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Meeting of Nations
by Jason Heaps

 

Part 6

Docks of Mirabalpur.

It is said that the Sorcerers of Mir need never travel, for all nations come to Mir. The Seeresses of the Sinari proved the truth of this statement. The Seeresses had watched as the ship came closer to the the city for the past two days. The morning two days before, Seeress Kala had emerged from below deck. She rolled her eyes. For the past few days the Seeresses' escorts had been below deck with a greenish cast to their faces. One of the guards had even spent the first day looking over the rail at the sea below. All the while he was adding more to it. None of the Seeresses had been sick. Just then, Kala saw something on the horizon. She had grabbed the nearest sailor.

"What is that in the distance?"

"Those are the towers of Mirabalpur, capital city of the Sorcerers of Mir."

"How many more days until we reach the city?"

"Two days," the sailor stammered. The Seeress let go of his shirt.

The sailor disappeared as fast as he could.

"But those towers would have to be reach the Heavens to be seen this many days in advance," Seeress Kala said.

"They say that the towers of Mir are the tallest in the world," the captain said as he walked up behind the Seeress. Kala did not respond. Instead, she turned and headed below deck. Kala entered the cabin that the Seeresses shared. She and her sisters had things to discuss.

For two days the Seeresses watched the city draw closer. Then, on the second day, the ship entered Mirabalpur's harbor. The Seeresses stepped off the ship and looked around. The harbor stood outside the main city walls. There were warehouses everywhere, and in between these huge warehouses stood brothels and taverns and many other places similar to these. The people were in a hurry. They were pushing and shoving everyone. Some people were dressed in nice silk, while others wore no more then a loin-cloth. There were children running around everywhere. One of them stopped and looked at the Seeresses. Then he made a face and ran away. Facresa gave a happy laugh at the child's actions. Kala shot her a look that stopped the laugh.

Facresa looked around. This city was strangely familiar. Since she was two she had lived with the Seeresses and had become one of them.

That was all that she had known, but now she looked at the bustling city and something called to her. Something in her told her that this was home. She felt the urge to interact with these people; to barter, to laugh, to live in this city. She suddenly looked up and saw a tower piercing the sky, a tower that rose above the city like a god looking down on his children, and for some reason she was drawn to it and could not take her eyes off it.

While Facresa was marveling at the city, her mother, Islanda, was reliving painful memories. Memories that she would rather forget. Kala was the only one who's attention was focused on the matter at hand. She looked around her but did not see the people or the city. She only saw what she wanted to see. She turned to one of the guards, who were very nervous.

"I want to talk to them." She pointed at the harbor guards.

"You. Come here!" the guard shouted. The crowd around them stopped talking and looked at the group. The harbor guards looked at them then turned back to each other and began to talk again. Islanda had been watching the guards and her eyes opened wide in surpise beneath her veil. An instant later her eyes turned angry. How dare these heathens disobey an order? the thought raced through her head. She stalked over to the guards, anger clear in her movements.

"You were told to come!" she yelled at the guard's back. The guard and his comrades turned around and stared at the Seeress Islanda and her two sisters and the six desert warriors guarding them. The harbor guards were all big men. They had to be, how else could they stop a tavern brawl? The guards leered at the Seeresses. Then one spoke up.

"That robe does nothing for your figure. If you come with me I can provide you with something that would show off your figure better," the guard said. The three Seeresses were speechless. They had never been treated this way. Facresa began to gather her will.

"Grapanian could provide you with clothes, but I could provide you with some real fun. From a real man," another guard offered with a suggestive look that clearly said what he meant. One of the Sinari guards had had enough and jumped at the harbor guard, while Facresa formed her will into a spell.

Even as he started forward, his curved sword drawn and whistling down at the harbor guard, the Sinari warrior was thrown back. Facresa released her spell and at that moment a red robed Sorcerer appeared between the two groups. The spell stopped inches from his body. Facresa's eyes widened when she thought that the Sorcerer had stopped her spell, but then realized that he had not. The magic had just dissolved.

