She had left her Outworlders to their own devices. If they lost their purses to pickpockets or offended someone by mistake, well, there was no better way to learn a lesson than the hard way. They would have to learn to survive on their own by the time they took up residence here in the fall. If one could survive in Terruth City, one could survive almost anywhere.
As she rounded the corner, the main building of the Terruth Training Academy came into view, surrounded by flowering trees and impressive gardens that the students tended to. She stopped for a moment to appreciate it; it had been nearly a decade since she had last walked up to this building. Gabriella had attended all three Academies, a rare student, though she had excelled at Weaponry and Kyor rather than Healing. She had never taken her Mage tests; she suspected that she teetered on the borderline of the highest level Sorceress and lowest level Mage. Given this choice, she preferred practicing as an excellent Sorceress rather than scarcely a Mage. She had not progressed far in the Academy of Healing, but that bothered her little. A mediocre Healer, Gabriella knew enough to Heal most battlefield-class wounds sufficiently, though the wounds Dar had appropriated last Cycle had tested her strength.
Nostalgia washed over Gabriella as she climbed the stairs to Chancellor Kemple’s office. Students in different color uniforms hurried past her on their way to their classes. Instructors strolled by discussing the finer points of their disciplines, and harried school officials bustled about, tending to Academy business.
In the Chancellor’s reception chamber, a drowsy looking young man posed behind a large oaken desk littered with scrolls and ink-bottles. Gabriella walked sedately past him to the Chancellor’s elaborately carved doors.
“Just a minute, tevnera, you mustn’t just barge in there.” With growing alarm, the aide hastened to intercept her. “Now see here, that’s the Chancellor in there –”
Gabriella pushed the doors open as the young aide hurried past her. A spry older man looked up with surprise at the interruption.
“Ker Chancellor, my most humble apologies, she just walked right in without a by-your-leave. Terribly sorry, Ker Chancellor, terribly sorry.” The aide bowed several times with chagrin.
Gabriella suppressed a scoff; the man was the Chancellor of a training school, not a king or an emperor.
Looking somewhat embarrassed, Chancellor Kemple waved dismissively at his aide and turned further in his leather seat to see who had insisted upon an audience without an appointment. His eyes grew round with recognition as he stared at Gabriella. She smiled slightly and waited.
The Chancellor turned to the distinguished gentleman sitting across from him. “Ker Malvern, this is a matter that requires my immediate attention. You understand, of course.” He rose and bowed with respect to Ker Malvern.
Malvern stared at the Chancellor angrily, speechless at his dismissal. Gabriella could see that he was a man accustomed to dismissing others rather than being dismissed himself. Finally, he nodded curtly and straightened his expensive gray robes as he swept past Gabriella, a string of profuse apologies from the Chancellor’s aide sounding in his wake.
“Gallagher, do stop that nonsense, will you?” the Chancellor snapped. “And reschedule the rest of my appointments for tomorrow. Go on, run along.” He waved his hand peremptorily.
Gabriella waited until the eager young aide closed the doors meekly. “Nice aide you’ve acquired,” she commented dryly. The Chancellor looked well, though his hair had silvered considerably since she had last seen him, lending a dignified air to an already noble persona.
“Ugh, that boy. He’s new, you know. All that – that genuflecting business has got to stop.” He paused to look at Gabriella. “Well, kelendra, you’re looking well. Please,” he gestured at the empty seat across from him.
Chancellor Kemple took his seat after she sat down across from him. For a moment, he said nothing. “So. The time has come.”
Gabriella nodded. “The time has come.”
He sat back in his chair and studied her over his steepled hands. “The Prophecy?”
“Has been initiated.”
“Initiation? Already? That’s the second rule of prophecies….”
Gabriella knew that, of course. “Evocation occurred late last Cycle.”
“I see. And initiation?”
“The Shepherd assumed his name.”
Chancellor Kemple nodded thoughtfully as he stroked his neatly trimmed beard. “All five have you?”
Gabriella nodded. “They all arrived together.”
“Really? How odd.”
“It gets more so,” Gabriella said.
“Kemple, they’re… they’re not from this Land.”
Kemple’s silver eyebrows shot up. “What do you mean, they’re Children of the Sea?”
Gabriella shook her head.
Looking quite perplexed, Kemple fumbled for an explanation. “You don’t mean that they’re from past the desert? No one’s been across the desert in Eras….”
Gabriella shook her head again. How was she to explain this? She thought it quite likely that he would think her mad and call for Healers once she tried to explain that they were Outlanders… indeed, Outworlders.
“No? But… but I don’t understand.” A sudden idea occurred to Kemple. “Tallasesh?” he whispered, as if the very name would call untold evils to visit him.
Gabriella would have found his fright amusing if she did not have such a task facing her as she did. She shook her head again and said, “Kemple, you’re going to have trust me when I tell you this. I found it nearly incomprehensible myself….” Seeing that she had the Chancellor’s full attention, she took a deep breath and forged ahead. “They’re not… of this land, of this world, at all.”
Chancellor Kemple stared at her. After a moment, he whispered, “How is that possible?”
Gabriella shrugged and shook her head. “I don’t know. In fact, they don’t know how they got here. Some strange… anomaly brought them here with no warning. Kemple,” she leaned closer, “they had never heard of kyor in their world. Kyor does not exist in their world.”
Gabriella had never seen the Chancellor at quite such a loss for words. He licked his lips and turned around in his seat to the sideboard behind him.
