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Rise of Heroes

By Joana Dimitrova All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy

Blurb

In a land where magic awakens from its long sleep evil is lurking in the shadows. The fate of the three kingdoms - Roder, Anamir and Kevlar is about to change forever.They need to stand together but would that be even possible? Jaden had only known war and sacrifice throughout his life. Being the heir to a kingdom that is falling apart he had never seen any other fate but to fight and die for his people. But when the enemy he faces seems to have come from one's worst nightmare Jaden needs to make the most difficult choice - run or fight. His firm hand and unshakable resolve falters when he meets her, the girl from his visions.Torn between duty and love he is forced to choose between what is best for his kingdom and what is best for his heart. In addition to his inner struggle, his concern for his people and the impending war, he is betrayed by his own flesh and blood in the midst of the most crucial moment of their lives. With the darkness stretching its deadly claws further and further, the magic that once flew through the veins of those two bore the gift is waking up. The time for reckoning has come. The Third Shadow War is starting.

Prologue

“It’s happening.”

The silence that followed was deafening, full of tension and dread.

The two girls stared at the Oracle with wide eyes, the light of the few lit candles deepening the concern painted on their faces. It was well past midnight and the rest of the temple was fast asleep. And so were they, a few minutes ago, before their sleep was interrupted by a scream.

“Go get Master Brodwyn!” the one that had first stepped into the Oracle’s room said but her companion, too fascinated to respond, didn’t even move from the doorframe, “Go, Bree!”

“But Talia…” the younger girl protested, her eyes switching from the Oracle that had slump next to the bed, to her friend. Few have witnessed a vision and even less – a prophecy – and the idea of them being so close to an Oracle producing one was exciting to say the least. All of their sound mind and restraint had been left forgotten in their rooms when the opportunity to bear witness to the making of a historical moment occurred.

Talia gave the girl another stern look, hoping that her age would give her some authority and that she wouldn’t be the one running barefoot to the East Wing. Bree sighed in defeat and swiftly turned on her heel, sprinting out of the room and down the corridor. The sound of her steps faded away in the silence of the night leaving Talia alone with the Oracle.

“Oracle, can you hear me?” Talia asked while carefully making her way to the bed. Her hands tucked a strand of dark, curly hair behind her ear only for it to fall back in front of her face. She hadn’t had the time to properly dress or pull back her wild curls as all of them were taught to, she was just too eager to check on the source of the piercing scream that had interrupted her slumber.

Bree, her friend who occupied the room next to Talia’s, had acquired the same idea so both of them had found themselves in the corridor, exchanging bewildered glances. Without even a word they had rushed to the room in the far end of the North Wing where the Oracle dwelled. She seldom left her chambers and when she did, she rarely talked to any of the pupils apart from the occasional questions she would ask, sometimes leaving even before hearing the answers.

Talia kneeled next to the Oracle, trying to decide if it would be safe to touch her. She did not seem to notice her presence, or anything else for that matter. It seemed almost as if the Oracle had fallen asleep by the bed –her pearl-white dress twisted around her frail frame, her white cowl, slightly tilted back, revealing a streak of dark brown hair underneath.

Talia carefully rose, gently picking up the Oracle by the hand. She lifted her to her feet surprisingly easy and helped her lie in the bed without so much as a sound. The Oracle just relaxed on her back, her eyelids closed but her eyes moving feverishly underneath. Her body kept shaking from time to time but other than that she seemed calm, unnervingly calm.

Talia carefully took the cowl off, letting the Oracle’s head fall back in the puffy pillow with her dark hair spreading around her pale face. She stepped next to the nightstand where one of the lit candles rested and took it with her bare hands, the warmth of the flame quickly heating her prickling skin. She suddenly felt cold, realizing she didn’t even have her slippers on; the only thing she wore was her thin nightgown that brushed her ankles but provided no protection against the night chill.

She began lighting some more candles without letting the other girl out of her sight. The Oracle’s smooth face was still unnaturally calm, obscured by strings of entangled pitch-black hair that was dangling on her sides.

