“I want the army on high alert,” said Esaf Mileu to El Corsordas, Commander of the First Army of Mileu. “Until we can determine who is behind the recent sabotage, murders and thefts, we don’t know where to strike or who to trust. But when we do find out I want the army to move quickly and ruthlessly to destroy the usurper and his supporters.”
El Corsordas nodded. “It will be done, Esaf. I also want to find out who has been impersonating my soldiers, so I can personally execute them.”
“Have your spies given you any information?”
“No, sire. Many of my spies in Condeu have been killed, the rest are silent. Informants in this country don’t seem to know anything for certain, but there is an increased wariness against magicians.”
“Yes, I know,” answered the Esaf. That’s why I haven’t invited my staff magician to our meeting. I believe him to be loyal to me but he has friends in the wizard guild that he may talk to, and they can’t be trusted right now.”
Just then the door to the chambers burst open and Egiate, the staff magician, rushed in carrying a sensiball. The guards had their crossbows trained on him instantly, ready to fire if the wizard came more than six feet into the room without permission.
“Let him pass!” said the Esaf. The guards lowered their bows. Edginess and suspicion. Symptoms of paranoia. But he couldn’t afford the loss of the best wizard on his staff over a bout of nervousness.
“What is it, Egiate?”
“Sire, an urgent message from Icon! He needs to speak with you now!”
Esaf Mileu motioned the wizard closer, and he stared into the sensiball, seeing the face of his old friend, Icon. He looked haggard and very worried. His eyes nervously darted around.
“It’s good to hear from you, Icon. What is your urgent message?”
“There is a plot to take over the world!” said Icon. “Similar to the plot by Murgorath thirty years ago. It has the support of at least one Lord, perhaps more. And several other wizards as well.”
“Who?” asked Esaf Mileu.
“Not over the sensiball, Esaf! Please, come to my house in Guildtown. Come quickly. Bring as many soldiers as you can.”
Icon licked his lips, took a deep breath, and answered, “I think you may need to storm Minas Nimgul. The traitors are there.”
“No!” gasped Egiate. “Not Minas Nimgul. It can’t be true!”
The Esaf took the sensiball from Egiate, then looked at the guards. “Place Egiate under house arrest. No harsh treatment, but he is to be stripped of all energy sources and confined to his quarters until further notice.”
The guards hastened to obey, quickly grabbing the wizard.
“Sorry, Egiate. But right now I can trust very few people, particularly wizards,” said Esaf Mileu as Egiate was dragged away.
“Shall I prepare the army, sire?” asked El Corsordas.
“Yes, I want two battalions to march on Guildtown as quickly as you can arrange.”
“It won’t take too much time to prepare, but the march to Guildtown will take a few hours. Will you be coming with us?”
“No,” said the Esaf, shaking his head. “I need to get to Icon quickly. I want the fastest horses prepared for me and a small contingent of body guards. We will leave within the hour.”
“Is that wise, sir? Perhaps you should go with the troops.”
“No.” The Esaf smiled. “You know that a prophesy protects my life. I want the body guards mainly to protect me from being taken prisoner.”
The Esaf went silent, deep in thought. El Corsordas nodded, saluted and turned to leave.
“Wait,” said the Esaf.
The general turned back. “Sire?”
“You have not fought wizards in battle before.”
“I have studied the tactics necessary to fight them.”
Esaf Mileu smiled again. “Tell me of your proposed tactics, then.”
The general stared at his liege for a moment. “I will bring drugs with us, fear producing drugs, that the soldiers can take and that we can give to the local populace.”
“Good. What else?”
“That’s really the only special thing needed. Once we neutralize their magic, we storm the building, batter down the doors, and take prisoners.”
The Esaf laughed. “Corsordas, I doubt it will be so easy! For one thing, how much range do you think the fear of your troops will be able to suppress magic?”
“Several hundred soldiers, surrounding the building? We should be able to suppress all the magic inside. That many people with a moderate fear level should give us a range of at least two or three hundred feet. The building is only about one hundred by two hundred feet.”
“How high is their tower, El Corsordas?”
The general suddenly looked chagrined. “Six hundred feet, Esaf. Beyond the range of moderate fear of a few hundred soldiers.”
The Esaf nodded. “Have archers keep the tower covered. I think it will be beyond their effective range as well, but they may make the wizards nervous enough to create their own fear.”
“Good idea,” said the general.
“And have some men try scaling the tower. If we can take it, we can keep them bottled up until the building eventually falls to us.”
“Yes. And it shouldn’t take long.”
The Esaf sighed. “You are still too optimistic, general. The wizards employ ex-Rauders as their guards. Not many, but a single Rauder is probably worth fifty of your soldiers. Be prepared for losses. In fact, to minimize those losses, if we need to storm the building, have poison gas available. I hate using it, but it may be necessary. Keep it in white crystal containers until you are sure the building is surrounded by fear, and the gas is safe from magical tampering.”
“One last thing. You may find it very difficult to batter down the walls or doors of Minas Nimgul. It was built by the Elves, and built to last. Its walls are reinforced by neutronium and white crystal rebar, and many spells of protection have been laid upon it.”
“Then how are we to get through?”
The Esaf walked across the room, his body graceful and quick as he moved behind the massive high throne and opened a concealed door upon its back. He withdrew a scabbard of white crystal marked all around with the flowing interlaced runes of Elfish script; a great hilt of gold and white crystal extended from the scabbard. He moved to the front of the throne again and stepped towards Corsordas.
“This is Nehieldrak, a gift to me from Tome Qam, Lord of the Elves. It was forged during the Demon War, and was to be used to destroy their engines of destruction, which were forged of Neutronium. I used it to cleave a mighty door that barred entrance to their stronghold in the caves under the Needles, in the heart of the Jastic mountains. I have used it once since, to carve a secret path through the walls of the Tower of Warning which had been taken by Murgorath to be his fortress. Nexus and I plunged into that hole of blasphemy, and many a good man with us, though few returned to celebrate our victory.”
The Esaf paused, face grimaced in the memory of old pains. Then he focused on the sword, pulling it partly out of its sheath. The brilliant sheen of its Neutronium blade gleamed brightly, reflecting so perfectly the details of the chamber that it seemed more a thin gateway to another world than a reflection of this one.
The Esaf slammed the blade back into its sheath. “I am loath to let another man touch this sword, Corsordas. And more loath to turn it against those who were once allies.”
“Esaf, how do we know it will even work? The battles it has seen are far past…”
“The Elves built to last!” the Esaf snapped. And it was forged for me, a human and non-wizard and so does not depend on magic for its effectiveness. And well it does not, for here it lies, still potent, when all of the glory that was Aloria has faded. Indeed, Aloria had already fallen when I used the sword to slay Murgorath. It will work now.”
The Esaf suddenly thrust out his arms, extending the sword to his commander. “Take it. Use it. Return it. But use it only to cleave stone and metal. For memories’ sake, let no blood of my former friends soil this blade.”
Corsordas took Nehieldrak reverently, bowed, and left.