Fortunatus Light of Dark
by AJ Marks
Tess made her way back to where the army waited seeing Lisa and Becca waiting. They both made their way over to her the moment they saw her. Even others in the army looked anxious, ready to move out.
“What’s going on Empress?” Lisa asked, beating Becca to the question.
“Assemble all captains at once, and I hope everyone’s ready to do some fast marching,” Tess said. She knew they had a lot of work to so and some heavy marching to do before the day was over. She wanted to be in a defensive position as soon as possible.
Tess watched as they both looked at her for a second, then went and carried out her orders. They understood when she had a certain look in her eye to not question her orders. She would be asking a lot from her army and soldiers but had confidence about them handling the task.
She quickly went over watching as a group of soldiers put up a table for her to work with. She paced slightly trying to work off nervous energy she felt at everything. The captains of the army started arriving watching her with nervousness as she paced back and forth until finally Lisa and Becca arrived back with the last of the captains.
“All right, we have a problem, we need to defend this area here, from an invading warlord army under the control of the Zero-Mage Gregory,” Tess said spreading the map out on the table, waving her hand so everyone could see where she was pointing on the map. “We also need to get there as fast as possible.”
“It would take too long for any transports to arrive,” Lisa said.
“Exactly, and I have no idea when the enemy will get there, or even if they are already there,” Tess said.
“What’s so special about this spot, I see nothing about it that is strategic?” another captain said.
Tess looked around seeing more than a few agree with him. She had to agree any other day and she would be arguing the same thing. Today she had new knowledge that had the survival of the entire empire on the line. She paused for a second before making a decision.
“It doesn’t look like it, but there is something there that is very important, something ancient Gregory is trying to get his hands on. If he does it can impact our entire empire,” Tess told him. “We can’t let him get his hands on it.”
“What is it?” another captain said. “I mean if we don’t know how do we know not to let him in it?”
“It is an ancient creature,” another voice said. Tess turned to see Gallic standing there. The few captains nearby moved back giving him some room.
“A creature?” the mummer went thought he crowd.
“Yes, an ancient one full of evil, legends say it can suck the magic out of a person,” Gallic said to the group. “It is a creature of pure evil, you could say these Zero-Mages are after it to rescue it. They might have sent it here to destroy us.”
Tess noticed Gallic’s words had the desired effect on the men. She looked over at Lisa and Becca who waited for her next orders.
“So if this thing can absorb magi how do we kill it?” one asked. They all looked over at her.
“I have no idea, that’s why we need to stop it from being awakened at all,” Tess said. “To do that we must move fast and with purpose. Now, we only have a general location of where this beast is, so we must not allow them to find it. They might only have a location as well. This enemy is to be stopped at all costs.”
She watched her captains’ think about that and what the results might be if they fail.
“Okay, here is where each group is to head, scouts we need you to travel fast, as there is no accurate information about where this group is,” Tess said quickly spending the next thirty minutes going over how to deploy the squads in the area. Each captain took down their squads orders before breaking up and heading back to their squads. Tess looked over at Becca who seemed to still be looking at the map.
“I have some other news,” Tess said, watching Becca turn to look at her. “I found Carrie, she was part of that battle over there. She is expected to live but was injured.”
“What was she doing there?” Becca asked frowning.
“Seems like she was part of the group protecting the Enokrad’s legend,” Tess said.
“She had that secret,” Becca said looking shocked. “And here I thought she couldn’t keep a secret.”
That caused both of them to laugh before Becca turned serious.
“You think this Enokrad is that dangerous?” she asked.
Tess thought about it before replying. “Well, they were protecting a secret, and there is a group after them. Gregory was looking for something back when I knew him, this has to be it. My only question is how does he intend to control it?”
Tess looked at Becca who shrugged her shoulders in defeat. Tess felt a small vibration from her bracelet. Looking down she noticed that it had activated telling her several things about Ami. She was all right at the moment and that she was in the direction of where she was going to be going. Sighing, she realized that if Ami had been kidnapped by Zero-Mages and they were working under Gregory then she would be with them. All Tess needed to do now was figure out which side the blonde was on.
Ami walked along with the rest of the group looking down at the ground. She kicked at another pebble on the road, watching it skip along into the brushes.
