Unicorns opal, p.1

Unicorns' Opal, page 1

 

Unicorns' Opal
 



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Unicorns' Opal


  Unicorns’ Opal

  Book 2 of Sword of Heavens

  by

  Richard S. Tuttle

  Copyright © 2002 by Richard S. Tuttle.

  All rights reserved.

  All characters and events in this book are fictitious.

  Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

  Prologue

  Five Collapse Children have been gathered by Garth and Kalina, who were discovered to be Alex and Jenneva Tork. Two of the Collapse Children are the Children of the Ancient Prophecy, but their identity is not yet clear. Calling themselves the Alcea Rangers, the group has managed to restore the Sapphire of the Fairies to the Sword of Heavens. Clear skies have replaced the Darkness over the area once known as Cordonia, but with the sunshine comes the pinpointing of their location to the forces of evil.

  General Gregor had been released from prison and he now labors to build an army in preparation of the Heir's return to Tagaret.

  Niki has met with Dalgar, who professes to be her real father. While acknowledging that he is a high-level Black Devil, Dalgar sows the seeds of doubt in Niki's mind.

  Unicorns' Opal, book two of the Sword of Heavens Series, opens where Sapphire of the Fairies leaves off. Having restored the Sapphire of the Fairies to the Sword of Heavens, the Alcea Rangers prepare to continue their quest to find the rest of the missing gems needed to complete the Ancient Prophecy.

  Chapter 1

  Clear Skies

  Arik was the last to awaken and he sat up and saw the rest of the Rangers sitting by the campfire and staring up into the blue and red sky. He stumbled over to the campfire and grabbed a mug of coffee.

  “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Tanya remarked. “A real sunrise. Uncle Boris tried so many times to describe this to me, but no words could capture something this beautiful. He said that on some days this will happen when the sun sets, as well. It’s so indescribable.”

  “Not every morning will be this pretty,” advised Alex, “but even one makes my eyes sing for the beauty of it.”

  Jenneva wrapped her arms around Alex and kissed him. “I didn’t realize how much I missed the sky. I wonder how far it extends?”

  “Alex asked Queen Mita to send off fairy scouts in each direction this morning,” offered Fredrik. “What did the Sword of Heavens do to get rid of the Darkness and will it return?”

  “There is much we do not know about the magical Sword of Heavens,” Alex admitted. “The Ancient Prophecy makes no attempt to explain everything. We have to do our part to fulfill the Prophecy, but as we found out with the fairies, there are other prophecies at work also.”

  “What was happening last night with the fairies swearing fealty to Arik?” Tedi inquired. “Why would they follow a human?”

  Alex looked over at Arik who sipped his coffee while staring at the painted sky. “The fairies are responding to their own prophecy,” he explained. “The mark on Arik’s chest means something very special to them and their prophecy demands their loyalty to the one known as the Bringer. Without sunlight, eventually all peoples will perish. Food will dwindle and disappear. Depression will make people give up their hopes and dreams. Species will not grow and multiply. The Crown of Light was promised as their salvation from extinction and the price for its return is to follow and obey the Bringer. They all thought that the Bringer would be a fairy and gave it no thought. Now they know differently, but the price must be paid and the fairies will not turn from the bargain. Their existence as a people is guaranteed, no matter what cost they have to pay by following Arik.”

  “What cost can there be?” quipped Arik. “I am no leader and I am not going to have the fairies marching off to war. Perhaps they should have sworn to Tedi. At least he will need them when he causes Alcea to rise again.”

  “Have you forgotten that we have each sworn to help the others as best we can?” reminded Tanya. “If the fairies can help restore Alcea, you will lead them into battle for Tedi. You say that you are not a leader, but there are thousands of fairies that will disagree with you. You are their leader.”

  “She is right,” added Jenneva. “We have no more idea of what lies ahead of us than we did when we started this journey. There are six clear glass beads left on the Sword of Heavens and six missing gems. We have only just begun the long road to toppling Sarac from power. There are also thousands of Sarac’s minions who will be trying to kill us, as well as the creatures that owe allegiance to Alutar. The Fairy Army may well be needed before we are done and their loyalty is owed to you, Arik, no one else.”

