Sage opened the french doors in her bedroom that led out to a small balcony. It was only big enough for two people to gaze about the center of the empire. She leaned against the iron railing, closed her eyes and visualized healthy trees, and an abundance of people; merchants, farmers, hunters; all gathered for trade. The center used to bustle with activity and vibrancy. She opened her eyes. The stark bareness of the center caused a sinking feeling to settle in her chest. The trees that surrounded the trading grounds were dead. The birds wouldn't even take to nesting in their branches. The once lush green grass, was no more, a dirt path had settled in it's wake. She thought back to the unexpected rain they had embraced a few days ago. It was the first real sign of hope within the Empire. If she had things her way it wouldn't be the last. A gentle knock, caused her to turn back into her bedroom. She crossed the spacious room to open the door. Baron stood there with an apologetic look on his face. He looked like one of her hunting dogs, after she had scolded him for tearing apart her fur lined boots.

“Why aren't you fixing the wall?” She asked, taking the most direct approach.

Baron shook his head. “I am not a laborer. I am-

“You are whatever I need you to be.” Sage interrupted.

Baron grimaced at her foul mood. “Saffron was the one who started the brawl. Why should I have to clean up his mess? And more importantly why are you ordering me-

“Ordering you? Do I need to remind you that this is my Empire. Though it lay in ruins, I have no choice but to demand obedience and order from my citizens, even you Baron,” she said with a small tilt of her chin.

Baron looked unmoved. Sage refused to back down. What kind of example would that set? And wasn't he supposed to be her friend? Why was he constantly challenging her? Baron stepped closer to her, trying to intimidate her with his size. “You think because you own a pretty castle, that people should bow to you now , is that it? Is that how my uncle treated you when you were a lowly cook aboard his ship Siren?”

Sage felt her fingers instinctively turn into her palms. “I mean it Baron. Anymore insolence from you and I will have you stripped of your title.”

Baron simply laughed. “I like what you said, up until the words 'of your title',” he winked, infuriating her even more.

“Just go.” Sage growled.

Baron muttered something under his breath and left the room.

A few minutes after he left Sage ventured the empire to find Pierson, who's ego was much more bearable. She smiled when she found him in the stables tending to the horses. If she trusted that he wouldn't ride off into battle, she might have supplied him with a horse of his own.

“Empress.” He greeted eagerly. “The men are feuding like children over the hole in the wall. I'm not so sure their ready to fight a war together,” he jested. “I, on the other hand am more than capable of handling myself, should you change your mind about sending me out there.” His chest swelled with pride.

Sage sighed. “You are my eyes and my ears. This is right where I need you.” She patted the boy's head, in a motherly fashion. He only felt patronized and offended by the action. Sage feared he was right about the men though. They had been showing improvement over the last few days, but had a long way to go if they expected to stand a chance against their enemies. “I don't know what to do, sometimes,” she had thought out load.

“I have a gift for you," Pierson sang out. Before Sage could refuse, Pierson's hand's were at  his satchel bag. He produced a map and a crystal pendulum. She gasped at the crystal's reflective beauty. He could have sold this item for food, or weapons, instead he wanted to give it to her. “It was my mother's. She used it as a tool to help her answer questions and locate that of which she was looking for.”

Sage shook her head. “It's lovely. You should keep it.” She pushed Pierson's hand away gently. 

“Well, if you won't accept it at least let me loan it to you. It could be a helpful tool, Empress.”


An hour or so later after Sage had finished handing out orders to a crowd of civilians, she sat crossed legged in her bedroom facing the balcony. The open doors offered a refreshing rush of air. She spread the map out in front of her, it was a detailed map of Galvenston and the surrounding Empires. She was skeptical, but figured it was worth a shot. She held the pendulum by it's chain and closed her eyes. Silently she asked a question; How will I lead these people to salvation?

A moment later she opened her eyes. The pendulum was still poised over the miniscule  sketch of the castle. She smiled, the trinket was amusing, but clearly inaccurate. Before she could attempt another try, she heard the sound of boots, moving towards her.

“Baron.” She said through gritted teeth. “I am in no mood, and I don't want to see you before you finish fixing the damn wall.”

Sage wasn't given a vocal response. How weird, she thought never lifting her eyes from the map, Baron always had something to say. A half second later the intruder had approached her back. She had not time to react as blindfold came over her eyes. She gasped in shock. The man knelt down to her level whispering low into her ear. “Consider this an intervention,” the unfamiliar voice spoke.

Her hands went for the blindfold on her eyes, but the intruder was quicker. He bound her hands with a rough cord. He flung her over his shoulder like a bag of flour. A moment later she was dropped into a hard high back chair. Someone had untied her hands. She pulled the blindfold down. She was sitting in a musty storage room, that was left unused in the castle. Sitting across from her with a smug expression on her face was Drakmor Vayr.

“You could have just sent me a letter,” she whispered bitterly, wondering what drastic measures her former friend must had taken to breech the security in her empire.

The End

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