"So how do you tell a garden wall that you're sad?" Killga said, staring blankly at the seemingly infinite wall before her.
"Well hows you expresses sadness?" Ebah asked, unhelpfully answering a question with a question.
"Of course," She said, as the answer presented itself to her, "tears of sadness, the best way to help you grieve is to cry. Ebah quick think of how sad you were when you realised Grungen had disappeared, it has to make you cry" Ebah thought long and hard of how sad he was and finally tears began to run down his little green cheeks, Killga wiped them away with her gentle hand. She then walked cautiously over to the wall and pressed her tear stained hand to the cold hard surface of the stone wall blocking their way; suddenly the stones and pebbles where Killga had touched the wall began to shift and fall away clattering and crashing to the ground until there was a substantial enough gap for the pair of them to get through, side by side they walked into the Andromeda garden.
Within the walls of garden the air was sweet and thick and all around them were beautiful flowers cascading over each other, that simply refused to grow anywhere except the garden. As they walked through the neat stone paths, the ground began to slope steadily upwards and Killga and Ebah were soon in sight of their destination. The Andromeda tree loomed overhead; its pink leafed branches brushed their heads as they walked beneath them, showering them in cherry pink leaves.
"Well this is it but now what?" suddenly a bright light appeared from the depths of Killga's back-pack, she reached inside and pulled out the source of the light; a small turquoise crystal glowing brighter than a star in a moon lit sky. The gem began to glow brighter and brighter, "I don't remember putting that in there" Killga said straining her eyes in the light.
The stone continued to glow fiercely brighter and brighter, but also grew hotter, after a few seconds the heat was so intense that Killga dropped it and it tumbled to the grassy ground, where it continued to glow until it was so bright that they could no longer bear to look at it. The stone gave out one last large flash of brilliant light then just as quickly as the light had appeared it was gone, extinguished after fulfilling its task. They looked around, their vision impaired by multicoloured spots of light twinkling before them, it was a moment before they could see what had happened, where the crystal had been now stood a rather ill, bedraggled Grungen. He fell to the ground in exhaustion and Killga and Ebah ran over to help him into a more comfortable position as he had landed in a crumpled heap.
"Oh Grungen, messa been missen you awfull much messa friend Killga helped gets you back" Grungen's big green eyes looked up at them with such love and relief, he knew he was safe.
Haylie and Ringmore were packing up and preparing to leave Palistare, they walked back through the maze of corridors to the great hall where Prince Valman was standing waiting for them.
"You won't change your mind?" Haylie enquired half-heartedly
"Well I..." Valman began
"Listen you highness!" She interrupted sternly, "you know, I thought you would be a great, kind, caring and powerful leader who cared about his people, but now I've met you I'm just disappointed, isn't it your duty to protect this world against evil, the rest of Parantsel needs your help Valman, and if you do not, you betray them all" Haylie felt proud of herself as did Ringmore, who finally thought they might have got through is stern demeanour and reached something compassionate.
"I admire your pluck and courage miss Haylie, not many people have crossed my path and shouted down my throat in defence of what they believe, but before you interrupted me I was about to inform you that I will oblige you, I will help you in whatever way I can, my army is at your command" Slightly stunned Haylie and Ringmore stood for a moment staring at each other until they finally came back around to the real world.
"Well thank you," Haylie managed to say after a long silence, "what made you change your mind?" Haylie asked, intrigued by the prince's change of heart.
"A wise man showed me the error of my ways and corrected my path" he smiled at Haylie, "follow me to the war room, so I can show you what I have to offer, we have much to do and little time to do it." The prince led them through the castle's labyrinth of corridors to a room filled with armour, swords, weapons and large tapestries of maps that lined the walls. He laid out a large scale map on a worn old table in the centre of the room, the faded map was mostly empty except for one large city in the bottom left hand corner and a dark smudge near the right hand edge.
"I have ten thousand men at arms, including a two thousand strong cavalry and one thousand archers, trained at the age of sixteen to hit anything up to two miles away, they are very reliable to say the least"
"Well statistics always sound good and I'm sure Elera will rally more troops in Esiris, but we need a strategy" Haylie stated.
"That's why I brought you down here, now" he pointed to the map, "this is the battle ground here" he circled the large empty area of land with his finger, "and this is Esiris, I believe that is where you said we would march to Haylie" He said rather sarcastically.
"Yes sire but what is this dark thing it looks like another city, she pointed to the dark smudge. Valman and Ringmore exchanged glances, full of some old memory best forgotten. "What is it? What is that place?"
"That's ah, that's Sherome city, it was once one of the grandest cities in Lardinia until Merdock came to power; the elders managed to keep Merdock at bay behind the border for a while, but his forces grew daily and they over powered the Elders with ease. He plundered the city, destroyed its resources and sent his soldiers to abduct its people to be slaves or slaughter the ones who were too weak to serve, no one lives there now, they were all taken or murdered. Why do you ask?" Valman answered the pain of the loss visible on his and Ringmore's faces.
