The Grin of Prophecy (Book 1 of the Death Incarnate Saga)by H. Lee Morgan, Jr / Fantasy / Actions & Adventure
The Grin of Prophecy (Book one of the Death Incarnate Saga)
Copyright 2013 H. Lee Morgan
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A servant hurriedly entered the private royal hall of his kingdom’s greatest castle and many eyes snapped in his direction as the large wooden door rebounded loudly off the white marble wall. Several jumped from being startled. The evening meal had all but been finished and conversations began to wane at the late hour. The young man then dropped to his knees after approaching only so far as he would be allowed into the room, already he saw how casually the guards placed their hands on their swords. Sweat beaded his forehead and it took a moment to catch enough breath to say “My Prince, I come bearing important news!”
Prince Tate moved around the table and sat down in the center throne and raised a hand to silence the others who had begun talking. It didn’t honestly require him to do so for the arrival of the servant aroused the other nobles curiosity. “Easy now.” The prince spoke kindly to the young man near his own age. “What is so urgent that you barge in here as you’ve done?”
“Just minutes ago I was out tending my duties alone in the gardens and there came a sudden blue light. Next thing I know the light disappeared and in its place stood a man in similar color mage robes. My Prince, he says he is the Great Prophet and sent me to ask for an urgent audience.”
Those few words silenced the hall further, but only for a minute. Many knew stories and accounts of the Great Prophet, but few had ever seen him or heard him speak. To come to Vin’re in person is a great honor to the kingdom. Still, the prince wasn’t one to take risks and allow just anybody inside the castle. The other nobles began whispering excitedly and with trepidation. Coming unannounced was highly irregular for the stories of the Prophet always spoke of how he always proclaims his intent to come so people can prepare for his arrival.
Prince Tate looked at the prostrating servant to ask and also re-silence the room “Has he said who he comes for?”
“I know not, but he did seem to be in a great hurry.”
“Then send for him, my wife and a scribe. This will be a night to remember for the Great Prophet hasn’t graced our fair city in forty years. But be sure my newborn daughter is well protected just in the event the man you saw isn’t the Prophet. Go now.”
The servant dipped his head in acknowledgement and rushed out of the room. The prince stood again and placed a hand on the pommel of his ancestral sword. “Prepare a meal and a glass of our finest wine for our guest. Also bring in a dozen guards here to make sure he does nothing foolish, I will not allow someone who just shows up on my father’s doorstep in here without some precautions.”
“My lord, if this man be who he is, my men will be ill equipped…”
“I know Captain Kurk, From what the man said it can only be someone with great magical talents. That is why I’ve called for my wife. She will know for sure who we are dealing with. Right now just do as I say. For all we know someone used magic to send an assassin here, with no power other than a poisoned blade at his disposal. Surely your men can handle a lone assassin who’s appearance is as ostentatious as this. Go now and make sure no others try and infiltrate the castle either.”
“Sir!” The captain saluted with a fist over his heart and pointed to two other guards and thumbed the wide open door. They hurried off too see the order through and shut the door behind themselves.
As the prince’s orders were carried out he watched as the other fifteen nobles fixed up their attire to be presentable before such a well known individual. A fresh meal and bottle of wine was carried in by a young serving girl while the first armored guard entered and took up position in the back of the room. One of the dignitaries left the room to retrieve others of his party who retired for the night, knowing they wouldn’t dare miss the chance to catch a glimpse of such a renowned figure.
Within minutes the fair and stunning princess entered the room with her handmaiden by her side and a mockingbird on her graceful shoulder. “My love, is it true? The Great Prophet has come?”
“I hope you’ll be able to tell me. You are the only one I know who has actually seen the man. But if you tell me he’s not, I’ll have him detained if at all possible.”
“Very well.” The princess gave him a small smile which he returned as she took the seat beside his father’s throne.
Within minutes the castle had come alive with news of the Great Prophet’s inexplicable arrival and wish for an audience. Both Prince Tate and his beloved princess sat regally and patiently while guards and hastily dressed people began filling up the hall.
