Visions of magic invas.., p.1
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       Visions of Magic - Invasion, p.1

           Shane Griffin
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Visions of Magic - Invasion
Visions of Magic - Invasion

  By

  Shane Griffin

  Smash Words Edition Published by Poupichou Press

  Copyright Shane Griffin 2017

  Cover Design by Nadya Vahedi 2017

  Table of Contents

  Start

  About the Author

  Other Titles by this Author

  The Umijia Challenge

  #

  Kasa stood behind the makeshift wooden rampart and gripped his sentry pike so hard that his knuckles turned white. He looked out across the open plain to the base of the Metaran mountain range. There troops from the enemy army kept spewing forth from a narrow pass. They spread out along the edge of the plain as they set up camp, looking like locusts ready to devour a field of crops.

  "If you hold that pike any harder you are going to break the shaft," said a gruff voice from behind him.

  Kasa spun around fearfully and pointed the pike clumsily in the direction of the voice.

  "Stay that weapon you jumpy fool!"

  "Sorry Tobias, but you startled me!" apologized Kasa, quickly lowering the pike.

  "The enemy is out there, our camp is behind you," replied Tobias as he walked over to stand behind the rampart with Kasa.

  Tobias was a seasoned foot soldier who should have been retired, with the grace of the king, if it were not for the war that was about to begin. "I am here to relieve you, has there been any more activity?"

  "No, but they just keep coming and coming. Why are we just waiting here?"

  "You have a lot to learn about war son. If we blocked the pass they would have the high ground and they could sit back and try to pick us off with archers while the rest of their army would just pull back and find another pass to flank us. Sometimes it's better to know where your enemy is and make him come to you where you already have your strength."

  "But there are so many of them!" insisted Kasa.

  Tobias struggled to make out the details of the enemy camp, but even with his aging vision he could tell it had grown quite significantly in the last few hours. He turned back to look at their own camp which spread out across the top of a small rise at the edge of the plain. It had increased in size too as more troops had filtered from the various castle districts overnight in answer to the call to arms. Even though the king's entire northern army had marched from the capital Rasmel it did not take perfect vision or a mathematician to see that the enemy already considerably outnumbered them.

  "Numbers are not everything," replied Tobias unconvincingly. "There may not even be a battle tomorrow. I just heard word that the Crimson Wizard is coming."

  "What if they have their own magic users?"

  "The Crimson Wizard isn't like those other magicians who are only good blowing a bit of wind around or turning up some earth to disrupt the enemy lines. The Crimson Wizard ended the Battle of Tattel single handed!"

  "I have heard that story too. My mother used to tell it to me to put me to sleep at night."

  "It's no fairytale son. I should know, I was there during the Battle of Tattel. He brought down such a storm upon the Metarans that he almost drowned them all. Without a single arrow fired their entire army surrendered."

  "I hope that..." began Kasa just as he spotted movement in the distance across the plain. "Rider!"

  "Where?" asked Tobias as he squinted hard in the direction that Kasa was pointing. At first he saw nothing, but as Kasa's fear started to rise again, rapidly approaching panic, Tobias finally saw it.

  "Just relax Kasa, it's just the one. It's probably a scout. Give me the pike and grab your bow."

  While Kasa fumbled around to grab his hunting bow and his quiver that were on the ground behind him Tobias watched the rider as it came closer. It was approaching at very high speed, much faster than any horse could gallop.

  Kasa, who was now standing beside him at the ready with his bow, gasped loudly.

  "What is that?" he said fumbling with an arrow, nocking it, drawing, then releasing it wildly and prematurely.

  "Steady!" yelled Tobias. "He is way out of range still. You have hunted wolves and mountain lions before haven't you?"

  "Y-yes," stammered Kasa.

  "This is no different so stay calm and breath!"

