It had been difficult times for Master Mercandor Filiander. His old age didn’t agree with the activities Charles Stone had ordered him. Fortunately, he could pass the experience he had in preparing expeditions to some of his loyal servants. In this way, he succeeded to prepare everything in the time he was given.
The sun had hardly begun his ascension above the horizon or the detachment soldiers stood ready before the gates of the castle. Their horses were as fresh as could be and they were also impatient to leave. The metal of the warriors shined in the first sunbeams of the morning. High up in the watchtower of the Kings castle one of the sentries blew the sign of the Prince on his horn. Everybody was there even the old Filiander who obviously had a problem to find the best posture sitting in the saddle. Lack of sleep was the least of his worries. Becoming older he didn’t need it as much as before. However, he terribly hated horse riding. He would never admit it. Not even to the Prince. Certainly not to the Prince, he thought while for the umpteenth time he was searching to sit in good posture on his saddle.
The only one, who was missing, nonetheless they had already twice announced him on the watch tower, was Charles Stone, the heir to the throne personified by King Conrad. Fortunately, the soldiers had the discipline the stay and stand still during a long period. Filiander, however, cursed under his breath because the arrogant prince royal never took anything into account.
Eventually, he came galloping out of the Royal stables together with his personal guards. Without looking at Master Filiander, who had it difficult to hide his displeasure, he passed him as if he didn’t exist. He fed in the middle of the division as a protection and gave the signal to the leader of the group they could go.
Along the way that led out of the village, the inhabitants of Carpagio stood on both sides of the street. They had colorful pennants in their hands, which were passed around by servants from the King’s Palace. The faces weren’t in accordance with the colors of the pennants. Everyone knew the reputation of Charles Stone. There were not a lot who sympathized with him. Those who did keep it a secret, knowing they were a minority.
Charles Stone waved undisturbed to the crowd who without enthusiasm were waving back with the colors of the Kingdom. The people were two borders of brown and green that were saying their goodbyes to the prince. Some had secretly been happy, that Charles Stone left Carpagio for a while. The tensed atmosphere that reigned after the death of King Conrad would be unloaded after his departure. After the last of the procession of soldiers had left the streets, people disappeared out of the street scene and after a quarter of an hour there was almost nobody anymore. The little flags decorated both sides of the streets as a tapestry of fallen leaves and were the only witnesses that something special had happened here.
Moira Goldfoot had explicitly asked Tom Varsen and Jul Branden to not interfere during the incantation. She told them she would open one gate after another she and only she alone could close again. Behind these portals, the Other Side was situated, a place where recently deceased souls were sheltered. They were indeed harmless beings, still searching for a new place in another existence. However, in little corners and edges there were dark creatures who waited for an unguarded moment to escape and let loose their terror on the world of the mortals.
Tom and Jul believed what she had said. They had seen she possessed a magical power. Brilliant clear beams she shot out of her hands, a deadly force against her possible enemies. Never before they had been witness to such a supernatural gift. They were impressed and looked in silence at the ritual of the Agoeteia.
Moira had dragged both attackers outside with the help of Jul and Tom. Meanwhile, it was already early in the morning and the darkness of the night was setting out. The first birds whistled their songs and didn’t care about the scene that was happening down below them.
The white witch kept her hand upon both dead warriors and murmured strange words. ‘Ke Tuna, Ke Tuna, mi nomi Moira, mi sumi imagori, Ke Tuna, Ke Tuna.’ Above both bodies the air began to tremble. A haze through which you still could see the other side, but blurred like through smoked glass. Shapes began to appear in the trembling air. Strange figures that were tumbling over each other and as Moira incanted louder and louder, took harder shape and made incomprehensible sounds. First, there was a low grumbling and it seemed to come right from the center of the earth. As the images became clearer, both men started to understand what was said. It sounded like the echo of Moira’s words. ‘KE TUNA, KE TUNA!’
Suddenly, out of the haze, a strange being pushed his head outside. A cruel head with the snout of a wild boar and with two big fangs. On top of his head, it had two horns which curled as from a he-goat. Moira’s hands started with a series of strange movements when this creature tried to escape his shackles. The sweat was on her forehead and her golden amulet started to glow. Obviously this wasn’t the apparition she had hoped for. Just when the being, with devilish eyes, almost escaped his prison on the Other Side, gold and yellow strings like vine tendrils left her hands. With a last effort, Moira Goldfoot pushed the knot of golden vines deeper into the haze and with a last cry of despair the monster disappeared.