  “But I didn’t do any more than any other member of the Rangers to get the Crown of Light,” argued Arik. “In fact, I am not even sure how we got it. You never did explain how you got it out of the mountain.”

  “It does not matter how it is obtained any more than it matters how it was lost,” declared Alex. “What matters is that you fulfilled their prophecy. No one else could have done it. You were chosen by some fate to be the Bringer. Nothing that you or I say will ever change that. Accept it gracefully and vow to lead the fairies to the very best of your abilities. That is the most any officer in any army can be expected to do and whatever you are going to be, I see a leader of men in you. You have the presence, intelligence and strength to make a great general.”

  “What are we going to do with the other glass beads?” Niki asked. “Shouldn’t we be trying to get another one out of the sword?”

  “As if we knew how,” chuckled Fredrik. “The first one came out accidentally. We don’t even know how we did it. I would imagine that either Tedi or Niki would have to hold the Sword, seeing as they are the Prophecy Children.”

  “We do not know that to be true,” Jenneva stated. “It was only said that the sword would not become active until one of the Prophecy Children touched it. Well, that has already happened. I suspect that anyone could get the next glass bead out. It is very important that we do not lose the Sword of Heavens now or we will never be able to fulfill the Prophecy.”

  “Actually,” Arik bashfully admitted, “it has already come out. I thought that I might have rolled onto the sword in my sleep because it was loose this morning, but I guess it makes sense that it knows when to come out now. Should I throw it in the fire?”

  “No,” Alex decided. “We will wait until we have left the fairy village. We should not leave them with the information of where we are going next. It is burden enough for us to know and the Dark One may send people here to find out where we have gone. If they do not know, they can not tell.”

  “Well, the sunrise is over with,” Tanya stated as she rose. “Let’s get some practice in before breakfast.”

  Alex led Arik and Tanya to a clear area to finally give them the opportunity of a two-on-one practice with swords while Fredrik and Tedi practiced with the Lanorian Stars.

  “No bolas,” Alex exclaimed, “or I’ll chew through them with my teeth.”

  Alex took a stand and Tanya immediately unleashed a series of quick, deadly blows, so quickly that Arik hesitated before he attacked. It was all the edge Alex needed to rebuff Tanya before Arik moved. He danced her in a circle until she was on the same side of him as Arik and then he pulled another wooden practice sword from behind him. With a sword in each hand, Alex pressed his two students before they realized what he was doing. Alex continued to force his two opponents back until Tanya tripped over a root and fell.

  Before Alex could deliver a killing blow to Tanya, Arik threw himself to the ground and kicked Alex’s feet out from under him. The three sword fighters hurried to get up off the ground and put distance between themselves and their opponents. Alex saw Arik glance at Tanya and nod and knew he was in for a coordinated attack this time. Evidently, the two young Rangers
had talked about an attack on Alex and Tanya’s opening move was just a shot at scoring an easy kill.

  Arik and Tanya advanced on Alex and each started moving to a different side. Alex realized that they planned to make him divide his attention between them in the hopes that one of them would score a deadly hit. Alex had watched his two opponents train for months and knew he was in trouble. Fortunately, he had two tricks up his sleeve and both of them were Lanorian Stars made out of leaves that he had created this very morning.

  Alex hurled one of his practice swords off to the side and used his free hand to grasp the fake Stars. With a flourish, he snapped the Stars into the forehead of each of his opponents and dove between them to recover his thrown sword. He would have liked to stay and watch their surprised expressions, but they were too quick to recover for his own health.

  “Hey,” shouted Tanya, “that was illegal. Where did you get those, anyway?”

  “Nothing is illegal except your bolas,” laughed Alex. “The only reason you can’t use those is because my wooden sword won’t cut the cord like a real one. Now, get your dead bodies back together and come, get me.”

  And that is exactly what they did. Arik and Tanya had worked out several approaches to kill Alex and they used every one of them. After two hours of practice, all three of them had been killed numerous times and they decided to break for breakfast.

