Even after walking for two days Lia barely noticed the blisters on her feet and the raging hunger inside her. Her mind flashed between despair at what had become of her, and anger at anyone she could think of for allowing this to happen. She began to curse Francisca regularly, and wondered what she had done to deserve such appalling luck. Her darker thoughts focused on Revan: how could He let one of His followers fall into despair? Perhaps Rastlin was right after all; Revan and His followers were not to be trusted.
The notion of Revan’s followers brought Carly to mind. Carly was her best friend and had risked everything to help Olbane and Michael find her. Despite the fact Carly was a part of the church, Lia couldn’t hate her. There was only one salvation left for Lia, only one person who could save her. When she reached the top of a hill, Lia sank to her knees and screamed. “Carly!” Once again thunder and lightning came.
Carly heard the scream as if Lia was next to her, and it felt as if the room was shaking. She jolted away from her prayers and desperately to focus on where her friend was, but the moment was gone.
Carly rose from her knees and stopped to think. Lia wouldn’t have called her name directly if she didn’t need her, and Carly decided she couldn’t ignore the signs any longer. The visions, the voices, and now Lia’s scream: she was meant to go after her friend, and that was what she had to do.
Carly packed up a few things from her room, and left. She considered talking to Priestess Elspeth again, but decided she didn’t want to waste any more time. She also felt she should tell one of the more senior Priestesses where she was going, but they would most likely have reminded her it was not a Priestesses’ duty to run off on personal matters. Carly left the temple in a hurry, and headed straight for the stables.
“Carly?” She recognised the voice immediately and turned to see the face of Olbane Jonson. “You look as though you are in a hurry.”
“I am going east. Lia is in trouble.”
Olbane’s expression grew sad. “Lia is dead, Carly.”
Carly continued walking. “No she isn’t, Olbane; I just heard her cry out. She called me, and I have to go.”
He ran to catch her up. “Another vision?”
Carly nodded and turned into the stables. “Yes, although I think this time she instigated it.”
Olbane looked sceptical, but didn’t question her further. “I will come with you.”
Carly nodded in the direction of a stable boy and then stopped. “I’m not sure that is a good idea. I don’t know what trouble she is in, or indeed where she is.”
Olbane shook his head. “If there is going to be trouble, you will need someone to watch your back. I abandoned Lia in Surian; I owe it to her to help.”
The stable boy brought her horse and she nodded her thanks. “It appears I now have need for a second mount. Can you please bring one for my companion?”
Moments later another horse was brought. Olbane mounted and looked himself up and down. “My blade and travel gear are at the inn. I will be back shortly.”
Carly also mounted, although not as elegantly as he. “I will meet you on the east side of Crossmoor near the trading road. Once we get further east I hope I will get some kind of feeling as to where Lia is.”
Lia remained on her knees, and once again she lost track of time. Later, she wasn’t completely surprised when she heard a voice behind her. “I told you your destiny is unavoidable, Lia.”
“It appears so, Rastlin.” Lia didn’t look around.
“You would have had a much more pleasant experience if you had remained with me.”
“I didn’t intend to come here at all, or to see you again. Despite my best efforts we have found each other once more.” Her tone wasn’t exactly welcoming.
“It was your destiny to come here, Lia. No matter what you did, you would have always ended up here at this moment, in time for me to guide you through what comes next.” Rastlin moved around and sat down on the ground in front of her. He reached inside his tunic and held out his hand. “I believe this is yours.” In his palm was the dragon amulet her grandfather had left for her.
“A family heirloom? I have enough proof of my lineage. Did all my ancestors develop red eyes?” Lia’s voice was full of sarcasm.
Rastlin shook his head. “Only those with the power; once you have taken hold of it and utilised it fully, the colour appears.”
“Will it diminish?” Lia’s voice was full of hope.
He shook his head again. “I am afraid not, although you shouldn’t be afraid of it. It shows your greatness to others, however…”
“...also marks me out as an easy target for those that wish to harm me.” She finished the sentence, and took the amulet from him. “I never met my grandfather; I think he died before I was born.”
“He died before your father was born, Lia; he visited here just before the end.”
She looked up for the first time, and her eyes met his. “Was he brought here because someone thought he was The Second Coming? Let me guess, your grandfather?”
He smiled briefly. “Correct. My grandfather was mistaken, however.”
“Did he return unsuccessful?”
Rastlin shook his head. “He never returned; we never heard from him again. As far as I know, neither did your grandfather.”