Just as everyone took their places came a timed tap sound from wood on stone. The hall silenced as the sounds grew louder and the guards prepared themselves. A knocking on the door preceded “My Lord, The Great Prophet wishes an audience.”
“Granted!” Tate’s voice boomed.
The door opened silently on oiled hinges and first to enter was the original servant who still sweated, but wasn’t gasping for air.
Then the taping grew more pronounced as a second man entered with a long and knotted wooden staff housing a large blue sapphire at its peak. The crowd began to whisper in hushed tones as they studied his appearance. The man before them stood at an average height, wore a slightly bloodied blue robe that did little to disguise his frail physique. He had a hooked nose seemingly appearing to hold up a long black beard that reached his knees and wasn’t kept in any form of order that others could see. He walked through the parting people with a slight limp, but to gaze upon his face revealed he seemed remarkably young. None expected the man before them to be the great man himself, for he looked to have had recent problems if appearances meant anything.
The Great Prophet stopped not twenty feet from the two people sitting in intricately carved wooden thrones with six well armed warriors near should he threaten the high stationed couple. He wished to take in more of his surroundings, but couldn’t under the circumstances.
“You’re The Great Prophet?” Tate asked incredulously while succeeding to not sound as if to inflect any bias of first appearances.
“I am.” The Prophet admitted without hesitation.
Prince Take looked to his bride and went still as he saw the ashen look of horror on her fair face. Immediately he glared at the calm man and, seeing the expression on his love, ordered instantly “Detain him!”
Four guards stepped forward, drawing their swords as one without any hesitation.
“No! All of you stop, don’t get near him!” The princess ordered when she saw them get close. The men stopped, but didn’t look away from the staff wielding man who didn’t even flinch. They were highly skilled and followed orders. “Sheathe your blades and return to your position, he is without a doubt the Great Prophet for I remember all who I meet or see.”
The four did as ordered and walked backwards till they returned to their earlier stance.
“Please forgive my assumption, Prophet, but when I saw how she looked at you I reacted in ignorance. Please accept our hospitality. We have food and drink if you’re hungry.” The prince said.
But the Prophet ignored him and spoke to the princess. “Child, you can sense it can’t you?”
She nodded “I can. Is there any hope?”
He shook his head. “No.”
“Who did this and why?”
Again he shook his head. “In my trance to see the paths of future events I stumbled upon something someone didn’t want revealed and sent a skilled assassin. As you can see by my looks and sense by your abilities, I escaped, but not without being mortally wounded.”
“What is going on?” Tate asked either of them.
The Prophet answered as he stared into the prince’s blue eyes. “My life’s end draws to a close very soon. I have been wounded by a disease neither magic nor medicine can cure.” The people began whispering louder, but the three didn’t pay it any mind. “So if I may ask, where is your father, the king, young prince? I must talk to him immediately.”
Prince Tate sighed and leaned forward. “My father is returning from Emroc as we speak, but will not arrive for some weeks I’m afraid. While he is away I am ruling in his stead, doing what needs be done.”
The only sign of annoyance the Prophet revealed was a momentary clenching of the jaw. His eyes shifted and he smiled. “Good, you’ve brought a scribe. That will make things much easier since I cannot wait that long.”
“You’re the Prophet, shouldn’t you foresee everything? I mean you come here and don’t appear to know what has been prepared for you.”
For once the Prophet chuckled, not caring to consider any implications the prince’s words made. “Hardly. If I did know everything, my life wouldn’t be ending in less than an hour.”
“An Hour!?” One noble asked.
Again the hunched man nodded. “I’ve only delayed the inevitable by slowing my heart. If I hadn’t I wouldn’t be here right now. Can I give my last prophecies before all is lost and I’m not around to give warning?”
“Forgive me, Prophet. This is all so confusing and happening so fast. It is difficult to hear of your mortality.”
“I have lived long enough and have no regrets. In fact I’m quite looking forward to my death.” This revelation startled the crowd. “I can finally be in peace without everyone bothering me, asking me to tell their future. I’m not a charlatan after all.”
After a few moments the prince gestured for the scribe to approach. She did and brought with her a wooden pedestal, parchment, ink and a quill. When she nodded after the dipping of the quill, the prince gestured for the visibly weakening man to proceed.