  “You two fight very well as a team,” congratulated Alex. “I can see that I will require more practice if I am going to continue letting you abuse me.”

  “You killed us more times than we killed you,” Arik pointed out.

  “True,” Alex agreed, “but I have never been killed in a two-on-one before. Most fighters have too much of an ego to fight well as a team. You two do it excellently. If you had not fought as a team, you would not have scored a single kill. I am not only proud of you, I am glad you are on my side.”

  “Where did you get those plant Stars?” inquired Tanya. “I thought it was real as it sailed at my head.”

  “That was a bit unfair of me,” conceded Alex, “but I want you to expect the unexpected. Practice is great for becoming one with your weapon, but in battle men will come up with some rather peculiar ways of trying to kill you. You need to be ready for anything. I made those Stars this morning out of leaves. They’re not very accurate, but at close range it doesn’t matter.”

  “Boy, have I worked up a sweat,” remarked Arik. “Is it hotter today or is it me?”

  “It is the sun,” chuckled Alex. “It will get a lot hotter during the day. The Darkness filtered a lot of the power of the sun. With clear skies, you will have to watch yourself or you will get burned rather easily. Be thankful we are so far north. Back in Lorgo, this sun would be twice as powerful.”

  Jenneva handed them towels as they approached the campfire where Fredrik and Tedi were discussing the results of their knife-throwing contest. Jenneva had prepared breakfast and Niki was actually serving everyone. Alex shot Jenneva a questioning look and Jenneva just shrugged.

  Prince Midge took the breakfast break as a welcome sign and flew in to perch on Arik’s shoulder. “It certainly is a good morning, Bringer,” chirped Midge. “Will we be leaving today? You must give me some advance notice so I can assemble the troops for you.”

  Arik smiled at the tiny warrior. “Please, call me Arik,” he said. “I am not exactly sure what a Bringer is, but I know who I am. We are not leaving today and we won’t require any troops when we do leave.”

  “No troops?” quipped Prince Midge. “We have sworn to fight your enemies. The Fairy People will not renege on their duties.”

  “You have not sworn to fight my battles,” reminded Arik. “You have sworn fealty and I believe that means that you will do what I ask. Right now, I ask you to live in peace and enjoy the sun.”

  “Well,” persisted Midge, “you will still require a Fairy Representative in your Court. I would like to request that position for myself.”

  “Court?” chuckled Arik. “I do not have a Court for your Representative, but you are always welcome to travel with me. In fact, if Queen Mita allows, I would wish for your company on the coming journey. It will be dangerous, though.”

  “If she allows? Dangerous?” Midge said excitedly. “Of course, she will allow me to go and fairies were made to face danger. I will be of great assistance to you in times of peril. I have journeyed with the Great Mage to face Alutar. Surely, your danger could not approach that.”

  “Then you shall travel with the Rangers, my friend,” Arik decided warmly. “We will not leave until your scouts return and that certainly will not be today. You should use this time to visit with your loved ones. It may be a long time before you get a chance to return.”

  “As you wish, my...Arik,” bowed Prince Midge just before he flew off.

  “A brave little character,” admired Alex, “and you spoke wisely to him. He will be a great asset to our team. The Fairy People are proud and honorable, Arik. You must always remember that. They have given you their oath and they will be offended if you do not call upon them in times of trouble. Their ability to put the enemy to sleep or their speed as messengers could be very valuable in a battle.”

  “Do you think I should allow more of them to come with us?” Arik asked. “I would feel really guilty if harm came to them just because I made the wrong decision.”

  “Prince Midge will be sufficient,” Alex proclaimed. “As for your feelings, you must use your assets wisely. Whenever you command troops in battle, there will be casualties and you will feel guilt. You must remember that some will die even when you direct them wisely and you will have to learn how to deal with the guilt. What you must never do is waste your assets. Just because your army will gladly die for you, does not mean you should allow them to. Neither should you try to protect your men when the time has come to commit them. Make the best decisions you are capable of and live with the consequences.”

