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Sword of Kings: Tempered By Fate

 by Bill W
Copyright 2015 by billwstories
Chapter 23
One More Task .


You did it, my boy,” Beraut squealed in almost childlike delight, after he'd set Kieren back on the ground.  “You got rid of Madumda.”

You mean he’s really dead?” Kieren asked, still somewhat confused and bewildered.  Unfortunately, the wizard assumed this question was merely rhetorical and, therefore, only nodded his head slightly in response. 

Suddenly remembering that he still had Madumda’s staff, Kieren hurriedly unfastened his robe and held it out for the wizard to see.  He figured this would convince his mentor about what he’d done, even though he still didn’t understand it himself.  Beraut gave him a knowing grin to reassure him that he’d done well. 

He’s really gone then?” Kieren followed, since he hadn’t gotten a definitive response to his previous question. 

He most certainly is,” the wizard confirmed. 

Beraut was beaming with pride, both inwardly and outwardly because of Kieren’s accomplishment.  After a momentary delay, the wizard accepted the staff from the lad's possession and grinned with sincere admiration at his ward. 

But where are the others?” Beraut wanted to know, once it dawned on him that Kieren was alone.  

I had to leave them at Treblanc,” Kieren explained.  “There was no way to get out of there except by using my robe, so I came alone to get you.  I figured you could help me rescue them after we got back.”

Then we best get going,” Beraut acknowledged.  “Do you know where they are hiding?” 

In Madumda’s chambers,” Kieren blurted out.  “We felt no one would dare to try to go in there without Madumda’s permission, especially since they saw he was very upset when he entered Treblanc earlier.” 

Excellent thinking,” the wizard agreed.  “Whose idea was that?”

It doesn’t matter,” Kieren countered, since he didn’t want to delay this further.  “We have to hurry.  I’ve seen many soldiers heading that way and the giant condor was attacking those inside Treblanc when I was leaving.” 

Kieren paused briefly to contemplate what he’d just said before continuing.  The idea that the condor was attacking Madumda's cohorts still bothered him, because he couldn’t comprehend why the bird would be doing something like that.  Therefore, he decided to seek clarification on this point. 

I just don’t understand it?” Kieren stated, bewildered.  “Why was the condor attacking Madumda’s troops?  I mean, aren’t they all on the same side?” 

There may be a couple of explanations for what you saw,” Beraut replied.  “First, Madumda’s pet may have sensed its master was in trouble when it lost contact with the Dark Lord and then went to assist him.  The thing is, it didn’t have any idea who or what was at fault.  Therefore, it merely attacked anyone it saw. 

The other option,” the wizard continued, “is that it was seeking revenge for the many years of captivity and being forced to do Madumda’s bidding.  Since it was no longer under the Dark Lord’s control, it was lashing out indiscriminately and taking its frustration out on anyone within its master’s citadel.” 

As long as it doesn’t get to the others, I don't care if it kills all of Madumda’s soldiers,” Kieren acknowledged.  “But how will we get past it?” 

Oh, I think I still have a trick or two left up my sleeve,” Beraut told him, while flashing a quick grin as he remounted his steed.  “Here, climb up behind me and we’ll go ahead and see what we can do.” 

Shouldn’t we wait and stay with the others who came with you?” Kieren asked, anxiously. 

They’ll catch up with us soon enough,” Beraut told him, “but we don't really need them.  My magic will protect us from any mortal foes we encounter along the way.  We only need to be ready to take care of that bird, so we can reunite you with your protectors.” 

This comment lifted Kieren’s spirit temporarily, while visions of freeing his companions flashed in his mind.  However, he was rudely brought back to reality when he remembered they would probably still have to deal with the humongous aerial threat first. 

Kieren wrapped his arms around the wizard's waist as the steed they were riding took off and moved along at a controlled gallop.  Kieren was surprised they didn't encounter anyone else along the way, so he concluded the others he had seen earlier must have already made it to Treblanc ahead of them.  That, however, had only removed one of the obstacles they might face along the way.  As Beraut and Kieren scanned the horizon, they could easily see the condor as it continually rose above and then dove behind the walls of the ancient fortress. 

