"Come along, Ziaxe," said Alavar as Ziaxe walked beside him, "I understand that your uncle isn't home right now, off on errands of his own. Would you like to come to my house for dinner?"
Ziaxe was surprised at the offer. He had put his tunic back on, and he already felt better from his injury. His fatigue was leaving him by every step. "Uh… yes, Professor," he replied, 'if you don't mind, of course."
"Why, it's no bother at all, Ziaxe." The professor smiled his gentle, peaceful smile and led the young man to his cottage. "I realized earlier today that it is your mother's birthday."
Once again Ziaxe was surprised. "Yes, Professor. Did you know her?"
"Why, of course I did, Ziaxe. I remember when she arrived in Berania with your father. The year was sixty-nine sixty-two I believe." The professor twirled his beard around his fingers. "My memory has been slipping lately it seems."
They reached the front of Alavar's cottage, and the professor reached into his pockets to search for the key. “I’ve been off on errands of my own in the rich district.”
“How did you get here so fast, Professor?” Ziaxe was curious. “You just seemed to get here at the right time.”
The professor made a wry grin. “I have my ways, Ziaxe.” He was still looking for his key, searching through all of his pockets.
"Did you know my parents well, Professor?"
"Haven't I ever told you about them?" asked the professor with a thoughtful look. "It seems my memory is worsening. Oh well…." He finally found a short, gold key and adjusted his spectacles to examine it better. With a fragile-looking hand, he inserted the key into the lock and opened the door, pulling it outwards.
"Now, let's see," he said as he thoughtfully twirled his beard around his fingers again, a habit that the old man seemed to do quite a bit, "your father, Javen, as I recall, was a kind soul who you resemble quite well. He was a good person, of course, but don't get me wrong, he was a brave and powerful warrior as well ready to fight when he needed to."
Ziaxe had never heard his father spoken of so kindly. He felt a sudden pride in his family's honor, a pride in the father he had never seen. "Did you know his race, Professor? Did he ever say where he was born?"
"Actually, I don't believe he ever truly revealed that," replied Alavar with a distant look as if remembering something that happened long ago.
They entered the small cottage, and Ziaxe was greeted by a variety of miraculous items. The first thing he noticed was the shining jewels at random spots on the ground and on the dresser at the far wall. That was the first time he had ever seen any kind of jewel, and he instantly knew why people valued them so much. They shined multiple colors such as red, green, yellow, and blue, all giving the room a kaleidoscopic appearance. On the walls, there were maps of countries that were far away outside the Great Walls. Images of hills, lakes, and mountains were also among them. Taking up the majority of one wall was a world map showing the many kingdoms and lands of the world. There were also strange artifacts that seemed to be from foreign countries on the ground and in random spots on the furniture. Ziaxe had never been in the professor's house before so he was fascinated to see all these rich, peculiar objects hidden away in the poor district.
After a few minutes of staring in wonder at the many jewels, paintings, and artifacts, he was finally able to take in the surroundings and furniture of the room. In the very center of the room was a table with two stools for chairs. To the right of the table was a fireplace with pots and pans on the ground for cooking. There was a one person bed by the opposite wall, and it had a small dresser at its foot. Above the bed was a small window that gave a great view of the Beranian Castle and rich district in the north.
He continued to examine the amazing and strange things in the house with wide eyes and an agape mouth. His mesmerized look caught Alavar's attention immediately, and the professor said with a wide smile, "I see you like my treasures."
Stumbling for words, Ziaxe replied, "What is all of this?"
"Just a few things that are found in the world outside of Berania."
He went over to the dresser, dropped the wet cloth and bucket that Venna had given him, and picked up a shining ruby from on top of his dresser. It glistened a bright red as bright as the moon in a clear midnight sky. He brought it to Ziaxe, who stared at its beauty with intense admiration. "This is a little trinket from Zaria. I found it while researching their glorious knights and all their unique fighting styles."
When Ziaxe was about to grab the ruby, Alavar turned away and returned it to the dresser. Then he turned back and said, "Would you like some stew for dinner?"
"Yes, please," replied Ziaxe, eager for a nice meal unlike the small portions he would get at his house.
Alavar sat down on the stool by the fireplace and began kindling some firewood. The room was silent for a while as the professor worked on the fire and Ziaxe looked around at the many items in the house.