Lia laughed sarcastically. “I doubt they ended up living out their days somewhere peaceful.” She looked down at the brooch. “I never liked this thing, and now I can see I was right. It is cursed.”
Rastlin ignored the last comment. “Do you realise you are on the very spot The First Coming’s life was ended?”
“I suppose you’ll say that is destiny too.”
He smiled and ran his fingers along the hill. “How else could you arrive at the exact place you were supposed to?”
Lia stopped, and held her breath. “What?”
Rastlin continued examining the ground. “I believe what we are looking for is here, covered by nature since it was last opened.”
Lia snorted. “Let me guess, our grandparents?”
Rastlin ignored the jibe and started to dig with his hands. A few moments later he turned and grinned at her. “Here it is!”
Lia bent down and felt in the small hole he had dug. There was something hard, metal. “What is it?”
“A door. Step back so I can clear the edges.”
“Didn’t you think to bring a shovel?” Lia’s tone was mocking.
He turned, the grin still on his face. “I like to travel light. This may take a while, so I’d advise you to sit and take some rest.”
Lia was about to respond with another sarcastic retort when a wave of fatigue washed over her. It was a fine day, so she walked a few yards away and decided to lie down on the hill for a few moments, and rest her eyes.
Lia awoke, and regretfully left a dream where she was playing as a child in Crossmoor. She sat up and ran her fingers through her hair, noticing the smell of something cooking. Twenty feet to her right Rastlin sat by a fire, and noticed a rabbit cooking over the top of it on a makeshift spit.
“How long have I been asleep?”
He looked over in her direction. “Ten hours, at least. You were exhausted.”
She walked over to join him, and stretched as she did. He handed her a piece of rabbit, which she took and devoured, more like a wolf than a person. Lia ate her fill and drank from the waterskin Rastlin provided.
“I see you dealt with the burns.” He said it is a nondescript way.
She nodded. “I had my feet in a stream, and somehow knew what to do. The water had a healing effect on me.”
“This is more evidence you are The Second Coming. You are already advanced in your use of The Power. It took your ancestors years to develop such ability.”
Lia found that part difficult to argue with, so she changed the direction of the conversation. She rose to her feet and walked past him to where he was digging earlier. “So, did you manage to dig out…” Lia stopped, and her mouth was agape. In front of her was a stone door, a little smaller than average human height, which was covered in grass and moss. It was set into the side of the hill. “I… I don’t believe it. It really is here.”
Rastlin also rose. “Yes it is. Are you ready to fulfil your destiny?”
Lia looked at the dragon inscribed in the stone door. It was exactly like the one on her amulet, which she instinctively took out of her pocket and draped over her neck. She was drawn to the door more than anything she had encountered in her life. Lia reached forward and touched the dragon on the door. As it had done years before, the door swung open slowly to reveal nothing but darkness. Lia peered inside to see what was within, but it was too dark. She turned back to Rastlin. “Do you have a lantern?”
He smiled briefly and shook his head. “As I said before, I travel light.”
Lia bit on a curse and turned back to the darkness; the pull to enter was even stronger with the door open. She held her breath, and entered. Despite the door being open, the daylight didn’t illuminate the chamber a great deal and Lia couldn’t see beyond the end of her arm. Although she could not see, the desire to keep walking forward led her on, and in a matter of moments she was standing in darkness. In the silence Lia heard Rastlin enter behind her. “Keep going; I cannot follow too closely, but know I am here.”
She found that strangely comforting and continued forward. Within moments she heard a creak of stone, and turned to see the door in the hill close behind them. “The door will open again when you have done what you came here to do, Lia.”
Lia continued, took slow steps forward and it felt as if she were lost in time. Suddenly she stepped into a place that was fully lit: it was a room furnished with a desk and a chair. There was a wooden door ahead of her, which was closed. She gasped and turned around, but all she saw was a wall; the darkness, the chamber and Rastlin were gone.
Lia forced down panic, and composed herself. How did she get there? Where was she? She turned around and felt the wall that was behind her, and tried to ascertain if there was a secret door or passageway. After a frantic period of searching, she gave up and turned to the desk, which was empty. Lia then walked forward and opened the door, which led to a long and narrow corridor, which itself ended with another door. With her heart pounding, she walked forwards, and wondered why someone would put a door in the middle of a corridor which only led to another door.