Whenever the avian oddity soared upward again, it was usually clutching one or more of Treblanc’s defenders in its talons.  Then, once it reached a sufficient altitude, it would release its victims and let them plummet toward the ground.  If the creature hadn’t killed them when it scooped them off the ground in the first place, then the fall definitely finished the poor victims off. 

When the condor inevitably perceived their approach, possibly because it had sensed Beraut’s magical aura, it turned to attack them instead.  This move caused Beraut to leap from his mount, but he dragged Kieren down at the same time and positioned the lad behind him.  As soon as they were arranged in the fashion, the wizard raised his arm in front of his body, with his staff extended toward the diving beast.  While keeping his attention focused on the bird, the wizard released a thunderbolt in its direction. 

Belatedly, the condor saw what the wizard had done and tried to swerve to avoid the blast, but it was much too late.  Although the bird avoided a direct hit, the beam grazed its side and the wound it created caused the beast a great deal of pain.  The blast not only knocked out quite a few feathers, but it also left a deep and sizable gash in its flesh, so now the condor was furious with the wizard for harming it.  After it had gathered its composure and blocked out the pain, the bird redirected all of its attention and anger toward the wizard. 

While Beraut was staving off this attack, Kieren had covered himself with his robe and moved several meters away from his mentor.  He felt Beraut could take care of himself, but Kieren was worried their furious opponent might accidentally injure him while making an awkward swoop as it attempted to grab the wizard.

With its attention now focused upon Beraut and with hatred flashing in its eyes, the beast came at them again, as it sought to even the score.  Seeing the condor diving in their direction shook Kieren even more than having to face the Dark Lord, but he stood his ground and didn’t flinch.  He also watched as the wizard prepared to do battle with the condor and studied his mentor’s every move. 

Since Beraut had never let his attention drift away from the airborne aggressor, he was ready when it began its next attack.  Purposefully, he lifted his arm, aimed at the condor and released another beam in the bird’s direction.  While he was doing this, Kieren hastily glanced behind them.  He wanted to see if the others were almost there, because he hoped they might possibly be able to help his mentor battle this attacker.  However, when Kieren turned to see how close they were, he noticed a second condor heading toward them. 

Since this condor was approaching from a different direction, Kieren realized the wizard couldn’t possibly see or do battle with both of these large aerial threats at the same time.  Trying desperately to think about what he might be able to do to help; Kieren remembered his medallion and hurriedly pulled it out from under his robe. 

Seeing Kieren was standing several meters away from Beraut at the time, the condor didn’t notice when he became visible.  The young man, however, wasn’t concerned about being seen at the moment and was hurriedly getting ready to deal with the second condor.  Carefully, he arranged his fingers and thumbs to form a triangle around the outer edge of the royal insignia and then he aimed it at the approaching threat.   Once he was ready, Kieren uttered his one-word command. 

Destroy!” he mumbled in a barely audible voice. 

Since the second condor had been focusing entirely on Beraut, it was not prepared for what came next.  The bird was totally oblivious to the danger it was in and flew steadily forward; still not realizing anything was amiss.  That was until the beam from Kieren’s symbol of authority slammed into its body and caused it to explode. 

The first condor also reacted when it heard the impact and tried to discover what had caused it.  The creature looked up just in time to see the other condor falling from the sky, but at the same moment the wizard unleashed another powerful blast in its direction.  Since the bird was distracted at the time, it didn’t see its own end coming and soon suffered a similar fate.  As the two large creatures crashed into the dirt, Kieren slowly started to stagger toward Beraut’s side, figuring he’d be safer if they were together. 

Once Beraut fully understood what Kieren had done, he looked over at his ward and was prepared to let him know how grateful he was for his swift and decisive action.  However, as soon as he turned in the lad’s direction, he realized Kieren was woozy and having trouble standing, since he was temporarily drained by the release of the powerful weapon.  After racing to Kieren’s side, Beraut supported the young man with one arm and waited for him to recuperate.  Although Kieren recovered much quicker than Beraut expected, the wizard never let his guard down and continued to keep one eye out for other signs of danger. 