Islanda's eyes bulged, and then they became fearful, and her face paled. She thanked Sin-Alb that her face was covered. Kala also stared at the man's face. Unlike Islanda, she did not stare from fear at the sight of him, but rather fascination. Kala had seen Facresa's face often before. The man standing before her was like the male copy of the young Seeress. He had black hair. His eyes were a piercing black and his face angled and hard. It reminded her of a dragon she had once seen in a vision. The Sorcerer was staring at the spot were the spell had been. He finally tore his eyes off the spot.

"Your guard should not have tried to kill the man," the Sorcerer said.

"He insulted us," Facresa said.

"I know, and he will be dealt with, but if you had killed him you would not have had the satisfaction of seeing him die." The Seeresses understood the quiet threat.

"There is no love lost between Sinari and the Heathens of Mir. Why did you stop us Nioratosa?" Islanda said then stopped. They all looked at her. Nioratosa's ears recognized that voice, and his eyes showed it. They turned as hard as granite. Then he spoke. A human cannot imitate a serpent, but Nioratosa came close.

"So you have returned, Islanda," he said in ancient Mirish.

"You have not answered my question," Islanda said, ignoring the question and the looks her sisters were giving her behind their masks.

"Because he was not worth you dying over," Nioratosa said. His voice still was hard. Then he spoke again. "I am no more a Heathen than you are," he said casually. Even though he could not see their faces, he could feel their frowns.

"We are not heathens," Kala replied calmly.

"Yes, you are," Nioratosa said. Then he held up his hand. "Heathens is a relative term. I worship the protector of Celamyr, Miracradsa, and I also worship the Creator from who all power and life springs. To me you are heathens. To you I am a heathen because I do not worship Sin-Alb, but yet we are both still human. Do you yourself not try to convert worshipers to Sin-Alb? Why would you do that if they were not human?" The Seeresses stared at him. "Now that we have had this wonderful religious debate, let me ask you, why you are here?"

"We are here to see the rulers of Mir," Kala said. Her sisters understood that religion would come after they got what they wanted.

"Well, if that's all, then we had best get going." Nioratosa turned around and walked towards the gate. Then he stopped, and turned around once again to point a finger at the rude harbor guard. He released a spell. The guard started dancing around scratching himself. Then Nioratosa looked at the Seeresses and smiled. "A minor version of a seven-year itch." Nioratosa turned and led the Seeresses and their guards through the gates.

"These Mirish are strange people," Kala said in Sinari.

"You have no idea," Islanda replied.

Archmages Chambers, Palace of Sorcery, Mirabalpur

Eubratosa looked out his window as the sun set on the city of Mirabalpur. The Sorcerers had known that the Seeresses were coming. The Seeresses were like a rain storm. Every magic user for miles knew they were coming. The Seeresses were not that magically sophisticated, but they radiated magical power. No-one knew why they had such attention-getting abilities. Eubratosa personally thought that it was because of their egotism. He had heard about the Seeresses of the Sinari. They acted exactly like the Sorcerers of Mir, but the Seeresses seemed to think that they were demi-gods.

The Council had spent many hours debating what to say. Everyone knew that they were here because of the attempted assassination, and most believed that the were going to demand someone's head. Just then Eubratosa's door opened.

"Come in, Nioratosa," Eubraotsa called to his son. He heard his son's heavy footsteps behind him. His son came and stood in front of his chair. The light from the candles lit the room with a dim but warm light. Eubratosa looked at his son. The two had the same face and build. Both were strong men, and both, beneath their robes, had bodies that were in fighting trim. True, neither one was very good at swordmanship, but Eubratosa had exercised every day for years, and he had passed that trait on to his son.

"Father, the Seeresses are in their rooms," Nioratosa said, still standing.

"I had figured as much. Why don't you sit? It's been a busy day." Eubratosa smiled weakly at his son. His son did not return the smile, and Eubratosa noticed that Nioratosa's eyes were angry. "What did the Seeresses say to make you so angry?"

