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Keys of Magic - Part 4

My dreams were wracked with horrible visions. I watched myself in third person doing terrible things and each time I smiled and laughed as I committed one horrible act after another. Then there was a moment of calm where I stood on an empty field. There were flowers flowing in a pleasant breeze which felt pleasant on my skin. There was a small house sitting off in the distance. It was made of bricks and smoke was rising from the chimney.

I looked around no longer certain if this was a dream or not. I was dressed in some of my usually clothes except that I felt a weight around my neck. I looked down and there was my golden signet ring with a chain passing through it functioning as a necklace. I reached up to grab the ring but my hand trembled and my fingers shook and I couldn’t bring myself to touch it. Slowly I lowered my hand and brought my attention back toward the house.

I walked toward it with a strange feeling of apprehension like I was walking toward something dangerous. I walked up to the door which door which was made of wood. The whole house seemed small to me but that was probably because I was used to living in bigger. This place was probably sufficient for most commoners. I reached out to open the door but thought better of it and instead knocked on it.

“Come in. I’ve been waiting for you.” Came a woman’s voice from the other side of the door. I hesitated once more, that felt more like a command then I felt comfortable with. I couldn’t back out now so I pulled the latch on the door and stepped inside. It was a cozy room, just a small bed, a fireplace with a pot on it, and a dresser. Near one of the windows was a pair of chairs and sitting at one of them was a woman.

At first she seemed very normal, a peasant woman in a simple dress. However that felt more like an illusion then anything else. She was well muscled, strong and lean. Something about the way that she looked at me made me feel like she was sizing me up to see how dangerous I was. I involuntarily stepped back before composing myself. She reminded me of Lady Kindeily, dangerous and lovely.

“Don’t dawdle and take a seat.” She commanded and I obeyed. No reason to disobey her that I could find. There was a sneaking suspicion that that feeling would grow on me however. Her words were that of a natural leader. “Your Zillk’s chosen I see.” A plan cold statement that made me cringe.

“I’d rather not be an Apostate of Zillk is I had my way about it.” I said. I didn’t really feel like there was a reason to hide it. Dreams, or whatever this way, probably would just ignore me if I lied and it seemed pointless to lie to this woman.

“Apostate? Is that what they are being called? An interesting choice for a name. You could of course get ride of your conduit. Cast it away and you would be done with it. Be free of the power it holds.”

“I can’t, it is my signet ring. I couldn’t dispose of it or replace it without somebody getting suspicious. My only choice it to keep it.”

“Not your only choice.” She said with dead certainty. “You would be free of it if you left your lands and abandoned your duties. You choose to baer iit because you are afraid to lose all that you are. Am I not right.”

I grimaced but couldn’t refute her statement.

“Or you could depose of the ring and deal with the suspicions as they arose. Yet you choose to not do that either. I will not call you a coward, what you chose is valid but do not pretend that it was your only choice.”

I struggled to reject her argument but my voice was numb. Instead I said something completely different, “Who are you? Is this a dream?”

“For you this is a dream. For me this is a place that I wait.”

“Wait? Wait for what?” I couldn’t help myself from asking.

“Wait until my task is complete. Only then will I rest.”

“What task to you need to complete?”

“I must break the shackles that the Gods have on the world. Only then will people truly be free.”

I gasped for words trying to answer my own questions. Finally the words came to me answering the question that I had about her identity. “Then you are the Slayer.”

She didn’t say anything at all in response but I could tell that it was true. Who else could she be. The Slayer who killed the gods should be dead but then who was I speaking to. Was she a ghost maybe or was my dream reaching beyond into the world of the dead. There were so many questions that I didn’t know where to begin.

Finally I spoke, “Why am I here?” It was the first question that mattered.

“You are one of Zillk’s chosen, I mean Apostates. Of all the gods he was the one that I was the closest too and the one that slayed me. It is only appropriate that I use his Apostate to finish the task he prevented me from completing.” It sounded completely unreasonable to me but reason didn’t apply to the slayer.

“Complete your task? What task could you have remaining after slaying the gods?” I asked. There was silence. She simply didn’t speak and just watched me. The gears spun in my mind as I tried to find the answer to my own question. Finally the words came to me and I said, “Unless you didn’t finishing slaying the gods.”

She smiled, “Very good. You can think. I would be very disappointed if I had to answer even the simplest questions for you.”

