They travelled west for three days, and crossed into Suria on the fourth morning. Conversation was muted; Rastlin had apparently run out of things to teach Lia and she had run out of questions he could answer, particularly as he avoided her questions about where they were going. He couldn’t explain to her who the five old men were or what they stood for, but Rastlin didn’t seem overly concerned by that. He rode with a smile on his face, which Lia suspected was because he had achieved what his ancestors had not.
They rode along the north stretch of Lake Moor, where the Moorside Mountains dominated the view to the right, when a thought occurred to Lia. “I am going to bathe for a while. This water is exactly what I need to complete the healing process.”
Rastlin slowed his horse down and smiled at her. “I wondered when you would do that. I thought you would have done it when we passed that river two days ago.”
She shrugged. “It didn’t seem that important at the time, and the pain has been a constant reminder of what happened to me. I don’t want to forget that easily.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Are you looking for revenge?”
Lia glared at him, and her red eyes flashed. “Why shouldn’t I? Whoever was there captured me, and would have left me to rot had I not acted. Forcing me to channel through myself was monstrous!” She pointed a finger at him. “Isn’t this whole crusade of yours about revenge?”
“No, it isn’t.” His voice was firm and controlled. “It is about righting a wrong made many years ago and allowing people to choose.”
Lia wasn’t convinced. “That is pure speculation! What evidence do you have for this? A prophecy? How can you be so convinced that by doing whatever it is we have to do will help anyone? Most people in Suria are very happy with what they have; why change that?”
He snapped back. “They don’t know any better!” He took a deep breath. “As for what will happen, I cannot be sure. What I do know is that the prophecy has been true so far, and it cannot be coincidence you found the final part.”
“Except you don’t know what ‘return the balance’ means.”
He shrugged and smiled. “I don’t think it would be much of a prophecy if it gave away the end-game to every reader.”
Lia snorted and dismounted quickly, which ended the conversation.
She walked to the shore, undressed, then dipped a toe into the cold water. The burns on her arms looked ugly and were still very sore, as was her back. Lia walked down into the water, immersed herself and drew on the power, which was so strong that her wounds healed in a fraction of a second. Suddenly she understood what some the prophecy meant:
The remainder will provide The Second with resources to return the balance
The lake was part of the triangle! She looked up and saw the mountains to the north.
The top of the triangle is as old as the world itself.
Instinctively she looked across to the west and saw the Great Forest, which completed the pattern. Quickly she swam out of the lake and reached the shore. Lia put on her clothes and ran back to where Rastlin and the horses were waiting.
“Shouldn’t you have dried yourself first?”
Lia ignored that. “I’ve found the triangle!”
He smiled. “Well, we are close to the triangle. I believe it is a place where the lake ends and the forest and mountains meet.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this before?”
“You now know how powerful Lake Moor is, yes?”
Lia nodded. “It is incredible.”
“And would you have discovered that feeling had I told you where we were going?”
Lia stared hard. “Who knows? It seems a little random to me. You could have just told me.”
He smiled. “Prophecy does appear that way, does it not? I don’t know why I didn’t tell you about our destination; I don’t think it was a conscious decision.”
Lia felt a rage rising, and changed the direction of the conversation. “How far is the triangle?”
“It will take us a day’s hard ride to reach the end of the lake. From there I am hoping all will become clear.”
Lia couldn’t resist snorting again. She admitted to herself she still wasn’t sure why she was following Rastlin. “Let’s hope so.” She swung back onto her horse.
The town of Frodsby was exactly as Carly remembered it: Surian to the south, Lake Moor to the east, the Great Forest to the west and the Moorside Mountains to the north. They had arrived the previous evening and stayed at The Boar’s Head, although she had the feeling that Spicer would rather have slept on the ground than frequent an inn other than his own.
Carly felt much better after resting in a bed, although she slept poorly. She awoke early, with the sun barely visible on the horizon, and started her morning prayers. She knelt beside the bed and closed her eyes, but before she had time to mutter the first words she was somewhere else. Carly was standing in a large clearing, a forest to her left, mountains ahead of her and a lake to her right. She took a step forward and suddenly an elegant building appeared in front of her. The architecture was similar to that of the various temples of Revan in Suria, but it was much smaller. She also became aware of two figures riding towards her from the east and had an almost uncontrollable urge to defend the building. Suddenly Carly was travelling backwards, to the south, along a well-used road splitting the lake and forest. Then it was over, and she was back in the room, on her knees, in front of the bed.