  As the rider continued to draw closer even Tobias found it difficult to keep his nerve. The rider appeared to be a man, unarmoured, carrying a small round shield and with a short bow slung across his back. His face was masked with a yellow cloth, but his arms and legs were bare and revealed light brown skin.

  What unnerved Tobias was not the man, but the beast upon which he rode. He had seen many strange things as a veteran foot soldier for the king, but nothing like this before. The creature that raced towards them he had only ever heard spoken of by sailors and traders. Tall tales told after long hours of drinking in the taverns around Rasmel Harbour.

  The creature was a lesser manticore, a dark brown beast with the head and body of a black maned lion. Although he could not make out the exact details himself from such a distance if the stories were true then the manticore also had sharp goat's horns, poisonous spurs in its mane and a scorpion stinger for a tail.

  Tobias was about to sound the alarm when the rider suddenly pulled hard on the manticore's mane so that it came skidding to a halt just outside longbow range. He then proceeded to ride along the line of the camp. No doubt he was counting tents and trying to estimate the size of the king's army. There were shouts from the other lookout posts along the camp perimeter and several positions released arrows that fell tantalisingly short of the mark.

  The rider was unperturbed by the pot shots and kept going until a small group of fast riders on horseback were sent forth. As they approached the manticore let out a ferocious sound that was half howl half roar and reared on its hind legs. It wanted to attack, but the rider kicked hard into its ribs and instead the beast turned and bounded off back towards the enemy line at a speed that even the fast riders had no hope to match.

  "How on all of Umijia are we supposed to defeat any army riding those abominations?" asked Kasa shakily slinging his bow over his shoulder and backing away fearfully towards the camp. The boy was unnerved to the point of complete panic. Tobias had been around long enough to know that panic and fear in an army that was about to go to battle could be contagious and devastating.

  "Kasa stop right there!" he ordered bringing the pike to bear and pointing it at Kasa's chest.

  "I'm just a farmer's son, I am not a soldier!" he pleaded. "I can't do this!"

  "You run and this pike will be in your bloody spine before you make it three feet!"

  Kasa looked to the camp behind him then back at Tobias. For a moment Tobias thought he was going to run. He had no intention of actually impaling him with the pike, but Kasa did not know that so he moved into a position ready to thrust it forwards.

  "Why are you doing this? I am just one man, letting me go won't make any difference!"

  "If everyone thought like that there wouldn't be a farm for you to go home to. If you do not stand with us to stop them now then what hope do you have in stopping them when they come to your village, burn everything and rape your mother or your sister?"

  Kasa's shoulders slumped and he looked at his feet in shame as his panic subsided. Tobias breathed a subtle sigh of relief and lowered the pike. Kasa slowly moved back beside him to the barricade to watch the enemy army across the plain again, but Tobias stopped him with a firm and supportive hand on his shoulder.

  "Your watch is over, go back to the camp and get some warm food from one of the field kitchens."

  Kasa nodded quietly and walked slowly back to the camp. Tobias turned back to watch the plain, he played nervously with the whiskers of his scragg
ly beard and hoped to hell that the rumours of the Crimson Wizard coming were true.

  #

  Kasa walked through the busy encampment towards the field kitchen. Daylight was waning as the sun started to slide behind the mountains. At home at this time he would be collecting wood and preparing the fire for the night where he could sit in silence and immerse himself in the sounds of the crackling fire. He was not used to being in amongst so many people at once. It was noisy and chaotic with men setting up tents, smiths clanging on swords and shields making last minute repairs.

  A supply wagon suddenly rolled into view in the fading light and he had to dodge out of the way lest he be trampled as it rumbled past. At least it diverted his mind from the fear that was gripping him. He still desperately wanted to slip out of the camp and run, but he knew it was not the right thing to do. He was not like the other young men in his village who were all eager and filled with bravado when a detachment of the king's soldiers came to his village and proclaimed the king's call to arms.

