Disclaimer; Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing. Hope you all enjoy it.
The air was cool and held a hint of autumn. Mist blanketed the valley and from the center of it rose the Oracle. He gritted his teeth and nodded a silent greeting to Rale. They stood before the closed gates, staring up at the insignia. The only sound was the haunting melody that was so familiar.
“Where are the priests?” Rale asked. He was unshaven and had a pallor to his skin that made him look ill.
“I don’t know.” Tier glanced up at the wall. No movement, nothing. He stepped over, raising his hand to knock on the gate when it swung silently inward.
In the center of the courtyard stood a small robed figure, not much taller than the Seeress. Thin hands reached up, pushing the hood of the robe back revealing a very pale, blue eyed woman with a crown of white gold hair. Her robes once fine silks that might have been blue, were tattered and worn, moving about her in a wind he couldn’t feel. Tier swallowed, desperately wishing for a drink.
“Prince Tier.” The woman tipped her head to one side. Tier felt a brush against his mind, like butterfly wings, and pushed back at it. Her eyebrows arched and an odd smile crossed her lips before she peered at Rale. “Lord Rale. You are both late.”
“Where are the Priests?” Rale’s voice had a high pitched edge to it. She chuckled, the sound did nothing to ease Tier’s discomfort.
“The Festival of Hope draws them south to the coast this time of year.” Her voice was so low that Tier had to strain just to hear her.
“And you are?” Rale was frowning at her.
“Kit.” Tier answered for her, chills running up his spine as her remembered the old stories whispered in taverns and round campfires. The mind-breaker. The Voice of the Seeress. Rale went paler and swayed on his feet. She inclined her head slowly not looking away from Tier.
“That is what they call me, yes.” She made a slow circle around them, her hands pressed together in front of her. “You were sent for Elementals.”
“We were unable to bring them with us.” Tier said as she stepped in front of him and looked up at him. Her eyes were familiar, but he couldn’t remember from when.
“She will not be pleased.” Kit said after a moment. She shook her head and motioned towards the corridor leading to the Seeress’s room. “It is time.”
“I did as she asked.” Tier crossed his arms. She turned back to look up at him, her expression impossible to read.
“Yes, you did. Hopefully, for your sakes, she’ll remember her part.” She looked at Rale for a long moment before motioning them again to go down the corridor. Rale sighed and went, Tier stayed rooted, staring at the her.
“She waits for you, your highness.” The soft voice was hypnotic.
“Will she honor her part?”
Kit looked up at him and again he felt the butterfly wings brushing his mind. He pushed back, scowling and she smiled.
“I can’t answer that, your highness. She is not in a good mood.” Her voice never rose, yet it chilled him further. She knew what he could do. He nodded and followed Rale into the silent Oracle.
Each step echoed against the walls and the pressure he’d felt since returning to Nekar grew stronger. When they reached the inner sanctum, Tier could barely see. Pain shot through his head as the Seeress entered the room. His eyes locked on her, struck again by how young she looked. This creature was over a thousand years old? Two thousand? She stared at him, her blank eyes boring into his. He felt the pressure increase and could almost feel her fingers clawing at his mind.
He shuddered, unable to stop himself. He was certain she was trying to get into his mind.
“You failed.” Her voice, harsh and brittle compared to Kit’s soft tones, crawled over his skin. Her movements were less fluid than before, far more agitated.
“You said if we couldn’t bring them back,” Rale began. The Seeress turned her head and Rale gripped the sides of his head with a hoarse cry. Tier took a half step towards his cousin and then glared at the Seeress.
“We were hindered by another like you.” Tier said, somehow his shakes faded as she looked back at him, eyes wide. His fear faded, anger beginning to boil. This little creature had held Nekar in the palm of her hand for centuries. Even now his father was acting not on his own but in response to her. The pressure he’d felt since arriving back home was the Seeress, he was certain of it.
“There are no others like me.” She whispered. Tier was aware of the tattered robed Kit kneeling beside Rale.