Lia had only walked what she thought was halfway to the door before she realised it wasn’t getting any closer. She turned around to see the other room had moved, and she appeared to be half way between both. She shrugged, walked forward once more, but stopped moments later when she realised the door still wasn’t closer. Lia turned and ran back to the room she came from, but that didn’t work either. Next she tried running to the new door, which also proved fruitless. Lia stopped and thought. Was it a test to prove she was The Second Coming? Was she destined to starve to death there? Lia decided she wasn’t going to give up without a fight, and sat down to consider how her power might help her. She could have tried to burn the door down, but decided it was too far away. Lia’s mind raced back through the various uses of the power she had experienced, when an idea came to her. She held her hands up and attempted to grasp hold of the power, which she achieved, but not without a struggle. Wherever she was seemed to contain very little life. She then focused on the door ahead of her and threw her arms forward in a sudden gesture. Lia screamed and a huge gust of air blew her backwards, and left her lying on the floor with a burning pain on her right arm. Moments later she pushed herself up, and realised she was facing in the opposite direction. Lia pulled up her sleeve and winced; there was a burn along the length of her forearm. As she ignored the pain, Lia noticed that despite being blown backwards the door she entered from was still the same distance away. When she turned around, however, she smiled to herself. The closed door had been blown off its hinges and was in three pieces on the floor by the doorway. Through the doorway was a room, although it was far enough away that its contents weren’t clear. Lia started to walk towards the door but once again she made no progress towards it. She screamed in frustration, and reacted out of instinct. Grasping the power once more she generated a huge gust of air behind her, and threw herself towards the doorway. She flew forwards, but too late realised she was out of control. Lia hit something hard, and felt a searing pain across her back, and then darkness took her.
Carly was waiting at the east side of Crossmoor when Olbane appeared, although he was not alone. Carly recognised the man riding next to him as the owner of Lia’s favourite inn, The Piebald Lamb. When she looked at Olbane and raised an eyebrow, he held out his hands in defeat. “When he saw me rushing through the inn, he wouldn’t let me go until he found out why. When I told him Lia was in trouble, he insisted on coming with us.”
The other man kicked his mount forward; Carly noticed he was wearing armour under his cloak and a sword at his belt. “Warnock Spicer, Priestess. Young Lia is a very good friend of mine, and I have not forgiven myself for not being there for her before. I will not stand by and ignore her if she is in need.”
The Priestess in Carly made her consider insisting he remain behind, but the compassion on Spicer’s face changed per mind. “As you wish, Master Spicer; Lia often spoke of you and I am sure her heart would be warmed if she knew you were with me.”
It was Spicer’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “Do you think she knows you are coming?”
“She called me; I owe it to her as my friend to go to her.” Carly’s voice didn’t hold as much conviction as she would have liked.
Olbane sensed her doubt. “Sometimes a Priestess has to follow what is right. I know she has a duty to her church and to her God, but it is right to help someone who needs her.”
Spicer didn’t look convinced. “How did she call you?”
Carly looked at him. “I don’t know. I can’t fully explain what is happening, but I believe Lia is involved with some kind of long dead cult that is trying to re-establish itself. Considering she was kidnapped, I suppose they think she is important in some way.” Carly kept the rest of her thoughts to herself. If Lia was able to communicate across great distances she must have been important, unless she had help.
“Do you know where she is?” Spicer looked anxious.
Carly shook her head. “Nothing more than east of here; she was seen leaving Surian and crossing into Areza recently.”
“Areza? What in Revan’s name is she doing there?”
“The group I think she is involved with originates from there. It is called The Dragon Order.”
Both Spicer and Olbane looked puzzled.
Spicer shrugged. “Never heard of it.”
“You wouldn’t have; there is very little information available, even to the church. What we do know is that they didn’t follow our doctrine at all and some of the things they did were monstrous. The church was forced to put a stop to them generations ago. It appears they survived, or someone is trying to reignite them.”
Spicer’s face hardened. “Well, they won’t be involving Lia in their evil schemes while I draw breath.”
Olbane put his hand on his sword hilt. “I am with you, Warnock. “
Carly forced down a groan, and urged her horse into a gallop.