“Would you stop that!” a person said nearby. Ami looked over at a man, who looked back at her annoyed. “You keep setting off my perimeter senses, damn Zero-Mage.”
Ami said nothing, but continued along not wanting to get into a shouting match with anyone. She moved a bit quicker to get away from the guy who still stared at her. Ami had the impression that despite the fact the groups were working together, they did not get along.
“Don’t worry about him,” a voice said, which Ami recognized as the girl, with spiky hair, came up next to her. The guy who had stared at her, looked away as if he was almost afraid of her somehow.
“It’s a bit new to me,” Ami finally said.
“Yeah, it was for me to, I mean magic, wow, never thought I’d be here in a place like this,” she said. “I don’t know about you but it’s easier here.”
Ami frowned unsure of what the girl meant.
“They rely too much on magic,” the girl said, leaning closer to Ami. “I plan on staying here, I’m only following this prick to gain some power. You don’t seem so eager to leave either.”
Ami looked at her in shock thinking that the way the girl acted she was eager to leave.
“You thought I wanted to go back, it was a good act huh?” she said. “Yeah, like I’d want to go back to that hell hole of a dump.”
The way the girl said it made Ami wonder exactly what she had done to get sent here. Ami decided she did not want to know. Sometimes thing were easier if you did not know such things. She wanted to head back to Tess and resume the life she had there. It had been better than anything else she had.
“I’m Kelly by the way, you are?”
“Ami,” she replied.
“So were you really were a slave to the Empress?”
“Ah, yes,” Ami said unsure how much to say. “I was her pleasure servant.”
“Oh, that’s different,” Kelly said. “So you have some interesting times?”
Ami blushed slightly causing Kelly to laugh.
“What a blush, come on, tell me, is she any good? There are rumors but I want the truth?” Kelly said. “I’ve heard she can make a girl pass out from pleasure, or keep you on the edge all night long, or make you cum in seconds just by looking at you.”
Ami blinked at that last one. “Um, don’t think so, and I’ve never passed out or been on the edge for that long,” Ami finally said, thinking about the experiences she had. “But, she is amazing,” Ami finally said, knowing that no matter who came next she doubted that anyone would come close to giving her the excitement she got with Tess. “Um, I wonder how much further it is.”
“I don’t know, but I’m tired as well. They need more cars here.”
Ami had to agree with that, as the man with the moustache came walking up. Ami recalled his name as Gregory.
“Kelly, you’re supposed at the front, and Mary is to be keeping an eye on her,” he said with a growl.
“Just a little girl talk,” Kelly said. “What a grouch,” she said to Ami, before sticking her tongue out at Gregory and heading off to the front of the group.
“Crazy bitch,” she heard Gregory say before he turned towards her. “You make sure to follow orders, I don’t have any qualms about killing someone else.”
Ami swallowed under his gaze unable to say anything in reply. She wondered exactly what her role in this was. He knew said he needed her help but now felt unsure about that. It seemed to her that he kidnapped her for a different reason. She only wished she knew what the reason was.
“Gregory, we’ve got a problem,” another person said, walking up to him quickly holding out a piece of paper.
Ami watched as he took it and quickly read it turning a slight shade of red.
“Son of a bitch, can’t anyone follow orders anymore!” he yelled out causing several people to flinch. “BEN!” he yelled out heading off.
Ami had no idea what happened, not sure she wanted to know either. She watched as Mary walked back up to her.
“Bout time he left,” she said.
Ami said nothing. Her nervousness rising with each step taken.
Tess walked knowing she was approaching the location of where she would be setting up her headquarters. From there she could sent off a few messages to Lycos, informing him of what had gone on and she would be set enough to receive replies. The last message from him indicated the boarders, except for the Shadowlands, were calm. She turned at the sound of approaching footsteps of a courier running fast with magic. She watched as he stopped in front of her.
“Empress, I have a message,” he said panting slightly, holding out a piece of parchment. Tess took it quickly reading it. She stopped and reread it. Scouts had engaged a group not from a small settlement called Tybeggust.
Tess took out her map quickly looking at the map to determine the location of both her army and the town.
“Something wrong?” Becca asked, walking up beside her.
“Yeah, we have an engagement, here,” she said pointing to the small town.
“Hmm, can’t say I’ve been there,” Becca said.