Even after Kieren had recovered enough so he could continue, Beraut still opted to assist him as they began walking toward Treblanc.  It wasn't exactly the way the wizard had planned on entering the fortress, but his steed had taken off after spotting the monstrous bird and left him no other choice. 

Before they had gone very far, Kieren managed to regain his wits about him long enough to request that Beraut let him do one more thing.   He wanted the wizard to grant him a few seconds so he could retrieve something first, before they went to join up with the others.  Slowly, Kieren took a few steps to get back to where they had jumped off the horse and then he bent down to pick up the Dark Lord’s staff.  Kieren had seen Beraut drop it on the ground before he began to battle the first condor, but the teen felt it still might come in handy in the future, even though he wasn’t sure how.  Beraut gave him a nod of approval, once he realized what his ward was doing, and then they started out for Treblanc again.

Kieren and Beraut didn’t have very far to go, and since Kieren had recovered fairly quickly after using the medallion, they were able to move at a more energetic pace.  They remained cautious as they approached the gate leading into the ancient citadel, because they were uncertain what they might face when they reached the entrance.  They had noticed that some of the guards had returned to their posts along the battlements once the condor was no longer terrorizing them and a few of the sentries had even witnessed the wizard and his ward deal with their master's pets.

Although the soldiers had questions about the identity of the younger man walking beside the wizard, they feared him as well.  Word spread quickly from the guards that had witnessed their battle with the two condors, so now everyone inside the fortress realized the lad had been responsible for destroying one of their master's pets as well.  For that reason, they now suspected he must be nearly as powerful as the wizard he accompanied, so they definitely felt they needed Madumda to protect them from this pair. 

As soon as Madumda’s warriors realized Beraut and Kieren were headed toward the main gate, they sounded an alarm that they hoped would draw Madumda out to assist them.  Since they were well aware of the pair's magical potential, they certainly didn’t want to have to face them alone.  Even after signaling those inside the fortress about the approaching danger, their master still hadn't shown up to assist them.  This concerned the guards greatly, because they couldn't figure out why Madumda hadn't responded to the alarm. 

As Beraut and Kieren got closer to the entrance to Beraut’s former residence, Kieren decided to hoist Madumda’s staff aloft, for those on the walls to see.  The warriors that had served the Dark Lord for any length of time immediately recognized their master’s symbol of authority and power, since they had seen him with it on many previous occasions.  Even though they couldn’t fathom how the staff had come to be in this person’s possession, they knew Madumda would never relinquish it willingly. 

They also realized Beraut could not have defeated Madumda, since the wizard had been leading the Tarolian Army before he arrived here.  Considering they had seen their master enter the fortress earlier and were fairly certain he had the staff in his possession at that time, they knew Beraut could not have taken it from him.  Since no one had seen the Dark Lord leave the citadel, they could not comprehend how this young man came to possess the staff.  This only made the current situation even more of a mystery. 

After considering the alternatives thoroughly, the soldiers began to come to grips with the undeniable implications.  There were only three possibilities that would explain this.  Madumda must be dead, incapacitated or stripped of his powers.  No matter which case was true, it did not bode well for them, so many of the sentries began to panic and attempted to flee the area before the wizard got any closer. 

As word began to spread about what was happening, more and more of Madumda’s henchmen tried to escape by racing out of the citadel and heading off in various directions.  Most of them opted to flee into the mountains on either side of the fortress, while the rest merely chose to go into hiding within the edifice and then hope no one would come looking for them.  Since this allowed Beraut and Kieren to enter the fortress unchallenged, they strode directly up to Madumda’s apartments and boldly knocked on the door. 

It’s me,” Kieren announced with his excitement showing, “and Beraut is here with me too.  It’s safe to come out now.” 

The pair then heard those inside unbolt the door and watched as the portal slowly opened.  A rather large pair of eyes peered at them from within, as their identity was verified. 

It is truly Beraut and our young liege,” Turquinine announced, as he pulled the door opened farther. 

After the two of them entered the sitting room, another door opened and more people came racing out to greet them. 

You did it,” Garreth announced as he raced toward Kieren to welcome him back.  At the same time, it showed how impressed he was with his friend’s accomplishments. 