Lia awoke with the taste of blood in her mouth, and when she tried to move she felt excruciating pain from her back. She gritted her teeth, muffled a howl of pain and forced herself up onto her knees. She didn’t need to examine herself to know her back had suffered a similar fate to her arm, except the pain was much greater. Lia took a moment to force back tears, then stood up and looked around the room she had blown herself into. It looked like a sparsely furnished dining room, with a large table in the centre and ten chairs around it. Across the room was another door, which was closed. The pain from her back was difficult to deal with, and Lia’s eyes searched out any kind of liquid she might be able to draw upon to heal herself. Apart from the table and chairs, however, there was nothing else in the room. Lia gingerly walked across the room, and opened the door. Beyond was another room with a smaller circular table. Sat at the table were five elderly men with long white beards; their heads were bowed and their hands linked. The five didn’t appear to register her presence, so Lia remained silent, and tried to ascertain what they were doing. They were wearing white robes, very similar to those worn by Priestesses of Revan. Lia had never heard of men being part of the Priesthood, but there did seem to be an eerie similarity. She looked beyond the men to take in the rest of the room, but like the dining room before, there was nothing else there.
Without warning, one of the men looked up, and his eyes grew wide as he saw her. He blinked and an incredible force flew at Lia, who reacted just before it was upon her. Drawing on the power she threw her will at him, blew away his attack and threw him back against the wall. He was left in a heap on the floor, half under the table. Lia screamed again as her other arm became badly burned. With their human chain broken, the other four men looked up and focused their gazes on Lia, but they started to fade almost instantaneously. As they faded away, Lia had a strong sense that the old men were concealing something. Instinctively, Lia let her will flow towards the table. A barrier appeared, and above the table her will was deflected; underneath the table, however, the barrier was softer. As she drifted into unconsciousness, she was sure she heard something.
Carly screamed, and her whole mind felt an unbearable sharp pain. She managed to pull her horse to a trot before she tumbled down from the saddle, and lost consciousness. She was saved from a fall by Olbane, who disregarded his own safety and leapt from his mount to catch her.
A short while later, Olbane sat over Carly’s still but breathing form while Spicer tended the horses. Olbane tenderly brushed the hair back from her eyes and bowed his head in prayer over her form, and asked that He care for her and give her the strength to continue. When he had finished, he studied her face intently. Carly had been a girl when he first met her, and in a short period of time she had become a woman of grace, power and wisdom. She looked every inch a Priestess, unreachable by a mere follower such as he. Olbane did have to admit, however, that Carly was different from the other Priestesses he had met at the temple. She had a more human side, although he wondered if that would slowly diminish once she became a more established member of the clergy. Olbane touched her cheek gently with the back of his hand. “Don’t forget who you are, Carly. I am sure He wants you for you.” He held her hand and waited.
A number of hours later, Olbane and Spicer were sat a short distance from where Carly lay, and the older man was speaking in an animated fashion. “One of us should go for help! What if we wait longer and she still doesn’t wake? The longer we leave it the worse it could be!”
“But if one of us leaves and she wakes, we will lose time in the search for Lia!” Olbane’s voice rose an octave.
“That is a risk we will have to take. We don’t know where Lia is, but we do know where the Priestess is, and she needs our help.”
Olbane opened his mouth to issue a retort but was interrupted by a hand on his shoulder.
“Olbane is right, Warnock. We need to continue forward.” Carly’s voice was slightly uneven.
Olbane spun around and caught her in an embrace. “You are awake!”
Carly almost lost her footing and he had to catch her. She sat down again, and didn’t say anything. Her face was ashen.
Olbane sat opposite her. “What happened? How are you feeling?”
“I do not know what happened. I felt severe pain in my head and then blacked out. I feel weaker, almost as if part of me has been torn away.”
Olbane’s expression was full of concern but Carly did her best to reassure him. “Just give me a few minutes to pray and meditate, Olbane. I will be fine.”
He nodded, rose to his feet and went to join Spicer. Carly took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and went through a set of defined prayers to ask for calmness and healing. She then calmed herself and drifted into The Peace. After a short while a vision came to her: a picturesque town with a large body of water to the east and an even larger forest to the north-west, with mountains straining to be seen on the northern landscape.
Carly’s eyes snapped open. “Olbane!”
Within moments he was there, and knelt beside her. “Are you alright?”
She nodded. “Yes. I think I have just been given some directions.”
Olbane’s face brightened. “Really?”
She smiled. “I have just been shown a vision of Frodsby. I am not sure if that is our final destination, but we are meant to go there.”
Olbane grinned and rose to his feet. “Well at least we are going in the right direction.” He offered her a hand, which she took.