“A mining town, not big, a thousand people if that,” Tess said, reading the information from the map. She looked down at her bracelet checking where Ami was before making her decision. “Grab all the couriers to inform all captains they are to move to Tybeggust at once and engage the forces there. Becca inform the army we move at our best speed.”
She watched the courier leave before turning to Becca.
“Are you sure about that, could be a scout group like ours,” she said.
“I have other sources that I am trusting,” Tess said, not mentioning anything about Ami. She knew how Becca felt about the blonde. Tess chose to trust Ami, even now. She needed no argument from Becca over this.
“All right, but I don’t like it that much,” Becca replied, but went ahead and carried out her orders. Tess took a moment to look at the map, bringing up a terrain map of the area. Her mind already going over positions to defend and attack from. She also thought about where someone might hide something. That was the ultimate goal of this attack. She had to find that before Gregory did.
She made a mental note of a couple of locations, and how to defend them, as well as a spot to set up her headquarters. Putting away the map, she started heading towards the town with the rest of the army, who had picked up their steps with the knowledge that battle was close at hand.
She watched as Lisa and Becca went about their business going back and forth among captains of the army, relaying orders before they both walked towards her
“You have any idea what you’re doing once we get there?” Becca asked.
“I have an idea, but first we need to get there and see what the actual situation is, that will determine how we set up,” Tess said. She knew that it would make all the difference, especially if they had to capture someplace or set up better defenses.
She saw the questioning look on Becca’s face as she wanted to ask something but did not. Tess felt a bit relieved she did not as she did not need the additional doubt. She hoped she had done the right thing. Tess looked back down at her bracelet hoping her trust in Ami was not misplaced.
Tess looked over the landscape, looking for anything that might seem old and weathered that could house the Enokrad. She wanted to find the creature before Gregory. She also knew somewhere close by a battle had begun. She had received several couriers as she set up her HQ stating skirmishes had begun.
She looked back down at the map once more before looking back at the terrain. The map, despite its age, was still very accurate. Lisa and Becca, who stood nearby, had strengthened the lines of defense around the town. Now they looked over the latest reports of fighting.
“New report, there are enemy forces over on Lanes Hill,” Lisa said. Tess looked over at the hill in question in the distance. She had managed to take the largest hill in the area, overlooking the entire battlefield. The men around her hastily built defensive fortifications to keep the hill.
“Town’s been evacuated,” Becca reported. Tess moved everyone in the town away from the location the moment she arrived at the scene. She did not need innocent civilians in the way of this battle. It appeared to be shaping up as a large one battle. Tess was taking the battle like an invasion instead of a warlord raiding her Empire.
“Good, any word on an elder coming over here?” Tess asked. She had requested someone of the town to ask them of anything around here that might be considered off limits, evil or strange. Such information might help her in her defense instead of guessing where Gregory might attack.
“Yes, they are on their way, the village elder and his wife,” Becca replied.
“Very dangerous times this is,” Gallic said, speaking up from where he stood overlooking the entire area. He had seemed more reserved lately despite everything that had happened.
“You know something?” Tess asked looking at him intently.
“Ah, nothing that would concern you young one,” he replied back, causing Tess to frown. It had been the first time he used that tone making Tess suspicious that he did know something. She looked over at Becca and Lisa who merely shrugged watching as he shuffled off to another spot.
“He knows something,” Tess finally replied, once he seemed out of hearing range.
“Has to, hasn’t looked at me in a while now,” Lisa said.
Tess had to admit that Gallic not looking at Lisa was odd. He seemed less perverted lately and with each passing second more and more serious. She wanted to know what he knew.
“Perhaps he’s concerned with the future, the young people,” Becca finally said, causing Tess to look over at her general with a bit of a surprise. Usually Becca did not say such things.
“Might be, but let’s be careful, a strange acting Segic is suspicious enough,” Tess finally replied. They went back to work making sure everything was ready, hearing reports of skirmishes all around the area but nothing large enough to commit her forces to.
She turned to see an elderly couple approaching the covered tent as the clouds finally brought their rain. She watched them as they hurried under the cover shaking off water before turning towards her.