Minutes later Carly banged on the door to the room that Olbane and Spicer shared. “Olbane, Warnock, get up!”
Moments later a gruff voice swore and the door opened. Olbane, who was dressed in his undergarments, rubbed his eyes and yawned. “Is everything alright, Carly?”
She ignored him and walked into the room. “We are leaving, now. I know where we have to go, and we have to get there soon; there is much at stake.”
Olbane looked at her, wide-eyed. “What is it?”
Carly looked across at the chair that had his clothes draped over them and then looked back at Olbane. Immediately he started dressing. Spicer was still in bed, and the bedclothes were over his head.
“Warnock Spicer! If you wish to accompany us, you will rise now!” It was a command, and Spicer almost jumped out of bed.
Once she was convinced they were dressing with the necessary urgency, Carly answered Olbane’s question. “Someone is coming to destroy the church. There is an old temple north of here that is concealed from travellers.”
Olbane continued to look wide-eyed. “Who would do such a thing?”
Carly’s expression was one of sadness. “I think it is Lia, and I think He is calling me to stop her.”
Spicer snorted. “How could one person destroy the church? Lia would never do such a thing!”
“I do not know; I suspect the cult she is involved with is looking for revenge for acts of necessity many years ago. What is special about this place, I do not know, but in my vision I felt an enormous amount of power.”
Olbane buttoned up his shirt. “But the church’s power comes from Him! I don’t understand.”
Carly headed for the door. “Neither do I, but that concern is secondary to protecting whatever resides in the temple.” She left them and walked downstairs to the inn common room. Moments later she was in the stables, where fortunately the horses had already been fed and watered. She released her horse, mounted and urged her to leave the stables, and nearly ran down Olbane and Spicer as she did.
“Wait!” They shouted in unison, but Carly was already galloping to the north.
It didn’t take Olbane and Spicer long to catch-up, and the three rode north along the road that neatly split The Great Forest and Lake Moor. They rode in silence, and Carly never made eye contact with her companions. Why did she think the church was being threatened? Surely Revan’s power stretched beyond one building? Perhaps she had misinterpreted the vision? All she knew was that the feeling she had during the vision was of a deadly threat, and she had an overwhelming compulsion to stop it. Carly hoped she was wrong about Lia’s involvement, but inside she knew one of the two she saw in the vision was her friend.
They reached the clearing later that day, and Carly recognised the area as if she had been there hundreds of times. Carly immediately slowed her horse down.
“Are we here?” Olbane did the same, followed by Spicer.
“Yes we are. Wait here please.”
Carly dismounted, and left her horse with the other two. She walked for no more than ten paces before the building appeared, and Carly was amazed by how much divine power she felt. She heard Spicer mutter in amazement behind her, but ignored him. Carly looked to her right and saw two mounted figures approaching from the east, as they did in her vision. She turned to look behind her. “Quickly, we must go inside before they arrive.”
Olbane and Spicer dismounted and joined her. “Is that Lia?” Olbane’s voice rose an octave.
“I believe so, yes.” Carly grasped the handle on each of the wooden doors and pulled down. They opened easily.
“Who is that she is with? One from the cult?” Spicer’s hand gripped the hilt of his sword.
Carly only half nodded as she stepped into the foyer of the building, which looked similar to the same room in the temple at Crossmoor, albeit on a smaller scale. Once inside the feeling of power was incredible and Carly had to pause for a second to concentrate on the matter in hand; most of her wanted to fall to her knees and pray.
The foyer even had a desk at the end and there was a single door behind it.
“This definitely has the look of one of Revan’s temples.” Olbane thought out loud.
Spicer grunted. “Yes, but it doesn’t have the elegance the one in Crossmoor does.”
Carly walked forward to the door. “I have a feeling this is one of the oldest temples of Revan, perhaps the oldest.”
“Why would they hide it? Surely we should celebrate such a building?” Olbane kept close to Carly.
Carly opened the door. “I do not know the answer to that, but I suspect Lia and her companion do.” The door led to a corridor running left to right; to the left and ahead were doors and to the right a staircase. The power seemed stronger from above, so Carly turned right.