"It was nothing they said. No, they reminded me of something I did long ago." Nioratosa looked out the window, and stood there for several minutes. Eubratosa decided it best to let his son say what was on his mind when he was ready. Finally, Nioratosa spoke up. "Father, the legend about the time the Goddess Miracradsa gave the first Sorcerers their powers. She set several rules, and one of them was that a person's magic could not be used against his or her own family?"

"Yes, that is true, and has been proven several times. Why?" Eubratosa looked at his son. He began to fear something was more then just a little wrong. Nioratosa did not look at his father for several minutes. Then he finally turned around.

"Father, I have something to tell you. Fifteen years ago I met a woman in the city. She was beautiful, and mysterious. We began to see each other, and then I became a level ten Apprentice. Well, I met with her that day and told her. We had a celebration, and we drank too much wine, and one thing led to another..." Nioratosa stopped. His father was digging his fingers into the chair. Eubratosa silently sat there for a few minutes, then spoke.

"What about the Seeresses reminds you of this event?" he said acidly, hoping it was not what he suspected.

Eubratosa had always tried to be kind and understanding with people's failures, but this one topic he would not be lenient with. In the four years since he had become Archmage, he had worked hard to stop the Sorcerers from sleeping around, and to find out that his own son had disobeyed that one rule was almost intolerable. Nioratosa thanked Miracradsa that there were too many precious things in this room or else it might end up a natural disaster.

"One of the Seeresses is this woman. She is the Seeress Islanda, and the youngest one is the child that came from that night. The Seeress Facresa," Nioratosa said. In an instant, Eubraotsa was out of the chair and had grabbed Nioratosa by the robes.

"A child of the House of Celamyrsa was born to a Seeress, and not only that but has become a Seeress! Do you realise the danger? The Crown of Mir is connected to the Celamyrsa family. If the Sinari do invaded Mir, she may be their key to getting past the Crown's spell." Eubratosa let go of Nioratosa's shirt, and sat back down.

"What do you mean?" Nioratosa demanded.

"The Celamyrsa family is not just the old royal family of Mir. They are also the High Priest of the Goddess Miracradsa. She gave the first Sa of Mir the Crown and then she gave the Scepter to the First Archmage. The Scepter is said to represent Miracradsa's gift to the Sorcerers, and the Crown her gift to the Royal family," Eubratosa said in a tired voice. Nioratosa nodded his head in understanding. "The Crown is part of the magic of the Royal Family. As you know, most of the men in the royal family did not have magic. The Crown was their magic." Nioratosa's eyes opened wide in understanding.

"So the Crown will not harm the ship Facresa would be on if the Sinari invaded," Nioratosa said. His father nodded.

"There is one other thing. If I die, then she could claim the Crown and take it to the Enemy. Then the Enemy might use Miracradsa's gift against her people," Eubratosa said.

"But Miracradsa would surely stop the Enemy before he could destroy her people," Nioratosa said.

"I would not hold my breath. The Fae are slow to hear our pleas. The Great Archmage of the Fae died and has been replaced by some Fae named Granth, who at the moment is somewhere on Elyria. We have Burcany's help, but they our more occupied with Cedonia. Torphan is offering their help, but they have been in isolation for the past thousand years, and they, at the moment, are trying to kill every Ice Demon to the south." Eubratosa listed off each as if it were one more blow.

"Maybe we should try to contact Miracradsa again and try to get her help," Nioratosa said.

"Maybe," Eubratosa said. He sat quietly for a while, then said, "We cannot let that child leave this island. If we must kill her to stop her, then so be it." Nioratosa looked at his father. His father looked back at him. Nioratosa stood up and left the room. Once in the hall he ran through the halls and up the central tower. He finally made it to the tower's highest room. There he looked out the window at the city below and tears began to fall down his cheek. He understood what had just happened. He had not just endangered Mir, but had also created a wall between father and son that would take years to tear down.

