Kratia leaned over the sensiball, casting spells to seek out Billy wherever he might be. A flurry of swirling clouds cleared to reveal the blind wizard and his apprentice in Aloria. She watched for several minutes, growing increasingly uneasy.
Kratia darkened her sensiball and turned away. She had no idea Nexus was capable of utilizing such arcane magic, or indeed that raising the Elves in such a way was even possible. She had to ensure that her own control was still in place. Furthermore, it gave her the perfect opportunity to cast a spell of her own that would place another piece of her plan in place. She contacted Sarral and told him to have the staff magicians begin a spell of concealment over the entire castle. Just as a precaution.
Kratia rushed to her sanctum sanctorum, grabbed the white crystal box and carried it to her lab in the sub-basement of the castle. Many wizards liked having labs in high towers with open windows. She preferred to be hidden from prying eyes. The barriers of stone and earth around her lab didn’t stop the vital lines of magic force from the Blue Crystal. Only white crystal walls could do that, and she used that material very sparingly.
She set the box on a table and took a deep breath. Risky, risky, this step. It would leave a record in the matrix of the Crystal that could be checked by any circle of three wizards. But then, it was doubtful that anyone would ever check for the existence of an 11th level spell. Nothing had ever existed between the 10th level spells of the Circle and the 50th levels spells that formed the Blue Crystal itself. Besides, so many things would soon distract the Circle; who would have the time or inclination to check for such an unlikely thing?
Having convinced herself, Kratia opened the box, removed the scroll and set it on the table. The Elvin names glowed in letters of fire. She spoke ten names from the list, watching those names glow even brighter. Then stated, “I summon you to fulfill your oath.”
The table vibrated and the sound of distant thunder rolled ominously. The fiery letters flew off the scroll and flew around the room, each growing and coalescing into an Elf. They were dressed in rags, their hair was matted, and oozing sores covered their skin.
“I am Evandi… Sinatuil…” the Elves stated their names in unison, concluding with, “I come to fulfill my oath to serve Murgorath and his followers. What is my master’s command?”
“Form a magic circle, with me as the center. I will be casting an 11th level spell.”
The Elves joined their minds effortlessly, and Kratia felt their combined power open to her. She had studied the spell that barred wizards from summoning demons, and copied most of that structure now, adding a single exception that allowed her, Kratia, to summon a demon at will. She left the existing 10th level spell in place, undisturbed. She ended the spell. She had spelled for less than a minute. Record time, she thought happily.
“Have we fulfilled our oath, master?” asked the Elves with one voice.
Kratia was tempted to answer no. She barely had enough Elves left now to finish the main task. But the risk of saying ‘no’ was too great. Once a servant of the Crystal had helped its master in some way, if there was a disagreement between the master and the slave as to whether the oath had been fulfilled, the Crystal became the arbiter of the disagreement. Complete freedom of the summoned slaves was a possibility, and would be disastrous. Better was to have a structured letting go, as Murgorath had taught.
“Almost. If you go now, and agree never to return to this world, your debt is paid. If you stay, I will ask of you only one more task.” The Crystal would certainly think this was fair.
The Elves looked at one another before speaking. “We will never willingly serve you further. We go, and will not return.” They closed their eyes and faded away to nothing.
Kratia was satisfied. If any had decided to stay, her final command would have been for them to kill themselves. Either way, she would have no loose ends to worry about.
Her sensiball chimed, and Sarral’s face appeared telling her that Drake wanted to speak with her. He also told her why. She rushed upstairs to see him, growing angrier by the minute.
Kratia flung open the door to her office and shouted, “How could you have done such a thing without telling me!”
A startled Drake shot back, “Shit, woman! You ought to be thanking me. That’s why you brought me here, remember?”
Kratia bit back a sarcastic reply, and drew a calming breath as she glared at the dirty, blood-stained mercenary. “You’re right, of course,” she answered. “But there are great dangers involved in hunting down the Reps, and I want no harm to come to you.”
“It didn’t. It won’t.”
“But it could have! You don’t know this world yet. A wrong assumption that would be harmless on your world could be disastrous here. Before you go on any other missions I want to have Billy Takashema here with you. And a small force of armed soldiers for support. Why do you think I’ve been having you train them!”
“Your men don’t need training to take on the Reps. The Reps are not organized, and didn’t give me any impression of intelligence. The training in weapons and tactics that I’m giving your people just isn’t necessary.”
“That’s not the point, Drake. You ran off on some fool one man campaign that could have ruined everything! That’s irresponsible!”
“I wasn’t alone. Lieutenant Ponce was with me.” He stared defiantly at her. “We’re going to celebrate after I brief you.”
“So he knows what you did, too? Great.” Kratia’s voice cracked and she began to cry.
Drake stood there, looking suddenly dumbfounded. “Kratia, I’m sorry. But really, you got nothing to worry about. Those Reps, they’re really not so bad. They got no strategy, no tactics. They just flew around like giant dumb bats while I blew them away. I was never in any real danger, and your men won’t be either. It shouldn’t take long to wipe them out at all. Really.” He reached out to hold her.
She pushed him back and screamed, “You stupid fool. You caught them by surprise, that’s all! The Reps are smart. They’ll learn, and you won’t surprise them again. Next time it will be harder. Much harder!”
Drake shook his head. “No way. I wiped out the whole nest at Temmers Hill. All of them. I made sure there were no survivors. The dead don’t learn any lessons. It will be easy to use the same technique at the other nests. In a few days you ain’t gonna have a Rep problem anymore.”
Kratia’s voice became sweet and soft, and her tears stopped. But her face showed no emotions. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I care for you so much; I don’t want anything bad to happen to you. Sometimes I’m sorry I brought you into this world to face such awful dangers.”
Kratia smiled and her blank face melted into a warm, cheerful one. “I’ve been a bitch, and I’m sorry. Tonight we are all going to celebrate your victorious battle over the Reps! I will order a concert and a banquet in your honor. Be at the grand hall at eight. Bring Ponce with you. And Drake, please clean yourself up and have the servants provide you with some formal apparel.”
Drake smiled and nodded, looking bewildered. Then he turned and left.
Kratia followed him with her eyes, still smiling. She loved keeping people off balance, and with Drake it was so damn easy, and fun. Hell, she had surprised that buffoon Nexus tonight with his stupid resurrection of the Elves. And he didn’t have a clue. Soon it would get even better. Oh yes, much better.