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Chapter 4

Kendra and Salt had been excited about my battle with Zarcar. They knew the end result would be worth talking about for days, if not the rest of my life; depending on how it went. However, it was finally the night that Zarcar would attempt to take everything from me and I wasn’t sure if I was ready. I had spent all day studying in the library on all the spells I could use to defeat him in a small battle.

I was focusing on illusions of the mind, sleeping spells and defence from anything offensive he may dish out. The light he played with in between his finger tips, that night he confronted me on the rooftop, was something I hadn’t seen before.

It was pretty. It was strange. As if an illusion. I wondered if he would use it as a weapon against me.

Regardless, it was time for him to arrive in the next hour and I had a bad feeling yet again. The dark air he breathed seemed to cause my hair to stick on end. It threw my magic right off. Being in tune with nature, the night, the moon, was not something I had to try and achieve. Yet when Zarcar was coming near... it’s as if I felt there was a picture I wasn’t allowed to see and I lost sight of my own path.

A future I wasn’t allowed to know, until everything came crashing down around me at once.

It starts with distant screams.

But first, I was pinning up my hair in my messy bed chamber, hoping the white dress I’ve chosen to wear is strong enough to withstand any physical attacks. I preyed to the moon that Zarcar wouldn’t need to get that close to me. Would he hit a woman if he was losing on the magic front? I hoped he wasn’t the kind to take his power and abuse it. Defeating me with magic, if possible, would be enough. Unless I simply wasn’t aware of the monstrous things he was capable of.

My fingers curl into my hair as I look at the books around me, spread out and cluttering my floor between ribbons and dirty clothes I was yet to clean. That’s when the shadow falls in from the open door way.

“I’m early.”

I freeze, hands up in my curls still as my eyes jump to the mirror and see Zarcar’s figure standing in the door way. Dressed in a black robe, hood pulled over his eyes... a metallic sheen already glinting from the light in my fire place.

Just as I’m holding my breath at his sudden appearance in my bed chamber doorway - I hear the simultaneous screaming from outside. Piercing, high pitched and filled with terror. It’s not one woman. It’s multiple. And it’s coming from the Sun Tower to the left of my own residence.

I turn towards him and want to run past Zarcar to see what the hell is going on, but behind him is a group of personal soldiers. A small army. Maybe guards. Maybe not.

“What the hell did you do?” I ask, a lump in my throat as the screams go on, ”What the hell is happening outside?"

I can’t see Zarcar’s eyes with the shadow of the black hood, but I see a small smile on his lips.

“Chyronex,” he speaks, as if politically, “In my land, if certain orders aren’t obeyed, people die. Often.”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“In any other case like yours, you would be set for execution,” he finally raises his head and pushes back his hood, showing coal painted eyes. War paint. I remain silent and see the heads behind him, chins up and ears pricked as they listen intently to his words. When I look closer I see women in the crowd of the men. Familiar eyes. Downcast gazes. Upturned noses. These weren’t soldiers cloaked in black - these were political leaders. Lords, ladies and such. People from Swendula, allies of Zarcar and his foreign army. They were here to witness something, “However, we reached a bargain.”

“...did we?” I ask.

“I’ve allowed you to battle with me,” from Zarcar’s amused tone, he can barely believe he has uttered these words, “The outcome will be simple. I win, the tower is mine and you submit to my rule without question. Your life belongs to me. If you ‘succeed’... well, you only asked for me to beg for forgiveness -”

“Stop distracting me. Who are the screams coming from outside?” I ask, cutting Zarcar off because I can tell from his strong drawl and eyes, unblinking, he is trying to divert my attention from the noises of terror stricken souls.

“Business,” he explains, tightly and I get a strange sensation that he is being protective, until he adds, “Your sister witches of the Sun are being burned within the hour,” he explains.

"No-!" I lurch forward and try to run past, but even as I get closer he simply holds up an arm and blocks me from running. His entire massive arm, hits my shoulders as I run into it, trying to duck but he simply moves his arm downward. I am already shaking all over, “Let me go! You bastard! Some of them are barely women. You burn children!" I can not control my rage but I can not get past his iron stance. I beat one useless hand to his chest and he simply grabs one of my arms, holding it up far enough that I have to stop struggling.

