Enira stood alone in the Lumidian room, her hands tightly bound to the roof beams, with only the dim glow of the Lumidian to keep her company. It had been several hours since Meclellon had dragged her kicking and screaming through the halls of the Temple of Aurora and she still had no idea why her magic had failed her. Several of the young temple residents had tried to help Enira, but only half-heartedly as they found themselves wondering whether they should help a Guardian or obey a king. It didn’t matter anyway, for they too had been quickly subdued Raede’s magic and now Enira was alone and helpless.
Enira tried to stretch her wrists. She had long ago lost feeling in her fingers and now the numbness was spreading down her arms. She knew there was only one reason she was still alive. Raede needed her magic and he needed her knowledge. He wanted to use her to find the other Guardians so he could control their magic as well. Enira would never betray the other Guardians, however, she would die first. She could only hope that the other Guardians wouldn’t walk into Raede’s trap as she had, or all would be lost.
Footsteps sounded on the stairwell and Enira’s heart jilted; she it was Raede come to try and extract information from her at last. “Hello, Enira,” he said striding toward her. Enira back away as far as her arms would allow. “I apologize for leaving you by yourself so long, but I’m afraid I had other matters to tend to before I could share in your company here.” He dropped into a nearby chair sighing in mock exhaustion. “The work of a king is never finished you know.”
“You’re not the king,” Enira spat back.
Raede looked up at her. “Oh that’s where you’re mistaken.” He rose and slunk closer to the Guardian. “You may not feel that I deserve to be king, but I am king just the same,” he leaned in close to Enira and whispered, “no matter how I acquired my throne.”
Enira turned her head away.
Raede smiled. “What’s the matter, young Guardian, wondering why your magic isn’t working?” He nodded to himself. “Yes, my master Leingella wonder that as well,” he put his hand under Enira chin, forcing her to look forward, “right after I killed him.”
Enira couldn’t hold back a small gasp, knowing that she was probably next on Raede’s list of victims.
“This,” Raede said pointing to the ropes that held Enira’s wrists, “is tarkweed. It only grows in Silverwood, but that is not what makes it so remarkable. What is special about this plain little plant is its ability to tame the magic powers of any sorcerer, even a Guardian. And as I found with Leingella, if you stab a sorcerer with a blade that has been cutting tarkweed, they can’t even use their magic to heal the wound.”
Raede look out the window. Lua was setting and the land was growing dark. “It seems it’s time to light the torches. We don’t want the Shadows getting at you,” he said setting fire to the wall candles on either side of Enira, “at least not yet.”
Enira’s blood ran cold. The thought of being murdered by Raede was one thing, but the though of being left to the Shadows was another. “Why are you doing this, Raede? Why are you helping the Shadows? They want to take the world and the Guardians of the Light are the only ones who can stop them.”
“The world?” Raede Scoffed. “The Shadows can have the world, all I want is Argentum; all I want is what is mine. You see little Guardian, you have it backward; I am not helping the Shadows, they are helping me. They gave me back my kingdom; why would I want anyone to stop them? Why fight for a kingdom, when you can have it given to you. ”
“Raede! The darkness will destroy you!”
Raede shook his head knowingly, playing with the flames of the candles. “No, for you see, darkness is only something to fear if you don’t know how control it.”
“You can’t control it.”
“Why not, I’ve managed to control you.” Raede glided around the room as he spoke, his movements theatrically demonstrating his words. He finally halted on the far side of the Lumidian and looked up at his prisoner. The light of the Lumidian made his eyes glow eerily as he laid out his plan to Enira. “Fear is the greatest weapon anyone can have.”
The king licked his lips, hungry with ambition. “You don’t know how long I have waited for this day, the day when I would regain everything my father made me forfeit to a younger brother. I was the firstborn child, but my father always liked Laede better. My father saw that Laede was bigger and stronger in body than I would ever be, so he broke tradition and passed the crown to my younger brother instead of to me, the rightful heir. Since that day, I have wanted nothing more than to take back what was mine, and now the Shadows are helping me to do exactly that.
“The people are terrified. The sheep are looking for a shepherd, and when the Guardians fail to appease their expectations, who will step in to help? It will be I, the new king, still grieving his brother, who will risk his own life to banish the Shadows back their valley and save the people of Argentum.”
“You mean you’re doing all this, helping the Shadows, just so you can be the hero that saves the world?”
“In part, yes. After all my years of waiting, I deserve an easy rule. No rebellion will come between me and my throne, for who would raise rebellion against the one who would save the world? And besides, the Shadows are helping me remove you from your high place. The Guardians’ reign of glory and power is at an end. It will be I, and not the Guardians, who vanquishes these demon foes, avenge our dear lost king and return peace to the land. There be no more brooding group of light sorcerers to have higher authority than the king. My word as king will be absolute, just as it should be, and the people will bow before me in devotion.”
“The people are not as foolish as you think. It won’t work.”
“It has already has. The people’s faith in the Guardians is beginning to waver; soon it will be gone. They will turn their weary gaze from you and see me standing with open arms to protect them. Your display this evening only furthered my standing with my men, because it was you who defied me. You betrayed your king, you broke their hearts and shattered their world for you betrayed everything they had been taught to believe. And perhaps their lack of faith in your power is well founded. You are a Guardian of the Light, but you could not even stand up to me, a mortal man.” He leaned in and whispered into Enira’s ear, “What makes you think you can stand up to the Shadows?”
