walking back toward the house, and she followed closely on his heels. Father never spoke of his life before she was born. Mother would occasionally speak of life in the city. Hers was a boring past, though. She would speak of fancy dresses and parties, and things of very little interest to Jala.
Where did you fight, if not with an army then? She asked hopefully. He studied the clouds as he walked with the same thoughtful expression. Oh just about everywhere, I suppose. I fought when and where I was needed to fight. She felt her smile grow wider. So you were a Justicar, then?
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Excitement was thick in her voice. They were noble protectors in all of the stories, dashing knights saving villages and protecting the weak. Her father had stopped at her words, and she gazed up at him with adoration. Her father was tall and strong with hair still dark with no sign of grey. She could easily see him protecting the weak.
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Her father must have been the best of all of the Justicars. Where did you hear about Justicars? His tone was not one she was familiar with. It was guarded, almost cautious sounding. He was looking down at her with little to no hint of his usual grin on his face. Her enthusiasm died a bit, and she answered quietly. From Nathan Walker. He was telling stories about the troubles in the South near the capital.
He said everything was a mess until the Justicars sorted it out. He nodded slowly. Nathan does like his stories. But you must remember life is not like stories. Things may seem beautiful when you hear about them, but once you see them the truth is not so pretty. He started walking again by now they were almost to the porch. And no, Jala, I was never a Justicar.
Not even close to being a Justicar. Run on ahead and see if breakfast is ready while I strain the milk, he asked. She nodded to him and ran on ahead, not missing the fact that her father was staring off toward the south. Her mother was setting the table as she entered the house. The delectable scent of fresh bacon and gravy made her mouth water. Watching her mother closely, Jala crept toward the table with her violet eyes fixed on the stack of biscuits.
Wash your hands, her mother directed without even a glance up. Jala hurried to the basin and hastily scrubbed her hands clean. She dried them quickly and found her seat at the table. Wait for your father, her mother added needlessly. She sighed and fidgeted and watched the door for her father.
By the time the door finally creaked open, she was sure she was about to fall over from starvation. He crossed the room and set the cream bowl and the milk pail down, before giving her mother a kiss. Jala felt a nudge by her leg, and glanced down to see Cap looking up to her hopefully. If she had noticed Jala touching Cap, she would make her wash her hands again.
Looks good, Maggie, he said as he surveyed the piled biscuits and gravy. Her mother smiled and sat down as well. Jala watched them a moment. It often amazed her how mother could seem so serious, but a few words from father could make her expression soften so much. Just simple fare, she replied, and began piling food onto the plates. She had braided her hair up into a tidy bun, and her dress looked freshly pressed. Jala ran a hand through her own wild curls and frowned. She should have braided it before she came down. That would have pleased mother. Her mother always looked tidy, no matter what time of day.
She was always neat and pretty. The Walker boys are coming over to finish plowing the north field this morning. I expect they will be here within the hour, her father began, pausing only long enough to pour himself another cup of the hot, bitter tea he liked so much.
Jala wrinkled her nose at the smell of it and took a sip from her own cider. I asked them to bring Becka along to give you some help in the garden. He finished and began to eat his breakfast. Mother looked to Jala then back to her father. Becka would be fine help, but I have Jala to help me. The Walkers have more children than I do cows.
Half the time I wonder how they feed them all. Besides, she is twelve. She will be more help than Jala. Jala kept her eyes on both parents as she ate. Her mother had an eyebrow arched, and her father had that slight grin that showed he knew he was going to get his way. Jala will need to learn how to garden, or her family will starve. Remember the first year we settled out here. Half my plants died and we had to buy most of our food. By spring, we could barely afford more seed. She felt the nudge at her leg again and slipped Cap a thick piece of bacon; sure neither parent would notice.
Taking another bite of food, she sat back and watched as her father smoothly guided the conversation. She had recognized the direction of this talk by now, and her objections seemed halfhearted.
Her father looked shocked at the words, his expression almost comical. Jala repressed a giggle and fed another piece of bacon to Cap. He raised an eyebrow at Jala and gave her a grin. Her mother repressed her own grin and shook her head.
Of course not. Not your sweet, innocent Jala. Indeed not. He leaned over and gave her mother a light kiss on the cheek. I will be taking her with me to check the cows. Her mother did laugh then. No doubt, it knows you far better. Why stop at a child when it can visit an old friend. She gave another sigh, her smile still showing. You do realize you have a daughter, right? She asked with another shake of her head. You treat her more as a boy.
Look at her patched trousers, oversized shirt, and wild hair. Soon enough she will be all braids and ribbons and afraid of dirt. Her concerns will be of young boys and new dresses. Keeping her poor old father company while he checks the family cows will be her last thought. Let me have the few years of her childhood I have left, please. He looked at her with exaggerated pleading and sipped from his tea in time to hide the wide smile. His eyes danced merrily over the brim at her mother who was laughing softly again. She asked through her laugh. You poor old withered thing, I suppose you can take your daughter out before she turns on you completely.
I think she is going to wear the hide off that poor pony though. Her father grinned wider, and her mother simply rolled her eyes. Her mother frowned slightly. She is still so little. Wait on the saddling until you are back and she can help me pack a lunch for the two of you. If you are going to be out till late afternoon, you will need it. Jala has good balance, too. Some dried meat and cheese should do fine. I can fix that myself before we leave out. No need to trouble yourself.
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Horse, not a pony, Jala objected once again. Both of her parents once again ignored the objection, and she sighed. One more and he will be banned from the house. Her father gave a chuckle and pushed his chair out. Jala hopped out of her chair quickly and raced out the door before her mother could voice another objection. Cap ran lazily along beside her, nearly tripping her twice. He always did as he said he would. How could dresses ever be better than trousers?
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Buck stood saddled and waiting restlessly nearby, and she could see the boys on the road riding toward the house. This would be the first time she had gone out with him on her own horse. Her being able to ride all day, well away from the house, more than made up for not being able to leave the yard for the short while she had to wait. This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue? Upload Sign In Join. Save For Later. Create a List.
Summary In a breath it was gone -- her home, her family, her future. Read on the Scribd mobile app Download the free Scribd mobile app to read anytime, anywhere. Prologue Veir Death sang loudly, her mournful voice composed of the screams of the wounded and the clashing of steel. Calm yourself, Zachary, Tyber warned. You mean to surrender? Zachary demanded in an incredulous voice Never, Damon returned. What do you mean to do? Tyber said, cutting his brother off before he could speak again.
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