“As darkness threatens to consume all life a warrior shall arise to reclaim what is rightfully his from what was lost. On his back is a burden few ever experienced and even fewer have survived, but unlike all others, despair will never rule him and barriers cannot hold him back forever.
“The warrior will become Death Incarnate and any who are foolish to stand in his way will rue such an unfortunate day. Whether he is hope or despair it cannot be foretold, but he will be known for being bold.
“Life and death will be his domain to command, but beware should you see him grin.”
Silence again commanded the room.
Then the Great Prophet turned around and began limping away.
“Prophet, wait!” The princess pleaded. “What does it all mean? Some parts are clear, but most of it is obscure.”
He paused for a moment and met her beseeching stare. “Even I do not understand it.” He admitted. “The words came to me and gave me the feeling I must deliver the message right here at this moment. All I can sense through the prophecy is that whomever fulfills the prophecy will be utterly unique. I do not see names or faces, just words and feelings. The words to me feel like he’ll be a man never seen before, but I can say for a certainty that he isn’t here yet or the feeling would most likely have led me right to him. Farewell.”
“Wait! Where are you going?” Someone in the crowd asked.
For the last time he stopped. “In my last vision search to catch the words I just spoke, before being assaulted, I also learned of another prophecy, but one I’m only allowed to speak in private. But to answer the question, as I feel is within the vision, I’m going to give the future a chance at hope rather than despair, so long as I’m not late.”
“If hope is what you are striving for, leave in peace.” The prince announced, stopping any further outbursts. “And may you find your long awaited peace, Great Prophet.”
“Live well and rule with kindness, Young Prince.”
With that, the Prophet walked out of the room, through a long hallway, down several flights of stairs and made it outside the castle gate without being molested by eager people wishing to impede progress. But each step steadily grew more labored as the magical disease continued eating away at his very body. Pain no longer responded in the wounded leg and it moved only through the sheer force of will to finish tasks. Once he reached a safe location he raised his staff and the blue gemstone crowned atop his knotted staff began to glow as he created another passageway of blue magical light and guided it by the feeling of importance he couldn’t resist or articulate.
He stepped through.
Instantly he came out to find himself standing in a large humble space with four individuals shaking from fear in a corner of the room. Soon the brilliant blue light dimmed and vanished with a faint popping sound, darkening the room till the fireplace and candles sustained the room’s illumination. The four were a family who lived in a respectable household. Two were adorable parents with a son of about four years and a daughter of no more than one.
Unlike the nobles he just left, the family dressed humbly. They were nether rich nor poor, but very protective of each other as the father shielded his wife while she clutched the children to her bosom. They all shook in unexpected fear, but the only sound came from the crying baby girl.
“Forgive my intrusion, good family, but I am The Great Prophet and have come to see you personally. I did not intend to startle you, but what must be done cannot allow for meaningless formality.”
It took nearly a minute for the words to sink in and it lessened their fear as he simply stood there without using any threatening gestures.
“Do whatever you want to me, Mage, just leave my family be.” The man said with obvious fear in his voice, but he held his ground.
“My business here is of importance, not harm.” To show he meant it he pulled out a chair from the dining table and sat down with a sigh. Pain lessened only slightly. His crystal glittered with power for a moment, when he felt his heart speeding up and felt the disease clawing much more quickly within. In response, he forced it back down with a simple spell. “Please, I must speak with you, my time grows short.”
“If you wish to speak, let my family go somewhere else as a sign of good faith.” He said, a little more confidently.
The Prophet smiled disarmingly, even through his thick beard. “This concerns all of you, but especially your daughter.”
“Prophet, what are you saying?” The man said in obvious hesitation.
“I’m saying, your daughter has a prophecy I must say and a curse I must place upon her.” He explained emotionlessly, understanding what was about to happen next and couldn’t avoid it.
“Curse…?” He asked in open astonishment and when it fully sunk in his expression screwed downward into red-faced rage. “YOU WANT TO CURSE MY DAUGHTER! GET OUT!”
“What must be done, must.”
