Disclaimers: See part 1
Fortunatus Light of Dark
by AJ Marks
Tess returned her wand to its sheath as the Grunt army surrendered to her. She motioned for her troops to capture those still alive, as medics came out onto the field to try and help those that they could. The battle had gone a bit better than she hoped. They attacked from two different directions, catching the Grunt army completely off guard. The fact they had only finished marching back from Grunt territory only tired them out. Tess had fresh troops with her.
“Well, glad to see that worked,” Russell said, walking up beside Tess.
“It did work,” Tess said, seeing Lisa walk towards her, probably for new orders.
“What are your orders Empress?” she asked.
“We’ll get the prisoners settled, get some rest while the Royal Guard will be going with me back to the 3rd Army HQ for transport to the border of the Shadowlands, we have another invasion to take care of. The 1st army is already heading there. We have a lot of work to do,” Tess said to her.
“Another invasion?” Lisa said. “What’s the world coming to?”
“I don’t know, but I know who is behind it,” Tess said, her mind going right to Gregory. He had planned this for a long time now. She only hoped she could stop him before a lot of people lost their lives. She made her way over to where some servants were bringing out some water to the soldiers out in the field. The head medic came over to her.
“Are you insured Empress?” he asked.
“Nope, got lucky this time,” she replied back to him. “How many did we lose?”
“I can confirm twenty dead, another sixteen severely injured,” he replied back to her. “The rest have varying degrees of injuries, most should be ready to go in a couple of days.”
“Good, glad the causalities were light,” Tess said. She knew this had only started and that a confrontation with Gregory would be the only thing that finally stopped this war. She needed to figure out where he was going.
She left the rest of the clean up to the men on the field, and walked back to a tent which had been set up for her. She really wanted to see Ami in there, but that would have to wait until she returned back to HQ. The small blonde had learned how to give a most pleasant massage, one which Tess wished she could have right now.
“Empress,” the mayor of Navatown shouted, as she reached her tent. He had a piece of paper in his hands. Tess wondered what had happened now. “This just arrived for you Empress.”
Tess quickly read the note, concerned about what happened. She felt a bit relieved seeing that it was from Lycos, who stated that the finally received word from the Grunt King, and he asked for peace. He probably understood she could destroy his army, leaving him wide open to any invasion she wished to carry out.
She looked over the note again before considering her reply. She would accept his conditions to recall all armies, not that she had any in Grunt territory, and any captured Grunt soldiers she would be released at an agreed upon date in the future. Tess wanted to conclude her problem with Gregory before releasing the soldiers.
“So, is it over?” the mayor asked, his voice clearly uneasy and hopeful.
“Perhaps, but is anything truly over,” Tess replied back at him. She watched his reaction. He seemed to understand what she said. “But to answer your question, this current problem, yes it’s over.”
“Good, I don’t like sieges, bad for business,” he replied back to her. “I can tell the merchants they can open up for business tomorrow without problems.”
“I don’t see any problems, but be wary in case there is a rogue group out there,” Tess answered him, before heading into her tent. She still had a lot of things to do and needed to get some sleep before moving out tomorrow. Gregory had moved his pieces and she still had no idea where he would be going.
Tess hoped to have some news, from either Becca or Carrie, but she had no messages in her tent. She hoped everything was going all right but without any new information she could only assume how things were going. She would find out more tomorrow. She trusted Becca and Carrie to do the right thing. They had been with her for a while now and she knew that they would not start a war with another Empire. Tess wanted information about where Gregory had gone.
She wrote down a few things making a few notes for herself tomorrow. There were a lot of things she could do and look for. She would finish up tonight then work on it tomorrow.
Tess looked around in the morning, seeing Lisa standing nearby. She and the Royal Guard had worked hard already, two battles, and yet Tess understood another battle awaited them. She had received a note from Becca, which woke her up, saying that the 1st army had arrived in position and that Gregory’s army had retreated back into the Shadowlands before they arrived.
“How many squads are ready to go?” Tess asked her.
“All squads ready, it’s only a matter of how many you want to go,” Lisa said.
“We’ll take all four Royal Guard squads, leave the remaining squads here to help out with any transitions with the Grunt army. I doubt they’ll be any trouble though,” Tess aid.
“Who will be trouble?” Russell’s voice said, causing Tess to turn to see the general walking towards them.
“Oh, I’m not expecting any more trouble with the Grunts, but I’m leaving several squads here with you just in case,” Tess answered
“If you think that’s the best decision, I’ll welcome all the help I can. Probably get a few warlords around here for a bit,” Russell stated. “What is the situation along the Shadowlands?”
“The invaders retreated back before the 1st army could arrive.” Tess said.
“So things are back to normal,” Russell said as Tess and Lisa shared a look.
“Doubtful, the guy behind it is very slippery and cunning,” Tess answered. “He and I have a history.”
She watched as Russell seemed thoughtful about that before saying anything else. “Should I watch out for anything unusual behind my defenses?”
“Normally no, but with this guy, yes,” Tess told him.
“Then we’ll be cautious,” Russell said. “When are you leaving?”