“Empress, we were told you wished to speak with someone in the village?” the man said, his hair white as cotton matching his wife’s short white hair. Both seemed alert as their eyes took everything in. Tess guessed them to be in their eighties.
“Yes,” Tess replied. “There’s a warlord invading this area.”
“Why would he do that?” the woman said.
“There is nothing here, only a worthless mine that barely scrapes out enough metal for us to survive,” the man stated. Tess could tell he had worked in the mine by his hands.
“He’s in the area for something else, something I have to stop him from gaining control of.” She watched their expressions closely but neither showed any signs of knowing anything.
“Something else, there is nothing here except tress and hills,” the man said. “It is poor farming land, barely enough to keep us fed.”
“Is there something else around here, an area that is off-limits, or an area where there is a rumor you should not go at night, some myth in the area, and evil area?” Tess asked, getting down to the main point of her questioning. She noticed that Gallic had returned and now listened in intently.
“Hmm, nothing much,” the man said.
“Well, there Old Tom’s Hill,” the woman stated.
“Old Tom’s Hill,” Tess said, looking at her map and not seeing any hill called that.
“That’s only a tall tale,” the man said in an irritated voice.
“Tale or not, what is the hill?” Gallic said, speaking up causing the couple to flinch at being addressed by him.
Tess watched a silent struggle of will go on before the woman spoke up again. “Old Tom’s Hill is known for strange sounds at night, the kids love to go there and dare each other to go up it. Some say they felt as if they were being watched, others say their magic was felt strange up there.”
“And others have felt nothing, it’s all brought on by their mind,” the man said.
“And which hill is it?” Tess asked.
“That hill right there,” the man said, pointing to a hill behind them. Tess looked at it noticing nothing particular about the hill in question. In fact it looked very ordinary compared to the others. Tess reviewed her last thought before making up her mind. “Becca, Tess, fortify the base of the hill, don’t let anyone on that hill.”
“Are you sure?” Lisa asked. “There is no other place?”
Tess looked at the man and woman for a second before replying. “No, that has to be where Enokrad is,” she said watching as the name sparked a slight reaction in the man. She quickly turned towards him. “The invading army, led by a Zero-Mage called Gregory, wishes to awaken that beast. If you know where it is let us know so I can stop him.”
She watched him struggle for several seconds before speaking. “That beast is on this hill, the legends around Old Tom’s Hill are made up, even so much as an interior cave set up to prevent others from finding the real location,” he said.
“You’re a Protector,” she said.
“No, I am the Protector, they protect me, I have the most knowledge of the beast. It cannot be destroyed,” he said.
“That’s why we mustn’t let it be awakened,” Tess said.
“It is absolute evil,” he said, as his wife looked at him with complete shock.
“I thought you didn’t believe in those tales?” she said.
“I don’t, because I knew the truth,” he said. “The spells around Old Tom’s hill are constantly rebuilt. I only know the beast is inside this hill, but the entrance I do not know.”
“Shall I form the protection around us?” Lisa asked.
Tess thought about it for a second before making a decision. “No, we go with the original thought,” Tess finally said, watching the shock on everyone’s faces. “If what he says is true then only those of us up here know this information, right?” she asked him.
“Yes, I have not named my successor yet,” he said.
“Then only the five us know this information. Gregory might know I know what he’s after, and look for where I fortify the most. He will only want this hill because of its ability to overlook the battlefield. He doesn’t wish to win the battle, only gain access to the beast,” Tess said half explaining her actions half thinking out loud.
“Distract him,” Becca said.
“Yes, there will be the normal Royal Guard here because that’s where I am,” Tess said. “Let him use his forces in a useless attack. We already have reinforcements coming from the 3rd army and the gathering of the 6th army.”
“What about here? You can’t leave this spot undefended!” the man said.
“I have no intention to do so, but I must also feed Gregory false information,” Tess replied. She could not afford for her enemy to know the truth. “Let’s get moving, and have the Royal Guard set up around here because Gregory will want this spot to direct his battle.”
She watched as Lisa and Becca moved to gathered their captains and arrange the forces. The couple remained close by unsure of what they might do.
“I suggest you stay here, can’t afford the enemy gaining your information,” Tess said. The man did not seem that happy about it but said nothing. The battle was almost upon her, she glanced back down at the other hill. That’s where the battle would be decided.
End Part 12
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