Chapter 30: The Dark Cell
The wagon train trundled down an icy road, through the snow glazed hills. Kijiâ€™a fruitlessly flipped through the tome with her remaining hand, while her brother pulled the sagging blanket back over her. A sense of defeat gripped them.
â€œNothing,â€ she sighed, closing the tome. â€œWe did everything by the book and it failed. Mother will be furious.â€
â€œItâ€™s not fair, we performed the ritual perfectly,â€ Kizuâ€™a said. â€œYou are right, of course; we are in for it.â€
â€œAt least we captured Valtorâ€™s vessel,â€ she said hopefully.
â€œCaptured isnâ€™t the word I would use.â€ He turned and looked at who was positively giddy. She skipped through the snow, driving it around with her wings. She leaned down and took a scoop in each hand, melting the frost into steam. Memories of trudging through the freezing snow flashed through her mind, adding to the thrill of not feeling cold.
Kijiâ€™a stared resentfully at the display, a twinge of pain rushing through her stump. Wanting to avoid a fit of nausea, she reached into the medical bag and pulled out more healing powder. As she choked down the bitter substance Kizuâ€™a shook his head at the vessel. She was acting so undignified. At last, he could stand it no longer.
â€œWould you please act more dignified?â€ he asked disgusted. â€œYou are shaming Valtor.â€
â€œHah, why should I?â€ she retorted, tossing a slush-ball at him. â€œIf Iâ€™m stuck like this then Iâ€™m going to enjoy it.â€
â€œGhrr, this is getting out of hand, sis,â€ Kizuâ€™a grumbled, â€œMiss, people are staring.â€
â€œOh,â€ Virpan said, glancing up the road.
Nearby stood an apple orchard. Several young men were leaning against the fence, staring at the spectacle. She shrugged, blowing a gust of snow at them.
â€œI couldnâ€™t care less.â€
â€œSir,â€ The wagon driver urgently whispered.
â€œWhat is it now?â€ Kizuâ€™a sighed.
â€œThe caravan will soon pass through Kamtilg; we should conceal her from the villagers.â€
â€œBrother, there must be something which we can use to persuade the vessel to behave more, uhm, discreetly.â€
â€œI have an idea, sis, that might give us an advantage,â€ he replied, reaching into the wagonâ€™s supply crate. â€œSurely one who expends so much power must have a powerful hunger.â€
â€œEh, you mean me?â€ Virpan asked, tapping her stomach. â€œI donâ€™t know if I need to eat any more, err, well, actually I am feeling hungry.â€
She flew over to the wagon, wondering what sort of food he would offer. Kizuâ€™a grinned knowing he had found her weakness. With a flourish he drew out something he felt certain she would find delectable.
â€œA raw leg of lamb,â€ Kijiâ€™a said derisively. â€œAre you kidding brother?â€
â€œIs that a raw piece of meat?â€ Virpan asked derisively. â€œAre you serious?â€
â€œI thought it would be appropriate, with your current condition,â€ he stammered, starting to feel foolish.
â€œMy current condition?â€ she asked, raising an eyebrow, â€œUgh. Give me that.â€
She snatched the leg from Kizuâ€™a grasp and ignited a column of flame below it. The smell of the cooking lamb was unnaturally appealing, her stomach suddenly rumbling with hunger. Virpan devoured it, relishing the succulent flavor. Unaware of how much she had wanted to eat, Virpan found her new cravings slightly disturbing. For a moment she considered that her transformation may have affected more than her body, absentmindedly chewing on the leg bone.
Kizuâ€™a and Kijiâ€™a stared at her uneasily, both exchanging worried glances. She blinked, awkwardly dropping the bone to the ground. The three of them remained still for a moment, the wagon coming to a stop. Kizuâ€™a broke the silence, jumping down next to Virpan. In his hands were a pair of golden cuffs, with hoops for chains attached.
â€œTry to put those on me,â€ she said. â€œYou wonâ€™t like the result.â€
â€œHear me out; we need to put up a faÃ§ade at least,â€ Kizuâ€™a said, â€œyou wish to speak to my m-to Mother Washunu, correct?â€
â€œIâ€™m not goingâ€¦â€
â€œYou do not have a choice,â€ he retorted, â€œYou approach Liunthaz as you are and a hundred master sorcerers will be upon you in moments.â€
â€œWhen you put it like that,â€ she murmured, wondering what the extent of her powers really was. â€œFine, weâ€™ll do it your way.â€
Instantly Kizuâ€™a snapped the cuffs onto her outstretched wrists, a look of triumph in his face. Kijiâ€™a jumped down as well, locking a cuff onto Virpanâ€™s left ankle. As she fitted one around the other ankle Kizuâ€™a took a hooded cloak from the wagon. Virpan obligingly diminished her flames, allowing him to wrap her in the garment, covering her almost completely.