“Only those guilty of their crimes are being dealt with, no children burn,” he is passionate about this, even though he doesn’t seem to care for the other murder taking place, “If you do not fight me, you break the laws of this agreement and you’re life is in my hands, regardless,” he watches me force myself to calm down, just so I can jerk out of his grip and stagger back a few paces.

“ the rooftop... just you and me...” I whisper, my mind racing with ideas on how I can save the innocent priestesses.

I could curse the wood and stop it from successfully burning, I could call on karma to act faster, hoping someone extinguishes the fire through guilt of lighting it. I just had to think of the right spell - all while fighting Zarcar.

“Fine, but they will stay here and be witness to the conclusion of our ‘battle’ when we’re finished,” Zarcar tilts his head as he steps to the side and holds out his hand, “Move!” he orders the crowd of leaders to part and I storm through quickly, gaining my swift feet - I run for the nearest window and the rooftop.

I hope to gain a few seconds head start.

It was all I would need.

So, I skip past scowling faces and lurch up onto the nearest sill - Zarcar in tow.

I put my feet on the slight architecture outside and hurry to the top. As I’m grabbing the stones before I lurch myself up, my neck tingles with the thought of being closely stalked without an inch of space.

When I turn, Zarcar is silently right next to me all the while, his fingers curling through the end of my white dress, swirling in the wind. It’s harmless yet the small gesture is loud.

I’ve got you right where I want you.

That’s what he was saying.

I pull myself up, my panicked blood helping me move more efficiently. I run to the other side of the tower and I look at the fires being lit in the absent moonlight in Swendula’s city.

It was cloudy.

It is too dark for me to see where the priestesses are being held before they will be executed.

“Face me, Chyronex,” Zarcar commands this, distracting me from thinking up a spell.

I turn because the warrior is now showing through in his tone. No longer high handed. Just calculating and preparing to win a small battle with a mere ‘witch’.

“Who are you really?” I ask, “That you would do this to other magical beings, if you yourself are a sorcerer? You must have ordered their deaths.”

“How I rule is not important. What is, is who I am to you - something you should care to know. I’m a sorcerer of the weather,” Zarcar explains, “I assume you have never been educated so you know nothing about my land where we are haunted by Dragons. The ones to keep the mortals safe are those who kill the beasts and those who tame them. I have a few pet ones myself. Would you like to meet them?”

He is trying to divert my attention again and confuse me.

Besides, Dragons were not real.

I had never seen one myself.

“You play with my mind because you are sick,” I explain, “My spells will overcome you and then when you are through - I will save the innocent women being led to the pyres.”

“Then I suppose we will agree there are no rules in this battle between magics?” Zarcar asks, too innocently and with an all knowing tone.

“Yes. This battle starts now,” I snarl this, gathering my spells of defence and attack to the forefront of my mind.

I wait for him to agree. I don’t expect him to look up at the sky and let out a hauntingly beautiful whistle. Like a song, except it just echoes like a curse of death through the misty air.

And then the fog starts to gather in, clouding in, in a dance around my tower roof top.

And my vision... it’s quickly distorted all while I whisper...moonlight protect me, moonlight defend me, show me the right steps...

Sometimes you just have to ask for simple guidance to win. Luckily for me, the moon answers every time. Even as the unthinkable happens.

Zarcar seems to blur out into the distance, stepping back, while two shadows step forward in his place. My eyes are mystified by what I’m seeing; scaled, red drenched, crimson eyed demons approach me, the size of horses; wings broken and talons clicking on the stones.

Food? one of them speaks, like that of a devilish child, possessed by evil.

“No,” I hear Zarcar even though I can’t see him - but I know he is moving somewhere in the fog, “Just a toy. Make her submit.”

Plaything, another horrible, grotesque noise sighs with pleasure through my head. I had been preparing to fight Zarcar, but now a whole other dimension was involved. And I had no idea how to defend myself from this kind of attack.

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