Yes, but there were a couple of moments when I wasn’t sure if I would make it,” Kieren confessed, “but everything seemed to work out in the end.”

Why?  What happened?” Garreth wanted to know. 

There will be time for that later,” Beraut announced while giving Garreth one of his warning glares.  “There are several other matters we need to discuss first.”

Yes, like what happened to Madumda,” Kieren nearly screamed.  “Won’t you please explain to me how he was destroyed?” 

It was evident the teen desperately wanted to know the details about Madumda’s destruction.  He needed to understand how this had been achieved before he could truly accept that it was finally over. 

I can do that,” Beraut agreed.  “Exactly what is it that you don’t understand?”

Well I don’t know how he was destroyed, even though you claim he is no longer alive,” Kieren suggested.  “One moment Madumda was ready to drive his sword into my heart and kill me, but then something seemed to distract him.  I mean, one second he had his sword poised above my chest and was telling me to prepare to die, and the next he was babbling incoherently into space.  Did you do something to distract him?”

No, I had absolutely nothing to do with what happened,” Beraut admitted, although his broad smile indicated he might know more than he was willing to admit. 

Come on.  You must know what bothered him so badly, don’t you?” Kieren followed.  It was his way of pressing his mentor for more information.  “It was almost as if he suddenly went mad.  It was really spooky.”

I wouldn’t say he went mad,” Beraut teased, with a twinkle in his eye, “but he most certainly was shocked.  You see, it’s hard to accept the idea that the truths you have believed for so long just aren’t true,” the wizard continued, while studying Kieren’s reaction.  He also used this time to decide on the best way to broach this topic, but now he finally had his answer. 

Before I explain this to you,” Beraut went on, “let me assure you that I have been as honest with you as I could from the very beginning.  That means nearly everything I told you about the history of Madumda’s rise to power, the creation of the Sword and certain other aspects of Tarolian history were factual.  There was part of the information, however, that I was forced to either withhold from you or mask in deception in order to prevent my evil brother from possibly discovering the truth.  I could not tell you, at least until now, about my duplicity in this, lest Madumda discover our true intent and usurp your claim to power.”

After hearing this, Kieren had a blank and uncomprehending expression on his face.  He was even more confused now, after listening to the wizard’s comments.  He thought Beraut seemed to be speaking in riddles and none of this was making any sense to him, so he felt he had to let his mentor know how he felt. 

You’ll have to explain this better,” the teen admitted, as he willingly risked being ridiculed in front of his companions.  “I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to tell me.  What was bothering Madumda just before he disappeared and how did I destroy him?  I mean, I didn’t injure or do anything to him, so what DID happen?”

Alright, let’s take this one step at a time and I will try to tell you all that you wish to know,” the wizard responded, with a touch of compassion in his voice.  “Before I do though, I will first have to give you a little more background information concerning these events. 

Kieren, I suspect you will learn as you mature that the truth can sometimes be a variation of the facts and what you believe to be real.  Not all truths are comprehensive.  It is often possible to maintain a basic truth, yet omit certain facts or give misleading explanations.  Nothing is truly black or white.  This was what the Council of Wizards was relying upon when they determined how to best deal with Madumda. 

You see,” the wizard continued, “the Council needed to find a way to negate the Dark Lord’s enormous potential and curb his avaricious lust for power without creating something that could be used against them later.  It was a very tricky task, but it was made even more difficult because it also had to be cloaked in complete secrecy.  It was imperative that Madumda never learn about the true nature of our plot or there would have been no chance of succeeding.”

I’m still not sure what you’re trying to tell me,” Kieren informed Beraut when he paused, while looking as confused as ever.

Be patient, my young friend, and all will be made clear to you,” his mentor informed him.  “This all began when the remaining council members first returned to Treblanc and learned about Madumda’s treachery.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the situation worsened when Madumda later declared himself leader of the council and ordered the rest of them to follow him.  When that happened, all of those not aligned with Madumda knew they had to find a way to either neutralize his power or destroy him. 