Great Hall, Palace of Sorcery, Mirabalpur

It was noon the following day. They Seeresses had finally been led to Great Hall to speak to the Archmage and the Council. The Seeresses had entered the Great Hall with their Sinari guards surrounding them. To another Sinari, this would have been impressive, but to the Sorcerers of Mir this was a chance to laugh at the barbarians.

The Council had as yet not entered, but just under half of the Sorcerers of Mir stood along the sides of the hall, and at every interval there stood a Sorcerer who wore a breast plate over his robes and a sword at his side. These were the Warmages. At the front of the room stood several Eerith. The Seeresses ignored the people in the room except the Eerith. Other than this, the Seeresses' attention was on the thrones at the front of the room.

The Seeresses had been in many heathen cities before, but all of them had been around the desert. The cities they had been to were crudely built, and gave a person the impression of the merely adequate. Mirabalpur was a different story. Mirabalpur strove for beauty, not just a place to live. The Sinari, who were used to the empty desert and the small cities around the deserts, were nervous in this huge city. Myr-Kun had been the largest city the Sinari had ever been in. In Myr-Kun, the Sinari had seen an arrogant city that was about to fall to the might of the Sinari, but Mirabalpur inspired something else. Where the Mages of Myr-Kun were trying to prove their place in the world, the Sorcerers of Mir knew their place and their city showed it. Its beauty tore at the heart of the beholder. It was a city you could grow to love, and many people had grown to love it.

Now the Seeresses stood in the heart of the city, The Grand Hall. The vaulted ceiling was huge. The floor was inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and the tapestry along the walls showed past Archmages. Each tapestry was made of silk and was bright with color, but the center point of the room was the thrones. There were thirteen thrones. The largest one stood in the center with six on each side. This throne was elevated, so that one had to look up to speak to the person in it. The other twelve thrones were also elevated, but not as high as the central one. The Seeresses took this all in.

A trumpet blew, and then an entire orchestra began to play. Slowly, twelve robed persons entered the room. The Seeresses watched in surprise. They had seen wealth and elegance before, but this was beyond their imaginings.

Six of the Council members wore black robes. They had an intimidating presence about them. The oldest of the black robes wore a silver circlet. Three others council members wore red robes that reminded the Seeresses of blood. Nioratosa was one of these, and around his head he wore a bronze circlet. The last three were Sorceresses who wore robes of such whiteness that they seemed to glow in the sunlight. One of them wore a gold circlet and had a sword at her side.

This was the Council of Twelve. The Council stood before their thrones looking at the Seeresses as the music played on. Just as the music was reaching a cresendo, the Archmage Eubratosa entered. The Warmages drew their swords in solute, and the Sorcerers standing around the room sank to one knee. The Seeresses guards were pushed to their knees by some power and they could not get up.

The Archmage was impressive. He was dressed in light blue robes that just glowed. On his head sat a crown. It was not a gaudy crown, but it was impressive nonetheless. He wore three sashes; one of black, one of red, and one of white. These sashes were clasped together on his right shoulder. He marched up to his throne at a dignifed pace. Then he stood before his throne, and the music stopped. Then a voice spoke.

"Presenting the Ruler of Mirabalpur, Protector of Nation of Mir, Guardian of the Isle of Celamyr, High Priest of Goddess Miracradsa, Patriarch of the House of Celamyrsa, and Archmage of the Brotherhood of Sorcery, Eubratosa Celamyrsa," the voice boomed. The Archmage looked at the gathered people, then spoke.

"Rise, my children." There was a rustling of robes as the Sorcerers rose to their feet. The Seeresses were begining to realises that Mir could not be bullied into doing as the Seeresses wished. Islanda had been in Mir before, but she had never seen this kind of ceremony before, and Facresa felt a strange stirring in her. Kala's mind was racing. She had expected these people to be just like the city people around the desert: too poor to create anything of beauty, and too afraid of the Sinari to try to oppose them, but these people built cities that reached the heavens. They were civilized, and they knew how to impress. Just then, the woman to the right of the Archmage stood up.