Enira felt a shiver run up her spine as Raede’s icy cold voice penetrated her ears. “What makes you think you can?” Enira whispered back, though her voice was soft out of fear rather than malice. “The Shadows aren’t human, Raede. You can’t bargain with them, you can’t reason with them. They are a force without a mind. You won’t be able to keep Argentum if they take the world.”
Raede fingered the moon pendant around Enira’s neck. “This is where your powers stems from isn’t it?” He pulled the pendant until the string broke and he looked at it greedily in his hand.
“It doesn’t work like that; you can’t just use a pendant to create magic. It’s used to channel the magic within us, magic that belongs only to those trained in the arts of the Guardians.”
“Yes, but you forget one thing, my confident little Guardian,” the king grinned sinisterly, “I am not a common man. Perhaps you’ve not heard the rumors, but I was raised by a sorcerer. It is a shame that Leingella couldn’t live to see me, his dear student, reach what I am now attaining, but sadly even the ones we love most sometimes meet an untimely death.”
“An untimely death at your own hand.”
“Yes, well, I never said that untimely wasn’t convenient for me.” Raede held Enira’s pendant aloft and began weaving a spell, chanting in tones that Enira had never heard. White light issued from the pendant coating every room in the temple until the entire structure was sealed by a white light. Now there would be no one entering in or out of the temple without Raede’s permission. Enira gasped in surprise.
“You didn’t really think the Guardians were the only ones with magic did you? I know sorcerers who bear power you couldn’t begin to dream of, powers that the other Guardians would scarcely breathe a word of to you. Many of these powers have been taught to me, and I know where to find more.”
“It doesn’t matter what you do Raede,” said Enira recovering herself, “no matter how much power you have. You can’t turn one pendant against another, they all have equal magic. Kelgar and Notelcea will be able to walk right through the seal you’ve put on the temple. And that little necklace won’t give you the glory you’re seeking either because one pendant alone is hardly strong enough to defeat Aecleton. You would need all three, and even then you might not succeed.”
“I know, that’s why you’re going to help me?”
“You’re going to tell me where the other Guardians are.”
“Never,” Enira hissed.
Raede slapped her across the face with the back of his hand, drawing blood from her lip. “Tell me where they are.”
Enira made no reply.
Raede hit her again, harder this time, and it was all she could do not to cry out.
“You know you’ve been abandoned by them, Enira,” said Raede playing with her mind again. “Why are you protecting people who left you to my torment?”
“They left me to guard the Temple of Aurora,” said Enira feeling the warm stream of blood trickle down her face.
“Yes, and you failed deeply at that, didn’t you? Do you really think they’re going to bother coming back to help someone who couldn’t even do the one task they left her with?” Raede gently wiped the blood from Enira’s mouth. “Do you really think they planned to come back at all?”
Enira cringed under Raede’s touch. There’s was more poison in that gesture than their had been in his strikes. “Kelgar and Notelcea aren’t cowards,” said Enira. “If they’ve not yet come back, then they’ve a very good reason for it.”
“Yes, and perhaps that reason is that they know there is no hope. Perhaps they have gone to save themselves and left you here to die.”
“Play your mind games with someone else,” Enira panted, “you’re not going to destroy my faith in the Guardians.”
Raede hit Enira again. This time she could not hold back her cry of pain and Raede took joy in it.
“Just tell me where they are, Enira, tell me where the other Guardians have gone. You have my word that they’ll never know it was you who betrayed them. I’ll tell them you fought gallantly to save us all before the Shadows overcame you.”
Enira swallowed, taking a moment to catch her breath. “So you can lead them into your trap too?” Her voice quaked as she spoke.
“Where are they, Enira?”
Enira’s answer was no more than a whisper. “I’ll never tell you.”
“Oh,” Raede smiled, “I think you will.” He reached into his pocket and extracted the tiny crystal he had placed there before leaving his palace. “Do you know what happens when a sorcerer dies?” he asked holding up the crystal. “Their body melts away until only the residue of their magic is left in its place. All the magic that was ever within them shrinks down, compacting upon itself until it becomes hard and forms a single crystal; an essence crystal. The crystal itself is the essence of the sorcerer’s magic, but it is more commonly known by the name of a truth stone.”
Raede held the crystal to Enira’s face. “Do you know why they call it a truth stone?”
Enira shivered and closed her eyes. She had never seen a truth stone, but she knew well enough where its named derived.
“Because when dissolved in water, it forms a powerful truth draft,” said Raede, not waiting for the Guardian to answer, “which can make anyone confess everything they know…whether they want to or not.”
Enira opened her eyes, watching as Raede dropped the stone into a flask of water. It fizzled and foamed white making crackling noises as it disintegrated and then the water was calm. Enira struggled futilely against her bonds as the king approached her.
Raede looked at Enira, holding tightly to the draught. He grabbed her by the neck, forcing her head back and setting the flask to her mouth. “And now,” he growled, “I think it is time to discuss the location of the missing Guardians.” He poured the burning potion down her throat.