“Shouldn’t we check out the other doors first? I don’t want something coming up behind us.” Spicer continued to grip his sword hilt.
Carly kept walking. “We are not in any danger here, Warnock. This is a holy place.”
He grunted but didn’t object.
Carly had an urge to proceed without the others. “I must go up alone. You two remain here.”
Spicer objected to that and stepped forward. Carly held up a hand. “As I said, this is a holy place. I of all people will be fine.”
Olbane’s eyes met Carly’s and he nodded. “We will wait here in the foyer.” He touched Spicer on the arm. “Warnock, we should guard the door.”
Spicer appeared more comfortable with that notion, nodded and walked back into the foyer. Olbane remained for a moment. “Be careful, Carly.”
She nodded and turned quickly away. At the top of the stairs was another corridor. To the right was another door, which was open, and showed a small room which looked like a study. To the left was a long corridor, which Carly stepped into. At the end of the corridor was another door, again open. The room inside was very ornate, with a large dining table, ten chairs and very expensive looking tapestries on the walls, which depicted various religious events. Across the room was another door, which was closed. As Carly approached the door, the feeling of power was completely overwhelming and she staggered to her knees. Carly gasped for breath, rose and opened the door; it led to a small room with a round table with five chairs. On four of the seats sat old men in white robes, and their hands were joined except across the empty space. As soon as she stepped across the threshold the power was intoxicating, and Carly was forced to sink to her knees and pray.
“Rise, Priestess.” One of the men commanded. His tone was measured and strong. Carly did so, but kept her head bowed.
The man spoke again. “We are the original clergy of Revan, the founders of the church.”
Carly had enough courage to make eye contact and ask a question. “Is this real or another vision?”
The man gave her a fatherly smile. “It is real, although you are the first to set foot in this building for hundreds of years. Until now we have been able to exist alongside mortal life and have not had to reveal ourselves.”
Carly relaxed a little. “Apologies for asking this, Priest, but there is no mention of you in the church history. I don’t recall anything about male Priests.”
The man nodded wisely. “We serve to ensure His power is properly channelled, and that the Priesthood continues to be wise. All links to Him come through us. That is our only purpose, and has been since the start of the church. Long ago we decided to exist alongside the day to day running of the church.”
Carly’s eyes widened. “Are you saying that each time a Priestess connects, it passes through you?”
He nodded again. “That is correct. When we five first realised those with faith could connect, we decided for the good of the church that we should act as a go-between.”
Carly wondered if she was dreaming. “So we don’t connect to Him at all? How is that for the good of the church?”
His expression didn’t change. “The most important thing at the time was order; society was primitive and chaos reigned. By carefully controlling what the Priestesses did, we were able to create and maintain order.”
Carly could feel her face reddening. “Control? Why would you need to control us?”
“Those who are chosen as Priestesses have a certain quality, a goodness and instinct to care for others that could lead them astray. We could not give chaos an opportunity to lead them down a different path.”
“But how can doing good acts cause chaos?”
“There are places in this world where chaos completely reigns, and our Priestesses may wish to spread His word to those places. He is ours, and we cannot permit that.”
Carly was lost for words, until her eyes focused on the empty chair. “You said there were five of you.”
“One of our number was murdered by the one who approaches, and she intends to murder the remainder. That is why we called you here, Priestess Carly of Crossmoor. You must take his place and complete The Circle. We fear she will destroy us, and the church, if The Circle is not complete.”
“You are the most powerful Priestess alive; we have felt this as you have grown in your use of His power.”
Carly was taken aback by that comment and took a few moments to respond. “Surely if you cease to exist the Priestesses will connect to Him directly?”
The old Priest nodded. “That they will, but are they prepared for that? Most likely they are not, and the foundations of the church will collapse. We cannot allow that to happen.” He looked deep into her eyes. “This is a command, Priestess Carly of Crossmoor. Complete The Circle and ensure the Church of Revan continues to thrive!”
Compelled to obey by her training, Carly moved to the empty space, and took a seat. Instantly the Priests either side of her grasped her hands and The Circle was complete once more. Pure joy and enlightenment struck Carly immediately, and she knew complete peace for the first time.