“Drink?” he asked, not waiting for an answer. He handed her a small glass of posch and drank his own down.
She sipped hers slowly and waited for Kemple to relax again. She remembered a time, not so many Cycles ago, when she sat in this very chair, waiting to find out why she had been summoned to the Office of the Chancellor of Terruth Training Academy, quite beside herself with concern that she would be expelled for some unknown crime.
She fidgeted in the leather chair, hearing it creak with each shift of nervousness. What had she done? Had they learned of her and Ramon? Surely she couldn’t be dismissed for such a thing….
“And this,” came a voice as the heavy oaken doors opened, “is our young Defender.”
Ice chilled her veins. A direct reference to the mira’setzu’s Foretelling! But how could they know? She had told no one, nor had she told anyone of the long journey from her homeland.
An older man with graying hair and a well-kept beard stood aside as three other men walked into the office. She knew the bearded man to be the Chancellor of the Academy, but did not recognize those in his company.
“Gabriella, I am the Chancellor Kemple of the Academy, which I expect you knew. This,” Chancellor Kemple held an introductory hand out to Gabriella, “is Gabriella, a Sixth Cycle Weaponry student, Intermediate Level Healer, and Level One Sorceress.”
Gabriella smiled a bit nervously, wondering why she was being introduced to these men by the Chancellor of all people. Who were they and what did they want with her? She rose hastily and smoothed her plaited hair. She felt rather strange curtsying in her practice leathers; indeed, curtsying to anyone was still something of a novelty to her. As an Imperial Princess, there were very few people to whom she’d had to curtsy. But that title no longer held any meaning.
“Gabriella, I am Idris, of the Order of Oracles.” The Keltoi stepped forward and bowed slightly.
Her eyebrows shot up, unable to conceal her amazement. An Oracle, bowing to a student in a training school? Something strange was certainly afoot. Certainly they didn’t know her identity…. How could they?
The next man stepped forth and introduced himself as Professor Hobart, the Director of Foreign Studies for the Terruth Academy of Kyor. He, too, bowed to her, raising her level of apprehension.
The third man was an assistant to the Oracle, a student of ancient prophecy, though not, he apologized, an oracle himself. When he, too, bowed, Gabriella began to panic. They somehow knew who she was… could they make her go back? She considered making a run for the door, rendering herself Invisible… but she was overreacting. Best to know one’s enemy before fighting him, she recalled Armsmaster Gensen’s words.
The Chancellor waved his hand vaguely and three more leather chairs appeared around his desk, each facing Gabriella. She bit her lip. It looked as though she would be here for some time. Was this an interrogation, then?
“Relax, kelendra,” said the Chancellor kindly.
Kelendra? It had been long since she had been addressed so. Furthermore, it sealed her fate.
“How did you know?” she asked calmly, an emotion she did not feel.
The Chancellor looked to the Oracle of the Order. “Er – Idris?”
“Perhaps we never might have, were it not for several prophecies submitted by Empaths and Prophets alike from Brillabar, Danyon, Pendymonon, quite a few from Terruth City and the Kellendori Downs and even a few from the Free Lands. Those prophecies all bore one similarity. You.”
She stared at the Keltoi, not daring to breathe. She had been through all of those regions. Since no one else ventured to say anything, each measuring her response, she strove to keep her voice level as she asked quietly, “Am I to be sent back, then?”
She couldn’t go back! Not after all she’d endured here. And her father would certainly imprison her, if not kill her, for directly disobeying an Imperial order.
“No, no, my dear girl. You mustn’t go back; indeed, it would mean certain death for you.” Idris paused, enjoying the effect his words were having upon her. Curse these Oracles who thought themselves so superior!
Idris leaned forward. “Has no one spoken to you of a prophecy, then?”
Gabriella considered. Was she to trust them? She did not yet know their intentions….
“Idris, perhaps you should back off the girl a bit,” suggested Hobart mildly, unconcerned over the Oracle’s resulting scowl.
“Gabriella, please understand that we are here to work with you. You have done nothing wrong, nor will you be punished in any way. In fact, you will continue to train here at the Academy as long as you like.”
Gabriella relaxed minutely.
“However, there is the matter of this prophecy. Now, I know that you, as an Imperial Princess, either did something to incur the wrath of your father, or else fled some occurrence of disastrous nature, since few of your people care to visit our land of ‘Simple Folk’ merely for pleasure.” Hobart smiled rather wryly at the term given his Land by her people.
She sat still and waited for him to continue.
“Whatever your reason for being here, we have reason to believe that your presence fulfills a rather powerful prophecy. Have you been approached by anyone, either in Tallasesh or in our Land, about such a prophecy?” Hobart asked.
Her mind was reeling. A powerful prophecy? She chose her words carefully. “I was – approached. A mira’setzu Empath in Tallasesh told me of a Foretelling.” She repeated Sanza ra ’Malveri’s Foretelling. Foretellings differed slightly from Prophecies; Prophecies could be added on to where Foretellings were complete.
Idris, Hobart, and the Chancellor each stared at her. Finally, Idris told her, “There is more to just knowing the Prophecy.” She blinked solemnly. “You are the Defender of the Prophecy and you must by all means, see to it that it is carried out. Do you understand? Once it goes into effect, whenever that may be, that is, you are to watch over the members of the Prophecy.
“This is no small feat laid upon your shoulders. The Prophecy must be carried out.”