A BLIND ORACLE
CH A BLIND ORACLE
Two weeks later, Yurieth watched Adamos and Abrieth fly off with one of the House of Odini to the build site hidden in the far northern mountains. It was a day of rest and most of the castle staff had gone home to the village to be with their families for the five-day-long Festival of Days celebrated around the Summer Solstice. He walked through the castle and out to the gardens. Fleur was sitting very still with her arm held out. Her upturned palm held a small red saucer. Hummingbirds were dancing and flitting around her like a swarm of living jewels.
“You’ve been avoiding me again,” she announced in a low voice.
“Yes,” Yurieth was surprised that she could sense him, and he knew there was no point in lying to her, she was an oracle.
“Ask me the question that weighs heaviest on your heart?”
Yurieth hesitated, if what he has heard her tell his parents is true, he will never know his brother in this time. “Were my brother and I close?”
She lowered her arm slowly, resting the saucer on her lap. Her head was bowed slightly. “Yes, you were very close. After you were rescued and healed, you and Abrieth both spent a lot of time with Kaleth, but you were closer to him because Abrieth had Serapha and you were alone. Kaleth shared everything he had with you. He made me promise to find you someone to love and always take care of you when he was away. There was much happiness and laughter when we weren’t at war. The two of you trained together, fought together, and hunted together. You lived with us at his insistence because he refused to let you feel alone. And you were one of his last thoughts, he told me to heal your heart so you could find love again. He loved you and was proud to call you his brother.” Tears ran down her face as the memories squeezed her heart and for a moment, he regretted asking.
Fleur stood up and turned to face the garden wall, her hand closed convulsively around the oracle stone and it flashed. The saucer fell to the stones at her feet and shattered. A strange glowing symbol inscribed oval appeared above them and a volley of arrow hit it as the hummingbirds scattered. Yurieth had seen her use them in the battle against the shadow creature.
“The dark one is here” she gasped out. She felt the familiar sicken cold of a shadow just beyond the wall. The sun became obscured as is by a storm but there were no clouds.
“We need to go now,” Yurieth ordered, shocked as he felt the Darkness through her. He had felt something similar when the late Queen of Xelusia had touched him.
He felt the next attack coming and pulled her toward the garden entrance, as the wall where they were standing exploded. A volley of arrows shattered the glyph that still hovered where they had been. A second explosion rocked the main gate. Guardsmen wearing the King’s black and gold rushed into the grounds. Yurieth was grateful that Fleur always insisted on wearing the deep brown with green trim of the House of Adamos instead of the frivolous bright pastels and jewel tones other royal ladies of the King’s court favored.
A man in black and red with red eyes walked haughtily through the courtyard, “Find the woman. The oracle, she must be here, she is of the House of Adamos.”
Thar guardsman captain asked, “But what of the Lords of Adamos?”
“Kill them if they resist giving her to me,” he ordered, “She is the only one who needs to leave this place alive.”
“But Lord Crux, they are Royals. Adamos is one of the first hous...” the man started but Crux seized him by the throat.
“Do you want to join them, captain?” Crux roared and the man choked and pulled at his hand.
Yurieth and Fleur crept back and he quickly lead her deep into the garden hoping to make the rear of the castle. The ancestral home of the House of the Adamos had a lake on one side and forest on the other sides but there were meadows between the walls and the forest edge. The sound of warriors ahead, has him pulling her into a sheltered nook. As he pulls his hood up to hide in blonde hair in the shadows, she covered her pale hair with her shawl, and he notices the lines on her face beginning to darken. His knee length Huntsman’s coat was the same dark brown as her dress and the cedar wall behind them. His magic allowed them both sink into the shadows and vanish.
“How bad is it?” she whispered. “I can barely sense anyone beyond the one who is indwelled.”
“We are completely surrounded, both inside and outside the walls. We must make it to the edge of the forest,” he whispered back.
Her brow furrows as she concentrated, “Can you escape without me?” she asked.
“I will not leave you, my lady,” he said firmly.
“Listen to me, Huntsmen, if they take me, we will have to travel through the forest, and you can get me back from them. On the open ground between the castle and the forest, my blindness makes me a liability. Besides your father and his allies must be warned that they are moving against us. And I need you to get my sword, Kaleth’s sword.”
“He looked down at her curiously, “What about my brother’s sword?”
“I need it to kill the indwelled one. He carries a shadow; I can feel it.” She insisted, “Get my sword, it is in the chest by my bed. Warn your father and then come rescue me.” She started to pull away but he caught her arm,
“It is too dangerous.”
