The Decided Course of Action
Kitara laughed. She was sat with Lorkan in his library, as per usual. He had just cracked a joke about Coren’s increasing infatuation with her. She felt mean for finding it funny, but still, Coren had almost become like a puppy following its master. Lorkan smiled. He was glad Kitara was enjoying herself. Today, he’d decided not to push her training too hard, seeing as she’d recently mastered a difficult spell and had spent the few days afterward practising it over and over again. For once Lorkan thought, she can relax. ‘But you can't’ a voice whispered inside his head. ‘You never can. All the secrets and the lies, you have to keep your guard up, or else she’ll find out, and you’ll be alone again.’ Lorkan sighed. Why was it that the closer he and Kitara got, the more paranoid he became? He was so frustrated. Kitara stopped laughing. She looked at him concernedly.
‘Are you ok?’ she asked. Lorkan nodded slowly,
‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘Just tired that’s all. I didn’t sleep much last night.’ He found himself cursing the fact that it was true. All too often did the nightmares invade his sleep, and all too often did he lie awake in fear of them. He hated the fact he still dreamt about that night. Even 14 years later the horrific memories were as vivid as they had been at the time. He groaned and looked up. ‘I'll be ok,’ he finished. Kitara nodded. She didn’t believe him. He was never ok. No matter how much he joked and talked and seemed happy, she could always tell that he had something on his mind.
She was about to ask what they would be doing for training that day, when a loud knock rang on the front door. There was a scurry of feet as Geoa, Lorkan’s illusive maid went to open the front door. There was a mutter of voices, and then the library door was opened. Geoa bowed low.
“Lord Dinnen Rourke,’ she announced. Dinnen stepped forward into the room. His face was sombre.
‘Lord Ranel, Kitara,’ you have been summoned to the High Magician’s chambers. There is something of importance they wish to discuss.’ Kitara stood up.
‘What is it Dinnen?’ she asked. He shook his head.
‘I don’t know. Whatever it is, it’s bad. They’ve called all the influential magician’s in Cavral to this meeting; something’s gone really wrong somewhere.” Lorkan and Kitara nodded.
‘Ok,’ they said. Lorkan adjusted his hood, making sure it was still in place, high over his head, before rising and leading the group out of the house. They marched briskly up the sloping city streets, Lorkan for once not taking to the backstreets, though more for speed than anything else.
They marched on in silence. Kitara walked with her eyes down, thinking, but she could come up with no explanation as to why they had been summoned. She could see the same worried look on Dinnen’s face, and Lorkan’s too. ‘This must be bad, ‘she thought. By the time they reached the Guild, the whole group was out of breath but not one of them said a word as they were ushered into the main chamber.
The High Magicians sat around their table, as always cloaked in their shimmering grey robes, as always looking regal and important, but they all wore sombre expressions. Around the room, leaning against the intricately carved pillars, or discussing in groups, were the magicians. Not only were there the heads of every magical discipline, but there were people such a Dinnen, the messengers and trustees of the High Magicians themselves, all the people who help govern Cavral, plus various Counts and Countesses and finally Kitara and Lorkan themselves.
Lord Morrist clapped his hands, the room fell silent.
“Now that we have all arrived, “he announced, “I may now tell you why you have come.” He sighed heavily. “Yesterday,” he continued, “A messenger arrived at our gates. He and his horse were exhausted. The poor animal collapsed and died on the spot. The man was going to be rushed to the healers, but he insisted that he be brought to us. He was too weak to get to us by himself, so several magicians, including Count Akunin,” he gestured to a haughty looking young man on his right, “rushed him to us. The messenger then began to tell his tale.
He was from Marsia. He had sent been by his master on personal business to Terrivere. His journey took him months, and we all know how difficult a journey it is. Upon his arrival, the man was horrified to find that Terrivere had……it had been destroyed.” A gasp of disbelief went around the room. No one would accept it, a whole city, gone? Lord Morrist let the revelation settle before continuing.
“The messenger, and I commend him highly for this, went into the wreckage. As he had feared, all he found was death and destruction. Nothing was left of the city. No-one could be saved.” Here Lord Morrist stopped. He seemed unable to carry on. Lady Shirna continued.
“We know who did this,” she announced, “They didn’t even try to hide it. Their flag was paraded proudly on a spear, in the middle of the wreckage. It was black.” Almost all the faces in the room turned to dark expressions.
“The last thing the messenger saw was black ships with black sails on the horizon, before he turned in panic and headed home. A journey what should have taken months took the messenger two weeks. He cut across the Sholen marshes, risking getting lost or being eaten by marsh bats. He broke his arm on the way and his horse went lame but neither stopped until they could reach us, and tell us of the Black Lord’s treachery.” Lord Yosune now spoke.
“This has gone too far! We have endured and endured his trouble making, his war mongering. People have lost their lives, innocent people, slaughtered! Now is the time of action, we must stop this bloodshed! We have called on all of you, wisest and most powerful among magicians, to help us decide a course of action.”