The man pulled an eight inch hunting knife from his boot and charged. With a thought and touch of magic from the mage, the father ran into an invisible barrier, breaking the blade from the well aimed knife thrust. The prophet wouldn’t mind dying by the blade, but none could touch him without also receiving the disease. He even placed a small spell to keep him from touching anything in the room as a precaution. Still he was glad the princess earlier stopped the guards before he had to. Without her presence, the situation would have been worse.
Still enraged he shouted “YOU’LL NEVER HARM MY LITTLE GIRL!”
“Did I say I would harm her?” That stopped the father’s emotions far more effectively than the barrier. “She has a destiny that cannot be avoided, but I’m here to give her the tools that will give her a chance at success. I say it’s a curse, but it will not cause her any bodily harm or disfigure her in any way. From what I believe, she will grow into a beautiful woman, even more so than your breathtaking wife.”
“W…What w…will h…appen?” The mother shakily asked, still holding both children tightly to her full bosom.
“Tiffa, what are you saying? We cannot agree to cursing our daughter, let alone any child who cannot choose for themselves.”
“Cillian, how can we stop him?” The mother, Tiffa, asked as tears streaked her cheeks. “He is a mage and more than that, he is The Great Prophet. You know the stories better than I. Let’s hear what he has to say. That cannot hurt, right?” She asked the last question to the unwelcome man sitting at her table.
“You have my word. I promise to not charm or spell you in any way, but I have only a half hour to spare. You must reach a decision before then.”
Cillian reigned in his emotions to pick up his broken knife and mumbled “Gonna have to fix that.” And put the broken pieces on the table. To the man he said “If you truly are the man of stories, I know you do not lie.” To the others he said “Let’s sit at the table like civilized people.”
Tiffa stood and let her son drop, but she still clutched the infant. Cillian sat at the other end of the lavish table’s head with his boy sitting in his lap while Tiffa moved the chair as close as possible for at least some kind of protection her husband offered. Cillian then said “Why have you come?”
Again he repeated what occurred hours ago, but didn’t repeat the prophecy he said back in Vin’re. He couldn’t contaminate what he learned and felt what went beyond mere words. The more he explained of the situation the more the family understood why he rushed. Even though his time ran shorter by the second he took the total terror out of their eyes and it was then he understood why he had been drawn here. The two parents had an inner strength that wasn’t a result by any form of magic, but one who overcomes any obstacle before them.
These were survivors.
Cillian prided himself as a man of his word and listened for a few minutes, before cautiously asking “For a mage as powerful as yourself, I find it hard to believe anyone could harm you. For me to truly believe this tale I must see proof.”
“Very well.” He allowed and turned his eyes towards the mother who had calmed dramatically. “Tiffa, if you are squeamish I suggest you avert your eyes.”
“I’m one of the town’s healers, I am not afraid of disease.”
He nodded and grabbed the sash around his waist to loosen it just enough so that he could separate the robes at his chest. He pulled them apart and both adults gasped as they looked upon the rotting flesh and yellow puss seeping out of his abdomen. He hadn’t heard the boy’s name, but he said “Yuck!” with a smile as all children without fear would. When Cillian heard his boy he put a large hand over his little eyes.
As he covered the disease again Tiffa asked “How are you still alive? And why doesn’t it smell?”
“Because I’m protecting you. As you clearly see I must hurry. Will you let me curse your child and tell you her prophecy?”
“We will.” Tiffa whispered. “Cillian, he came to us, simple townspeople. For him to risk his final moments in life by doing this for us is an honor. Why would he come to us if it wasn’t of truly grave importance?” Cillian sighed in defeat, knowing his wife. But he asked “What will this curse be?”
“A freezing curse.” He said outright, trying to expedite the usual process for time’s running out. “Her curse will not allow just anyone to kiss her. That includes you, her family. You will be allowed to kiss her head, cheeks or hand, but do not let living flesh touch her lips. It is an ancient spell that will only allow her destiny to ever give her physical love.”
Both parents stared dumbfounded at him, but in a few moments of jaw clenching from each, wanting to put words to their thoughts, Tiffa again began crying silently, kissed Cillian on the cheek, stood up and placed their now silent baby in the center of the lacquered table.