“As soon as the Royal Guard squads are in position to move out,” Tess said. She wanted to get to the Shadowlands and figure out what was going on herself.
“We’re ready, waiting on your orders,” Lisa said.
“Then tell the men to move out,” Tess told her before turning towards Russell. “If you need anything inform the palace, they’ll be able to get in touch with me.”
“Of course Empress,” Russell replied, with a slight bow, which she returned before heading off with Lisa and the waiting men and women of the Royal Guard.
Tess walked into the 3rd army HQ, feeling fear in the air as they realized who was in their midst. She walked over to her tent seeing the guards shift uncomfortably at her approach.
She walked in anxious and disappointed, when she did not see Ami anywhere in the tent. She then frowned realizing she had not seen Janice at all either. She did not recall seeing either of them while walking though the camp. She walked back out focusing on the guard who swallowed slightly.
“So, where is my servant and guard?” Tess demanded, looking the guard in the eyes.
“Empress, I don’t know,” he stammered.
“Don’t know?” Tess said, stepping closer so she was nose to nose with the guard. She could feel his fear as she glanced around for some sort of escape route. “What do you mean you don’t know?”
“We don’t know empress,” another voice said, she turned to see a captain walking towards her.
“And how is it you don’t know?” Tess asked, her patience running out on the conversation. She wanted to know where Ami was and she wanted to know now.
“Empress, we were ambushed by a small group of Zero-Mages using crude projectile weapons,” the captain finally said, obviously fearful.
“Zero-Mages, here?” Tess asked, looking at the other guards now.
“Yes Empress, we only know they killed two soldiers, two civilians and an eye-witness stated the guard for your slave was shot,” one the guard said.
“And what else?” Tess asked, her anger at the situation growing with each passing word.
“We have no idea where the guard is,” the guard said.
“They came in without warning and went right after your slave calling her a Zero-Mage as well,” the captain said, as Tess’ attention returned to him.
“How were they acting?” Tess asked, knowing they could act very well.
“They seemed confused about her,” the captain said. “She seemed scared about them and witnesses thought they heard the name Gregory and that he wanted all Zero-Mages with him.”
Gregory’s name caused Tess to cool down slightly. He had zeroed in on Ami and now the question came up why? Ami seemed to have no connection to Gregory that Tess had been able to tell with all of her conversations with Ami. The young woman had, Tess thought, been completely honest. If she had been lying then Ami was the best liar Tess had ever seen.
“Lisa!” she yelled out, waiting only a moment before the captain appeared running up to her.
“Empress, is something wrong?” Lisa asked.
“Yeah, it seems like we had some visitors while we were away,” Tess replied, looking at Lisa. The short Royal Guard captain seemed confused by Tess’ words. “A couple of Zero-Mages decided to stop by, and it appears they were after my slave and hurt Janice.”
Tess watched as Lisa recognized the name of the guard who had been left behind.
“Is she all right?” Lisa asked.
Tess tuned towards the captain raising an eyebrow at him.
“We don’t know, we haven’t been able to find her since the attack,” he said.
“I know that she was shot by the Zero-Mage weapon but no one saw her taken by any of them. The medics did not see anyone with such a wound,” one of the guards said.
“Prepare to move out, have a couple of transports ready to go shortly,” Tess said to Lisa, watching the Royal Guard captain leave to carry out the order. She felt some anger at the situation but also confusion about why Gregory targeted Ami.
“You seem to be distracted Empress,” a voice said, causing Tess to turn seeing, a short old man walking towards her leaning on a walking stick. Tess recognized him as the Segic called Gallic.
“You seem to only show up when needed,” Tess said, unsure if she should be worried about his appearance or not. “Do you have any advice or just passing through?”
“A bit of both,” he replied, not backing down, despite the size difference between the two of them.
“Well perhaps you can enlighten me a bit,” Tess said.
“Time is growing short, that much is true,” Gallic said. “The Enokrad will awaken if you do not do anything.”
“So where do I go?” Tess said, a bit annoyed. She had little idea about what, or where the Enokrad was. “You’ve mentioned this before yet have no other information for me. Should I go after the Zero-Mages or someone else? Do I head into the Shadowlands or defend a place inside my Empire? I need information!”
Tess looked down into Gallic’s blue eyes, but saw no answers. Tess turned to head after her lost pleasure slave and Gregory. If he was behind this then going after him might stop this Enokrad, or whatever, from awakening.
“If you must go that direction then you must, I do not know which direction you must go, the future has not revealed itself to me,” Gallic said. “Only that awakening is close now.”
“Then I don’t know what I can do. I will go with my gut instinct, it rarely fails me,” Tess replied, watching as Lisa returned.
“Two transports will be ready to go in an hour,” Lisa said.
“Good, get something to eat,” Tess said, walking towards the HQ office to see if anything that came in that she might be able to use. She heard the clunk of the walking stick keeping up with her, she stopped and turned towards him. “Plan on following me?”
“Actually, yes I do,” he replied back, taking Tess aback with his honesty. “I could be very useful to you.”