As you remember, the Council of Wizards only started to negotiate with Madumda in order to give them the time they needed to remove the volumes of black magic from Treblanc.  Those were the same tomes Madumda had been using in his studies and the others needed to come up with a method of securing them.  These volumes would also have to be stored in a place where the older council members would be able to go through them at their own pace, in order to find a solution to the problem. 

Once this had been done, my older brothers spent many days going through these tomes and they uncovered multiple entries that offered a way to counteract Madumda’s combined magic.  They argued for many more days over which of these methods they should use, because some of the solutions could prove to be quite risky or might possibly be perverted and used against them later.  Eventually, the council members agreed that the most basic solution was also the best.  It would not only be the easiest to implement, but it couldn’t be turned against them later either.  It was also the least likely to fail, due to its simplicity.

The first step in this plan was to create a talisman,” the wizard continued, “or a focal point for Madumda’s concern.  As you know, that was the Sword of Kings.” 

At this point, Kieren remembered he was still carrying the sword, so he retrieved it from his belt and held it out for Beraut to see.  The wizard smiled and patted him on the shoulder to acknowledge his accomplishment before continuing. 

Yes, the very same talisman you so cleverly located and used to defend yourself with.  That was brilliantly done, but please let me finish my explanation.  The story that the sword contained the combined powers of the remaining members of the council was actually first put forth by Madumda, after he interpreted the actions of the remaining council members.  Coincidentally, it was the very conclusion they had hoped Madumda would draw from what they’d done.  I merely allowed his version of events to persist and was pleased that everyone else believed it to be so as well.” 

You mean it wasn’t true?  Are you telling me the sword has no power and there was actually no magic in it that would destroy Madumda?” Kieren gasped, while his face turned ashen and was clouded in total disbelief.  “You mean you sent me to confront the most powerful sorcerer in the kingdom with a powerless weapon?”

No, I did not say that at all,” the wizard stated soothingly, as he tried to reassure his ward.  “All I said was that it did not contain the combined powers of the remaining wizards, but I did not say it was powerless or contained no magic at all.”

Then what exactly DID you mean?” the lad followed, looking a little less concerned, but still befuddled.  “What was there about the sword that protected me and killed the Dark Lord?” 

The sword did contain magic,” the wizard explained, “but a very simple type.  It had been infused with a charm that would counter the cohesive spell Madumda had used to bind together the magical acumen of the mages he had destroyed.”

You mean I faced the most powerful person around with no more than a beginner’s magic spell to protect me?” Kieren blurted out, after which his mouth continued to hang open and his eyes bulged from their sockets.

Not exactly,” Beraut told him.  “I think you are overreacting again.  Listen carefully to what I am saying and I will try to explain this to you more completely.”  Kieren calmed down only slightly, but he managed to focus on what his mentor was trying to tell him. 

When Madumda duped the other wizards and stole their magic, he bound it all together under his control by using a special, cohesive spell.  Without this spell, those various powers would literally pull him in several different directions at the same time, thus tearing him to bits. 

The council members learned about this fact while doing their research, just before they discovered another spell that would negate or lessen the effect of the one he had used.  That was the real magic of the sword, because all it had to do was to come into contact with Madumda’s body, no matter how slightly, and it would set free all of the powers he had stolen.  The same powers that had made him so invincible could also be used to destroy him.  That’s where you came into play.  You were needed to make this happen.”

Does this mean the prophecy was a hoax too?” Kieren followed, thinking everything he had been told was either a half-truth or an out-and-out lie. 

No, that was very real and totally unexpected,” the wizard explained.  “A seer who had absolutely no connection to the Council of Wizards, not even the slightest input or urging from them, actually made that prediction.  The seer also foolishly disclosed this information to Madumda and then the Dark Lord had him put to death for daring to predict he could be destroyed.  That prophecy was independently offered and it later became obvious the seer had a true gift.”

So when I accidentally touched Madumda’s leg with the sword, then that’s all it took to get rid of him?” Kieren asked, in order to make sure he actually understood what had taken place.

Precisely,” the wizard confirmed. 

But what was the flash?” the young man asked next.

That was the energy released as a result of all those powers breaking free of Madumda’s control,” Beraut advised him.  “His body literally exploded, as the various energies were released from the spell that had bound them to him.  The force totally disintegrated his mortal remains, so there was nothing left of him afterward.”

