The Great Library was one of the most impressive sights in all of Lardinia, the walls were lined from floor to ceiling with shelves and rows of books and papers, free standing shelves were placed so closely together that you had to walk sideways to squeeze between them, towering high above the shelves were stacks of books and documents reaching up to the ceiling like great columns, adding to the structure of the room dug deep beneath the earth to protect the bounty of knowledge within. Elera sat, surrounded by pile upon pile of maps, documents and all manner of fiction and non that threatened to collapse on top of her with each passing moment. She had been in the lower library of the elders palace for nearly two days, she was on the edge of sleep and losing all sanity when she finally came across what she had been searching for.
“Ah ha, ah ha ha, yes I’ve got it I’ve got it!” she shouted into the vast space full of centuries of information.
“Find everything you need Elera?” Adlem enquired her head suddenly appearing around the corner of a near by book shelf, her pink glittering wings folded behind her to avoid knocking over the stacks and stacks of books and parchments.
“Yes I think I just have thank you Adlem and thank the others too, without access to this grand library I would not have found this” she held up the scroll she had uncovered.
“What exactly is it you have found?” She enquired, struggling to get a better view.
“It’s a map of Mount Morgant and the tunnels that lead to the black castle dungeons, if I can access one of these tunnels, maybe even two of them we have a chance of navigating the castle and finding Merdock without having to use the front door.”
“I am glad our library was of some use to you” she said politely; Adlem was the youngest elder and she wore a lavender coloured, skirt and top that had a slightly pinkish hue, and attached to the skirt was a thin elf-made lace that trailed to the ground. She carried a small bow on her hip but she mostly used elf magic in battle as elves are fragile creatures that cannot fight with heavy weaponry for too long. She stood looking at Elera, a small smile framing the lower half of her face and her beautiful cerise eyes stared kindly at her. “I believe that map was stolen from Merdock’s own private collection, many years ago a prisoner escaped from the dungeons but he couldn’t get out of the castle, he stumbled across the library and he found this map and used it to escape through the tunnels”
“Well now I am going to use it to make the opposite journey, however foolish that may be!”
Not so many miles away Palistare’s grand army, headed by the prince and his new allies, were marching alongside the Ahromare River, thoughts racing through their minds of hope, fear, loss and war.
“We should reach Esiris within a few hours, and then we can feast and make final preparations” said the prince. His voice was strong and he held himself thus upon his horse. Fredrich was a tall man with mahogany brown hair that almost reached his shoulders and always seemed to be a mess, he had dark brown, almost black eyes that betrayed his deepest emotions without meaning to. His amour reflected his royal standing; it was lavishly engraved, even more so than Haylie and Ringmore’s. It had many layers to the shoulder plates and his chest plate had three more beneath that peeked through at different lengths, all engraved with wolves and regal patterns.
But behind his strong exterior, Haylie could tell he was frightened, she saw it clearly in his deep dark eyes, though he did his best to hide it. Fredrich had only ever dreamt of this day in his wildest of dreams, he had gone over and over it in his mind and he always came through the ordeal unscathed and victorious and all his men would still be beside him at the end. But now he feared that his fantasies would be nothing more than that; illusions of grandeur, what if his men abandoned him? What if he was seriously injured and no one came to his aid? What if he was struck down and killed and all was lost to darkness and despair? What if. Fredrich went over and over these doubts in his mind.
“It will be ok you know” Haylie stammered, “I know it will, somehow"
“How do you know that?” Fredrich snapped, “and that sword you told me about hasn’t been much use to us has it?” Though admittedly he was still unsure himself and was taking his fears out on Haylie .
“The sword of visions only shows me images when I wield it to protect myself” she explained for the millionth time, ignoring Fredrich's tone of voice, “you know Fredrich you are a great man and I admire you for what you are doing and what you may be sacrificing to bring peace, but you need to trust in what you are telling your men even more than they do because you’re right we are fighting for freedom and you need to believe that an army with good intentions such as your cannot be beaten in battle” she said encouragingly.