“She called herself Launi.” Tier continued. Kit looked towards him but his kept his gaze on the Seeress. Kera, he reminded himself, her name was Kera. “She seemed to feel you were not entirely truthful with me when you asked me to look for elementals.”
On the ground Rale groaned.
“Father informed me that you told him I was looking for a General’s daughter. That is not what you asked us to do.”
“Are you questioning me?” Her voice cold. On the ground Rale groaned.
“Yes I am.” He gripped his sword belt, his palms sweaty. He was a dead man already, he could see it on her face, he might as well give her a piece of his mind. “I was sent away from my duties under false pretenses. I have a war I am fighting, my men need me there. Not traipsing around the world looking for elementals who are not as extinct as we have been led to believe they were. How many other lies have you told our people?” Pressure upon pressure on his skull dropped him gasping to his knees. He glared up at her. She knelt, her fingernail scraping his cheek.
“You presume much, your highness.” She whispered hoarsely.
“Do I?” He narrowed his eyes. “Grandmother?”
For a brief moment the pressure stopped, he heard a gasp, the white faded from her eyes revealing a pale blue, like the woman from the mural. The pressure and the white returned and his cheek felt hot along where her fingernail had traced. Pain, white hot shot through his cheek.
“You have outlived your usefulness, your highness. Open your mind to me and I might see fit to spare your life.”
“And let you control my every movement? No thank you.” He whispered. Pain blazed again, but this time on his back. He jerked forward arching his back blindly attempting to ease the pain. The Seeress cupped his face in her hands, her fingernails biting into his skin.
“Let. Me. In.”
Tier closed his eyes, feeling the claws in his head. “No.” Anger welled up, flaring around him and for a moment, when he opened his eyes and met hers, he saw. A thousand years of lies, experiences, births, deaths, the building of an empire and behind it all were the shadowed images of people he didn’t recognize.
Time rolled beneath him, the war of the Seers, a conflict which had stretched for thousands of years had come to a head. It had been they, the spirit elementals, the sisters, not the elementals, that nearly tore their world apart. Darkness clouded his vision and he felt himself falling.
“Traitor.” Her voice echoed in his mind even as the darkness crowded around him. “Take him to the desert.”
Water dripped in the distance. Kit stared at the place the two men had lain, her mind whirring. Unexpected. Very unexpected. Kera paced behind her, hands clenched at her sides.
“How could he have found out?” Kera rasped. “It’s impossible, no one could have figured it out!”
Kit didn’t answer. She kept her secrets tightly behind a public wall of nonsensical thoughts. Kera had long grown weary trying to batter through it, the centuries had left the Seeress a touch lazy.
Kit looked at her, pulling her robes tightly around her. “What?”
“Go with the army to Sandau. I want Launi brought here in chains.”
Kit inclined her head and watched Kera make her way back into the private area. Behind her heavy footfalls and the jingling of armor announced the arrival of the Oracle Guards. They went out of their way to avoid Kera if they could. Kit listened to them shuffling uncomfortably.
“My lady?” The Captain’s voice was hesitant.
“I’ve told you not to call me that, Captain.” Kit met the man’s eyes. He swallowed and inclined his head.
“Forgive me. The prisoner is ready to be taken to the desert, we’re having trouble locating some shackles though. We may have to send to the capital for some.”
“Use rope.” Kit, moved past him.
“But, Kit, rope…”
“He won’t be waking up again, Captain.” She pulled her hood over her head and met his eyes. “I made sure of that. All you need is to keep him propped up on the pole. Right?”
The Captain stared at her for a long time before nodding. “Of course. What do you want us to do with their horses?”
“I’ll take care of the prince’s horse. Send Lord Rale’s back to his family with him.”
“Yes, of course.”
“Good day, Captain.” Kit turned, making her way back to the courtyard.
The two travel weary horses stood patiently, waiting for their masters. She stepped up to the large warhorse, rubbing his nose. “You’ll do very well, won’t you?”
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