  His friends talked about going to war like they were all going to come back as heroes and be made knights of the realm, just like in a fairytale. He didn't know anything about fighting, but he knew enough to understand that it was not going to be like all the bedtimes stories. In fact, after what he had seen while on watch, he now started to wonder whether battle was going to be more like the stories about monsters that parents told their children to scare them.

  As he approached the field kitchen he saw the long snaking line of soldiers waiting for their serve of hot stew. His own stomach grumbled at the smell and his appetite exceeded his angst suddenly. Yet he had no eating implements so he spun around and tried his best to navigate as directly as possible amongst all the tents to his own billet.

  To get there he had to cut through the middle of the camp where the knights and lords were concentrated. Their tents were much larger and more resplendent with their brightly coloured flags, each proudly sporting family coats of arms. Squires raced about putting everything in order while their masters talked together in groups in closely guarded conversations.

  Kasa kept his head down, he was out of place and did not want to attract any attention. He was not far from the huge gold and white striped tent of Lord Cortria, the highest ranked knight in all Risandea and general of the king's northern army, when the sound of heavy flapping wings brought him to an abrupt halt and snapped his head skywards.

  A magnificent white griffin swooped down towards the camp. Kasa was about to run when cheers erupted all around as the rest of the army also became aware of the great beast. Kasa watched in stunned silence as the creature landed not twenty yards away from him just outside Lord Cortria's tent.

  Upon the back of the magnificent creature sat the Crimson Wizard and the battle scared warrior call the Black Ram. The Crimson Wizard seemed at ease on the griffin's back, but the Black Ram was clinging to the Crimson Wizard like he was clinging to a lifeboat on the high seas.

  The Crimson Wizard leant forward to get closer to the griffin's eagle head and spoke something to it. The griffin reluctantly dropped its belly to the churned earth so that its passengers could dismount.

  "He is magnificent isn't he?" said a female voice from the shadows of a nearby tent.

  Startled, Kasa turned to see a women dressed in black leather riding breeches and the type of tunic one would normally wear under light armor. Her hair was a brilliant copper and was braided tightly to keep it neat and practical. While she did not look lady like at all he was mesmerised by her beauty and her penetrating grey eyes. He was smart enough never to attempt to guess a woman's age out loud, but he surmised she must be in her thirties. What she was doing there in the middle of an army he could not guess.

  "I used to know a young man whose tongue failed to work around me," she said with an air of forlorn nostalgia in her voice.

  "I'm sorry madam," he apologised. "The griffin is a sight to behold."

  The woman smiled and chuckled to herself.

  "Hmm, the griffin, yes of course," she replied with a smirk. "It's getting dark, shouldn't you be with your unit?"

  "Yes madam," he said and made a hasty retreat towards his billet. For once he was going to be able to share a tall tale about war with the other over eager young men from his village. He was certain that none of them had ever seen the Crimson Wizard and the Black Ram in real life before.

  #

  Farrel tapped Solomon on the arm firmly.

  "You can open your eyes and let go now we are back on the ground."

  Solomon slowly released his grip and dismounted unceremoniously. As he landed the pain in his left leg rose sharply and instinctively he tried to compensate with his right leg only to topple over onto his backside.

  Farrel dismounted much more gracefully and offered him a hand.

  "I did tell you to open your eyes," teased Farrel with a smile.

  Solomon grabbed his hand firmly and squeezed hard as he pulled himself up, so that Farrel winced with the pain.

  "Very funny, it's my leg. I still have pain deep in the bone."

  "I've told you already that I have done everything I can to heal the wound. If you would let me take you to another healer they may be able to cure you."

  "Just because I trust you with my life Farrel doesn't mean I have changed my view on all other magic users."

  Farrel sighed, he knew that Solomon did not really believe his own rhetoric and it was just stubbornness that prevented him seeking help. In addition, there was perhaps an element of Solomon playing on Farrel's feelings of guilt for letting his friend be wounded in the first place.