“She's right Fredrich” Ringmore had been listening to their conversation, “I hid in Higbridge after...” he stopped abruptly, as if he had just prevented himself from revealing something terrible, he seemed to refigure his thoughts and continued, “anyway I was a coward and I fled, but when Elera and Haylie came and found me and asked me to join the cause, I have to say I wasn’t raring to stick my neck out for them, not until they explained what they were up against and that they were fighting for freedom, not just for the rich but for everyone and it made me think about how bad my life had been since Merdock started to tighten his grip and I wanted to get even with that low life piece of dirt”
They were left with Ringmore’s final insult to Merdock through a long silence, in which Haylie took some time away from what they were headed for and just sat there in the moment, bobbing about in her saddle, and looked around at her friends riding beside her. She had hardly had time to stop and take in this new world and now as she looked about her she could hardly see much of it at all thanks to the thick fog, except for the bright green grass passing beneath Garrano’s hooves. Large colourful birds flew overhead calling to each other and smaller ones darted about catching bugs and insects in their sharp polished beaks to take home to their young, Haylie guessed it must be their equivalent to spring time, as since she had arrived all the trees had been in leaf and the flowers had begun to unfold.
Their path began to move away from the river and it’s beautiful pebbled banks, before them stretched mile after mile of flat grassland interrupted by one large dark structure that had begun to emerge from the blanket of fog, Esiris stood before them in perfect majesty and grace, looming over the army of freedom fighters moving past its iron gates. The soldiers and their leaders marched past the grand city of Esiris and they stared up at its huge stone towers, littered with catapults and tall arched windows, where scared and curious faces peered down at the passing convoy. They moved past the city and towards the war camp that had been set up a few miles outside the city walls, Dracon had clearly been successful in negotiating with the king of Esiris and persuaded him to lend his army to the fight.
The camp resembled the one Ringmore and Haylie had reduced to a ghost camp, except this one had been scaled up to several thousand times the size of the Morgantian camp and it was buzzing with energy and excitement. Suddenly a huge dark shadow spread across the ground and every face turned skyward as Dracon swooped down and landed just in front of them.
“Welcome my friends it seems like a lifetime since we last met, come follow me” they dismounted their horses and walked on after Dracon, while the troops dispersed into the tents to find food and get some rest. They followed Dracon through the tents and groups of people gathered around fires talking in hushed voices, while farriers, welders, blacksmiths and all manner of craftsmen were banging away at swords, shields and various pieces of armour preparing for the battle; suiting up Esiris’ own army. They finally reached a large open sided tent, to allow Dracon’s head to enter the tent without any inconvenience. Laid out upon several wooden tables in the centre of the tent, were plans and maps of the battle field and most importantly the one Elera had found in the elders library.
She stood behind the tables leaning over the maps, she was talking with a large man fully clad in armour with a lavishly decorated helmet tucked under his arm.
“Welcome my friends,” Elera beckoned them into the tent, “and it’s nice to see all of you here at last” she looked directly at Grungen and smiled, she called to a nearby guard and ordered him to take Grungen and Ebah to Esiris and keep them safe and comfortable there until the battle was over, “this is General Hayger of the Esiris grand army, he has been very helpful in organising more troops and providing precious information”
“It’s a pleasure,” barked the general, “lady Elera had been telling me so much about you all.” The general seemed very stiff upper lip, and reminded Haylie of a general in one of those old war film that used to go around barking orders at people, except General Hayger was the real thing.
“Elera this is Prince Valman,” said Haylie as Fredrich extended his hand, “and all the extra men you can see milling about are his soldiers” a look of shock and delight spread across Elera’s face as she looked at the army weaving through the tents.
“You and Ringmore have done exceptionally, I am impressed and pleased to meet you Fredrick Valman, but now we need to discuss final plans.” They spent the rest of the day arranging troop positions, discussing the advantage of Esiris' catapults, the extraordinary luck of having Elera's map, and Haylie and Fredrich’s idea of using Sherome city to their advantage as much as possible.