Suddenly there was an uproar of noise and commotion. People began shouting and voicing their ideas. There were cries of ‘Kill the Black Lord’ and ‘Raise an army’. Everyone seemed to want to go to war but nobody could agree either. Lorkan and Kitara stood at the edge of the vocal battleground, listening intently to the noise. Lorkan bean to twitch annoyedly. Not one person was listening to any other and the High Magicians in their attempt to calm everyone down, had mostly joined ion the arguing. Finally Lorkan snapped. With a yell of anger he sent a wave of stun bolts into the crowd. Several people fell to the floor, unable to move. A hush fell as all eyes turned upon Lorkan.
“At last,” he growled, “Listen to yourselves, instead of fighting the Black Lord you’re fighting each other. For God’s sakes we need to work together on this. I know I'm not exactly known as Mr.Participation, and I know I need to change that if we’re to get along but at least lets start by talking about this sensibly! The more time we waste the more lives are lost to the Black Lord and his army!” He glared at all the people in the crowd. Lady Savva looked down at her feet and nodded.
“We need to listen to Lord Ranel,” she agreed, “However much I disapprove of his methods (she glanced sceptically at a stunned man who lay near her feet,) I agree and suggest we start this discussion again.” There was a sulky murmur of agreement and the High Magicians went back to their table. Seated and composed once more, Lord Yosune resumed his speech.
“Lord Ranel is right, people are dying, and we need to find some way to stop this.” The haughty looking Count Akunin spoke up.
“Why doesn’t Lord Ranel give us his suggestion then?” he offered. Lorkan groaned and folded his arms. There were several nods.
“Yes, I’d like to hear what Lord Ranel has to say,” a Countess agreed. Once again everyone turned to look at Lorkan. He sighed.
“If you really want to know what I think, then war is not the answer,” he announced. A few irritated cries went up, but Lord Querin silenced them, “Let him speak.” Lorkan continued,
“If we did go to war, so what? It doesn’t mean the Black Lord will be there, it doesn’t mean that if we defeat his army he’ll be defeated. If we let him live, he’ll just start all over again, kill all over again, and destroy all over again. We need to get him first, an army without its leader has no direction. It will fall easily.” People talked quietly amongst themselves for a moment. Some looked thoughtful, others doubtful, it was impossible to tell how many agreed with Lorkan.
“What of Varran?” somebody shouted, “What of the Black Lord’s general?” Kitara shivered to hear that name. She looked at Lorkan. He had gone tense all over. He fists were clenched and his frown was set in stone. Anger seemed to radiate off of him. Kitara was suddenly worried. What had happened? Was it the mention of Varran? He really looked upset about something. As if she’d imagined it, Lorkan relaxed. His face gave nothing away. He cleared his throat.
“Well,” he answered, his voice tight, “Varran is again another matter. If we defeat the Black Lord, Varran may take over. We need to get rid of both of them. I suggest that we send one or two of our most powerful magicians to infiltrate the Black Lord’s army, and then strike them both unawares, it's the best chance we have. Both the Black Magician and Varran are unusually strong and a head to head fight with either of them could end up getting us killed instead of them. We need to choose wisely who must go or we will fail. I also suggest, that in the case of disaster, we have our army ready on standby to attack as needs be.” When he was finished, nobody spoke for a moment or two. Most people could see where he was coming from, a few just wanted to fight a war and be done with it, and some disliked Lorkan so much, they were inclined to disagree even if he’d just solved all their problems. Lady Beru was the first to speak.
“I suggest a vote,” she concluded, “That way we’ll see who’s in favour and who’s not. All of those in agreement with Lord Ranel, please go and stand to the right, all those who disagree go to the left.” There was a shuffling of feet as people moved themselves around. All the warriors and people who believed fighting solved more problems than anything else, went to the left, as did all the Countesses whose husbands they were following. Most everyone else, the democrats and people who believed in peace went to the right. Count Akunin glared at Lorkan from the left of the room. Lorkan glowered back.
“What is it with you two?” Kitara asked quietly.
“Teen rivalry,” Lorkan replied, “We never got along. He hates me and always has.”
“Oh,” was the only thing Kitara could think to say. After everyone had stopped moving Lord Yosune rose. He studied the two groups for a while.
“It looks pretty even,” he said to the waiting crowd, “Which means my fellow High Magicians and I, will have to decide.” He turned to his companions. For a few minutes the waiting was tense, everyone anticipating the result. Finally Lord Yosune turned again to address everyone.
“As High Magicians of Myrraea, whose will is absolute and unarguable, we have come to a conclusion. We have chosen the course of action that we feel will benefit Myrraea more, and we hope will prevent loss of bloodshed. We will not go to war.” There was a cry of outrage and indignation from the people on the left, but which died down hastily after a warning glance from Lord Yosune.
“This in mind’” he continued, “We have decided to will go on this perilous journey to defeat the Black Lord. Lord Ranel will go, but not alone, we will send Lady Lirria along with him. Kitara froze. ‘Me?’ She thought. Dinnen cried out.
“NO! That is unfair. Kitara is still young. She hasn’t finished her training! How can we expect her to do this? How?” Lady Savva stood up.
