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BRINGER of BALANCE - Book II of THE LAND series

By smatusky All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Adventure

Chapter 10 - Magical Forefront

Magic in our world had been hidden since people like my great-grandfather, Sabastian Elderbee, used dark magic to promote panic and fear. Non-magical folk often misunderstood magic for this reason, and even I hid my powers from the people of The Land. How many others were like me or Sir Edward? My visions were becoming clearer. Our alliance would have to change the stigma associated with magic. We needed telepaths, healers, and people who could communicate with animals or move objects with their mind to give us a means to defeat the immortals.

I was certain that the protectors thought I had perished after our visit to Guesaviles. That would give us time to prepare, but eventually my survival of the potion would become known. We would have to strike at them quickly, before the protector’s discovered our intentions. I gathered people every day, at least twenty at a time, and spoke to them.

“We’re looking for anyone with magical powers. If you do not possess any special abilities, then we’ll train you to fight with a blade or whatever weapon you choose.”

Days of recruitment passed and a mere handful of people believed they had any magical abilities. The knights of Farmoore provided military training to free-roamers, townsfolk, and numerous visitors offering to help us. It did not take long before the kingdom was overflowing with hope and newfound skills.

After weeks of determining who had magical abilities, Sir Edward and I began training. I had never taught anyone how to use magic, so we worked slowly while becoming comfortable with communicating the intricacy of sorcery.

One day during training I noticed a familiar face.

“Wolfe! What are you doing here?” We embraced tightly.

“Well, I was hoping you could tell me if I belong here.” He blushed.

Wolfe’s fondness for me had not diminished, and I sensed his nervousness while being close.

“You know how I sense things, like a smell or a feeling I cannot explain. I was hoping you might help me develop that ability. I don’t know if it’s anything magical I have but I’m sure my senses will be useful.”

“No doubt they will, but I wonder if Riley can help you more than I can. He transformed into many animals as a protector. There’s so much he knows about the nature of beasts in the wild. I bet he can teach you how to understand those keen senses.”

“I would like that very much, my Queen.” Wolfe kissed my hand.

Sir Edward and two other telepaths glanced at Wolfe. They had been practicing how to probe one another’s thoughts and picked up Wolfe’s affection for me. I quickly took Wolfe by the arm, headed for the castle, and later returned to train our healers.

My healers and I walked through the streets in search of injured townspeople. From minor cuts to more serious injuries, my healers tested their strengths. The gift of healing was hard to come by and the most dangerous to perform, but we found twenty good healers and a dozen more people with simple healing skills. They would be our most valuable magicians in the fight against the protector’s potion. It would be the healers that would keep infected parties alive long enough for us to inject them with our antidote.

A different group led by Sir Edward would be our best defense. Our telepaths would be our informants and warn the alliance when a person or animal held no thoughts. They were doing very well, talking with people in town and telling them the thoughts they had just read. A man or woman would turn bright red and slink away or they would huff irritably, embarrassed they had been mentally probed.

I helped Edward demonstrate what a telepath might sense when finding a protector, something that would be most helpful during our upcoming battle. I blocked my thoughts from the group while Edward asked everyone to concentrate, but there was nothing for them to read.

“So, as you can see from trying to read the Queen’s thoughts the protectors are entirely blank. If you sense anything from them it will be the desire to exterminate us. You must be quick to pick up the presence of a protector. If you delay, you could easily be injected with their ghastly potion. You’ll suffer horribly and beg for death.”

“Edward!” I whispered. I scowled at him while thoughts of an agonizing death danced through the minds of the group.

“You will be the key to discovering what form a protector has taken,” he continued. “It could be me, your closest friend, or a mouse in the underbrush, so you must be on guard at all times.”

The trainees looked at each other, suddenly aware of their importance. We were preparing for a dangerous task, and they were beginning to grasp the challenge placed before them. It would prove more difficult then anything they had ever experienced before.

During our weeks of training I worried most about our communicators. It turned out this skill was possessed by young children and teens. Thirty young magicians followed me to the back of the castle one morning. We sat in a semi-circle on the soft grass and called to the animals around us.

“Over there,” I said to one of the girls while pointing to a squirrel hiding behind a tree. “Ask him his name. See if he’ll join us, and be sure to tell him we mean no harm.”

The girl, no more than nine years old, walked over to the squirrel as it bounded up the tree. She muttered softly to it.

“It’s a she and we’re sitting on her acorns,” shouted the girl, triumphantly.

We got up and moved off the patch of lush grass. The squirrel came over to where we had been sitting and dug up her buried treasure. I was impressed with our animal telepaths, although I was worried about enlisting the help of such young lives.

Eventually my communicators called to a variety of animals and our progress gave me an idea, one that I knew would benefit our alliance. We took a trip into the woods accompanied by Riley. I wanted to find the large birds of the east woods and Riley knew where to find them, so he led us to a lake in the southern part of the woods. When we arrived, the children saw huge pink birds with long skinny legs stepping through shallow water.