"Well I just thought it might have some tactical value considering where it is on the battlefield" she answered.
"I suppose so" he was silent in thought for a moment and then he spoke again, "if we could hide a reasonably sized group of soldiers within the city, we could split Merdock's army and deal with them in two groups, attack them on two flanks if you will."
"Do you think it could work sire?" Haylie asked enthusiastically, she was starting to get into all this battle planning now.
"Please stop calling me sire, my name is Fredrich it would please me if you would both call me by it. As to our idea working I have no idea just a hope."
"Of course Fredrich, now we only have two days until we have to be ready to meet Elera and Killga in Esiris, so we need to be efficient." Ringmore reminded them.
Haylie, Ringmore and Fredrich spent the next twenty four hours planning and sending out messengers to the far corners of the Palistare villages, calling all able bodied men to arms, gathering the full strength of the Palistarian army to the city. On the final morning Fredrich led Haylie and Ringmore back down to the war room where he presented them each with their own suit of armour.
Haylie's comprised of a short dress of chain mail that reached her thighs; a silver corset held together with black leather clasps and buckles; steel shoulder plates and a pair of gauntlets that laced up around her forearms to add protection. The entire suite of armour had been lavishly engraved by hand with patterns like those that decorated the castle. He had also given her a short black tunic, a part of armour all Palistarian soldiers wear, embroidered with a silver wolf to match the Palistare royal flag. Ringmore had also been given a lightweight chain mail shirt, black embroidered tunic with the silver wolf howling towards a twinkling moon and stars. The prince had also had large silver shoulder plates and a large engraved chest piece that covered the higher part of his chest, which connected together with straps and buckles made of strong black Palistarian leather that was almost impossible to break, even with the sharpest of blades. Just like Haylie's, every inch of his armour had been lavishly hand engraved, by Fredrich's skilled royal craftsmen and women until both suites of armour looked worthy of royalty.
As the sun rose over the kingdom the palace was already alive with activity and anticipation as soldiers and archers prepared to march to Esiris. Ringmore and Haylie were being dressed by the prince's servants: it is almost impossible to dress yourself in armour. Finally the two of them and Fredrich, dressed in his own royal armour, threw open the doors of the great hall and let the morning sun fall on their vibrant faces. A great mist hung in the air all over the kingdom giving the day an eerie sense of foreboding for the battle ahead. The prince's messengers had been sent for and brought back more than the anticipated number of soldiers and Fredrich had them rewarded for their fine work.
"Well then, this is the march of Palistare for the war camp of Esiris" Fredrich called to his men and new allies, there was a great roar of cheers and shouts of enthusiasm from the thronging mass of men that stood before the palace steps, "and now you march with us to the battle field, where you will smite your enemy, by the strong sword or the swift straight arrow we will be victorious and once again these lands will be returned to the people that work and care for them!"
The cheers were even louder this time and Fredrich turned to his side to see his friends clapping beside him. His thoughts turned to his father and he whipped his head round to see the window of his father's room and saw his tired, wrinkled face that held such wisdom and knowledge, nod toward his son with respect, Fredrich nodded slowly back then turned and mounted his horse as gently and gracefully as a falling feather. Haylie and Ringmore mounted their horses and followed Fredrich through the mass of soldiers to the main gate, they had opened both of the large black gates to allow room for ten fully armoured men to walk through side by side with no squeeze.
The mist provided a grey backdrop to their march through the kingdom of Palistare but it did not dampen their spirits one bit, they held onto the hope that there was some good left in their world and that they had to fight for it to keep it.
"So this is how it begins" said Haylie, half talking to herself.
"Yes, this is how it begins" Ringmore replied quietly.
"It all seems so peaceful on a day like today with the mist and that gentle breeze on your face" She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"That's just what it is, the deep breath before the hammer falls" said Fredrich. They marched on for three hours more until Haylie heard something, a small voice on the wind. As it grew closer it sounded like more than one voice, until she could quite clearly make out her name.
"Hay...lie, Hay...lie, Haylie"
Haylie stopped her horse, spun around and squinted into the mists; she could just make out a dark shape rushing towards them. Then she saw the flash of red hair and green skin as Killga drew up her horse along side the marching army, Ebah holding Grungen in front of her in the saddle.
"We saw the army, we supposed you and Ringmore had completed your mission and were on your way to Esiris, so we tried to catch up." Killga said, trying not to sounding out of breath. Haylie beamed at the three of them, a feeling of accomplishment racing through her, and invited Killga and the Imps to ride alongside them as they continued to march towards their destination.