With chains now attached to her cuffs, the twins pulled her into a wagon and latched her down. With their prize secured, they stepped back to admire their work. A moment later Vipan burned off the cloth and yanked the chains from their moorings before taking flight. She circled for a minute and then landed next to them.
â€œW-wh-ia,â€ Kizuâ€™a mouthed, grabbing one of the enchanted chains.
â€œJust to prove I could,â€ she replied, eagerly handing Kijiâ€™a the chains. â€œWant to try that again?â€
King Shvalax led the three to a meeting hall guarded by four burly soldiers. As they entered, Howngthir noticed a nice dinner lay before the lone occupant, who was steadfastly ignoring it. Risawal saw his master and gasped. Father Torvipan was terribly thin with dark lines under his eyes.
â€œFather, whatâ€™s happened?!â€ Risawal exclaimed, rushing to his master.
â€œThe prisoner has refused food and spoken rarely since he was incarcerated,â€ Shvalax murmured.
Risawal sat down beside him, his hands trembling.
Torvipan glanced at him, his eyes glazed and lifeless.
â€œRisawal?â€ He whispered. â€œDid you complete the Holy Quest?â€
â€œIâ€™m not sure,â€ Risawal replied.
â€œRisawal what has happened?â€ He croaked.
â€œWhen we found the helm Virpan donned it, and, then, there was fire everywhere.â€
â€œVery good,â€ Torviapan murmured. â€œDid she assume the form of pure fire, the third form of Valtor?â€
â€œI have no idea what really happened to Virpan. Save that after she put it on, the room became hot enough to melt gold, and there was an explosion, it shook the foundation of the temple where the helm was interred.â€
â€œThat is good news,â€ Torvipan murmured, a slight smile appearing on his face.
â€œFather, was Virpan always the chosen one?â€ Risawal asked.
â€œShe had the sign, but both of you fulfilled the requirements of the prophesy.â€
All at once, there was a commotion below. King Shvalax looked towards the door as people rushed up the stairs. The door burst open, Krakthirr and Degrnuud staggering inside. In a flash Shvalax was upon them, a look of grave concern across his face. He tapped his foot against the ground waiting for them the catch their breath.
â€œYour majesty,â€ Krakthirr said quickly, offering a short bow. â€œSimkagale has violated the treaty and crossed the border.â€
â€œAs I have long feared they would,â€ Shvalax said mournfully. â€œHowever, there must be more to tell, otherwise you would not have abandoned the front.â€
â€œValtor, sire, the one who donned the helm,â€ Degrnuud said quickly.
â€œIt is true, then, what you feared has transpired?â€ Shvalax said gravely, â€œHas Valtor been brought back into this world?â€
â€œNo, the transformation was incomplete,â€ she explained, â€œthe poor girl, sheâ€™s trapped somewhere between the beginning and middle stages.â€
â€œWait, are you talking about Virpan?â€ Howngthir blurted out. â€œWhat happened to her? Tell me!â€
â€œIâ€™m not exactly sure,â€ she replied, â€œUh, â€˜Firpanâ€™, has been captured by Simkagale, most likely, and they will attempt to complete the resurrection.â€
â€œSo Virpan is going to be killed?â€ He asked, fearing the answer.
â€œNo, thatâ€™s not possible,â€ Degrnuud replied, â€œValtorâ€™s essence and consciousness are gone, the ceremony will fail.â€
â€œOh thatâ€™s great,â€ Howngthir said excitedly. â€œWeâ€™re safe, then?â€
â€œNot exactly. When it fails Mother Washunu is going to convince herself that Mahlapren is the cause and will launch a full scale invasion. Half the continent will be plunged into bitter warfare for the next decade.â€
â€œI had no idea,â€ Howngthir murmured.
â€œCan you describe what her form was?â€ Torvipan asked, rising from his bench. â€œPlease, I must know.â€
â€œIt was, well, actually,â€ Degrnuud said, turning to Krakthirr. â€œKrakthirr here had a picture drawn; show it to him.â€
â€œThis is fresh off the press,â€ Krakthirr said proudly, unfurling the drawing for all to see.
â€œYou took the time to have a wood cutting made before coming to me?â€ Shvalax asked raising an eyebrow.