Lia and Rastlin approached the clearing at a gallop and it was the Arezan who slowed his horse to a trot to take a look at the area. “I believe we are here, Lia.”
Lia also slowed down. “But there is nothing here. If this is the triangle, what are we supposed to find?”
He dismounted and looked around. “To be honest I am not sure. Whatever it is we seek is here, though.”
Lia slid elegantly down from her horse when a snorting sound across the clearing drew her attention. She walked briskly forward for a few metres, and saw the origin of the sound: a horse, which was accompanied by two others. All tethered against a tree. Rastlin joined her as she moved closer to the beasts. “It looks like we are not alone.” He dropped onto his haunches and started looking at the ground. “I am no expert, but these tracks are fresh.” He moved forward for approximately ten paces and then stopped. “The tracks end here. It appears they just disappeared.”
Lia raised an eyebrow. “How is that possible?”
“Perhaps they went somewhere else, somewhere that we cannot yet see. Can you use the power to see where they went?”
Lia’s eyebrow stayed in place. “How am I supposed to do that?”
Rastlin smiled. “You were meant to come here, Lia. The power of The Second Coming must be the key; remember you used it to find the missing prophecy too.”
Lia looked sceptical but nodded. “I will give it a try.” She spread her arms instinctively and grasped the power, and her head spun at the resources at her disposal: the vast forest and great lake provided her with exceptional forces to channel through. Lia blinked a few times to clear her vision, and looked ahead. With the power in her grasp, she could see the outline of a building, although it was hazy, ghost-like. She felt that the natural resources around her would give more, so grasped harder: the power was incredible and she fell down on one knee. She looked up, and saw that the building had a wooden door. Despite the disorientation, she stood and walked the few paces to the door, grasped the handle and pulled; the door wouldn’t budge, but Lia knew what to do. She channelled the power through her hand, and a burst of wind blew forward, which blew the door off its hinges. Instantly the whole building became visible, which was shock enough for Lia to release the power. She fell back to her knee, and breathed heavily.
Moments later she became aware of two men looking down at her from within the doorway. One of them was middle-aged, burly and weathered. The other was younger, with sandy hair and a handsome face; both had swords drawn and looked shocked.
“Lia?” The younger man stepped forward. The older man took a step back.
“Olbane? What are you doing here?” She then looked behind him at the older man. “Warnock? Now I am dreaming.”
Before any of them could speak further, Rastlin appeared at Lia’s side. Olbane raised his weapon and lunged forward.
“No!” Lia grasped the power, and held a hand in front of her. Olbane slammed into an invisible wall of air, and staggered backwards. Lia rose to her feet. “You will not fight here. Rastlin is my companion, not my enemy.”
Olbane was incensed and pointed his sword at Rastlin, although he didn’t move forward.
Spicer glared at the Arezan. “What have you done to my Lia?”
Rastlin kept his arms down and his face impassive. “She is your Lia, believe me. Underneath the power she is still the girl you knew.” He looked at her and smiled. “However, she has found her destiny, which has changed her life forever.”
Spicer raised his weapon. “Her eyes are red!”
Lia stepped forward onto the threshold of the building. “He is right, Warnock. I was supposed to come here. I have something to do, and the colour of my eyes is of no consequence.”
Spicer mumbled a curse and lowered his weapon; Olbane followed suit.
The young man looked at Lia with interest. “Are you a Priestess, Lia?”
She shook her head. “No; this power is in my blood, and comes from our surroundings.”
Olbane’s eyes widened. “But that is blasphemy!”
Lia’s expression was sad. “I know, Olbane. I have learned a lot since we parted that challenges our beliefs. I now believe there is more to the world than what our people consider important.”
Spicer glared at Rastlin again. “He has poisoned your mind! He is absolute, everything!”
It was Rastlin’s turn to respond. “I do not believe that is true. The more time I spend with Lia, the more I believe there is something else at work, something better.”
Spicer nearly exploded. “What could be better than Him!”
Rastlin shrugged. “That I do not know, but that is why Lia and I are here.”
“Well perhaps Priestess Carly disagrees with you!” Spicer’s smile was triumphant.
“Carly is here?” Lia’s eyes filled with compassion.
Olbane nodded. “She heard you, Lia.”