Wait!” Kieren continued.  “If it was that simple, then why did the other wizards have to die?  I thought you said they gave up their lives to produce the power that went into the sword.”

That was one of those necessary deceptions I told you about previously,” Beraut told him, while hoping the lad wouldn’t overreact again.  “Madumda would not have feared the sword unless he believed it contained as much, if not more power than he did.  If he had discovered the true nature of the sword, then he could have simply cast a spell to prevent it from ever coming into contact with his body and the sword would have been of no further use.  Therefore, it was imperative that everything happen as it did, which led Madumda to assume, and then believe, it was more powerful than he was. 

There was also another reason for this ruse,” Beraut continued, “one that the council hoped would prevent the necessity of war and all the bloodshed that would eventually result from their evil brother’s pursuit of power.  The remaining mages prayed that if Madumda were ever able to capture the sword, then he would try to steal the power he thought they'd infused into it, so he could add it to his own.  In order to do it, he would have had to touch the sword, which would have been enough to release his powers and take care of the problem for us.  Unfortunately, that situation never came to pass. 

I am not certain whether Madumda believed he was already powerful enough or if he merely elected to be overly cautious, but either way he never attempted to steal the sword’s power.  It is very possible that he was just being paranoid, but whatever the reason, he never attempted to become even more powerful.  This meant the Dark Lord avoided coming into contact with the sword, so it didn't work as the older wizards had hoped.  This proved to be even more unfortunate, because it left him time to destroy even more of your relatives first, but it also forced you to be the one to destroy him.”

Then why did those wizards have to die, if their magic wasn’t really infused into the sword?” Kieren asked, while still trying to fathom what really took place.

I suspect it is time for me tell you the true story about what actually happened to them,” Beraut began.  “One very dark night I accompanied my elder brothers on a trip to the Mystic Forest.  It wasn’t until we arrived there that they informed me about the details of their plan.  Once they explained what they were going to do, I tried to talk them out of it and pleaded with them that there must be another way, but they wouldn't listen. 

In response, they told me they had completely thought this out and some day I would be able to understand why they had to do what they were planning.  That night, those closest to me gave up their mortal shells, but they did not die.  Each of them, one at a time, willingly transferred the essence of his being into another receptacle.”

Wait, you’ve lost me again,” Kieren whined.  “What other receptacle?”

Okay, let me back up again,” Beraut agreed, realizing he might have skipped over some vital information and assumed the lad would understand more than he did. 

As you know from the years you spent in Wildoness and from some of the other information I’ve shared with you previously, the forests of Tarolia have many unusual qualities.  Some of these mystical properties help to protect the woods directly, while at other times this potential is used to protect those who inhabit the forest, such as is the case with the elves.  It is even difficult for those of us with magical abilities to penetrate the truth of what is being concealed, unless those possessing this knowledge are willing to share the information.  However, the trees are extremely secretive by nature and it is why Madumda never learned the truth about what actually happened to his elder brothers.  He was never successful in discovering that they continued to exist. 

The secrecy of the woods is also the reason why Madumda never learned about you or your family and, most recently, what assisted our Northern Army in the Faerie Forest.”  Kieren gave Beraut a puzzled look, so the wizard added a little more.  “I’ll have to fill you in about that event at another time.” 

Beraut now paused to take a deep breath and study Kieren’s expression, to see if the youth had been able to follow his explanation thus far.  When he saw his ward was eager for him to continue, he did.

The Mystic Forest originally got its name because of the magical properties it possessed.  It was always a favorite place of escape for the members of the council and a place where they could go to meditate, find solitude or seek refuge.  That is why they went there during this time of crisis.  In fact, this all took place the night after the dwarfs presented them with the Sword of Kings. 

It wasn’t until we arrived in the forest that Thialfi, the eldest and Chief of the Council, advised me about what they were planning.  He explained they were going to infuse their souls into the trees that were willing to cooperate for this purpose.”  After saying this, Beraut paused momentarily to give Kieren time to absorb this information before he went on.   