â€œThis could not wait, I had to be certain more copies would survive,â€ Krakthirr replied hastily, â€œI refuse to allow untrue legends to arise when the evidence is in hand.â€
Father Torvipan edged forward to see the picture of Virpan in her new form. â€œAre you positive this is accurate?â€
â€œOf course, I measured her features myself.â€
â€œMy fault!â€ Torvipan began to wail over and over again. â€œWhat is this; what have I become?â€
â€œFather!â€ Risawal shouted. â€œControl yourself! You were following instructions from Father Sanja to fulfill the prophesy of Valtor!â€
â€œNo, itâ€™s all gone wrong! Virpan hasnâ€™t fulfilled the prophesy, no one can, Valtor has died!â€
â€œThat canâ€™t be right!â€ He replied desperately. â€œThere has to be another way to resurrect Valtor; must be.â€
â€œThat poor girl is now trapped in a twisted form. Her blood is on my hands.â€
â€œThat canâ€™t be true,â€ Risawal paled, â€œValtor cannot be killed. Can he?â€
â€œIf the prophecy failed, then there is nothing but ruin for us all,â€ he muttered, â€œThe prophecy has failed, ruin will come, Valtor is dead.â€
â€œNo, that must be wrong,â€ Risawal shot back, â€œyou must have read something wrong, someone missed something.â€
â€œI trust in Sanja, there is no mistake, it is ended. Dwirshol has won, he and the heathen gods must be laughing at us right now.â€
â€œFather, you know thatâ€™s not true,â€ Risawal said, choking back tears. â€œYou know the heathenâ€™s gods arenâ€™t real. You know, you know.â€
Torvipan shook his head, falling silent for the last time. The room grew uncomfortably quiet as Risawal tried to get a reaction. Despite all his shaking, prodding, and pleading, Father Torvipan remained quite still, having retreated back to the furthest reaches of his mind.
Quite uncomfortable with the sight before him, Howngthir backed out through the door. In the candle lit hall the others stood in a circle, a new figure having joined King Shvalax and the others in conversation. He was a thin, pale man with greasy black hair and patch over his left eye.
â€œI am telling you, we must figure out where they took that girl,â€ Degrnuud insisted. â€œThough Valtor is dead the Simkagalese sorcerers may cook up some way of controlling her. She is still an incredibly powerful being.â€
â€œWith what?â€ The new figure asked derisively, â€œArmyâ€™s at half strength, if that. No time to be launching an invasion.â€
â€œI must agree with Rvopteg,â€ Shvalax confessed, â€œIt shall take weeks for our agents to get word of her location, even supposing we could muster the troops for such a venture.â€
â€œThen a small force, to infiltrate the nation,â€ She insisted, â€œI could lead it; I know where that woman and her dog would hide her.â€
â€œWe need your skills here,â€ Rvopteg said shaking his head, â€œWe should form a line. The fighting will occur in Thobihngel.â€
â€œAgreed. Soldier,â€ The King said, pointing to a guard, â€œGo to the messengerâ€™s office, tell them to begin distributing conscription notices.â€
â€œSire, I think we should do something,â€ Degrnuud pleaded.
â€œSeconded,â€ Krakthirr added, â€œI have witnessed her powers. If she is turned against us all the conscripts in the land might not be enough.â€
â€œBut who shall partake in this foolâ€™s errand?â€ Rvopteg said, crossing his arms. â€œThe boarder will be crawling.â€
â€œI will,â€ Risawal said in a determined voice. â€œHowngthir, you want to get Virpan back? Weâ€™ll do it, you and me.â€
â€œReally?â€ Rvopteg asked, â€œWhat could you do?â€
â€œMore than you know, Iâ€™ve done incredible things these past few weeks and I can get to the capitol of Simkagale too.â€
â€œHang on, arenâ€™t you with the Order though?â€ Howngthir asked confused.
â€œNo, Valtor is dead,â€ Risawal replied through grated teeth. â€œDwishol is the highest god; he shall guide me on this mission.â€
â€œYou look serious,â€ Rvopteg admitted, â€œand your loss would be of little consequence. Shvalax, we need a ride.â€
â€œI agree,â€ The King said thoughtfully, â€œKrakthirr, Rvopteg, you shall take them along with you.â€
â€œAh, the north,â€ Rvopteg said, rolling his eye. â€œHow Iâ€™ve not missed it.â€
â€œDegrnuud,â€ the king said. â€œI must speak with you privately.â€
â€œYes sir,â€ she replied bowing.
With a final nod the King and the lieutenant left down the hall. Rvopteg leaned back against the wall, watching the two vanish from view. Once they were out of sight he sighed and turned to the others.
â€œHeh, weâ€™ll be relieving the good old days, eh Krakthirr?â€
â€œDonâ€™t remind me,â€ he muttered, starting down the opposite direction. â€œYou two, this way. Er, are you coming girl?â€
â€œYes of course,â€ Kialiki replied enthusiastically.
â€œLike your spirit; I do hope youâ€™re not killed,â€ Rvopteg said leading them away. â€œCome along, the north isnâ€™t getting any closer.â€