Lia recalled the moment of ultimate despair, and her cry for help. Nausea came over her; had she brought Carly there? She couldn’t bear the thought of her friend being in danger because of her. “How did she know to come here?”
“She had another vision.” His eyes motioned upwards. “She is upstairs.”
Lia looked past Olbane and Spicer to the end of the foyer, where a single door was open. “Then I must go to her.” She stepped forward into the temple for the first time and was immediately overwhelmed by a force which almost pushed the air from her lungs.
Rastlin put a hand on her shoulder. “What is it?”
Lia turned to face him, with fear in her eyes. “They are here. Their power is much stronger than when I last met them, but one of them is different, almost familiar.” Lia’s jaw clenched and her eyes flashed. “Carly is with them. She has joined those bastards that captured me. She has replaced the one I killed.”
Rastlin’s eyes grew sad. “Your friend’s destiny is clearly tied to yours, Lia, but don’t let that distract you from going forward. You are stronger than they are, and they know it.”
Lia nodded and composed herself. She drew on the power of the trees, air and water, and walked forward again. The other power attacked her again, but that time she repelled most of it, and felt only slightly out of breath.
Olbane stepped in front of her, with his sword raised. “Carly said you are planning to do something terrible. I cannot let you pass.”
Moments later, and with an anguished expression on his face, Spicer joined the younger man. “Lia, turn back; whatever it is you have become involved in, it is not too late.”
Lia smiled sadly at her two friends, then took a deep breath and filled her lungs. “When I went to the place that showed us the way here, I didn’t know what to expect or what to do. What happened there I will never forget. They would have left me to starve, or worse. What happened to me that day wasn’t the bidding of a God who cares, my friends. Whatever is up there is not what it seems.”
Spicer seemed to waver, and his blade dropped. Olbane stood resolute, and waved his sword in Rastlin’s direction. “That man has brainwashed you! He has turned you into a blasphemer!”
“What I think and feel is all personal, Olbane. Rastlin’s role in this is complete. Please, step aside.”
Olbane’s expression was full of anguish and tears were running down his face. He lowered his blade, bowed his head, and refused to make eye contact. Lia hesitated for a moment, shared a brief look with Spicer, then walked forward towards the door.
Inside the corridor Lia immediately made for the stairs. At the top, she shuddered when she recognised the small room to her right, which was the same room she had materialised in after entering the hill in Areza. She looked to her left, and recalled the long corridor with the door at the end. As she walked towards the door, she instinctively rubbed her back and arms where the self-inflicted burns had appeared. The room with the dining table was also similar, although Lia didn’t recall the rich decorations from her previous experience. Lia crossed the room and placed a hand on the door handle. As she did, the suffocation became almost unbearable and Lia had to stop and grasp more power to force it back. Instead of opening the door by a more conventional method, Lia blasted it off its hinges, and stepped through the entrance immediately. Inside was the same table as before, with five seats. Lia immediately focused her gaze on Carly, who was dressed in a Priestesses’ robe. She had her head down, and her hands were linked with the two men either side of her.
“Carly? What are you doing here?”
One of the Priests spoke. “She is part of The Circle now, witch. You caught us unaware before; we did not anticipate anyone could escape our trap. That will not happen again, and you will die here.”
The force of will that hit Lia was incredible, and far stronger than that of the Priest she had killed before. Unable to defend herself, she was flung back against the wall of the small room, and crumpled to the floor. The impact caused her to release the power, and immediately the suffocating force grew around her, which made it impossible to breath. Lia reached out to grasp the power once more, but found it extremely difficult to do so. She was able to grasp just enough to maintain some air, but it left her extremely weak and unable to stand. “Who are you?”
“We are the original Priests of Revan, guardians of the faith. Our sole purpose is to ensure continuity of the church.”
Lia’s eyes blazed. “By ensuring other faiths do not flourish!”
The Priest nodded. “If necessary, yes. Our faith and the fate of Suria are paramount.”
Lia forced herself to relax, but kept talking. “The fate of Suria? What about the rest of this world? Are you saying He doesn’t care for everyone?”
“Everyone was not our concern when we started the church. Suria had to survive and prosper.”
“And it did, some time ago. Why would that stop the faith being carried to other nations?” Lia glanced at Carly, who had not moved.