One painting of a large body of water attracted his eyes. The body of water looked large and never-ending since Ziaxe could not see its opposite end, and he wondered for a moment if it was the ocean. The water reflected a bright sunlight, and there were strong, green trees that breathed with life before it. Ziaxe felt as if he was in the painting, sitting on the soft grass and watching the world go by slowly around him, intent on leaving all worldly worries behind. "Professor, what's this a painting of?" he asked.
Alavar's fire was now lit, and he was starting to cook what smelled like a chicken stew. He looked over at the painting Ziaxe indicated. "That is a good question, Ziaxe," he said, "for I doubt you have ever seen this place before. This is the great Lake Berania. It lies right outside the Eastern Wall. Don't you ever wonder where the pond leads to?”
"Oh, I've heard of the lake," replied Ziaxe, "but I've just never seen it. I had no idea it could be as big as it looks in this painting."
"Yes, Lake Berania stretches for miles, and then branches off into multiple rivers that lead to the Eastern Sea. Many have tried to capture its beauty with art, but only this Sarbenian artist could ever do that the best, in my opinion."
Ziaxe looked around the house more, his curiosity growing, as Alavar returned to his cooking. He found what looked like a map on the dresser by all the jewels. It was old and crinkly and looked several hundred years old.
He carefully laid it out and saw that it was a world map. He automatically found the city of Berania in the Kingdom of Sargenia. North of Sargenia, he saw the Kingdom of Zaria and the arctic wasteland above it. Lake Berania was to the east of Berania, and Ziaxe saw how it was truly a lake that went on for miles because it appeared bigger than Berania itself. East of the lake was a forest labeled Treemen Forest. He had never heard of the "Treemen" before.
To the Southeast of Berania was the Kingdom of Ravilla and the Sarben Mountains that surrounded it. Over Ravilla, Sargenia, and Zaria was written The Ancient Kingdoms of Sarbenia. East of the three kingdoms, out in the ocean, was the Abandoned Islands of the East that held the ruin city of Nizrock.
He continued to examine all the other kingdoms: Dremun, Vilaria, Thran, Walran, the Harvoren Empire, Vidala, Lysara, and Paridon. One thing that caught his eyes was the small strip of land in between Walran and Thran labeled Demon-Land. He knew about Demons from Alavar's stories of evil witches and how they had the ability to summon the hideous beasts, but it made him nervous to see that there was a place just for them to live in.
Then a question Ziaxe had thought of before in the past came to his mind. "Professor?" he said. "Why wasn't Ravilla involved in the Vician War? I thought they would have helped Sargenia since they are also a Kingdom of Ancient Sarbenia."
Alavar had been nearing the end of his cooking. He turned to Ziaxe on his little stool. "That's another good question, Ziaxe. You see, Ravilla has been a dying kingdom for a very long time. They had no way of supporting their cousins in Sargenia.”
"But Ravilla always seemed like the most powerful of the three since it is surrounded by the Sarben Mountains; they should also be the richest since they have full access to the Crystal Mines."
"You are right, Ziaxe, but they had always been the peaceful ones. They would always try their hardest to solve their problems with foreign countries using peace. This was because their royal family had always been the purest of Sargen blood compared to the Sargenia and Zaria families so they would always try to follow the peaceful ways of the Great God of Light. This, however, was their downfall. In fifty-nine sixty-two, the traitor Dremuns attacked Ravilla.
"Dremun was able to catch Ravilla off guard by simply pretending to want only peace with their neighbors, and so Ravilla was mostly conquered as Dremun slowly began to take over the kingdom, city by city. King Slavad—the King of Ravilla at that time—was said to be killed during the fighting that took place. This caused Ravilla to become a Stewardship.
“And so now the kingdom of Ravilla is mostly a form of a protectorate of Dremun. The Stewards still rule, but they are powerless against anything the Dremuns might do to them.
Ziaxe thought about that for a while. He thought of the concept of Sargens. He had never seen one before, and he would not know what a Sargen would even look like if he did see one. The stories of the Ancient Kingdom of Sarbenia being ruled by a blessed Sargen King were tales of wonder and amazement. Alavar had always told him and the other students how the Sargens were the chosen people of the Great God Sarben. They were the ones who were meant to rule the kingdom for they knew the true ways of peace and love, the things that a truly good king should know.