Talia was always stunned by the ordinary appearance of this girl who was everything but ordinary. She had always thought an Oracle would be either extraordinarily beautiful girl that could bewitch a person with just one glance, or quite the opposite – a horrendous creature that spreads mortal fear with its sheer presence. At least that’s how the stories she listened to as a child portrayed them.

But Talia, as well as many others, was so very, very wrong.

Nothing in the Oracle’s face stood out, she didn’t have an extremely feminine figure, nor did she look like a boy. Her dark hair stood limp and sweaty on her pale forehead while her skin and lips seemed to get paler and paler. Nothing special.

Except this time, Talia realized, there was one thing.

Usually brown and warm, her eyes now stared into the void with blind, milky color – a gaze that made every hair on Talia’s body rise. The Oracle’s stare was directed towards the ceiling but it still brought the girl shivers that shook her down to her bones.

“Oracle?” Talia spoke to her once more but no avail. She directed her attention towards the stairs in the hopes that Bree would be coming back soon.

“A child was born into this world. The sacred law has been broken.” the Oracle whispered barely audible, making Talia jump and almost drop the candle on the bed. The wax burned her skin making her eyes twist from the pain so she bit her lip to stop herself from whimpering. Shaking, the Oracle kept staring upward, her sight reaching places only a few chosen ones ever could.

Talia stepped closer, extending her hand and pulling the blanket over the girl’s frail shoulders. She didn’t even seem to notice, her eyes still drifting away.

“What do you mean, Oracle?” Talia asked breathlessly. She had never witnessed an Oracle having a vision. She had only heard of people seeing it and now that she was there, hearing her eerie, uneasy voice, she could barely stop herself from fainting.

The girl didn’t seem like she was planning to answer so Talia didn’t push either. The Oracle suddenly reached out and grabbed her by the wrist, forcing Talia to bite her lips in order to stop the terrified scream that was about to erupt from her throat. The metallic taste of blood spread in her mouth but she was too shocked to notice. Instead, she lowered her gaze to meet the Oracle’s bottomless white eyes. A thrill of horror overcame Talia, almost sending her running and screaming for her life, she felt like hers and the oracle’s feelings became one.

But she stayed, frozen in time, staring down the pale face of the innocent soul who was nothing but a vessel to powers far much greater than any human could comprehend.

“The enemy is on the move. The sacred law has been broken and the Forbidden blood has passed into this world. And He is coming for it.”

“The Forbidden blood? What is that? Who is coming?” Talia couldn’t stop the questions from blurting out and grabbed the girl’s hand only to find it deathly cold. But instead of an answer the Oracle began sobbing, quietly at first then so loud and hysterical that Talia was afraid to imagine what she might be seeing.

“No, no, oh, dear spirits!” the Oracle kept crying, shaking her head violently. Her fingers released Talia only to dig into the girl’s own face, leaving red marks which quickly turned into bleeding wounds. Her eyelids closed as if she was trying to unsee everything that she had seen. The Sight was a blessing bestowed only to the holiest among the people but it was also a curse that only they could bear. It was said that was the reason why all Oracles died very young – one person was just unable to contain such a burden.

“Oracle? What do you see? Oracle!” Talia shouted, shaking the girl by the shoulders. “Elina! What do you see?”

The name had slipped through her lips involuntarily and she almost stopped breathing upon realizing what she had done. Once an Oracle was transformed they seized to be the person they had been before, leaving behind their previous identity, including all attachments and family. They belonged to the world, they were no longer their own person.

Elina had been Talia’s closest friend before the change. But she was the Oracle now. Any reminding of her past life was strongly forbidden and greatly punished if overheard.

Before Talia could have more time to dwell over what she had done the girl in the bed spoke again, her weak, trembling voice was now full of fear and pain.

“I see you, dead.” she whispered, forcing Talia to recoil back in surprise. “Master Brodwyn, dead. The world… crumbling.”

“How? What is going to happen?” Talia stuttered, feverishly grabbing the girl’s hand again. Her previous excitement at the prospect of this adventure had turned into a bitter, nightmarish horror that had tightened its grip around her chest and tirelessly clamped her heart.