"Greetings to the Seeress Kala, and to the Seeress Islanda, and to the Seeress Facresa, emissaries from Hisinvol, ruler of the Sinari. I, the Warlord Riacrada, will speak for the Archmage," the woman called Riacrada said. "What do the emissaries from Hisinvol have to say?"

"The Sorcerers of Mir have attacked the Chosen of Sin-Alb," Kala's voice rang in the hall, attempting to show a strong face in front of this display of power. "Hisinvol, Praised Be His Name, has chosen to be merciful. The might of the Sinari will be withheld if the unbelievers of Mir appease him. In the name of Sin-Alb, he demands that those criminals responsible for the assault on the Sinari be put to death, and reparations paid to Hisinvol. So speaks the Chosen of Sin-Alb, tremble lest his gaze focus on you."

There was a silence in the room. The Sorcerers looked at the council. The council sat upon their thrones with blank faces. Then Nioratosa spoke.

"Is this the will of Sin-Alb?" Nioraotsa asked. The Seeresses looked at him in suprise.

"The will of Hisinvol, Praised Be His Name, is the same Sin-Alb," Islanda said.

"Is the Traitor dead?" Nioratosa asked.

"I know of no traitor." Islanda said.

"The one who was attacked." Nioratosa said, standing up.

"He is no traitor," Islanda said.

"He is a Traitor. Not just to us, but to the Goddess of Mir. Just like you." The other two Seeresses gasped in shock. The Sinari guards drew their swords, and a second later the Warmages had their swords out and a fistful of magic. The Seeress Islanda held up her hand for her guards to stop, while Nioratosa held up his hand to the Warmages.

Islanda spoke. "Fifteen years ago we both made a mistake. I did what I thought was best. I am sorry if I have hurt you." The people in the room listened to Nioratosa and Islanda without any idea of what they were talking about. The Seeress Islanda looked at Nioratosa. He looked right back, and the look he gave her yelled that he was ready to murder her. The two stared at each other for a long while. Finally Kala spoke up.

"We still have not recevided our answer," the lead Seeress said. The Sorcerers all looked at her in surprise. Then the Archmage spoke up.

"The answer is no." The Seeress Kala began to speak. "This is a ridiculous demand. If we knew whether or not the Traitor was dead, then we might be willing to work with you, but until then, no."

"Do you really want to challenge the might of the Sinari?"

"No, but you are the ones threatening us. Not to mention that we were doing to the Traitor what you are demanding of us. He killed my predecessor. We demanded that he be killed to pay for that," the Archmage said.

"And to whom did you issue this demand? We of the Sinari knew nothing of this crime, and yet you attacked our camp and slew one of our allies. Is this how Hisinvol, Praised Be His Name, should expect you to treat his friends?" the Seeress Kala said.

"Did we kill or wound any of the Sinari in our attack?" Nioratosa looked at Kala. She shook her head no.

"But would you have killed the Traitor?" the Archmage said.

"That would have been in the hands of Sin-Alb," Kala replied.

"So what good would it have done? Besides telling him that we wanted to kill him."

"Should we do the same as you to get revenge?" Kala asked.

"The Sinari might be able to get here, but think about it. Most of them will be seasick and will not be in fighting condition when they get here. Not to mention that a little bit of mage fire will start those ships on fire, and I honestly doubt that you could get past the Crown's spell," the Archmage said.

"So be it," Kala said as she turned to leave. "Pray that Miracradsa will hide you behind her skirts should Sin-Alb choose to turn his gaze your way, Sorcerers. We leave, Sisters."

"You will not," the Archmage demanded, and suddenly the doors shut with a boom.

Enraged, Kala gestured to the Sinari warriors. "Open those doors," she demanded. The Sinari guards rushed forward and tried to open the doors, but the immense barriers did not budge.

"It is no use, Sister Kala. Even if we do get out we will never get past the harbor," the Seeress Islanda said. "Mir is, after all, an island nation, and I doubt if we could pay any crew enough once they find out that the Sorcerers don't want us to leave."

"Very well," the Seeress Kala said, and turned around to face the Archmage. "What is it you want to say? Or are you going to kill us?"