Lia awoke and screamed; the pain from her burns was excruciating. Moments later she realised she was in darkness. She lay on a cold stone floor but immediately recalled what had happened; she had killed one of the old men and then blacked out. Where were the men? Was she in some kind of dungeon? She put a hand down on the floor to push herself up and the pain was incredible. Lia had no idea how large the immediate area was so started to crawl and hoped she would to bump into something. After a few moments her hand hit a wall, which was cold like the floor. She then traced the wall to her left and found that it opened into what she surmised was a corridor. Lia crawled into the corridor, ignored the pain as best she could and kept moving. In the total darkness, she wasn’t aware how far she crawled, but eventually her hand hit another wall. She felt around, and realised she had crawled into a dead-end.
Lia turned around and crawled in the other direction. After what felt like an eternity she reached another wall. That time, however, the wall moved, and soon the room was bathed in daylight. Within moments, Rastlin was kneeling at her side.
“Water!” Lia almost screamed at him
Rastlin rose, ran outside and returned with a waterskin.
Instinctively Lia reached for the waterskin, which was full. Despite her incredible thirsty, she opened it and poured the entire contents down her back, and drew in the power through the water. She couldn’t completely heal the burns, but afterwards they only hurt half as much as they did before. Lia shook with relief, composed herself, and looked Rastlin in the eye, then she laughed.
Rastlin laughed too. It was the first laugh of joy she had heard from him. “Hail The Second Coming! The balance will be restored at last!”
Minutes later they were both sat on the hill, and Lia explained what had happened.
“I must admit I wasn’t sure what to expect when you went in there, but it most certainly wasn’t that.” Rastlin’s brow furrowed in thought. “Even though I couldn’t see you, I knew you had gone. You just vanished into thin air. I can only assume some very powerful magic was triggered.”
“You mentioned many times I would have to take some kind of test when we arrived.”
He nodded. “That is true, but I thought it would be to prove you were The Second Coming, and from what you have said I think it was much more than that, particularly as the elements were concealed from you.” He stopped and frowned. “On the face of it this appears to be an elaborate trap, designed to destroy those with The Blood, which is not what I expected at all. I suspect this is how your grandfather met his end.”
Lia looked at him, with a sad smile on her face. “So your plan has failed. I may have escaped, but there was nothing there to help me do whatever it is you want me to do.”
Rastlin shook his head. “There must be something! What if killing one of them was only the start? Think, Lia!”
Lia concentrated hard; it was difficult to remember anything of significance.
Rastlin stood up, walked around, and his hands gestured wildly. “I refuse to believe this is the end!” He looked close to despair. “There must be some clue as to how we can release their hold on us!”
The way he said it brought the words back to Lia. “The hold over the balance is at the centre of the triangle. The top of the triangle is as old as the world itself. The remainder will provide The Second with resources to restore the balance.” It was almost as if she heard a different voice speaking.
Rastlin stopped suddenly and stared at her. “Where did you hear that?”
“One of them was trying to conceal it from me. I think I got into his mind before I returned here.”
“How did that happen? I’ve never heard of The Blood being used in such a way.”
Lia shrugged again. “I have no idea. I pushed my will out over them, and I heard his thoughts. I don’t even remember how I did it.”
Rastlin had recovered and his voice was measured once more. “I believe what you have just said is the missing part of the Prophecies of The Dragon. I have known the rest of the prophecy since I was ten years old.” He sat down next to her and pulled out a parchment from within his tunic. He folded it and gave it to Lia.
The Dragon Order will ultimately overcome all.
He will be lord over everything.
He will come to bring balance to all things.
For too long they have controlled the Power.
Those with The Blood will address that disparity.
Those with The Blood will grow in power and numbers.
Many without The Blood will follow.
Those without The Blood will pay the ultimate sacrifice.
One will rise to lead the Order against His enemy.
A great battle will ensue.
The First Coming will not be the last of the Order.
The Second Coming will be a long time after the First.
The line that cannot be broken will provide The Blood.
The line that must wait will ensure balance is restored.
The Second Coming will be born in the heartland of the destroyer of The First.
The Second Coming will descend directly from the lineage of The First.
Rastlin looked at Lia and smiled, then added what Lia had recalled.
“The hold over the balance is at the centre of the triangle.
The top of the triangle is as old as the world itself.
The remainder will provide The Second with resources to restore the balance.”
Lia ran her fingers through her hair. “It all makes sense until the last part. What is the ‘hold over the balance’?”
He turned to look at her. “Whatever is preventing our order from flourishing, I suspect.”
Lia couldn’t comprehend that something living was doing that. “But what if there is nothing there? What if people have moved on and don’t want your order?”
He shook his head. “Something is stifling that free will, I am sure of it. More importantly, I believe what you have found tells us where to go next.”