“The world of men shall fall.” the Oracle’s voice sounded eerie and fearful, bringing Talia’s worst fears to come to life in front of her eyes, as if she was seeing it too. “The Forbidden blood is here. The Wicked are coming for it. He is coming.”

Talia gasped in surprise. She had vague memories for both of those things – The Forbidden blood and The Wicked. She had heard them mentioned two times - the first time they learned about The Shadow Wars and the second, when they were told how important the Sacred law is and what will happen if it gets broken. The two things she was mortally afraid of, as every human being should be, two things that can bring the end of their world, inevitably linked together.

“Can they be beaten?” Talia asked breathlessly, still not fully aware who ‘’they’’ were .

“Beaten? No. Not him. Never him.” the Oracle’s body suddenly twisted, writhing back in the bed. And she screamed – the most painful and sorrowful scream Talia had ever heard, filled with pleas and prays for death, for an end, for peace.

As if after an eternity of agony, the Oracle’s body relaxed, sweat covering her from head to toe. Her thin nightgown had stuck to her skin, revealing unusually slow breathing.

“Oracle?” Talia whispered, unwilling to touch her as if that may bring her even more pain.

“He saw me. He claimed this vessel. There is no time.” the Oracle blurted out, her eyes staring lifelessly at the ceiling. Talia’s gaze was pulled towards the girl’s chest, her right side now faintly glowing with ghostly light, a vague form of a hand imprint standing out in the middle of it.

Suddenly the light went down getting her attention off the mark and allowing her to hear the steps closing in from the corridor. Talia impatiently turned to look at the door.

“Talia.” the Oracle called, drawing the woman’s attention back to her. “I’ll need you to find me, both me and the Forbidden blood. There is a way to fight Him but I don’t have the time.”

Talia was about to speak when the Oracle gestured for her to lean closer. She obliged, ignoring the sounds of the people approaching them. The Oracle’s eyes were now brown again, tired and dull, slowly fading into oblivion. Talia had almost forgotten to breathe. The words leaving the Oracle’s lips one by one forced a frown on Talia’s face which deepened more and more with each next word. When the Oracle finally stopped to take a deep breath, Talia pulled back.

“Trust no one.” the Oracle whispered extending a hand towards Talia. Her thin, long fingers touched the girl’s face and Talia jumped, surprised at the jolt of energy that rushed through her skin. “You can only trust me.” Her body had started convulsing again, her hands trembling uncontrollably. “Find me, Talia. You have to find me. You will know when you do.”

And with that, her body arched on the bed and a loud, terrifying cracking sound broke the momentary silence. The moment she fell back down half a dozen people rushed into the room, Master Brodwyn standing right in the front of the group. His fluffy face was flushed with blood, veins pulsating on his neck from the effort. He was breathing heavily, one hand pressed against his chest as if to stop his heart from popping out. He took a few long seconds to steady his breathing and examine the room before returning his attention back to the bed and Talia standing next to it with wide eyes and gaping mouth.

It was not their arrival, or even the question, that got her staring speechless but the Oracle’s last words. This was insane, if she could not trust Master Brodwyn, the High Warden of the Temple, who could she trust?

“What… what happened?” the man asked as the other people that were piling at the door finally found their way in. Two of them were women, fully dressed in white as it was behooved. The third person was Bree who was gaping at the sight, eyes switching from Talia to the body of the Oracle and back.

Master Brodwyn’s attention finally stopped on the motionless girl in the bed and he took a nervous step forward but his determination wavered even before he reached the bed.

Talia slowly rose from where she was kneeling, trying to stop herself from shaking. Her mind was slammed with questions, fears, ideas and plans, so much that she needed at least a few seconds to find her voice. Right before Elina had died she had given Talia one last touch, one last request, one last clue. Now Talia had to wait and observe.

“She’s dead. The Oracle is dead.” Talia said in a few seconds without looking at the body of her former friend.

Trust no one. The words echoed in Talia’s mind. Find me.

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