Chapter 4

Author's note: I was tempted to discontinue this story for reasons you will see later on in the next chapter if you do intend to read this. However, it is growing on me... it was either I get rid of the story (which I don't want to do), get rid of the Lady (a new character... she is really growing on me so I cannot do that), or I write this all out. My tutor once said that I censor myself too much, and that is why I can't write as much as I would like to. Maybe that is the case. So I will continue it.

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"Behind every great woman, there is a man."

~who knows?

A tall, slim figure stood silhouetted against the fading orange of the sunset, one elegantly long hand gripping the rail of the ship, the other stuffed in a coat pocket. The poise of the figure was at once relaxed and assertively militant, dignified yet humble.

As Estor neared his superior, he saw with embarassment that her boots were unpolished, still spotted with mud from her last excursion. Her long coat had also been treated to a healthy splattering of dirt. Bowing gracefully to the infamous Daughter of the Heavenly Knight, Estor scowled up at her smirking face.

"My Lady, should you not at least tell your father before you leave?"

"You mean you have a bone to pick with me." The Lady tilted her head forward, her short brown hair partially concealing the smirk she could not repress.

Estor's scowl softened into his customary frown as he straightened up. He had the embittered quality of an old servant - which, coincidentally, was what he was.

"I realize you have proven yourself... competent enough as one of the Law, but this particular mission is very unusual and calls for experience such as your father's-"

"My father has degenerated into a corrupt old man, Estor. He doesn't want to go on any missions. He has lost his purpose. He will not be the Law for long. I will take his place."

Estor was, for once, completely shocked. "My Lady-"

"When I repair the damage, the people will see that I am the one fit for the job, and what my father has become." The Lady smiled and turned briskly around, looking down at Estor. Estor found himself smirking as he looked into her eyes - one green, one gray. Everything she said was in a low tone of seriousness, but the gentle humor in those eyes never left. Estor found himself hoping she would overthrow the Heavenly Knight. "I've been used for a little too long, Estor. It's time I take things into my own hands and turn things around. I'll be leaving for the Between tonight. We'll begin the search promptly."

"Who is the discrepancy you are looking for again?"

The Lady was silent for awhile. "Modrin," she finally answered.

***

Neri's face had paled beyond what Alliorn considered possible. Whatever little color there had been had drained from her sister's face as Alliorn told her what had occured while they had been in school. Although the quiet girl had remained calm, her hands clasped upon her lap, there was no mistaking how she truly felt.

"Neri, are you alright?"

Neri nodded. "So... you need to-"

"Not just I, Neri. We. You are one of the protectors of Arania too, even though I am the official figure. Remember what the Oracle said long ago? The blood of the reign will protect Arania."

"But... no has had to for... nearly three centuries..."

Alliorn looked down at her sneakered feet. For so long, Arania had been almost a Utopia. Minor crimes could not be totally be rid of, but no major catastrophes had ever befallen them. The entire royal staff was at a loss of what to do. It had been complete chaos for the last four hours. Even the wizards and advisors were in a state of panic. They were not trained for these situations; they had no experience.

For the public's well being, the mysterious power's existence was still kept a secret. It had been advancing, but it had stopped and stayed still for the time being.

"Neri, you have to help me, okay? I have no idea what we're supposed to do. I remember all the spells, but..."

Neri looked passively at Alliorn and smiled. "We'll have to move quickly."

Alliorn looked up at her sister. She grinned. "What better time than now?"

***

Mariana staggered on for a mile or two, then dropped to her knees from sheer exhaustion, lying down on her stomach and closing her eyes.

In the desolate night in the heart of the Barrens, a single small boy materialized. He was no more than seven, bearing the appearance of any normal, healthy child. But there was a power, deep within him, hidden beneath his wide, frightened eyes.

Modrin's restless gaze roved the rocky terrain he had been transported to. Millions of glittering eyes glared out at him with malice from the dark pits in the ground. The young boy stumbled about for awhile, the overwhelming fear and helplessness erasing all memory of his purpose. The single, ringing voice, interrogating him and some invisible presence

Why did they do this to me? Why did they leave me here? Don't they love me?

hammered into his heart a permanent message. Slowly the red eyes drifted up from the pits, revealing gangly bodies and sharp claws by the light of the triplet moons. Such a delectable treat could not be dismissed by the Demons. Modrin whimpered, cowering into himself. The Demons neared him.

Suddenly, all Modrin wanted to do was pray. To him, spells were prayers which were instantly gratified by an unknown god - his own god, one which had never been introduced to him because the scientists had not thought religion would matter.

"White fire, white fire,

Evil do you devour.

Please, protect me from the dark,

Cleanse the night of evil's mark."

Instantly, Modrin felt his knees buckle as the white fire erupted from within him. Shooting out like beams of light, it pierced the Demons and rendered them apart, tearing limbs and grinding flesh to a pulp. I nabout ten minutes, the Barrens were completely cleansed of Demons.

A straight route to the sea could finally be established.

Mariana opened her eyes, tears streaking down her cheek, quivering at the tip of her chin and dropping to be devoured by the black earth.

Modrin, now twenty six, stood under the gaze of curious peasants as he cast a guilty glance about himself. The strange man had materalized out of nowhere, this awkward man who was still a boy. Into the heart of Tanios he had appeared, a mixture of rich and poor, powerful and helpless, war torn yet still retaining the cultured atmosphere of the past. Children thought it was magic; adults thought it was an illusion. They all stared at him with pure curiosity and bewilderment, not hostility.

Modrid's watery green eyes closed as he hung his head. He was Bersia's last hope, he reminded himself. The war must be won.

"Black fire, bring your power,

To aid me at this troubled hour."

Mariana buried her face in the comforting coolness of the ground.