"Why doesn't Ravilla just reunite with Sargenia then?" asked Ziaxe. "That would give Sargenia more land, and Ravilla would hopefully get better defenses and be able to fight off Dremun."
"The answer to your question, Ziaxe, is a somewhat mixture of honor and ignorance," replied the professor as he turned around on his stool to stir the cooking stew. "It all begins with the fact that all the Kingdoms of Sarbenia divided to better protect themselves after Nizrock fell so many years ago. They thought if they had three separate kingdoms there would be more protection than there would have been with one huge one.
“But also the blood of the Ravilla royal line is the richest in all of the Sarbenian Kingdoms for Slavad was a true Sargen. He was blessed by the Great Sarben to lead Ravilla. The blood of the royal line today is sadly being tainted, and many Ravillians refuse to unite under a tainted king."
"Tainted?" said Ziaxe, confused. "You mean to say that neither our Great King Broniton nor the King of Zaria is a Sargen?"
"Yes, Ziaxe, that is exactly what I mean. The pure blood is very tainted in Broniton. Though Broniton refuses to admit it, the three Sarbenian Kingdoms have had a little tension in the past several years. Zaria and Ravilla are having trouble trusting Broniton ever since the Battle of Berania where he fought Vician. It confused everyone to see that he was wielding the Blade of the Nizain.
“I understand that you probably don't know very much about the Nizain, but the Power of the Nizain is usually passed down from father to son. Since everyone was sure that there was no possible way that Broniton was the son of the last Nizain, there were rumors that maybe Broniton killed the Nizain and usurped his power. I fear a war may one day erupt between the kingdoms if they are not united under one king."
"But a Sargenian king wouldn't kill the Nizain, would he?" asked Ziaxe. "The Nizain protects Sargenia. He tries to make peace between the countries."
"No one can know for sure, Ziaxe."
After a few moments of silence where the only noise in the room came from the boiling of the stew and the sounds of birds chirping and flying outside, Alavar announced that the stew was finished. He took out two wooden bowls and spoons and poured some of the stew into each bowl. Ziaxe sat on the other stool across from Alavar and took his bowl with a polite "thank you, Professor."
They began to eat what Ziaxe thought was the most delicious thing he had ever eaten. Alben had never been that great of a cook, and he rarely ever did cook since he was occupied with farming the fields and drinking. He greatly appreciated Alavar's kindness.
While they ate, Ziaxe remembered something. "Professor?" he said. "You didn't finish what you were going to say about my parents."
Alavar had been taking a sip from his stew-filled spoon. When he lowered the spoon he made a thoughtful look and scratched his beard. "I didn't?" he said, almost to himself. "By Sarben's Light, I must really be losing my memory after all. All right, Ziaxe, let's see." He twirled the end of his beard. "I told you that your father, Javen. He was a great warrior and a kind man. Your mother, Levandra I recall, was a beautiful woman with long brown hair and deep hazel eyes. Your uncle Alben does slightly resemble her since he was her brother. And you, of course, have her eyes."
Ziaxe had always imagined his mother as a beautiful woman who loved everything in the world and saw wonderful light in even the darkest places. This imagined image of his mother was one of the only things he had left that reminded him that his family and heritage was not something to be ashamed about. He felt a comfort hearing his parents described in such a nice manner.
"Professor… was Alben always like… how he is?" he asked the question very tentatively, trying not to make it sound rude.
The professor made a somewhat sad smile as if reminiscing on days long gone. "You need to understand, Ziaxe," he said, "that Alben is trapped in a situation not many people can escape."
"What do you mean, Professor?" asked Ziaxe, his curiosity growing and growing.
"What I mean is that Alben is in a situation that either way he goes about it he will find pain. He became obsessed with drinking after your mother died. I remember the poor, innocent man trying to find a way to forget about his pain. He came to my house and told me to watch over you the day you were born while he said he needed some alone time. I understood his pain of losing someone very close to him so I agreed to watch you for the night. Of all the memories I tend to forget I remember that memory as one of the brightest—the memory of you right after you were born." He chuckled to himself. "It's amazing to have watched you grow."
Ziaxe smiled at the kind, old man. He never knew that Alavar had watched over him before. He realized that he did sometimes view Alavar as a father figure, but he never thought that Alavar had actually acted as his father before, watching over him when he was so young.