“But they are gone. The only influence that the god have in the world now is what their power is doing in the hands of the Apostates. If some of the gods were alive wouldn’t somebody notice?” I said.

“There is one that I failed to kill, one that I never found. Eyyo, the Cloaked Betrayer still lives. He was the most clever of the gods who hide himself when he was threatened. He still hides himself, cloaked behind the actions of his servants. You think the things that are happening now are by chance? No it is the Cloaked Betrayer that is pulling the strings behind the scenes.”

“Eyyo? Now that is a god whose name I have never heard before.”

“Not surprising, the name was cloaked in mystery when I was alive. That it is even less known now is hardly surprising. However he is real and he is still alive. With no other god to oppose him he will run rampart over the world until he only controls it.”

“Any you want me to stop him? That’s impossible. He’s a god. I may have become an Apostate of Zillk but there is no way that I would be able to kill a god.”

“You will do it. You have no other choice.” She commanded. “I was able to kill the rest of them. I think you will be able to handle just one.”

“But you’re the Slayer. I’m just, well, a noble, and a rather ordinary one at that.”

“You will stop him. I know this because it is your only option for survival. He has alright made attempts on your life. You do not want him to succeed so you will kill him before he is successful.”

“Already made attempts on my life? You mean that…” I left it hanging but she refused to answer the question. Just like before she was making me put together the pieces of what I already knew together. “It was him that sent the assassin at me? Maybe even the one behind the orc invasion? But why, I wouldn’t have become an Apostate of Zillk had he not attacked me.”

“The Cloaked Betrayer has many plans and fallbacks but he can not see the future very clearly. He knew you would become an Apostate of Zillk so he sent an assassin to kill you. Maybe you never would have become an Apostate had you not been attacked there, or maybe you would have awakened to the power anyways. But he did attacked you and you give gain the powers of Zillk. He might have even expected it, planned for it, and has worked you into his plans.”

“Then what could I do to stop him?”

“Break his hope. Of all the gods few could go against the Hope Ender. All if futile against and impossible enemy. Even I fell victim to the Hope Ender just as he fell victim to himself.”

I shivered as I answer, “But I don’t want to use Zillk’s power. It frightens me, terrifies me. And while it was happening I liked it. I don’t want to be like that.”

“Then it is simple. Change it.”

“What?” I wasn’t remotely thinking she would respond like that. Maybe ‘Suck it up’ or ‘Make a choice’ but ‘Change it’ what could she possibly mean by that. However she didn’t seem to want to answer my question.

Instead she said, “It is time for us to return to the land of the living. Your soldiers need you and you will have trying times ahead during the orc invasion. Make sure that most of your men live through it.”

“Us?” I asked but just as I did the world swam and shifted before my eyes. All except the Slayer who had reached out and grabbed my hand. I could feel the warmth of her hand almost like she was still alive.

“My Lord, My Lord, awake up, we have arrived.” Came Sir Nathan’s voice as it woke me from my slumber. I raise me head snapping myself out of the strange dream. I shook my head a couple of times trying to decide if it was real or not. It still seemed to clear in my mine the conversation with the Slayer. Was she really expecting me to fight the last surviving god?

“Yes Sir Nathan, I’m awake. We are at the main force’s camp then?” I said as I pulled myself to my feed and began to leave the chart.

“Yes, but it is bad. We aren’t the only group that go ambushed on our way here. Others were attacked by orcs as well and many of them are worse off then us. Lord Andolus lose practically all of his men.”

“Lady Kindeily? Is she alright?” I asked concerned.

Nathan smiled devilishly at me before responding, “She is fine. Apparently her unit was ambushed but they got away without any casualties. The soldiers said that she fought off five orcs all by herself and I’m not going to be the own to doubt it.”

I relaxed, “That is good to here.” I stepped down from the wagon. Several of the men were already setting up tents. There were soldiers all around us, an entire army of people. I hadn’t seen this many soldiers together before, any army this large has not been risen since my fathers time after all. “Is there going to be a strategy meeting soon?”

“Tomorrow I hear is when it is going to happen. Several of the outlining lords have still not arrived. Once they are here the King’s general will call the lords and knights together to explain the situation. I’ve been told that it will happen even if some of the lords are missing. Already a couple who were expected to be here haven’t shown up and we fear the worst.”

“I understand. If you haven’t already make sure to inform the general of our arrival. And make sure all of the men’s injuries are taken care of. Now is better before we have to deal with orcs.”