She raised up on her toes and pressed a kiss to his lips, “For luck,” she whispered and he froze in surprise just long enough for her slip out of his arms. She walked back the way they came with measured careful steps, toward their enemy. He trembled, cursing his heart for pounding. Her lips had felt so soft against his and her soul had caressed his with an overture to not worry. Pulling his hood until only his eyes showed, he used his magic to disappear. His skill learned from both assassins and huntsmen.
Head held high, Fleur walked toward the warriors and the dark one. “I am the oracle, Lady Fleur of the House of Adamos.” They stared at the tiny female wearing the colors of her house, she didn’t look threatening, certainly not enough to warrant an entire squad of the kings’ guards. They all immediately noticed she was blind.
One stepped forward. “I am P’acs, my lady Oracle. Please, this way.” She nodded and walked carefully behind him to Lord Crux.
When she stopped to face him, her beautiful, strangely lined face sneered. “So, the King sent a Xelusian to arrest me, how interesting.” She announced it loud enough for all in the courtyard to hear.
Angrily Crux protested, “I am no Xelusian, woman. I am Lord Crux of the House of Baalru and I ...”
“Do. Not. Lie. To. Me. I may be blind, but I can see what you are, what you carry inside you,” she snapped boldly.
He raises his hand to strike her and her oracle stone flashed brilliantly, momentarily blinding everyone. But Crux staggered backwards and fell as if she had struck him.
Blinking up at her, she was glowing and the dark marks on her face and arms were white-glowing, her scars looped and curled like lace or vines. The guardsmen stared, several have dropped to one knee with heads bowed respectfully. Crux was of a powerful house and the king’s adviser, but she was obviously of the Light, and she just accused him of being a traitor and struck him with the light of the oracles. Since the temples of light had fallen over a thousand years before, most had never even seen an Oracle of the Light.
Crux rose with his features twisted and contorted with rage. She had hurt him with light, and he wanted to kill her, but his masters wanted her alive. He dusted off his robes, “So, I can’t touch you, blind oracle.”
She smirked, revealing, “No, shadowed one, you cannot.”
“Where is Lord Yurieth? He was supposed to be here?”
Fleur shrugged. “Probably off hunting again, he is a Huntsman, sometimes he leaves for days at a time.”
“You expect me to believe they would leave one of the last oracles, a blind woman alone and unguarded?” he sneers.
“I am not helpless as you will soon learn, and I have the entire inside and outside of the castle memorized. Can’t you find your way around your home in the dark?” She was mocking him, and he knew it. He took a step toward her and she began to glow brighter, it hurt, so he stepped back.
“Bring her,” he growled and turned to stalk out of the court yard.
Lady Fleur held out her hand, “I require a guide if we are leaving the castle grounds.”
P’acs stepped forward. “My Lady Oracle, it would be my honor to be your guide.” He placed her hand on his arm, “This way, my lady.”
She smiled at him as her glow faded, “Many thanks, guardsman.” She seemed completely unafraid even though she was unarmed. Fleur walked out with the guardsmen as escort, her head held high like a queen, not in arrogance, but in the calm confidence of someone who knew their power and didn’t need to show it.
Yurieth watched from the shadows. He made three bounding leaps and was over the upstairs balcony rail. He opened her door and found his brother’s sword. Turning it over in his hands, he studied it. He had never seen the metal it was made of, or the inscriptions magically etched into the blade. This sword was not in any of his father’s or brother’s books on weapons. Taking it, he rushed upstairs to grab his pack and weapons. As he hurries to follow, he turned Kaleth’s hooked sword. It is oddly unbalanced, swinging it, he felt the air crackle with static discharge. He read the inscriptions again as he walked, it was written in a strange language that seemed related to Aetherian but wasn’t. He doesn’t want to risk using the weapon without understanding how it works, so he strapped it to his belt.
Just after sunset, they were walking through the forest at the southern border of Adamos territory when the oracle paused. She stopped, holding P’acs back, those surrounding her hesitated.
“Listen to me, Guardsmen,” she whispered in a low voice. Several moved closer to hear. “Prepare yourselves, we are being led into an ambush. There are a great many necromanced creatures ahead, mobs of the undead brought back through dark magic that can only be killed through decapitation. Spread the word, quietly.”
One to her right spoke in a tight, frightened voice. “We cannot see them. How can we fight them in the dark?”