The baby girl stirred for a moment and fell back asleep.
Tears also spilled down the Prophet’s cheeks for what he was about to do as he struggled mightily to stand again. Speaking so quietly that even the family couldn’t hear over the crackling fire he bent over the adorable child and layered spells upon the babe. One half of the most complex spells likely ever done to a living being. The parents watched as only they could, doing something to a child and could only hope all turned out for the best and she wouldn’t hate them later.
Upon the corner of her left cheek grew a pinhead size flash of light and as it winked out it left behind a delicate brown freckle at the corner of her mouth, on an otherwise unblemished baby girl. She continued to sleep as if nothing happened.
“It is done.” He watched as Tiffa carefully looked over her baby and went to touch the tiny mark, but before she could he warned “Remember, do not touch her lips with your flesh and you’ll not freeze by the curse.” She acknowledged him with a nod and he smiled grimly as Tiffa used her dress-sleeve to caress her child’s lips and then remembered “Wait! How am I to breastfeed? She is still very dependent on me.” and his response was “Either milk your breasts or that of a lactating cow and learn through trial and error. Ask other women who couldn’t feed their children and I’m sure they’ll help.”
Standing erect again he said “Now that the girl is marked… I must explain her prophecy. Never before has a foretelling been bestowed for two beings, exactly the same, but it is indisputable. Hear me clearly.”
The whole family leaned closer to listen, except for the slumbering beauty.
“Love is the strongest and most natural feeling to pursue, but is the hardest to truly obtain. Others will be in your future, but alone you cannot reach one.
“Two decades will pass before the beginning and end. Start from fear, end in clarity, but stay away from vanity. To set free the one from the darkness, another must be by your side. When two come together they can find true happiness with the one.
“Serenity and anger will bring about the truest love any ever considered possible.”
“Is that it?” The boy questioned innocently.
Both Tiffa and Cillian stared at each other in confusion as they try to figure out the contexts of the cryptic words.
“Before I depart I must place a binding-silence spell on you for no other’s must know about my coming or the baby’s future. If any others were to know the secret, they could use her to their advantage…” He waited as they all joined hands before spelling them against any accidental slips of the tongue or mannerisms that could upset the balance.
“Is that it?” The boy questioned innocently again.
“It is, but now I must go.” He turned around and conjured another blue passage. “But first, what is the name of the child?”
“Her name is Meeka.” Cillian said and watched as the man stepped through the blue light and disappeared as it did.
Once again the Great Prophet startled a group of people after being drawn to this destination, but unlike the past two jumps these people were quick to recover. Nearly all grabbed their bows and notched iron tipped arrows in an instant and trained them all on him. A quick glance around showed he was surrounded by dozens of skilled archers. He looked around the darkness to realize he now stood on a vast plane of lush grass and the quick assessment explained where he found himself. He didn’t pay an over amount of attention for he was focused on completing his last task now more than ever as the danger crept up faster. Mothers yelled for the young to get back as more naked adults rushed in and prepared for a confrontation.
Each one yelled at him with an annoying cacophony and he reached in a pocket. The angry yelling grew louder, demanding he stop moving, when he continued to not heed warning someone gave an order and dozens of arrows loosed, but were easily deflected.
“Ah here we go.” He said as he withdrew meaningful beads. Arrows stopped being launched nearly immediately as they gawked at what he held. “Although these signify I’m not part of your tribe it will allow me an audience with your elders. Will you uphold tradition or try and kill an already rapidly dying man?”
One warrior approached cautiously and looked closely at the beads. “They are real.” He announced to others. Half lowered their bows, the other wasn’t taking any chances. “Magic man, on your word, do you swear to be peaceful during a meeting of the tribal elders?”
“You solemnly have it.”
“Then you may follow me, but if you break the sanctity of peace talking, all tribes will fall upon you.”
“I’m well aware, lead on hunter-warrior.” He said in recognition of the man’s status among his people.