After this deed was carried out, I was ordered to collect their mortal shells and hold a very public burial service, so there would be no doubt in anyone’s mind that they were truly gone.  Their bodies were laid to rest in a large crypt under the cathedral at Leander, where the remains of those betrayed by Madumda had been placed previously.” 

But I still don’t understand why they had you go to all of that trouble,” Kieren confessed.   

It was because they had previously conjectured that Madumda would determine the only reason for them to die was in order for them to willingly relinquish their powers and infuse it into the talisman,” Beraut explained.  “That’s why they made such a big fuss about the sword, so Madumda would think their powers had been placed in it and not given to me. 

The elder wizards feared that if Madumda thought I possessed their strength, he’d try to destroy me before I learned to benefit from the increased power.  It was also the reason they needed something tangible to display as a focal point for his concerns, so he would have something to fixate upon.  Fortunately, the seer’s prophecy helped to deflect attention away from me as well; although I suspect Madumda used magical means to investigate whether I had absorbed any of the others’ former might as well.”  Kieren was now beginning to show signs that he finally understood the reasons why all of this had been staged as it had. 

During the years following this act,” the wizard continued, “I often went to the Mystic Forest for their companionship and counsel.  In fact, they were the ones who helped convince me that you were the one foretold of in the prophecy.” 

Kieren looked impressed, yet somewhat bewildered by this revelation. Until that moment, he'd always believed Beraut had never doubted his role in any of this, but he didn’t have time to consider it for much longer, because the wizard continued his explanation.   

They were also the ones who intervened on your behalf when your battle with Madumda was going poorly,” Beraut admitted somewhat shyly.  “They had been secretively following what was happening through links they had maintained with objects in Treblanc.  When they saw what was taking place they feared you had lost the battle and your life would be forfeit, so they telepathically revealed their existence to the Dark Lord.  That is why, just before Madumda had a chance to thrust his blade into your heart, they made sure he knew they were still around.  This was the distraction that you questioned and what saved your life.”

So that’s who Madumda was talking to when he said something about their being dead and it was impossible,” Kieren observed, almost to himself.  "It must have been why he thought I was playing a trick on him."

Yes, that’s precisely what happened,” Beraut confirmed.  “They also allowed me to view what was going on as well, just as soon as Madumda returned to confront you.  They also made certain Madumda didn’t ignore or dismiss their summons by convincing him it was actually them.  They did this by relaying details that only they would know about him.  I’m certain he was absolutely shocked and confused by their sudden reemergence, but it is what gave you the time you needed to do what you did.”

Wow, I’m really glad they showed up just then,” Kieren confessed, “but wasn’t it risky for them to let Madumda know the truth?  I mean he could have killed me and then cast a spell to protect himself from the sword, before heading to the Mystic Forest to destroy them too.”

That was never a concern, because he didn’t have enough details at that point to be able to draw such conclusions,” the wizard explained.  “It was a gamble, though, but one my brothers felt they had to take, regardless of the possible consequences.  I don’t believe Madumda would have ever been able to destroy them, even if he knew the truth.  The forest would have found a way to continue protecting them, as it had done during the many years that had passed since they first made their sacrifice.  The sword, however, would have been of little value after that and you might not have survived, so along with you we would have lost all hope that the prophecy would ever be fulfilled.” 

"Well I'm glad it all worked out," Kieren stated, with a look of relief on his face.  "There was a moment, though, when I thought I was going to die." 

"I did too, but I'm glad it didn't happen that way," Beraut agreed.  "Tarolia will need a strong king to lead it now and I'm convinced you're the perfect person to do that."

After stating this, Beraut reached out and placed his arm around Kieren’s shoulder, so he could pull the young man against his side.  It was his attempt to show his ward that he truly meant what he'd just said. 



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I wish to extend my thanks to Scott, Emoe57, Andy, John and Donny for editing or their suggestions with this story. 


E-mail responses to the stories, story suggestions, or other ‘constructive’ comments or advice may be sent to: bwstories8@aol.com  - but please put the story title in the subject line, so it doesn’t get deleted as junk mail.  


My other stories can be found at: http://www.nifty.org/nifty/frauthors.html

listed under BW in the extreme left hand column.