“Lord Rourke,” she said sternly, “We have full faith in Lady Lirria. As I'm sure you know, her power is similar in strength to Lord Ranel’s and she has shown incredible strength of mind. The other day her combat trainer, Lord Atrist, said she could probably disarm him without even trying if she wanted to. Her lessons would continue on the journey, seeing as Lord Ranel is her teacher, and she would not miss out on anything. Should she agree to this decided course of action, we should support, not doubt her.”
“Still,” Dinnen argued, “She’s just 16; we can't expect this of her.” Here Lady Savva’s expression changed. She looked at Kitara caringly.
“Her youth is a shame, yes,” she agreed, “But we need her. Lord Ranel is extremely strong but what if he was attacked by both the Black Lord and Varran, two magicians who equal him in power. He would be crushed. Lady Lirria would even our chances of winning this fight. Without her help, I'm afraid we’re at a loss of what to do.” Kitara heard all this but was lost in her own thoughts.
‘They have that much belief and trust in me already? What am I to do? Lady Savva said it, without my help, they’re really stuck, I wish I had Lorkan’s advice!’ But even as she said it she could feel him touch his forefingers to the back of her palm.
- you okay? His voice asked. She could feel his presence in the back of her mind, just like she had done with Dinnen.
-I don’t know she replied.
-you’ll be alright, the High Magicians have faith in you, I have faith in you. Like Lady Savva said, I wont be able to do this alone Kitara sighed
-well, ok then. I'm just so scared, what if I let everyone down?
-you won’t, trust me
-I’ll go then Kitara agreed. Lorkan withdrew from her mind and she felt his hand draw away from hers. In the end it had been easy. With Lorkan's support Kitara knew she’d be ok.
“I’ll go,” Kitara announced. Dinnen gasped. Lorkan smiled dryly. Lady Savva sighed with both relief and worry. Lord Yosune nodded.
“It’s decided then. Lord Ranel and Lady Lirria will go. I am somewhat relieved to say, that you may all now return home to your families. That is, except Lord Ranel and Lady Lirria.” Once everyone had left, Kitara and Lorkan approached the High Magicians table.
“You don’t have to do this,” Lady Savva said. Kitara and Lorkan held stony expressions.
“I’ll be ok,” Kitara said, sounding more confident than she felt. Lady Savva nodded unsurely. Lord Osra stood up.
“We owe these two brave people our gratitude for putting themselves on the line to try and stop an all out war. I personally feel like at least we should give them a parting gift. So in two weeks, when all travelling preparations have been made for these two, I will personally help host a goodbye ball for them.” The other magicians looked at each other and nodded.
“An excellent idea”
“Indeed” So it was settled, and almost in writing to Kitara. Two weeks, that’s all they had left? But she’d only just arrived in Cavral and now she was going to go away, possibly even to her death! It suddenly seemed like not such a good idea after all.
Kitara’s unease had definitely not settled, but the daunting prospect of the journey to come was pushed back in her mind. She was occupying herself with trying to get Lorkan to come to the ball.
“NO NO NO NO NO!” he growled, stamping his foot down like a petulant child. Kitara’s smiled broadened, making Lorkan even more determined.
“Why not?” Kitara said lightly. Lorkan frowned.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed,” he groaned, “But I don’t do well in crowds. Surrounded by all those people I'm just, uncomfortable.” Kitara rolled her eyes.
“Surely it can't be that bad?” she asked.
“Oh yes it is, I hate it,” Lorkan murmured. ‘If only you knew why,’ he thought.
“Why?” Kitara sighed.
“Just because!” he growled and turned his head away, indicating that there was to be no discussion anymore. Kitara shook her head in disbelief. How the hell could he be so stubborn? She never understood. But it was true that she’d noticed his discomfort in crowded situations. It made her wonder if there was something that he wasn’t telling her, some other reason for this otherwise irrational fear.
“Besides,” Lorkan continued grumpily. I’d look like a pillock in those stupid white ceremonial robes!”
“You mean you actually have a pair?” Kitara teased, “And you don’t only own one pair of grey robes?” Lorkan shot her a scathing look.
“Ha ha,” he said sarcastically, “Very funny. I'm still not going.” Kitara rolled her eyes. Maybe she’d try a new tack.
“If you’re not going, then I'm not.” And she folded her arms defiantly. Lorkan made an exasperated noise but kept quiet.
“Wouldn’t that be fun?” Kitara continued, “They make a party for us, all celebratory and wishing us good luck, and the people who they’re hosting this ball for, don’t turn up.” Lorkan glared but once again said nothing.
“And imagine what they’d say,” Kitara went on, “I can hear it now. ‘Those two think just because they’re going on some special mission, that they’re too good for us. Well, stuff them, we wont ever show them respect again, just because they…’.”
“ALL RIGHT!” Lorkan yelled, finally having enough. “You don’t need to bug me any more! If you shut up, I might go!” Kitara grinned.
“That’s all I wanted to hear,” she said.
(A/N) Please review! Id relli appreciate it as I need all the help I can get!