Two kingdoms at war. One possesses an elite force of fire mages, the other has only remnants of an army.
Pointing to a location on the map before him, Gannon said, “The invaders have stopped here for the time being. We must ride with all haste before they can advance farther.”
“Will you lead this battle yourself?” Efren asked quietly. He feared for his brother’s safety, knowing he had no true experience in battle.
“What else would you have me do, Brother?”
Efren shook his head and sighed quietly. There was no answer he could give that would please the young king. His mind was made up, and he was determined to fight alongside his men.
“We cannot let these attacks go unanswered,” Councilman Faril said, striking his fist against the conference table. He was an older man who had experienced war with Na’zora in the past. Though his hair was gray and his face lined with age, he was strong and determined. “We must push them back into their own lands. Show them we are not a kingdom of cowards.”
“I’m inclined to agree,” Gannon replied. “They began this fighting. It is up to us to end it. I will lead my army personally. Let them see that Ra’jhou’s king is not afraid to fight.”
Efren swallowed hard but did not speak. He hated the thought of Gannon’s first days as king being filled with war, but it was useless to try persuading him to stay behind. His blood ran hot, and he refused to be left behind regardless of matters at home that might need his attention. Nothing was more pressing than the attack on his kingdom. Once the troops rode out, all Efren would be able to do was wait for news from the battlefield.
General Willem, the man who had served under King Nilan, was eager to fight as well. He was tall, broad-chested, and wore a thick black beard. “I can have troops prepared by tomorrow,” he said. “We should take back our lands and push into Na’zora’s territory. Whatever lands we take we will declare them part of Ra’jhou. Let’s show them who they’re meddling with.”
The king grinned and nodded. Noticing Efren’s silence, he said, “What say you, Brother?”
Efren hesitated a moment before speaking. “We know little of our enemy’s forces,” he said. “Na’zora has been known to employ mages in their army. They may prove more powerful than you realize. I recommend caution.”
“This one has no stomach for war,” the general said, looking disgusted. “He would have you lie down before the Na’zoran king.”
“I never said that,” Efren replied. “I simply think it’s wiser to know what we’re dealing with before we rush into battle.”
“You can let me deal with that,” Willem declared. “It’s not as if you’ll be present on the battlefield.”
“No, he won’t be there,” Gannon said. “He must stay behind and tend the kingdom while I’m away.” He looked thoughtfully at his brother, the man who had his full confidence. There was no other who was better suited to the task of seeing to Ra’jhou’s needs while the king was away.
A few of the councilors grumbled at those words, but no one spoke openly against the new king. They worried Ra’jhou would become a kingdom to ridicule if a blind man was left in charge, but they kept their opinions to themselves. The long history of war with Na’zora made them more inclined to support their king’s decisions. With luck, the king would return victorious in a short amount of time. Efren wouldn’t have the chance to mess things up too badly.
“We ride tomorrow,” Gannon declared. “Dismissed.”
The councilors marched out the door, talking among themselves. Their voices spoke excitedly, anticipating the battle to come. All were in favor of war.
Efren remained behind after the other councilors had gone. “Take care of yourself out there,” he said to his brother. “We have never before encountered Na’zora’s mages, not even when our father sat on the throne. They might prove far more dangerous than you expect.”
Gannon looked upon his brother’s worried expression. With confidence, he said, “Their mages are mortal. They will fall as quickly as any other man.” He clapped his brother on the shoulder.
“Kings fall too,” Efren replied solemnly. “Please take caution.”
With a sigh, Gannon said, “Of course, Efren. Do not worry. Once we’ve shown Na’zora we are not easily defeated, they will yield and cease their fighting. They are only testing a new king. This will not result in an ongoing war, you shall see.” He strode from the council chamber, leaving his brother alone.
Ryshel waited patiently outside the council chambers. She bowed her head before the king as he exited. “Your Majesty,” she said.
“Sister,” he replied. “Your husband will rule in my stead while I’m away. See that you take good care of him.”
“Always,” she said. Entering the room, she found Efren standing alone. Taking him by the arm, she asked, “Are you all right?”
“No,” he replied honestly. “Gannon is a skilled warrior, but Na’zora uses magic. He is as yet untested against their kind, and it worries me.”
“All you can do is wait and hope for the best,” she said. “Concentrate on the work he has left for you, and the time will pass quickly. He’ll be home before you know it.” Her attempts to ease his mind had little effect. His face clearly showed his concern.
“I have no desire to rule in his stead,” he declared. “I would rather he remained and sent soldiers to deal with Na’zora, but he is stubborn and believes himself invincible. That is a dangerous way of thinking.”
“How would you deal with mages?” she asked curiously. She knew Na’zora had a special college where sons of the wealthiest nobles could study magic, but she had never heard what skills might be taught there. Nor did she have any idea how powerful those mages might turn out to be.
“I’m not sure, to be honest,” he said. “I know that these mages have been trained by the Enlightened Elves. They are a race who guard their magical secrets closely. Their cooperation could not have been easily won. They are incredibly powerful, but I don’t know if humans are capable of wielding the same level of power. For my brother’s sake, I hope news of their skills has been exaggerated.”
Efren’s words hung heavily in the air. The Na’zoran mages were trained by masters of the arcane, and they were ready for a fight. They intended to take control of the Kingdom of Ra’jhou, adding its wealth and resources to their own. Efren wondered if it was possible to contact these elves for guidance. There must be some information they’ve withheld from their human students, and it might be of benefit to Ra’jhou.
“Your brother has trained in fighting his whole life. His councilors are seasoned veterans of past wars. For now, at least, let’s trust in their abilities.” Ryshel squeezed her husband’s arm and kissed his cheek.
“I’ll try,” Efren said. After a pause, he added, “Would you draft a letter for me? I’m not sure I can trust the councilors who are remaining behind. I get the sense they aren’t all that confident in my leadership skills.”
“Certainly, my dear,” she replied. “To whom do you wish to write?”
“A sorcerer,” he replied.
The Blind King is tentatively scheduled for release in Fall of 2014.