An Acerbus darted into Geraldo’s throne room, emerged from its shadow, and bowed before Geraldo. “My lord, I bring you ominous tidings. I’m afraid that Aldrick has betrayed you.”
Geraldo focused his eye upon the Acerbus and growled, “You must be mistaken, Aldrick has been with the from the beginning, he’s been working with me to complete our dream for this country. You Acerbi never did get along with him.”
The Acerbi meekly said, “I’m afraid not. He slew nine of my brothers in an effort to free Apollos and Tara, two fugitives that you ordered captured.”
Geraldo slammed his fist down onto the arm of his throne preventing the Acerbus from saying anything further. “It can’t be, my oldest friend has betrayed me? If he played me false, who can I trust?”
Glee filled the Acerbus’ face as he said, “You can trust us, my lord! We have ever only served you, body and soul! I recommend getting rid of every filthy human that serves you before they have the opportunity to turn on you!”
Geraldo scowled, “No! Treacherous they may be, but humans have a use that you Acerbi could never hope to fill.” An Acerbus rose up out of Geraldo’s shadow and Geraldo turned his attention onto it. “Go and fetch General Elymas, I have new orders for him.” He turned his gaze back to the Acerbus that had just finished reporting to him and he said, “Go and fetch Tiikeribrusa, it is time that I empower my servants.” Excitement shown in the eyes of the Acerbus and it rushed off to gather what his master sought.
The Acerbus returned to the throne room and held the blade out to Geraldo, and he accepted it. Several moments later the doors swung open and General Elymas entered the throne room. Elymas was a thin man, but his leanness was hidden by the hooded black robe he wore. With every step he gave off a jingle that betrayed the chainmail he wore under his robe. A satchel hung over his shoulder that bulged with scrolls made from tanned human skin. His left eye was an unseeing milky white orb, and three scars crossed his eye from forehead to chin. He spoke in low, dry, rustling whisper, “You called for me, my lord?”
Geraldo nodded his head. “I understand that Aldrick has betrayed me and joined my father in his quest for the legendary beast blades. I don’t know where he has disappeared to, but they will surface again soon enough. For now, I want you to focus on crushing the rebellion in Falance. They have managed to make themselves known to me and I will make an example of them.” He held out the sword he was holding to Elymas. “Take this sword and plunge it into my shadow next to the Acerbus sword.”
Elymas accepted the sword from Geraldo and plunged the sword into his shadow. The shadows reached up and wrapped themselves around the sword and pulled it down into the floor until the blade disappeared. Geraldo shuddered and his face contorted in pain. His breathing started coming in deep, heavy breaths and he clutched his chest. After a couple of minutes Geraldo let go of his chest, and sweat appeared on his brow. “Arise, my tiger Acerbi.”
Large tiger-like shadows rose up, and flames blazed across the shadows where the tiger’s stripes would be. It’s eyes glowed red from some inner light. It padded gracefully away from the shadow over to Geraldo’s side. A smile filled Geraldo’s face and he nodded his head appreciatively. “Yes, I think Tiikeribrusa was an excellent choice. Now, more of you come forth.” Shadow tigers rose up out of the shadow one after another until forty of them filled the throne room.
An exhausted Geraldo looked at Elymas and smiled. “Take thirty of my minions along with your forces to Falance, and make this so called ‘rebellion’ into an example that will never be forgotten.”
Elymas lifted his fist up to his chest in salute and he bowed. “It will be as you say, sire. When people speak of the Falance province they will speak of a broken and desolate land where nothing will ever live again.”
Geraldo nodded his head. “Make it so, my honored general.” Elymas turned and strode from the throne room and Geraldo turned his attention to the ten tiger Acerbi that remained in the room. “I want you ten to comb the land. Track down my father and this boy he is protecting, and bring their bodies back to me. I want those legendary beast blades found and put away where they can never harm me.” The tigers turned and loped out of the room.
Geraldo turned to the his servants and bellowed, “Leave me! I wish to be alone!” Servants scurried out of the room, eager to be away from Geraldo and his anger. Once the door closed behind the last servant, Geraldo slumped back into his chair. Fusing beast blades like that always caused Geraldo pain, as if the blades were digging into him instead of his shadow, and it wouldn’t stop until he undid the binding. He would get used to the pain in time, but until that happened he didn’t want anyone to see him in his weakened state.
Once the tigers found his father and dealt with him he could undo the binding. He couldn’t believe that old relic was still causing him problems, he would have thought that after the shadow blade’s binding was passed to him, something would have managed to kill his father, but his archaic way of fighting was proving to be more effective than he would have guessed. No matter, even his father couldn’t’ handle a pack of shadow tigers if they were able to sniff him out.
A week later Aldrick, Tara, and Apollos rode into the rebellion’s camp. People stopped what they were doing and turned to look at the newcomers. Some pointed at Tara and whispered to each other and shook their heads. Aldrick muttered, “This is never going to work.”
Tara smiled and waved at the people that they rode past and she muttered under her breath, “You’re with me, it’ll be fine. Just don’t forget that your name is Nathan and we’ll have nothing to worry about. The rebellion loves new recruits.”
A man in his middle years wearing a worn brown coat and a brown stocking hat approached Tara’s horse and smiled. “Tara, it has been so long since you left to get more supplies, where is your grandfather, is he well?”
Tara’s smile disappeared and was replaced by a frown. “There was an accident with the wagon, and grandfather was killed. These men have been taking care of me ever since the accident.”