"No. I would not kill you. There is something, though, that you will have to leave here if you wish to go," the Archmage said, still standing.

"What is that?" the Seeress Kala asked, the anger clear in her voice. After her rude treatment, she thought she would rather die then give anything to these heathens, but if it was something small then she would give it just so that she could get back to Myr-Kun and lead the army to destroy this island. The Archmage smiled. He pointed at Facresa.

"Her."

"What?" the Seeress Kala and the Council yelled in unison. The uproar was not limited to the Sinari. The gathered Sorcerers also were abuzz.

(Are you crazed?) Dioya's thoughts echoed in Eubratosa's head.

*Trust me.* Eubratosa replied. Then he spoke out loud. "This child is only half Sinari. The other half is Mirish, and not just normal Mirish blood. She is my Grandaughter." The Archmage stated. The Sorcerers and Kala were shocked. Islanda bowed her head.

Facresa looked at her mother and then at Nioratosa.

(Know I understand.) Dioya said.

"That is not true," Kala said triumphantly. She turned to Islanda. "Her father was a Black Dragon. Is he not?" Islanda looked at Kala for a long minute then walked over to her daughter. She hugged her daughter, then pointed at Nioratosa.

"That is your father. The Black Dragon," Islanda said. Facresa stared at Nioratosa for a long while, and Nioratosa stared back.

{Hello my child.} Nioratosa's thoughts echoed in her head.

"Islanda, you said that her father was a black dragon, but this is just a man," Kala said, stunned.

"Nioratosa in old Mirish means 'Black Dragon,'" Nioratosa said. Then he looked at the Seeresses. "Why don't we let Facresa decide whether or not she wants to stay?" Eubratosa looked at his son as if he were crazy. Kala smiled. She knew what Facresa would choose.

Facresa stood there before the Sorcerers of Mir and her sisters, the Seeresses of Sin-Alb. She began to think. The gods of both had visited her. She had felt the power of Sin-Alb, and she had felt the power of Miracradsa. Sin-Alb's presence had been more demanding, and Sin-Alb always seemed to be angry. Miracradsa, on the other hand, was always happy and friendly. Sin-Alb demanded your love. Miracradsa requested your love.

Facresa began to take off her mask. Her mother and Kala stared at her. Next she took off her gloves. Her face and hands were covered with swirling tattoos reminiscent of those worn by the Eerith. Then she looked at her father. He was smiling at her, and she threw dignity to the wind. The next insant she was in her father's arms, engulfed in a big bear hug. After a long moment of stunned silence, Kala spoke up.

"You betray Sin-Alb for a false god." Then she turned to the Eerith for help. "You who are servents of Sin-Alb, tell her what will happen to her if she betrays him."

The Eerith looked at the Seeress. He gently shifted the child he was holding. "This child sees what you don't." The council looked at the Seeress, and for once she felt something she had not felt before. A presence. She had fealt the presence of Sin-Alb many times, but now she felt something else. A different presence.

"So be it," Kala said, and turned and left through the doors that opened as she drew close. The Sinari guards followed her. Islanda stood at the center of the hall still, looking at her daughter.

"Go, mother. You love Sin-Alb too much to betray him," Facresa said to her mother. Islanda gave Facresa one last kiss, then headed out the door.

***

The doors closed behind the Seeresses. Finally, the Grand Archmage stepped forward and stood next to Eubratosa. It was an intresting comparison. The Grand Archmage, an old man who even when he was younger had an ugly face and was a thin as a beanpole, where Eubratosa was handsome and well built. The Grand Archmage had a long, full beard, where Eubratosa's face was clean and smooth. Even their robes were different. The Grand Archmage's robes were dark blue, almost black, while Eubratosa's were a light blue. The only similarity was the eyes. They both had hard black eyes that could penetrate stone. The Grand Archmage spoke.

"That was a very good spell," the Grand Archmage said.

"That was no spell. There was something else here."

"Who?" the Grand Archmage said.