  “Have you learned to live with your feelings, Alex?” Tanya queried.

  Alex clenched his teeth and stared at the young woman. “I have learned to live with my battlefield losses,” Alex grimly stated. “I do not like the loss of any life, but that is what war is about.” Alex fought with his own feelings before continuing. He knew that Tanya would keep pushing until she was satisfied that she knew his every feeling. He wondered whether she was planning to write a book about the Great Alexander Tork and just wanted to get everything right.

  “What I have a real problem accepting,” Alex continued while staring into Tanya’s eyes, “are the unnecessary deaths of the innocent, the noncombatants. When a soldier kills another soldier, there can be some justification, even if at times you are forced to search for it, but when a soldier kills an innocent, I find that unacceptable, and mourning their deaths does not bring me any relief. Revenge does not bring relief, either, though I have been guilty of such acts. What revenge does accomplish is the elimination of someone who would dare to kill innocents. I hope that explains my feelings to your satisfaction?”

  Tanya blushed and nodded. No matter how many times she promised herself not to push, she inadvertently seized every opportunity to delve into the character of Alex.

  The campsite grew quiet and Tedi announced that they should use their time to practice some more. He promptly challenged Tanya to a staff competition and Fredrik offered to help Niki with her knife throwing. Arik excused himself to practice his archery, leaving Alex and Jenneva alone.

  “Why does she dig into me like that?” Alex asked. “When I was Garth, she hated me for speaking ill of Alex. Now that she knows I am Alex, she grills me like I have a major character flaw. What can I do to get her to stop?”

  Jenneva put her arms around Alex and hugged him. “I think her uncle filled her with stories of the Great Alexander Tork. Perhaps you don’t live up to her expectations. It has not affected her ability to be part of the team. Don’t let it affect yours. Perhaps, in a way, it is good for you to dredge up the old wounds. It ha
s been seventeen years and you must accept reality sooner or later. As much as you beat yourself up for not being there, it cannot change history. Feel sadness and loss for our baby as I do, but stop blaming yourself for the deeds of others. If you had managed to be there at the time, the Black Devils would have just waited for you to leave. It was not your fault.”

  Alex nodded sadly. “We have been through this many times,” Alex said softly, “and I know you are right, but I cannot help feeling the way I do. The best approach I have found is to shove it into a small corner of my mind and not deal with it, but Tanya manages to drag it out every time we talk. I wish she would just let it go.”

  Jenneva chuckled and Alex’s head snapped up and followed her gaze. Tedi had Tanya on the defensive with his staff and he was showing no mercy. Tanya scrambled to defend herself, but Tedi was better with the staff than any of the other Rangers. Tanya looked like she understood that she was in for a beating if she left an opening for Tedi. Alex looked like he was ready to intervene and Jenneva grabbed his arm.

  “You want her to be able to defend herself,” reminded Jenneva. “Let them be.”

  Alex nodded, picked up his longbow and strode off to challenge Arik. Arik was clearly the best shot of the Children and his skill came close to approaching Alex’s own expertise. The two Rangers practiced for several hours and Alex was able to give Arik a few pointers that would improve his already accomplished skill. Alex left Arik at the campfire to continue his practice sessions and strode off into the fairy village to learn more about these strange people while he had the opportunity. Jenneva caught up with Alex an hour later and together they mingled with the wee folk, learning as much as they could about their customs and daily routines. Jenneva probed about the origins and scope of fairy magic and was surprised with some of her discoveries. Alex inquired about the ogres and how the fairies deployed their troops during battle.

  Queen Mita invited them to have dinner with her and her son and an hour after dinner the first fairy scout returned with information about the breadth of the clear skies. Shortly after the first report, the other scouts returned and Alex was amazed at their discoveries. The clear skies stretched from the mouth of the White River to past Kalamaar on the southern coast, from Kantor almost to Elga. The Sword of Heavens had cleared the sky over the whole of what once was Cordonia and stretched as far as Mount Kalas, home of the Dark One.

 
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