Jul and Tom had withdrawn a few steps during the apparition of the creature. With open mouth, they had followed the battle between Moira and the thing. The warning Moira had given, had not been exaggerated. They would not be able to help her if the battle had ended badly for her. Her incantation hadn’t come to an end yet. She had only opened a door to the Other Side now and with beating one of the dark creatures, she had stated that no one would pass this way and escape, without her permission.
A light that slowly became stronger filled the air above the death Dulka’s. A woman dressed in a radiant white dress became visible and exited the window Moira had opened to the Other Side. Both men felt the enjoyable warmth that she radiated and they were immediately under her spell because of the look in her heavenly blue eyes.
‘Greetings, Mother Ke Tuna, you’re the woman who gives us life. Forgive me calling you back from the eternal rest. Your child, Agoeteia Moira Goldfoot, needs your help. Beware of mortals on their way to the Other Side. They are like the hornet during the winter, the migrating bird in the wrong place. Give me your insight, the reason of this abnormality. Why does the Dulka pass their frontiers?’
The woman in white beamed as a clear day in the morning. She opened her mouth, but neither Jul nor Tom heard what she said. Moira furrowed her brow and kept her head a bit inclined. She obviously tried to hear something. Suddenly, without a warning, the image was being sucked back through the window Moira had opened. With a red glow that first shot as a flame through the portal, the window to the Other Side closed with a loud thunder stroke.
The force of the sound had blown both Jul and Tom from their feet. Surprised, but fortunately, unharmed, they looked at Moira, who, despite she hadn’t fallen, went down on her knees.
Jul jumped up in less than no time and ran to her. He thought she was hurt and needed help. She pointed her arm to him with her fingers stretched out in a sign he had to keep some distance. Slowly and tired she stood up and her lips began to move silently. Incomprehensible words flew from her lips and in no time her strength came back to her.
‘I’m afraid, my friends,’ she suddenly spoke, ‘we have to face a dangerous enemy. You have seen that monster out of the hell that looked through the gate when I began the incantation. It was ready to come out and to attack us. Somebody left instructions to this creature. Somebody with dark powers and who’s incredibly strong. One of them, I can handle without being in any trouble, but I fear the worst. Our White Mother, Ke Tuna, had been obstructed to speak. She’s one of the strongest transcendental beings who’s on the Other Side now and who’s protecting us. Who is capable of such a thing, we have to fear.’
Tom had listened to the explanation from Moira but looked baffled. ‘What does the Dulka want from us, or their leaders who had sent these men? We have nothing and what we have, we even have to share with our liege. There’s no richness to find amongst us or it should be with the nobility. They have their own army to fight for them, so it will not be that easy, even for these fierce warriors, to obtain their goods in an open battle.
Jul Branden nodded to show his approval with Tom’s wise words. ‘You may not forget you can hear and see these soldiers from far away. They aren't dwarfed after all. I’m even surprised that they could attack us so unexpectedly last night. If you hadn’t intervened, My Lady, we were already traveling to the Other Side.’
Moira Goldfoot looked worried into the direction of the Dulkas. ‘In any case, I felt the power of magic. An old magic that’s on the side of Evil. It felt as rotten meat, just like the face of Death. A force that irreversible gulps you down and digests you from the inside out, once you let it in. It is gangrene, you can’t cure it once you got it. Evil has seen you, it knows your faces.’
Both men looked anxiously at her and to the place where they had seen the monster fighting the golden tendrils Moira had braided. They were just ordinary people, without supernatural forces, without magic. If such a being would attack them, they would be without a chance and not be able to cope.
‘Don’t fear, my friends. I know that such a creature will only attack my kind, the white witches and wizards, those who keep an eye on the world and protect from Evil. To be sure, I’ll accompany you on your voyage. It’s been a while I’ve been in Mandregon and an old acquaintance of mine lives there, I would like to ask for advice in this matter.