"Wonderful times," said the professor, still smiling, thoughts lost in another time. Then as he returned to the conversation, his face grew solemn again. "Yes, and so Alben had gone out to the rich district hoping to somehow find a miracle to take away his sadness and anger at the world. He stumbled into a tavern and became friends with the bartender. That was the first time he had ever drunk rum, and he has never stopped since. You see, Ziaxe, the situation is that drinking as much rum as he does gives him pain in the morning as he tries to sober himself, but if he stopped drinking he would be reminded of the pain of his lose. It’s either physical pain or emotional pain. Do you understand?"
"Yes, I think I do," replied Ziaxe. "This morning, actually, he seemed to have felt this old pain again."
"Oh yes," said Alavar as he twirled his beard again. "Every year on Levandra's birthday he vows to not drink for the whole day. I think it is very noble of him."
Ziaxe finally understood Alben's strange mood that morning. His poor uncle had been remembering his lose and that brought him pain he was not accustomed to. Ziaxe felt a sudden sympathy for him. His uncle had only been trying to do what Levandra would have wanted him to do by taking care of Ziaxe, but Alben would have to suffer from the memory of his sister's death every time he looked at Ziaxe.
"I guess so," said Ziaxe, the sad thoughts filling his mind. "Do you… know where my father went?"
Alavar's face stared at the table, eyes dismal and distant. "Well, Ziaxe, Javen went on an important mission before you were born…. It's hard to explain, but that mission affected his life greatly. You'll learn about it someday. I know you will."
Ziaxe decided to let it drop since Alavar's tone suggested he could say nothing more, so they continued to eat the delicious stew. Ziaxe suddenly remembered something else important that he was rather hesitant to bring up.
"Er… Professor?" he said slowly, picking his words carefully. "I had the strangest dream last night."
Alavar let go of his spoon, making a sharp clink as it landed in the bowl, and his eyes narrowed. He seemed suddenly alert. "Dream?" he said quickly. "Explain it!"
Ziaxe started at the professor's sudden interest, and then very carefully explained his dream. He began with him being in complete Darkness and then to him in the bright Light. Also he explained the voices he heard. He didn’t reveal the identity of the beautiful angel though, thinking that was too personal.
"Very curious," said Alavar almost to himself with a distant look. "You say you heard two voices: one in the Dark and one in the Light."
"Yes, Professor," replied Ziaxe, anxiously awaiting an answer, a possible explanation of the dream.
"Well, Ziaxe, this is hard to explain. You may not believe this, but you may have been visited by the gods."
Ziaxe's eyes widened with surprise. "The gods? You mean Sarben and Ziavaxe?"
"Yes, Ziaxe," replied Alavar with a solemn face. "The World of Dreams is very close to the World of the Gods. You may not believe it, but the gods use dreams sometimes to contact the ones who they wish to contact."
"But why would the gods want to contact me?" asked Ziaxe, perplexed and a little frightened.
"No one can be sure, Ziaxe, but I want you to listen." Alavar stared straight into Ziaxe's eyes, holding them in place to make sure there were no misunderstandings. "I have seen the gods also in my dreams. Know that you are not mad. You are special in that the gods have invited you into their task. We may not know what the task is or when it will take place, but there will be a task."
"Does this include the other gods? Like the ones the Harvorens and Walrans worship?"
"That is not likely, Ziaxe. You are a child of Sarben, a citizen of Sargenia, so he is the one who would have contacted you. Ziavaxe might have been against whatever Sarben was trying to tell you so he was attempting to interfere with your dream."
Ziaxe was a little afraid at his sudden inclusion in some divine task. His hands shook slightly around his bowl of stew. He didn’t ask to help any powerful god. He was just a simple peasant. "What about what—I guess—Ziavaxe said about my heritage and name?"
"Well, Ziaxe, your heritage is truly hidden by the fact that we don't know your father's heritage," said Alavar, twirling his beard. "We don't know what your true race is. But your name is a different thing. I never understood why your father named you 'Ziaxe.'"
"Why? What's wrong with my name?"
"Ziaxe…." Alavar's face turned grave. "Your name means 'One of Darkness.' In the ancient times when Ziavaxe ruled the entire world, his followers were called 'Ziaxes.' This was a sign of worship to the God of Darkness, but as the years went by, Ziavaxe lost his control over the world when Sarben came with the Light. As Sarben's Light spread around the world, Ziavaxe's religion of the world being once in complete Darkness seemed faulty.
"But then a Ziaxe named Vician came along. I know you know the name well from my stories. He appeared to be a prophet of Ziavaxe, traveling around the world gathering followers. The problem was that the followers began seeing Vician as a god instead of Ziavaxe. This caused the followers to call themselves Vidians to show their fealty to Vician. They were simply a replica of the Ziaxes, but they seemed to feel more comfortable worshiping Vician instead of a god they could not see."
Ziaxe could understand that. People always seemed to find comfort in worshiping another mortal person than a divine god who may or may not be real. Like the Nizain or a king. The people worshipped each generation of the Nizain for they protected the world and kept the balance between Light and Darkness.
Their conversation died down for a while as they silently ate their stew and Ziaxe contemplated everything Alavar was revealing.
When Alavar finished his stew, he stood up. "This reminds me of something," he said. He walked over to his dresser and opened the bottom drawer. "It's your birthday soon, is it not?"
"Yes, Professor," said Ziaxe as he finished his stew and looked inquiringly at the professor.
The professor pulled an object that was a few feet long covered in a dirty, white cloth out of the drawer. He brought it over to the table and set it in front of Ziaxe.
Ziaxe hesitantly removed the cloth from around the object. He found that the object was a bow with a quiver full of arrows. The bow was made of strong, slender wood and the arrows were sharp tipped with iron. The quiver had a strange symbol on it, covered in dust gathered from several years of disuse. The symbol looked like the simple letter "V."
"Oh my…" mumbled Ziaxe, surprised. "Is this for me?"
"Yes, Ziaxe," replied the professor with a warm smile. "It is from Javen. This was what your father left for you before he left. I just hope that you feel more confident about your father now. He was truly a great man."
Ziaxe looked at the bow like it was a newborn baby and thought to himself, Thank you... Father. The words sent a chill through him like a phrase that one never expects to hear since it is something so impossible and incredible, like a sweet saying of love and respect that can bring a smile to anyone's face.
Alavar turned to look at his fireplace with a big grin on his face. The fire reflected off of his half-moon spectacles like a fiery dancer. "Well, Ziaxe, I think it's about time you return home," he said. "I'm sure your uncle is back from the crop fields by now."
Ziaxe seriously doubted that, but he nodded and stood up.
“And know this, Ziaxe,” said Alavar, solemnly, his face hard and still like a statue, “we live in momentous times. I feel the end of an age and the beginning of a new one approaching.”
The words puzzled Ziaxe, but he knew the professor well enough to know how difficult it was to get answers out of him. He said his farewells and left with the only gift he had ever received from his father and a plethora of knowledge he never expected to learn.
As Ziaxe had predicted, Alben was not home. Even though it was nearing sunset, his uncle was still missing. For all he knew, Alben was not even at the crop fields but at the tavern in the rich district instead. Ziaxe found his uncle's lack of a sense of responsibility very irritating. It was nearing winter, and the harvest needed to be finished.
The sun had set, and the moon was rising, a small orb of Light in the sea of Darkness. But there was still no sign of Alben. Ziaxe grew tired of waiting for his uncle, so he decided to go outside, to seek release from the pain his life sometimes caused, from the loneliness that came with having no parents or trustable family members.
The cool breeze of an autumn night greeted him when he walked outside, gently brushing his ever-growing, shaggy hair back from the front of his face. The stars were out, little dots that kept their short distance from the moon, small and insignificant in its glory. Ziaxe felt the peace and relaxation that came with a quiet night. All he could hear was the sound of the wind and the sound of the fish in the distant pond swimming around in their small area of freedom.
He walked towards the pond and saw his two closest friends sitting on the boulders looking out at the pond. He felt a short sense of jealousy as he saw Kron sitting with Venna in what some could call a "romantic night." Strangely, Ziaxe saw Professor Alavar also on one of the boulders, looking distantly towards the rich district as if sensing something that no other could. It seemed that he was not the only one who wished to enjoy the peaceful night.
Ziaxe started to walk to his friends when he heard the sound of horseshoes clopping in the distance. He looked at the road that wound to the rich district and saw a group of approaching horsemen coming at a hastily gallop. The horseman in front was soon clearly visible, and Ziaxe saw that he was obviously someone royal. The man wore mighty gold armor that covered his brawny physique and had a large sword in a sheath belted across his back. The chestnut horse he was riding was obviously a war horse that was bred just for charging and galloping, a muscular beast that reflected the strength of its rider. Behind him were several Beranian soldiers wearing regular iron armor while carrying a variety of weapons.
The lead horseman arrived in the poor district after only a few moments of galloping on his horse, his form going from a speck in the distance to a full-sized man. Professor Alavar and Ziaxe's friends showed signs of surprise at the small army while Ziaxe watched, detached from the others. The professor changed his look of surprise to a look of loathing and contempt as if he hated the leading, regal horseman. But Ziaxe saw something else there, a small look of acceptance as if the professor knew the horsemen were coming.
When the lead horseman stopped his chestnut horse by the boulders, Ziaxe could see that he sat on a saddle embroidered with shining jewels and emeralds of many colors. The man removed his golden helm, and Ziaxe could see that he had a short black beard and long hair. He had a handsome face with blue eyes that looked full of determination yet distant in some strange way. He had the look of a person one would avoid if one had to compete against.
The man seemed to examine each of the four residents of the poor district for a few moments. Venna didn’t appear to interest him, but he appeared to look at Kron and Ziaxe in great detail as if measuring them as one would measure up an opponent. But when he looked to Alavar, and saw the professor's look of contempt he raised his eyebrow and made a small, arrogant smile.
"How art thou, Great Professor?" asked the man with an archaic language and a tone that seemed to have a hidden sense of hatred.
"I art well, Virok," replied the professor with a tone of insulting sarcasm as he stood up off his boulder.
"Very good, then," said the man, ignoring Alavar's intended insult. "I see thou art enjoying this glorious night of nights."
"Yes, I am…." Alavar glared at the man. "Now what do you want?"
The man grinned, amused. "The professor is most impatient… like always."
"I'm not impatient. I just can't stand your attempt to beat around the bush. A great general, like yourself, doesn't just visit the poor district on a daily basis." Alavar seemed to slightly enjoy being mockingly rude.
"Well, Alavar, it has been brought to mine attention that Prince Farli has gone missing a few days ago. And I know that thou dost teach his Highness at the consent of our king. Wouldst thou knoweth where his Highness may have disappeared to?"
"The prince is missing?" gasped the professor. He genuinely appeared to have been shocked for a moment, but the expression slowly turned to a mysterious smile. "Where could he have gone?" he said with feigned and exaggerated curiosity.
Virok looked like he was about to lose his temper, but he controlled his anger and let out a deep sigh. "Thy humor sickens me, Alavar. If thou knoweth where the prince is, tell me."
"Silly Virok," said Alavar in a joking tone. "Prince Farli is safe out of your grip now. I'd really hate to see what will happen to you when Broniton hears about this."
"I fear no man, Alavar!" screamed Virok. "I know thou art hiding something. If thou dost not tell me now, I will arrest thee for defiance of a royal officer!"
Alavar chuckled. "Look at the Great General Virok in all of his glory," he said sarcastically. "He makes threats to old men just to get attention."
That was the last straw to Virok. "Guards!" he yelled to his horsemen. "Arrest this scum!"
A few of the horsemen dismounted instantly and came at Alavar with spears and swords. Alavar stood still, peacefully awaiting them, that look of acceptance on his face. He was easily chained up and placed on his stomach onto a horse, looking almost like how a rolled up carpet would be placed on a horse.
Alavar was still chuckling to himself, somehow acting triumphant despite his being arrested. "Goodbye, students!" he yelled to Ziaxe and the others. "Have a great night!"
Ziaxe was stunned at the suddenness of all that had just happened. He had just seen the famous General Virok for the first time ever, and he should be fascinated to be in his presence, in the presence of one of Berania's mightiest warriors. But the general was arresting the closest thing Ziaxe had to a father, and Ziaxe could not stop him. He couldn’t move at all to do anything.
General Virok reared his horse around and went in front of his men. Before they galloped away, Virok looked back over his shoulder, unmistakably straight at Ziaxe. A strange sense of understanding passed between them, a feeling that Ziaxe could not understand, a feeling that they were somehow connected in some way. At that moment, Ziaxe knew that he had met a powerful enemy.