In a hushed tone she answered, “Do not be afraid, I will be your light during the battle, but as soon as their master falls, Lord Yurieth and I will escape, and you must flee down the river to the south and back to the village.”
“But my lady, who will guard you. He is only one.” A warrior on her left whispered.
“He is enough. Promise me, you will all get to safety,” she insisted. “The House of Adamos values all lives, regardless of rank. You do not need to die because of another’s foolishness, not when I can save you.”
There was a murmur among the warriors, they were all from the lowest ranks, common housers or the unhoused, never have they known a royal to care about their lives.
“Cover your eyes with your arm when I tell you or you will be blinded,” she added in a hushed voice.
“Why have you stopped?” Lord Crux demanded.
Lady Fleur walk forward without P’acs, “Lord Crux, we are walking into an ambush, I will not let you kill these men so you can steal me away for your real master.”
Crux sneered at her and she could feel his evil. “What would a blind girl know about our surroundings or about my intentions? The guardsmen are here to protect us, stupid child.”
Lady Fleur narrowed her eyes at him. “Guardsmen, swords out, cover your eyes!” She could feel the mobs of necromanced zombies running toward them. She inhaled, and before she breathed out, light burst from her like a strike of lightning. The powerful pulse of light was followed by a steady bright glow. “Now.”
The creatures were stunned by the brilliant flash and Crux fell to the ground, writhing and convulsing. The guardsmen began slaying the undead creatures rushing from the brush towards them. Fleur walked untouched through the battle, glowing like a lighthouse on a shore. She stopped several feet from Crux as his body contorted and rose. Strange tentacles of smoke and shadow floated around him, moving weirdly as if stirred by a wind the living could not feel. Fleur called her power, using it to ‘see’ the creature before her. As her eyes glowed, she looked at the shadow and was reminded of the ones she has killed in the past, only this time there is no one here to help her fight it.
“Huntsman, I require my sword, ” she called out loudly.
The hooded huntsman lord of the House of Adamos dropped out of the trees above and landed silently on the ground beside her. He towered over her and most of the guardsmen fighting around them. In the glow of her light, he looked menacing. As he placed the unusual sword in her hand, he felt the lightning waiting.
“Stay behind me, Yurieth, and the guardsmen require the fastest path to the river and back to the castle village. Help them. ”
“What is he?” Yurieth demanded, loosing two arrows at full power. The creature didn’t even flinch.
“A servant of Darkness itself.” She stepped forward and twirled. The sword slashed the air crackling with magic and energy.
Lightning, oracle light, and meteorite blade slice a tentacle off the creature, and it fell to the ground disintegrating into profane dust. Her light dimmed for a moment before brightening. Then she leaped forward, attacking Crux in earnest. Yurieth fought along the guardsmen to overcome the creatures coming from the dark forest. Every chance he got he put an arrow into the shadow creature, but they seemed to have little or no effect. Flashes of lightning and oracle light create a weird strobing like the flashes of mage magic on the battlefield, but this wads unlike any battle he ever faced. Always he had faced living warriors, but this army of creatures normally only found in the darkest profane places of Xenitha have his soul shaken, he was not aware they existed on Aetheria . He decapitated one just as Fleur shouted.
An explosion of magical energy flattened all of them and only Lady Fleur was left standing as the creature Lord Crux collapsed into something like oil mixed with soot. There was a rush of wind and the unnatural clouds cleared. A bright moon shined down on them as Fleur sunk to her knees. Exhausted and injured, her light began to fade.
The young Guardsman P’acs ran to her, “Oracle?”
She clutched his shoulder, panting out her instructions. “Flee, P’acs, tell the guardsmen to flee now.”
“But My Lady Fleur, we must protect you,” he insisted.
“I have the Huntsman of Adamos; you all need to go before the creatures regroup.” She reassured him, “Go. And remember, you don’t know what happened to me. I just vanished.”
Shouldering his bow, Yurieth pulled Fleur to her feet with an arm around her waist, “Hold on to me, Fluer.”
She obediently put one arm under his, one over his opposite shoulder and clasped her hands together across his broad chest. “Let’s go, Yuri.”
Yurieth scaled a tree and they vanished into the canopy as the warriors fled to the closest village per the Huntsman’s directions. There they told everyone how the Lord Huntsman and Lady Oracle of Adamos had saved them from the attack and killed a creature made of shadows. Not a single one had been lost, and then the pair had vanished into the forest.