“Nothing has stopped other nations receiving His goodness. However, we have kept the connection to our Priestesses for risk of diluting it.”
Lia noticed that the suffocating force appeared to be easing. “How is that possible?”
“We discovered the connection to Him, and only our church is clean enough to experience it. Every Priestess connects to Him through us; that is how it has always been.”
“And you have wiped out any threat to that through the ages, whether in Suria or not.”
“You speak of The Dragon Order. Somehow your lineage was able to find its own power source and we could not allow that to prosper. Many years ago we destroyed your order and put preventative measures in place to destroy any resurgence. Until you arrived, we were successful.”
Lia thought of her own experience and grew angry. She grasped more of the power but it didn’t go un-noticed. The suffocating force returned in full strength but she had grasped enough power to overcome it. Lia decided to choose her moment to strike back, and she remained on the floor, to give the impression she was weaker. “How did you miss my lineage? I would have thought all powerful beings such as you would have had no such difficulties.” Lia’s expression turned into a sneer.
The Priest snarled. “That is rich coming from a line that murders to draw power. We cannot explain how the last lineage disappeared from view, but it has been extremely well hidden. How your kind uses power feels very similar to how a Priestess does, so it is not easy to detect, unless it is used recklessly and often. We were first alerted to your presence in Surian, but you were only a brief disturbance followed by nothingness. We have had Priestesses sub-consciously looking for your kind for generations, but it appears those who guide you are cunning.”
Lia finally understood why Rastlin had done what he did. A peace washed over her and she realised her parents had not died in vain. Lia felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders, and stood up. She easily deflected the suffocating power, and was able to breathe completely. “It ends now. I believe the Priestesses should be able to connect to Revan directly, and you will no longer control them or hinder them from taking the message further.”
The Priest laughed again, and the other Priests and Carly joined him. Lia grasped even more power. “Release my friend. Her piety and purity deserves better!”
The Circle stopped laughing and the Priest snapped back. “Do you believe you can stop us, witch? You are powerful, but not compared to a fully joined and alert Circle!”
The female member of The Circle was only partially aware of the conversation between one of the Priests and the witch. When she heard the female name mentioned, it barely registered with her; she was more concerned with being connected with Him, The One: it was a feeling of complete joy, peace and humility. The voices grew angry and The Circle tensed, which triggered them to draw on His power, and they struck outward with incredible force. The witch, however, was strong, and the blow hit a shield of air and was repelled backwards. The Circle continued to add force, and drove the shield of air back towards the witch, who cried out.
“Carly!” It was a shrill cry, and within the human part of the female member’s mind there was a flicker of recognition: not from the name, but the emotion of the cry itself. The Circle’s power flickered briefly, and the witch’s own power pushed back, almost reaching The Circle. The four other members of The Circle seemed to sense this, and the female member suddenly lost any feeling outside of The Circle itself. Completely at one, The Circle regrouped, and sent out a backlash of power.
Lia felt the backlash instantly and it took all of her will to stop it destroying her outright. She sank down to one knee, with her arms outstretched in front of her, and used every ounce of her being to repel The Circle. Lia would have screamed, but she didn’t have the spare energy to do so. In a last desperate attempt, Lia filled her mind with one image: a triangle of trees, mountains and water. For a few moments she was re-energised, but The Circle was too strong and their power began forcing its way through her barrier of air.
With the battle won, the female member of The Circle turned her attention back to Him. She reached out to The One and was shown the wonders of His goodness and grace. She saw a world filled with worshippers, and nations coming together under one common faith. Suddenly she had a feeling that something was wrong: what she was doing was not what The One wanted.
The lead Priest of The Circle smiled as the witch’s barrier began to fail. They were going to succeed, and His power would remain with those faithful to them and their history. The Circle pressed home its advantage and the witch went down on both knees, and had a look in her eyes of a woman who was about to take her last breath.
Lia knew it was over. If she had the energy, she would have wept with despair; she knew that she had failed and that the world would likely never know Him in the way Carly did.
It was then she felt a gap in The Circle’s attack. Lia threw all of her will forward, and thrust through. She sent every fibre of her being with it.A moment after The Circle realised they were no longer five they were thrown from their chairs, and crashed against the wall. The last thought of the lead Priest was one of shock: how could He want it to end?