Tess doubted his usefulness. He had only told her that the Enokrad is awakening but nothing else. She had no idea if anything she did would make it worse or not. She also had no idea if this Enokrad was actually real or not. He might have her chasing legends and myths.
“Well don’t get in the way,” Tess finally said, wondering if taking him along would even be a good idea.
“So where is that lovely girl that was with you last time?” Gallic said, looking around as they approached the offices.
“Kidnapped it seems,” Tess replied, not looking back at him. She reached the office without any further comments from Gallic, but he never paused in his steps at the news, or he already knew about it.
“Empress, um, is there something I can do for you?” the person behind the desk asked, looking very startled at the fact Tess had entered the room.
“Yeah, any reports for me?” Tess asked quickly, looking down at the parchments on the desk and over at the table.
“Um, I don’t recall seeing anything Empress, I shall check again to make sure,” he said, quickly rising and going through the papers.
He started to look when a chime indicated a new message. Tess grabbed it before he could make if over to the table. She glared at him for a second, until he continued looking. Tess glanced down to the note in her hand, realizing it was addressed to her.
The note came from Janice which surprised Tess a bit. She knew the guard had at least survived the initial attack, and hoped the note said something useful. Quickly reading though the note she discovered that Janice considered Ami as a Zero-Mage, and probably an enemy, tracking her for some sort of revenge. Tess looked at the note again, realizing that she had no way to respond to the guard.
The one important part of the note indicated that Janice had followed the Zero-Mages and she had indicated where they went. She glanced at the map with this new knowledge. Janice indicated a place near the Shadowlands, and away from the larger towns. She concluded the large towns were not Gregory’s target.
She quickly reached for some parchment and wrote down a note for both Becca and Carrie about the information before sending it off to them. Then she walked back out with Gallic behind her, having some plan in motion.
Ami spent the time trying to remain in the shadows hoping to avoid talking with anyone in the group. She looked for any way to escape, but had no way to do so as every place she seemed to go in the area had at least two or three people, all of whom kept a close eye on her.
She found herself back in the main room, where the leaders seemed to be hanging out. Ami glanced over as a person walked into the room. She watched the guy almost run up to the leader, who she recalled his name as Gregory.
“What is it?” Gregory said harshly.
“Um, sir, we’ve discovered that someone followed your group back from the far border when you brought her,” the guy said, pointing over at Ami who flinched slightly at that.
“So the group was followed, have you caught him?” Gregory said.
“We tried, but the Protectors got her first,” the guy replied back, giving a name Ami had not heard yet. She watched Gregory twist his moustache a bit between two fingers, thinking about what to do next.
“How did they find out about him before us?” Gregory finally asked. “I thought we had destroyed them?”
“I-I don’t’ know, but it seemed as if we missed a few of them,” the guy replied back.
“We don’t need failure so close to our goal,” Gregory said finally.
“What me to go and finish them?” the guy named Paul said.
“No, we’re too close to start chasing ghosts, we’ll step up our plans that’s all,” Gregory said. “We have the necessary groups assembled, and there is nothing that bitch can do about it anyways.”
Ami had no idea what Gregory was talking about and really wanted nothing to do with it all. The only thing she really wanted to do was go back to Tess, and imagine this entire episode never happened.
“Are you sure that’s wise?” Mary said, from where she sat doodling on some paper.
“Its fine, once we start nothing can stop us,” Gregory said.
“If you’re sure about it, then I’m with you,” Paul said. “The sooner we get out of here, the better for me.”
No one said anything for several seconds, until the same Soulvier woman Ami had seen before walked into the room. From her appearance, she seemed very excited about something as she made her way right to Gregory.
“You have something?” he asked.
“We have it, one of those stubborn Protectors finally cracked under the pressure,” she said smiling. Ami thought her eyes even looked to be alit with joy over this situation.
“Well,” Gregory said, looking around at the group. “I guess we finally know where to go.”
“I shall inform the rest of the group, our time has finally come, it’s been too long,” the Soulvier said, handing Gregory a piece of paper then walked out of the room almost skipping with joy.
Ami watched the group turn towards Gregory, as the door closed shut.
“Pack up, inform the army to prepare to move out,” he said, reading the paper then looking down at what appeared to be a map. “We’re heading here. Go tell the generals, we proceed with the plan now.”
“Y-Yes sir,” the man who had brought the message said, running back out of the room. “Mary, take care of our newbie over there, make sure she knows what to do when the time comes.”
“No problem,” Mary said. Ami watched as the blonde looked over at her, causing Ami to wonder what the woman was thinking. She really did not want to do anything that might cause a problem for Tess, or her new home. She felt trapped once again, like she did when on trial. Nothing she would do would change what would happen.
She watched Mary make her way over to where she stood as many of the others walked out of the room obviously preparing for something. She looked up as Mary stopped in front of her.
“It simple, we go along and make sure that the others don’t try anything to stop us, especially those of the resurrection group, the fools think we’re actually trying to help them achieve their goals,” Mary said smiling, at what she thought had been a joke.
Ami merely nodded wondering if her chance to escape had disappeared. The more she thought about going back to Earth, the less she wanted to return. She had a better life here than at any time back in the world she came from.
End part 10
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