Chapter 47: Confractio
The chamber echoed with the stark thud of his footsteps as Ka paced the floor of the Atrium. The time had long past when his army should have returned and reluctantly, he admitted to himself that they must have been lost. How? How did a slip of a girl manage to defeat almost the entire Afreet army?
Ka’s gaze lifted as a shadow blocked the sunlight streaming in through the open roof over the impluvium. A golden fyre hawk hovered in the sky above, its giant wings spread, their tips tilting as the bird soared upwards as it spiralled over the city. In that instant, it seemed to symbolise his growing isolation.
All that remained of his forces were a small unit of imperial guards. He still had the support of his high council and a few hundred Ophite followers though this was little consolation, and hardly enough to fight a war.
Ka had lost one war amid terrible destruction. This time, perhaps foolishly, he had hoped to avoid using the confractio charm. He had no appetite for creating another wasteland like Rhodium. Suddenly, it seemed he had little choice.
Ka made his way towards the impluvium. Levelling his outstretched hand at the ornate mirror towering above the quivering, aromatic pool.
A ribbon of dust-speckled sunlight streamed down through open rooftop, lighting the dragon’s eye stone in his ring.
“Praeteritum podere,” his voice rasped with fury as he cast the incantation.
The dragons eye stone blazed blood red as a shaft of crimson light leapt out, striking the great mirror and bringing it instantly to life. The glass mutated into a fluid, shimmering map.
“I charge thee Sooth,” he said, “to discharge your sacred duty and provide me, Lord Ka-ek-tal, Ascendant Alchemist of the Afterlands, with the location of Rose of the Whyte.”
After a short pause, the image of the map dissolved into a pool of molten gold, twisting and swirling in three dimensions as it formed the solemn face of the Sooth.
“The Sooth I am, the Sooth I be.” The clear, distinctive voice of the Sooth boomed out around the auditorium. “You have no leave to question me.”
“Oh indeed I do,” Ka scowled, “you lied to me Sooth, you told me that Rose the Whyte was dead. Tell me how this is possible when you are enchanted to never lie. ”
“The words I spoke that day were true, though it seems their meaning was misconstrued.” The Sooth continued dispassionately. “In truth, a Whyte did die that day, beside the shores of Knucker Bay.”
“You tricked me!” Ka banged his fist hard against the mirror. The glass cracked, splitting the image of the Sooth into hundreds of pieces each one displaying the same unreadable expression. “There is only one Whyte female. The Elder Witch was not a true Whyte. If you did not lie, then you twisted the truth with the skill of a witch braiding hair. Now, you will tell me what has happened to my army and provide me with the location of Rose the Whyte, or I will drain this pool and feed you to the swine.”
The Sooth’s eyes closed as his face dissolved once more, into the golden liquid within the impluvium. The pool bubbled and swirled until the image of the snow covered plains of Rhodium swam into view. To the North, lines of steaming craters rose from the snow and in the South lay the vast open expanse of Ogin’s Deep, where Six figures stood beside a thick bank of mist.
“Show me, go closer,” said Ka, watching as the mirror filled with the image of the six Ascendants. Ka scowled, his voice thickening,“El-on-ah…”
“Your army is lost, destroyed by the Fae, all that remained now melted away.” The Sooth appeared to taunt him, “Rose of the Whyte now clearly in view, is alive, free and coming for you…”
Rose’s image surged into view in the mirror, she stood with El-on-ah as a young Mud Ascendant rapidly transfigured into a red dragon. Ka felt his jaw tighten as they mounted the great beast. The sight of his treacherous protege sent a surge of fury through his veins.
“Silentium!” Ka shot a bolt of fiery energy into the mirror, silencing the Sooth’s mocking tone. His choice was made, he would prepare the Confractio charm. El-on-ah’s betrayal would not be without consequence.
“Sheeva!” Ka’s wrath intensified as he stormed into his quarters. Before he had been unable to shake the woman, she had been like a tic, jaws clamped tightly to his skin, poisoning his blood as it’s body swelled with stolen energy. Now he needed her she was nowhere to be seen.
“I am out here,” Hazel’s softly contemptuous voice drifted into the room from the balcony, “what is it My Liege?”
“Come,” said Ka, “it is time you proved your worth.”
As Hazel ambled into the room, her chiffon gown floated in the breeze from the open balcony door, wrapping her body, tightening around every mound and fold. Despite his anger, Ka found himself entranced by Hazel’s demeanour. The combination of Sheeva and the Ascendant’s body had resulted in an almost perfect female form; lithe yet curvaceous, elegant but sensual.
“Our army is destroyed,” clenching his teeth, Ka dragged his thoughts and eyes away from her breasts, “and the Sooth has confirmed that Rose the Whyte is on her way here.”
“She has the incatatio?” Hazel’s eyes widened, the tremor in her voice underlining the fearful look on her face. “You can’t be thinking of using the confractio here, you will wipe us all out… there would be nothing left.”
“The choice has been taken out of my hands,” Ka poured himself a glass of absinthe, taking a swig of the bright green liquid and savouring the heat of the aniseed as it warmed his throat,” it seems that Lord Eldwyn was correct yet again. My destiny is linked to Rose, and if the prophecy is to be believed, may also be somewhat predetermined. However, which of us survives will invariably come down to whose magical potens is the strongest.”
“No, Lord Ka, you make the same mistake as Eldwyn.” Hazel took the glass from him, boldly swallowing the last of the sticky green liquor, barely stifling a gasp as she tasted its potency, “like Lord Eldwyn, you fail to consider the possibility that neither of you will survive, and our world could face total annihilation. With two such powerful charms, who can truly predict the outcome? Fate is not fixed, it’s fluid, our destiny is in our hands.”
“What would you have me do - surrender?” Ka scoffed, “return to the rule of the Golds? I would rather be set in stone for eternity. No… the confractio almost worked once before. Lord Eldwyn’s spell did not stop me last time, even when he was here to cast it himself - it will not stop me now.”
“If it eliminates as many of our people as it did the Whytes, then you may have few followers left to rule,” Hazel shrugged, “but I have an idea. There may yet be another way…”