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The Crier’s Sacrifice

Part III: Aftermath

Epilogue: The Martyr

Nathan Black
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Nyranne quietly reviewed the reports. There were ten thousand trolls under the command of a Vinatira named Dalir advancing toward the southern Rogilian city of Itirin from the Tanaverian boundary. Their offensive would probably succeed against the meagerly-fortified border town, but past that their options were few. She could send them north into the Osir Forest to attack the heavily defended capital of Riverside, which would almost certainly fail; she could order them to join the assault being marshaled from the Malthanian-occupied town of New Crossroads, Esanta that would converge on the ancient city of Rogilia; or she could send them across Rogilia’s western border to attack Mallsey. With soldier morale slipping, she decided the latter was the best option. Ten thousand Malthanians was exactly what the Rogilia City offensive needed, but there was always superstition among the ranks—after all, the Almighty Queen had lost the first Indimer War there. There was no need to increase the risk of mutiny any more than was absolutely necessary.

Scribbling the orders, “OCCUPY ITIRIN, CONTINUE TO MALLSEY” on the paper and putting it in a separate pile of documents, she flipped through the rest of the reports. In general, things were going horribly; the city of Indimer had fallen but the walled enclave of Luvo Esanta looked like it never would, the fifth attack on Ilsonne had been repelled, and a contingent of Gelzan special forces had slipped over the Tanaverian border and subverted Osir to their cause. If this streak of bad luck continued, Querisia and Wystarin would probably never even be touched. Thank Malthan that there were no reports of attempts to summon the God of Daylight. That truly would be the end of everything.

Of course, it was a miracle that the Malthanian world, under the joint leadership of Zienat and herself, had survived this long at all. With the permanent imprisonment of their Queen eight days before the war began—damn that Nilrid!—every human who had served her immediately turned tail and fled. Every major Gelzan city was now filled to bursting with refugees, running from the loyal non-humans. They had killed a few thousand of the deserters, but half a million more had made it to the courts of the Kings of the western nations, with plenty of intelligence to share. The whole mess made Nyranne wish she had the power to level every Gelzan community in the world, just like her defeated master could have!

Why didn’t she? Tyrdonne had made it very clear that his daughter would lose both her people and her freedom if she didn’t eliminate her brother’s creations, and her brother as well. Maybe her restraint was some expression of defiance, a final statement of hatred toward her corrupt father. Or maybe... no. There had been no reconciliation between Malthan and Gelz—ever. If she hesitated in her destruction because of her brother, it was because she feared him, not because she loved him. After all, there had never been a clear answer as to which deity was more powerful. In theory, they were supposed to be equal, but everyone knew that was untrue. One could certainly have defeated the other.

It doesn’t matter now, the Death Kitten reminded herself. There’s only one God left now, and if he decides to show himself, we’ll have no option but to commit a mass suicide.

There was a knock at her bedroom door. Forcing down her morbid thoughts, she answered quickly. It was Zienat, his tall figure barely fitting in the outside hallway. Murmuring greetings, she let him in.

“More bad news,” the Captain of Mortal Forces (he had decided to keep his title) said grimly, spinning his way into the bedchamber and ducking the top of his essence down carefully. “In addition to Salaver and Osir, the Gelzan contingent that has infiltrated our borders have now occupied the town of Passgate. In my opinion, we should return the sixth Ilsonne Assault Group back to Pakil, in the hopes that they’ll be able to defend it on their own. We have no other troops in the area.”

“You’re the military commander,” Nyranne shrugged. “If you feel that’s best, I won’t stop you. I just ordered the Itirin Assault Group to continue across the Mallseyan border once they’ve finished.”

“A wise decision,” the Zienar mused softly. “If they can keep their numbers up, they might make it to Fyr’nay, Querisia before being exterminated. But we still need another offensive to drive in towards Sumiton and Yansor.”

“I don’t know who we’d send. All of our troops have been deployed.”

“I was thinking of withdrawing the Indimer Assault Group and sending them to Wystarin. Querisia will have to wait, but with luck we’ll at least penetrate their borders before we have to withdraw.”

The Death Kitten frowned skeptically. “Who will capture Indimer, then? We can’t just leave them there, and allow them to rebuild.”

“Perhaps it’s about time I dispatched my own people,” Zienat replied. “We could knock down the walls of Luvo Esanta with brute strength, proceed into the compound, murder the King...”

“And get all the glory,” Nyranne finished icily. “A clever ploy, my dear Zienat, but you won’t get me ousted as co-leader that easily.”

The Captain of Mortal Forces laughed uneasily. “Now Nyranne, you know that it’s the only option we have...”

Uncontrollable rage suddenly came over the Death Kitten. With an inhuman cry—which was appropriate; she hadn’t been human for hundreds of years—she summoned her semi-divine powers and bore down on her associate. Even the superior member of the Zienar race couldn’t stand up to the endowment Malthan had given her so many years ago.

For the first time, Nyranne heard a Zienar scream. She decided that she rather liked the sound.

Moments later, there was nothing left of the Captain of Mortal Forces. Nyranne was left alone, the sole leader of the Malthanian world. At last! Her youthful dream of domination had been realized.

It wasn’t until she read over the military reports again that she realized how little domination was worth.

The little girl ran well ahead of her parents, her feet thumping on the new-looking wooden bridge that led to the Temple of Darkness. Her mother called out to her, warning that there were still dangerous things living in the recovering Ilsonne Marsh, but she ignored her. Mother, Father and she had been traveling for weeks to reach this point, and she wasn’t going to be slowed now!

It was amazing to the young, Wystarinian mind that six months ago, all of this land had belonged to Tanaveri. But now, with the entire Marsh annexed to Esanta, it was as safe as the woods behind her cottage.

“Hello, Madame,” a youthful man greeted her, stopping down to kiss her tiny hand. “Welcome to the former Temple of Darkness. Have you come with parents, or have you walked all this way by yourself?”

“I came alone,” the girl replied smugly. Just then, her breathless parents appeared on the other side of the bridge. They always showed up at the most inconvenient moments!

“And with them,” she added, disgusted that she hadn’t been able to deceive the intelligent-looking man.

“Well, it’s wonderful to meet all of you,” he said warmly, his eyes twinkling to amusement. “I’m the Chancellor of the Council of the Arcane, but if you like, you may call me Asinai.”

“I’ve read about you,” the girl said admiringly.

“Well,” the former High Wizard of Esanta chuckled, “most of what they write is exaggerated. The real hero of Malthan’s Imprisonment lies there.” He gestured to the entrance to the Temple.

“Did you know Nilrid of Fyr’nay?” she asked.

“Oh, of course. I worked with the High Wizard Morgan of Querisia, and his predecessor Wekain—Gelz rest his soul!—to protect the young wizard as long as we could. But sadly, we couldn’t stop Malthan from pulling the poor boy into her prison with her.”

“How awful!” the little girl cried, her jaw dropping with dismay.

“Yes,” Asinai murmured. “We hope and pray that Malthan was merciful enough to kill him immediately, but one never can tell what goes on inside an evil, twisted mind like hers.”

“I’ll pray for him too,” she murmured. Then she walked solemnly with her parents into the Temple.

Late that night, when the last of the visitors had gone, Asinai entered the shrine himself. Kneeling at the altar that no Gelzan would have knelt at six months before, he closed his eyes and spoke quietly.

“Well, Nilrid, it’s almost over,” he murmured. “Even as we speak, troops are advancing down the road to Pakil. Once Tanaveri is officially occupied, all we have to do is march our troops north to Ilsonne, have them join forces with the Esantan Guard, and move them into the Esanta Desert. There will be no such thing as a Malthanian by this June, if all goes well.

“That hardly matters to you, though, does it? I know you’re still alive in there. What does Malthan say to you? She must have been angry at first, of course, but have things eased over by now? Even she had just a touch of compassion, and I hope it’s resurfaced at the point of despair. But no matter what she says, my friend, I want you to know that you are the greatest hero who ever lived in the physical world. Thank you for everything.”

Clearing his throat, the Chancellor wiped the tears from his face and slowly stood up. He left the Temple, reverently closed the door behind him, and began the long journey home.

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Copyright ©Nathan Black, 1998
By the same author RSSThere are no more works at
Date of publicationMay 2000
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
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