“What are those, Ms. Crystal?” a little girl tugged on my gown.

“Flamingoes,” I told her. From a distance the birds looked like pink rose petals floating on the water’s surface. There were other birds as well and some were as large as Taelen – earlier I told them about the great swan that had flown me to and they were eager to take a similar flight.

“Well, hop to it. The only way you’ll get the chance to fly is to ask them.” The children began shouting across the lake to the huge cranes, white egrets, and flamingoes, but their calls startled the birds. “No, no, in your mind, ask them in your mind. Focus on one and speak to it.”

Finally, after encouraging them to call the birds telepathically, a few birds heard our plea. They flew to us and allowed the children on their backs to take a short flight around the lake. The oldest of our group, Jonas, had his eye on an eagle watching the scene from high on its perch. He called the eagle to him and was astonished to find himself airborne, soaring higher than all the other children.

Most evenings I worked with Mack, Donavan, Hope and Louise. They had telekinetic abilities and we practiced manipulating molecules. We began by igniting branches while sitting around a campfire.

“Concentrate on the tip of the branch,” I held a broken stick in front of my face. “Imagine the molecules at the end of the branch moving faster and faster, circling and bumping into each other. Speed up the movement and this will happen.” A flame popped from the tip of my branch and I noticed smiles across from me, their faces golden in the firelight.

One other task I dreaded was to ask Riley for help with someone he had hoped to forget. A month after his homecoming we sat down to eat our supper and I brought up the taboo subject.

“I was hoping you would teach Uncle Ally how to use a sword.”

“What? Absolutely not!” His repressed anger began pouring out. “He banished me and left us for dead.”

“But he’s not the same being you remember. He has changed and when we leave to fight the protectors he’ll be with us. That mortal man might have to protect himself and I believe you’re best suited to teach him.”

Riley shook his head. “Have some other man teach him tricks. I care not to help that evil creature.”

“Think for a moment, Riley. As different as you both were in your immortal form, only you and Uncle Ally share the experience of changing into a mortal man. The emotions that were overwhelming for you when you first became human are the same emotions he’s trying to understand. He has helped find a cure for us because he sees the world differently now, just as you did. Part of being human is setting aside our differences and opening up to new beginnings.”

Riley was silent. He lowered his head and focused on the hatred he harbored for the former protector.

“For instance, take a look at me and Grandma Rose. I was upset that she didn’t stand up to her own father when Grandfather Orielle was cast into his sword. I wanted to run away from the City of the West and never return, yet I set aside my past anger and stayed. I don’t believe you realize how much I wanted to leave that place. But I had to stay. No matter what I thought about the past, it was not the future, and it was up to me to change, no one else.”

“She came with you here and kept you alive,” Riley said. “But she didn’t want to leave her city, did she?”

“No, she didn’t. If it weren’t for my grandmother’s change of heart I wouldn’t be here now. She learned that sometimes we must face our fears, no matter what the consequences.”

“Riley,” I took his hand. “Anger and hatred are only a tiny part of you. Trust in yourself and show your finest qualities. By doing so you’ll plant a seed and others will follow.” He stared at me while trying to understand his conflicting emotions.

A week later I followed Riley and Uncle Ally into the combat room to view their progress. It had been two days since Riley began training Uncle Ally with a sword. The men set aside their differences long enough to learn from each other. There would never be a close relationship between them.

While watching the blades clash in slow, calculated movements, I leaned against a velvet curtain. The image of the men circling each other faded, but the metal timbre vibrated and melded into the sounds of high-pitched squeals. Suddenly birds, reptiles, and other winged beasts were battling in the sky. I wondered if watching Riley and Uncle Ally battle with swords had sparked the vision.

The beasts were tearing into each other although I was their target. My heart raced. I was trapped on a high mountain peak and hundreds of creatures circled above. Their calls were deafening. I noticed a mass of darkness to my right and when I turned, a colossal serpent mouth snapped open, showing hundreds of sharp fangs.

“Are you all right?” Riley had rushed over to me. I was still screaming and sweat covered my face and arms. My head ached terribly. Did I just witness my own death? There would be no stopping such an attack.

“Yes, I think so. I just saw something scary. It’s all right. Go back to what you were doing.” I tried to appear calm although I was quite distressed. Riley insisted that I go back to my room and he stayed with me, curious to find out what had happened.

The overwhelming feeling left from my terrifying vision was not fear but conflict. I felt conflict in myself and in the battling beasts above me. Two opposing forces were tearing each other apart, just like the two former protectors who had been so different, one resisting change and open to it. Their hatred for each other was great. I imagined there had to be other protectors like Riley, others that were open to change.

Later that night as Riley and I slept, another vision invaded my dreams. I saw the protectors’ fortress and a fleet of ships. Sir Gabrial must have succeeded in finding the ships needed to take us to the island of the protectors. Exactly what we would find there I could not foresee. However, unlike my former trip across Noore, my visions of our new trip showed pain and growing conflict.

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