he Esu Ankaykari gathered around their Sovereign’s scrying basin to witness the storming of Jorazo. Mendaran’s earlier attack on the rebel fleet had left them both awed and unnerved – many had forgotten the power a Kaniyari could wield. They had shrieked in alarm when Mendaran sank The Defender of The Waves. Now they watched in subdued silence as he stood on the prow of Daskesurul’s flagship, preparing to attack the Tuyaz-Oan harbor.
Takanepi felt sick with misery. This was not the life he had wanted for his son.
He remembered Liralian screaming that Mendaran should never have been born. She thought the young man would bring nothing but pain to the world. Now her eyes burned with hatred as she stared into the basin. She had heard Mendaran laugh as he crippled the Tuyaz-Oan ships, but she had not stayed to see the change that came over him after the battle. She had not seen how stunned he looked when he stood alone among the people he had slaughtered.
“Please, Your Majesty,” Takanepi begged. “Let our human and yuyarni forces conquer Jorazo. We have more than enough fighters. Mendaran should remain with the ships.”
“Yes!” cried Liralian. “Please! You’ve seen what he’s like.”
Ruzenathra stared into the scrying basin. “We need him.”
Takanepi shook his head. “He needs to rest. Do you want him to fall ill?”
“None of us can rest while rebellion is spreading across the mundane world!” Ruzenathra snapped. “The mortals must be crushed! We must show them that they can never defeat us!”
Takanepi shuddered. Sometimes he wondered if Ruzenathra was still sane.
He forced himself to turn back to the basin. Most of the rebel ships had withdrawn to Jorazo to defend the harbor. The nobility of Tuyaz-Oa crowded the waterfront with their soldiers, determined to keep Daskesurul’s men from gaining a foot-hold on their land. They were led by Eraquan’s cousins, Kanano and Loraqual. Hundreds of spears bristled around two princes, glinting in the sunlight. The banner of the Ghaz Ahaya dynasty flapped above them.
The Tuyaz-Oans had strung a chain between the towers that guarded the harbor, blocking its entrance. Mendaran crippled a pair of rebel vessels that sailed to intercept his ship, then shattered the chain with a spell. Daskesurul’s war-galleons glided into the port. Arrows flew thick from Jorazo’s towers, thudding into hulls and sending men tumbling into the water.
When The Glory of Zaresnar was twenty yards from the wharf, Mendaran leaped into the air and flew across the water, unleashing a devastating spell as he landed among the Tuyaz-Oans.
Men hurled themselves at him, only to be struck down. Takanepi felt appalled as he watched limbs torn from torsos. Blood sprayed across the cobbles. Tuyaz-Oans kept pressing forward, yelling in defiance, but by now the Ukuzechans were pouring ashore, trampling the bodies of Mendaran’s victims. They surged against the defenders like a wave. The Tuyaz-Oan soldiers tried to form a shield-wall, but Mendaran blasted through it. They sagged under the onslaught, struggling to regroup. Takanepi saw their banners waving above the crush of bodies.
Prince Loraqual Ghaz Ahaya lay dead among his soldiers – just another young man destroyed in the blaze of Mendaran’s power. Scores of bodies sprawled across the waterfront, but the Tuyaz-Oans would not yield. They shouted Eraquan’s name as they were driven back, slipping on gore and stumbling over fallen friends. It was not just the soldiers fighting, Takanepi realized. Laborers, merchants and old men defended Jorazo with whatever weapons they could find.
“They really are as stubborn as you,” Ruzenathra muttered, glaring at Liralian.
Mendaran strode deeper into the town, spreading carnage. He had laughed when he attacked the fleet, but now it was impossible to tell what he felt. His eyes were blank. He seemed to kill without thinking. Arrows struck his wards, clattering harmlessly at his feet. Voices yelled, screamed and sobbed around him, but he seemed unaware of them.
“Mendaran…” Takanepi whispered in horror.