The man pulled his hat from his head and placed it over his heart, and those around him mimicked him. “I was afraid that such a thing must have happened with you being gone for so long. After Malcolm came and told us about what happened in the city, we feared you may have been caught up in that.”
Apollos smiled. “So Malcolm arrived safely, did he? That is good to hear.”
The man turned and glared at Apollos. “I do not believe that you have introduced us to your friends yet, Tara. This one seems rather rude, though.”
Tara smiled and shook her head, “You’ll have to forgive Apollos. He is friends with Malcolm and had helped him to escape the city. I’m sure he’s just glad to hear that he made it here safely.” Tara gestured toward Aldrick. “This is Nathan, another traveler that we met on the road that lost his friend to Geraldo’s forces. They both wish to join the rebellion and aid us in our fight.”
The man narrowed his eyes and looked Apollos and Aldrick over. “I don’t know about that, Tara. Apollos seems to be carrying a lot of beast blades for someone who wasn’t involved in the fight in some way, and I don’t like the look of this Nathan feller. I think it would be best just to thank them for getting you here safely and send them on their way.”
A voice called out from the gathering crowd. “They’ve seen too much, Barnabas! We should lock them up!”
Shouts of agreement came from the crowd, and Tara’s eyes went wide with panic. Apollos and Aldrick fingered their swords, wondering if they were going to have to fight their way free. Tara raised her hands and shouted, “Please, friends! These gentlemen have saved my life on many occasions since I last left you! Apollos is a force to be feared whether he has summoned his beast blades or is using the sword to attack! And Nathan has gotten us out of many tight spots with his quick mind! I’m sure they would both be valuable assets to the rebellion, if you would just give them a chance!”
Barnabas sighed, “Very well, we will allow them to join with us, but they are to have an escort with them at all times until they have earned our trust. Thomas and Kevin, I want the two of you to stick with the two of them for the time being. Don’t let them out of your sight.”
The two men that he had indicated nodded their heads and stepped forward. It was clear why Barnabas had chosen the two of them to be their escorts. They were large men that stood over six feet tall, and had arms and legs that looked like they had worked the fields their whole lives, and they were the ones that pulled the plow instead of a horse. Aldrick nodded his head appreciatively and smiled up at the two men, who returned their smiles with stern stares. Aldrick patted Thomas on the chest and said, “I feel safer already with a bodyguard like you around. If you will show me the way to your command center, I would be happy to analyze your defenses for you and tell you the best way to form up your fighters.”
Barnabas snorted and shook his head. “Didn’t we make ourselves clear? We don’t trust you, you aren’t going anywhere near our command center.”
Aldrick stepped toward Barnabas and stared at him. “Do you know who Geraldo is going to send against you next? Do you know what the best way to defend against him is, or how he fights?”
Barnabas looked around at the other rebels and rolled his eyes. “It’s a well known fact that General Aldrick was called back recently for reassignment. Our spies inside the palace have told us that Aldrick has been preparing to move against us for some time.”
Aldrick shook his head. “Your information is outdated; Aldrick is no longer being sent against you, he has been sent to search for the legendary beast blades. No, I’m afraid that Elymas the Sorcerer is who will be attacking you. Have you ever faced off against someone who has mastered Magic?” Barnabas shook his head slowly and Aldrick continued. “No? You are about to face an army made up of casters. One sorcerer is enough to decimate a squad of men without breaking a sweat. I have faced off against sorcerers before, and I can give you your best chance of surviving his attacks, but I need to know what I’m working with!”
Barnabas nodded his head, but a voice called out from the crowd, “How do you know that Aldrick isn’t going to attack? This could be a trap!”
Aldrick sighed, “Let’s just say that I have been spying on Geraldo for a very long time, and I know his forces and how his generals think almost as well as they do. If you still don’t trust me, set five guards on me! Just allow me to advise you in how to fight against Geraldo’s forces!”
Barnabas’ eyes narrowed in suspicion, and he looked at the faces of people around him. He sighed but finally slowly nodded his head in agreement. “Fine, I will allow you to look over our placements and to advise me on how to maneuver them, but I have final say over every tactical decision. Agreed?”
Aldrick nodded his head graciously and said under his breath, “If he had continued to insist on me not being able to do the tactics I was about to abandon this camp and fight Geraldo on my own.”
Apollos muttered back, “Peace, Nathan. You can’t expect them to be comfortable with giving complete control of the rebellion to someone they’ve never heard of before.” Apollos spoke louder to Barnabas. “Could you tell me where my friend Malcolm is? I wish to speak with him.”
Barnabas nodded his head and gestured to Kevin. “Kevin, show him to the quartermaster. Thomas, you and three others escort Nathan to the map tent and allow him to observe our strategies, but keep a close eye on him. I will join you shortly to see what his thoughts on our strategies are. Tara, come and get something to eat, you must be hungry from your trip! You can tell us all about the adventures you’ve had.”
Thank you for checking out my story, if you liked this and want to see more of it, come back on Friday when I will publish part three, and check out the other stories I’m working on writing, here: Tales of the Imagination, check out my facebook page to connect with me and give me some feedback: Facebook, and follow me on Twitter here: @EJBorchardt. Please like, comment, and tell your friends if you like what you’ve read, and don’t forget to check out my new book! You can buy a copy of it here: The Kids on the Case: Our First Case