Chapter 1-Athala

It was a rare, clear spring day on the edge of the Eisenberge. No clouds or fog obscured Finsternis Tal and we had a clear view from the Olympic Tower down the Tal to the wide open Alkite plains stretching out for hundreds of miles below.

Even rarer was the peaceful moment I shared with my Mistress. Instead of ruthlessly testing my knowledge of spells or pushing me beyond my abilities to learn new spells, we reclined together on the top of my castle's tower, enjoying a drink and the view. My province had been quiet for two months with no hints of uprisings or sedition and crime was down. Leaving the day-to-day in the hands of my administrators, I could focus on my studies. Apparently, my progress had impressed the Mistress, enough so she forwent the last few hours of training and we shared this moment.

"Have some ale," the Mistress offered, handing me a cup of the amber liquid.

I couldn't help wrinkling my nose at the strong drink but I didn't dare turn down the Mistress's offer. As the stuff burned down my throat, I was reminded why I hated it.

"Still cannot handle ale?" the Mistress mocked me slightly.

"I will not get drunk but I still do not like it, Mistress," I defended myself, scowling at the drink for making me look weak.

"An Eisenbergian who does not like ale?" she laughed, a cold, humorless laugh. "Perhaps you would better be suited as an Alkite."

"I am no gebraten," I sharply retorted.

"No, but you have not had their wine either," she gave me a knowing look. "Perhaps you would change your mind then, ya?"

"That is not likely to happen anytime soon," I snorted, looking down at our old enemy sprawling out into the horizon. Alkite traders hadn't been in the Eisenberge for decades.

"It will happen much sooner than you think, my apprentice," the Mistress gave me a cold, knowing smile. "Soon we shall all share in Alkilion's riches and you shall drink your fill of good Alkite wine."

It took a moment for the import of her words to sink. Then my jaw dropped.

"It is time, Mistress?" I asked breathlessly, unable to conceal my excitement.

"You and Aidan are ready," she nodded. "Alkilion is fat and sleepy, like a hog just before the slaughter. They will never see us coming until it is far too late."

Looking down at the plains of Alkilion, I felt a shiver run down my spine, a combination of excitement and fear. All the training I had gone through, all the torture I had endured had been to prepare me for this task: the conquest of Alkilion, the richest and most powerful nation in the world. Once they were gone, the world would be ours for the taking.

"What am I to do?" I inquired.

"Wait for my instructions," the Mistress answered, rising. "You have done well, my apprentice, and I am confident we shall end Sennacheriv and his cursed people."

"And you shall have your revenge," I added, letting the enthusiasm of the moment sweep me away.

The Mistress paused and leveled a dangerous glare at me. For a terrifying moment, I thought perhaps I had said too much.

"Ya," she nodded, turning the glare out to Alkilion, "I shall have my revenge."