The entire tribe stirred with all shouting and hurried to see what occurred while also fearing what the grim silence meant as the shouters went silent so quickly. Every adult carried some form of weapon. Soon he found all adults congregating in the center of their lands. Most were women and were just as apt to kill him as any man. From experience, no children were allowed to be present and any pregnant women watched over them while talks were underwent. Nearly two hundred hardened members were silent and didn’t look away from him for a moment.
He stopped as the guide said “This magic man wishes to hold peace talks and has the right as a member of our neighboring tribe. Will he be allowed?”
“Move.” A raspy woman’s voice said and he did so, revealing the newcomer to the elders, priestess and Chief Metak. “Ah, Far-seer, it has been a long time since you visited.” The priestess, an old woman in her seventies, and speaker of tribe spoke. “Why do you come without warning? It is very strange for even you.”
“I come here with only a few minutes left to live. Please listen.” And he quickly told the whole tribe what happened and showed how the disease has now reached his chest. Many moved much further back in natural reaction. He closed himself a moment later so others wouldn’t have to stare. Only the elders, priestess and chief didn’t show any outward revulsion. When he went quiet the priestess did as protocol to the dying and asked “And what would you wish before your time in the flesh ends and you meet the ancestor spirits?”
“I have come for a young girl child who has a great destiny, even greater than yours, Priestess. I must do to her as I did to you, but differently. I’ve come to bless her with a gift. I’ve already applied the curse to fulfill a piece of what I’ve come to say here and now I’ve come to bless the chosen one to solidify my vision. I beg this of you, I’ve only got minutes.”
The priestess simply looked at the chief and he ran off in the direction that they secretly guard the young.
In less than two minutes a murmur drew everyone’s attention and the crowd parted as the chief approached with nineteen young girls and two mothers also followed with suckling babes cradled in their arms. The girls ranged from the infant to about sixteen years. Chief Metak stopped and the young spread out behind him. “Far-seer, these are all the young girls in our tribe. Reveal the chosen one.” And he stepped away.
All the girls stood straight and orderly with all wearing a knife to their thigh and mimicked all the silent adults who watched him limp closer.
Feeling out the one, he came within a few feet of each. Each one he looked at didn’t give off the feeling he’d been summoned to.
Then after the seventh girl he met the eyes of a child of three years of age and the connection was instant. He pointed “She is the one I’ve sought.”
The priestess raised a hand and said “Brooke Child, come here. The rest of you may return till the matter is resolved.”
As the toddler rushed over to the woman, the other young ones left. Brooke sat beside the old woman and giggled, happy for all the attention. When the old woman smiled and pat her head it turned into an honest child’s laugh.
Suddenly the Prophet dropped to his knees and everyone heard bone shatter sickeningly. He cried out in pain for a moment before crawling closer to the two. “It must be done, now!”
“So long as it is a blessing, do what you must.” She explained quickly as she saw the blackening of his skin crawling up his bearded neck.
He didn’t hesitate to weave a permanent spell of his own making onto the now frightened child. His strength failed faster than he believed, but the blinding pain kept his mind focused. It took a minute to spell the child.
Ending the magic there came a flash of light on the lower back of the child and it also made strong yet sensual curves as the mark appeared to grasp her buttock. It had a faded black coloring that appeared similar to a tattoo of her people’s kind, but wouldn’t ever be seen as unsightly.
Before anyone else said anything he quickly spoke the same prophecy that he told Tiffa and Cillian over their child, but talked loud enough so that the whole tribe heard it, but he didn’t have to worry about them spreading the words like he bound the family from before. None dare speak or even approach till he said “Farewell! Remember she has another with the same fate.” and suddenly he enveloped himself for one last Jump, into a the heart of an active volcano so that his pain ended instantly and the ailment would also be destroyed.
In the village, all looked around in complete astonishment, but the first to speak was Brooke. “Wha happemmened to blue man?”
“He died, child.” The old woman voiced sadly.
“What did he do?” she asked while touching her bottom and felt nothing different.
“Hmm… Strange…” She said and pulled her closer. The woman smelled Brook’s hair, arms and nearly everywhere else to determine “It seems as if he took away your scent?!” Brooke tilted her head and smelled herself to understand. “Also, Child, he has just given you a great destiny.”