A group of townspeople had blockaded the street ahead. Liralian’s eyes swam with tears at the sight of them. In their shaking hands they clutched clubs, broken furniture, rocks and antique-looking swords. A middle-aged man stood before them, delivering a final speech.
“We may die this day,” he cried, his voice rising above the clamor of the advancing army, “but we shall die free! Let the Ankaykari remember that we are a noble people…”
Mendaran halted and raised his hands. A tide of magic swept over the blockade, leaving nothing but blackened bodies and charred wood.
Ruzenathra smirked. “So much for him.”
Liralian began to tremble violently.
The main bulk of Daskesurul’s forces were fighting to secure the harbor towers, but Mendaran pressed blindly onward, burning a path through the defenders. There was no blood on his hands, yet he must have slain hundreds of people.
“Are you proud of your son?” Liralian snapped at Takanepi.
“Of course he is,” said Ruzenathra.
Takanepi stared into the basin, worried by the glazed look in his son’s eyes. The power of the Kaniyari was not limitless. Mendaran’s skin held a sickly pallor, just as it had after the last battle. He swayed slightly, attempting to focus his magic as another band of soldiers charged at him.
The spell was clumsily woven. Some of the Tuyaz-Oans were slain instantly, but others staggered back, screaming, their hair and clothes on fire. Mendaran blinked, seeming confused. He struck his victims again, bludgeoning their bodies until they stopped moving.
“He’s a butcher!” screamed Liralian.
“He’s exhausted!” cried Takanepi. “He barely knows what he’s doing!”
Lord Naskremari nodded. “He must withdraw. His wards are failing.”
An arrow struck Mendaran in the shoulder. He just stared at it blankly. Several more punched through his breast-plate, sending him reeling back. Mendaran’s guards ran forward to protect him as a group of men burst from an ally. Mendaran sank to his knees, coughing blood.
“No!” shrieked Ruzenathra, seeing more rebels charge down the street.
“Mendaran!” Takanepi felt like the world was falling around him. Every moment lasted an eternity. If there had been a portal anchor in Jorazo, he would have flown through in an instant, but he was trapped in the Royal Citadel. There was nothing he could do to save his son.
Mendaran slowly raised his head.
A Tuyaz-Oan loomed over him with a mace. “Die, you bastard!”
Mendaran’s power flared, blasting through the buildings around him. Masonry crumbled, burying the stricken Tuyaz-Oans and Ukuzechans in a cascade of bricks, tiles and dust. Liralian shrieked. Perhaps she thought she was back in Quoraloresea, seeing her towers fall.
The image wavered in Ruzenathra’s basin, then vanished.
Liralian fled screaming from the scrying chamber. Usually the Sovereign would have demanded that she return, but she seemed too shocked to care.
“My son!” Takanepi wailed.
“Calm yourself!” snapped Ruzenathra, clearly fighting to quell her own panic. “I’m sure he’ll survive. Daskesurul, get that useless servant of yours to find out what’s happened.”
Daskesurul hastily refocused the scrying basin.
The Esu watched as Canrasiul hurried through the streets of Jorazo with his guards. The battle was still raging, but Takanepi felt too distraught to care anymore.
Canrasiul gasped when he came upon the blasted street. Tenement blocks loomed on either side, their outer walls torn away. Bits of furniture and broken balcony smoldered among the debris. Everything was coated in dust.
Mendaran must have used the last of his power to shield himself, for he knelt among rubble, surrounded by mangled bodies. Blood gushed over his hands as he clawed at the arrows in his chest. He had already ripped one free, leaving a ragged tear in his flesh. His face was ashen.
“Mendaran?” Canrasiul scuttled over. “Stop. You’re making your injuries worse.”
Mendaran lifted his head weakly, then collapsed.
Ruzenathra’s gaze swept across her vassals. “He’ll recover,” she declared. “We must learn whether our wizards have been able to anchor a portal yet.”
“But my son –” Takanepi cried.
Ruzenathra ignored him, refocused the scrying basin so that she could continue to observe the main battle.
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