  "I will brew another lot of tarbry tonight. You will need to be at your best tomorrow, but this is the last batch or you will end up dependant. If you don't die in battle tomorrow I am taking you to the best healer I know whether you like it or not."

  "I should have no problem surviving tomorrow as long as you don't lose all your good senses to another witch!" countered Solomon sarcastically.

  Farrel's temper rose instantly and he stepped close to Solomon and pointed a finger firmly onto the faded and scratched symbol of the black ram on his chest plate as he spoke.

  "I told you already, don't ever speak of her again! She might have given you that pain in your leg, but she gave me a pain far worse and one that cannot be cured!"

  Solomon stood his ground too and stared back at Farrel unmoved except for his hand that dropped slowly to rest on the hilt of his sword. The gesture was not meant to be intimidating or aggressive; rather the cold of the hilt helped him reinforce his oath.

  "I pledged my life and my sword to you Farrel. If you had heeded my advice when it came to that women neither of us would carry permanent wounds right now."

  The two stood toe to toe in a silent staring contest for several moments. Farrel tried to hold onto his anger and really let it burn inside him, but his eyes were drawn to the scar that ran from Solomon's left ear and stopped half way across his cheek. It was proof of Solomon's dedication and a reminder of what his friend had given up to follow him. It caused Farrel's anger to subside. Eventually he bowed his head and leant against Solomon wearily.

  "I'm sorry my friend...it's been a long journey and I did not sleep properly again last night."

  "Dreams again?" asked Solomon suddenly concerned.

  Farrel nodded quietly.

  "That's every night for more than a week. That's not normal even for you. What did you see?"

  "Nothing you need to worry about," replied Farrel dismissively.

  "Your dreams always mean something and you have used them before to keep us out of trouble, but in the last few weeks you won't tell me a thing. Why? What is it that you have been seeing?" insisted Solomon.

  "I don't know what I am seeing! It's all blurred and mixed up like someone is trying to stop my visions. It's like someone or something is hiding from me on purpose."

  "But that's why we are here isn't it? There have been plenty of other battles with the orcs,
the goblins and even the minotaurs since the Starvation War. Yet this is the first time since then that you have come to defend the people of the kingdom. We could have saved so many other lives before this. So why come back now?"

  "Because what we have been doing the past thirteen years is more important than fighting pointless wars in this relentless cycle of death and destruction! I am trying to bring an ever lasting peace to the realm. My visions are confused and for the first time I am scared Solomon. I don't even know if we can defeat this army. I just have this strong sense that if we don't then all that work and all our sacrifice will be for nothing."

  After all they had been through together and all the things that they had seen, it was sobering to see Farrel genuinely scared. Solomon stopped pressing him on the subject. His friend was going to need him by his side not as a thorn in it.

  "You have my sword and my life."

  "I know my friend, but I'd prefer that it was only your sword that I will need."

  Farrel turned back to the griffin, who was sitting and waiting obediently beside them. He unstrapped his crimson knapsack and Solomon's plain brown one from the saddle upon the griffin's back. "Go and hunt Starria. Feed well and rest. Stay nearby the camp and listen for my call."

  Starria stood again, half squawked half roared then leapt into the air and flew off to find an unsuspecting cow.

  #

  Farrel walked over to Lord Cortria's huge tent with Solomon close behind. When he reached the entry to the tent however, his way was barred by two stern faced guards. Solomon stepped up beside Farrel and rested his hand very visibly on the hilt of his sword again. This time he did mean it to be intimidating.

  "Lord Cortria is holding a war council and is not to be disturbed," said one of the guards tersely while the other rested his hand on the hilt of his own sword.

  "My apologies," replied Farrel with an exaggerated formal bow. "Perhaps you could pass a message on to Lord Cortria on my behalf? Please tell him the Crimson Wizard had come to offer his support in the battle tomorrow, but was turned away from his tent. Since he is not in need of my services I wish him luck in tomorrow's battle."

 
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