‘Also an Agoetja?’ Tom tried carefully.
‘It’s Agoeteia, Tom. And no, I wouldn’t say he looks like an Agoeteia. First of all, it’s a man and that doesn’t qualify him to be a part of our sisterhood. On the other side, he’s the perfect ally if it comes to a real confrontation. If you’re thinking I’ve got special powers, wait till you see him in action. He’s at least a dozen times stronger than the ordinary white witch that I am.’
This conclusion was doubted by the two friends, but they believe from Moira he would be a good ally eventually in a battle against invading Dulka’s.
‘The only problem with Wizard Bali Korga, that’s his name, is that he probably will try to kill the moment he sees me!’
Masaga, the red wizard, had squealed as a pig getting killed, not because someone tried it, but pure out of anger and frustration. He had studied the prophecies as well. Days, weeks he had bent over half destroyed writings only enlightened by the fluttering flame of a candle. He had used his red magic to mobilize his guardians on the Other Side. It was obvious that at this stage of their plans, the White forces would come forward. However, he had underestimated them in the person of Moira Goldfoot.
‘Lord Kulkadan,’ he greeted his master and sovereign when he entered his tent. He lowered the hood of his red habit and shook his wild black hair.
‘Master Masaga, what have the stars to tell us? Have you foreseen the future in their course or do you fear to tell me?’ A cruel laughing was accompanying his words.
A fierce look on the face of the wizard witnessed of the opposite. His wild force wasn’t an adversary to his destroying magic. Kulkadan knew this, but they were both brewed in the same mug. The mug that was used to brew the Evil out of everything that was bad and rotten.
‘We’ll have strong opposition, my Lord. However, that will not prevail, that we will succeed. We only will lose more people we have expected. But I know this will not be a point to change our tactics. Or not?’
Kulkadan looked straight in his eyes and his broad nostrils, pierced by a metal bar, quivered with restrained anger. ‘It may cost as much as necessary. Weapons, forces or even the best of my women, I’m planning the find the Stone of which the prophecies are speaking. Are you sure of the place where we can find the artifact, Master Masaga?’
‘As sure as I can read the stars, I’ve read the writings, Master. Just like the stars, they don’t lie. Their words become true by the day that still has to come. Just like today, meant tomorrow for the day we call yesterday.’
The oracle words had the wrong effect on Kulkadan. ‘Enough of that incomprehensible gibberish. Read me the text again. Let me hear again, what those prophecies have to tell.’
‘As you command, my Lord.’ Masaga went to a little box on the table on the left side of Kulkadan’s tent. He opened the object and took a rolled-up parchment out of it. With respect, he unrolled the old writing and went a bit closer to a flaming torch.
‘So it is written, and so it will happen as it was meant to be. He, who will find the Stone that possesses the power of Creation, shall obtain the power over the World. Nobody will equal this person in power and influence because he’ll be able to create everything he wants, in the way he wants it and when he wants it. The Stone of Creation is unmistakably connected to the ring which is the symbol of the dominion of the World. Everyone will bow before his sovereign authority. So it is written, and so it will happen as it was meant to be.’
Kulkadan had listened with a closed eye. After the reading of the old prophecy, he opened his eyes after which he looked at the red wizard. ‘And do the stars still tell you we have to go the island of Ralot? It’s a long voyage, dangerous to be conspicuous as you know. You have done your work very well, wizard. I’m pleased.’
‘Yes, the stars still tell we have to be on Ralot. The isle before the coast of Mandregon is without doubt the place where the Stone can be found. Where on the island, I don’t know. I’ve always been honest about that, prophecies are not that specific. It doesn’t work like that. Once we're there, there are means to look for lost objects. But that’s proceeding on things. There are a lot of factors that could influence fate. The White Powers are strong and will put up resistance. With your army and my magic, we’ll beat them, forever. Nobody will be able to measure up to you, Master Kulkadan.’
The Dulka was flattered and being content he laughed. ‘Come, my friend, let’s get drunk.’ He filled two mugs brimful with his best wine and gave one of them to Masaga. ‘To my world domination!’
‘To world domination, Lord Kulkadan,’ the red wizard toasted while he secretly hid a mysterious smile behind his mug of wine.
© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere