The oak stretched its long limbs toward the mighty warrior and his mount, and it swayed in the wind, cheering their arrival. Both warrior and steed glowed as if a full moon resided within, while streams of blue light fell like shooting stars from his flowing cape, and a long sword was strapped to his side. The warrior’s face was his most captivating feature, ablaze with color like fire in a wintry sky.
The warrior, in turn, gave the regal tree a formal bow, acknowledging that their reunion had been long overdue. He admired the tree’s far-reaching branches and towering height, recalling a distant time—as if in a dream—when the children of Allsbruth climbed it in hope of hearing a whisper.
Defeat in the Dark War with Ebon and the Cauldron changed all of that. Now, villagers of Hetherlinn avoided the oak and even banned their children from it as well.
After all, swirling within the whispers were stories from the nation of Claire. Even though such tales could lead to freedom, the price was more than they were willing to pay. So they accepted the restraints of the Cauldron’s Oracles, bowed beneath Ebon’s military rule, and vowed to never listen to the whisper again.
The enigmatic warrior turned his gaze toward the sleeping village of Hetherlinn. Their tiny cottages sat in the shape of a crescent moon around the town’s communal fire that, at this time of night, was just a faint glow. Despite the hamlet’s small size, it was the epicenter of defeat in the Dark War. Sleeping inside cottages number seventeen and seven were the men whose actions at the battle of Min Brock continued to shadow the nations with despair. The warrior let his gaze wander from their homes, for he was not sent to question their allegiance or even punish their failures.
His was an altogether different mission.
Retrieving his crossbow from his back, he notched one of his bolts. Wrapping a white parchment around the clear crystal shaft, he secured the message with a thin strip of leather. Raising the weapon to his shoulder, he aimed and sent the bolt zipping through the air. Seeing that it struck its mark, he repeated the process again and again. Satisfied that he had accomplished his task, he darted through Hetherlinn, blue-silver beams disappearing into the deepest of shade.
The Moon King
Elabea awoke abruptly.
“Who’s there?” she gasped as she pulled her covers close.
Although only fourteen summers of age, Elabea had seen her share of Ebonite night raids. Even so, she would never get used to warriors barging in while her family slept. Herded gruffly out into the night, they would be led to the communal fire with the other villagers. While Ebonite commanders took roll call, the warriors harassed them: spittle and curses flew; blades threatened children and women; kicks and punches landed on the men. Elabea quickly learned that the census was merely an excuse for Ebon to flex their military muscle.
She scanned her bedroom’s shadows for any sign of a warrior.