Palace of the Three Crosses
Brandan and Joachim have returned from the brink of Hell, but everyone questions if they are truly healed and one with Asha.
As each prince tries to readjust to life, they must face the funeral of their father and their missing mother.
They each take on the responsibility of ruling a country with new wives by their sides, but can they and the countries survive the trials that will ensue because of their choices?
Rupert looked through the window in his tower room at the landscape of Wyrzburg. Months had passed since the Battle of Harable Valley and the spring planting season faded into the wonderful summer growing season. The land progressed in its healing and would soon be returned to its former state. As he turned from the window, he thought about the things that hadn’t healed…the twins. Brandan and Joachim still had a long way to go to erase the darkness that infected them. Joachim seemed better, but at night he still dreamed of Sidramah, and the doubts about what happened still haunted him. Brandan appeared even further from the boy that left to find his brother. The darkness appeared to follow him day and night. He withdrew to chambers as far away from Joachim as he could get.
Walking down the stairs to the great hall, Rupert remembered when the princes first returned; both had seemed healed and better than ever, maybe. But it appeared as if the tentacles of Sidramah still lingered. Any small opening the evil one could find, he exploited, and both boys were once again haunted by dark dreams.
“We could have been one happy family, but now, I have to kill the two of you along with Lilia. You brats have put me in disfavor with Sidramah, and the only way to regain his favor is to get rid of all three of you. I had hoped to spare at least one, but alas, that is now impossible. The only question is…who’s first? The time has come for a decision.”
Brandan stood beside Joachim, his face working with barely controlled rage. He lunged toward Waldrom.
Waldrom sensed the presence of magic and glanced behind him. Rupert and Lukan stood at his back. He grabbed Lilia and pulled her close, placing his short sword at her throat. “I suggest you stop, or I will cut her throat,” he warned Brandan. To emphasize his point, he pressed the sword against her skin puncturing her flesh.
Brandan, took another step.
“I wouldn’t do that, unless you want your mother's corpse on your hands.”
Joachim wanted to run to Lilia, but his head whirled. Stars floated in front of his eyes, their motion making him sick with dizziness. He stepped up to stand beside Brandan. “Waldrom, I’m afraid you’re mistaken. First, you’re outnumbered. Second, what makes you think you can use Mother to blackmail us? Let her go, and we’ll discuss your surrender. I don’t want to kill you.”
Brandan pushed Joachim aside. “You may not, brother, but I do. He’ll stop at nothing to destroy me. I can’t let that happen.”
A group of Brandan's personal guard came charging down the hall. Waldrom pushed the sword point a little further into Lilia's throat. “I see you boys still don’t agree on anything. I suggest you stop the group of soldiers from attacking me. Rupert, I know you’re back there, trying to form a spell to stop me. That wouldn’t be a good idea either.”
The tableau unfolded before Joachim's eyes. Waldrom, in the center of the circle holding Lilia with a short sword slicing her throat and Brandan, his long sword drawn, advancing on Waldrom. Rupert and Lukan with sword drawn, stood motionless behind Waldrom. Conflicting voices rang in Joa's head. “Kill them all. You don’t need them.” Other voices calling, “Joachim save them.”
Lukan yelled, “Sire, watch out behind you.”
Joachim started and turned as a Mantion rushed him. He pulled his short sword from his scabbard. The attacker reached him. The king swung his weapon cutting and angering the Mantion. The foe sliced Joachim's knees with his knife, leaving a gash in his thigh. Joachim doubled over in pain. The Mantion leapt on his back and pummeled the king. The weight of the attacker lifted from his back. Joachim fearfully turned his head, expecting to see the Mantion standing over him ready to deliver the kill stroke. Instead, Brandan stood with the Mantion dead at his feet and Waldrom frozen behind him.
“What happened? I felt sure I was dead. And what happened to Waldrom?”
Brandan offered a hand to help Joachim to his feet. “I couldn’t let that Mantion kill you. I skewered him and cast a freezing spell. Let’s clean up this mess and get Waldrom and his pets locked in the dungeon until we can figure out what to do with him.”
“Think again young wizard.” Waldrom’s voice echoed down the long hall. “I believe your magic has failed. Then again, we shouldn’t be surprised. You always struggled with your spells.”
Brandan turned slowly to face Waldrom. Joachim could not support his own weight and slumped to the floor again.
“See, you haven’t even helped your brother. You foolish boy. You are useless, and I think it is time to rid the world of your worthless life. But first, let me get rid of everyone you treasure and failed. I’ll finish off your weak excuse of a brother. Then you can watch your mother die, and finally…I will put you out of your misery.” Waldrom pointed a bony finger at Joachim.
Joachim screamed as pain rolled over his body. Blood spurted from his ears and the scar on his neck. “Asha help me!” he prayed.
Fighting the waves of agony, he stood and drew his long sword. “You won’t hurt anyone in ever again. End this now! Surrender. Release Mother and I will see that you are treated mercifully.”
Brandan blocked Joachim's path. “This isn’t your battle. Let me finish this.”
“No. We must stand as one to defeat this evil.” Joachim winced when he stepped forward, and blood spurted from the wound in his leg. “We must do this together. It’s the only way we can defeat him, as one with Asha.”
Waldrom laughed. Pulling Lilia closer, he pushed the sword deeper into her throat.
Joachim's scar tingled at the memory of his own injury. Waldrom had started it, Brandan finished it. “You can’t trust Brandan. Leave him and stand with me. I am your only hope.” Joachim shook his head. “I am here for you my son. Stand with Brandan.” The voices argued in his mind.
Joachim glanced down the hallway. Lukan was back, leading a group of Joachim’s personal guard toward Waldrom. Soon, Lukan stood directly behind Waldrom with a sword to his back.
“Let go of the queen and submit peacefully,” Lukan ordered.
Waldrom laughed. “You think your silly little soldiers will stop me from getting what I came for.”
Joachim took a step toward him. “Waldrom, you’re surrounded. Don’t you see how hopeless this is?”
“How quickly you pathetic boys forget. I’m Sidramah's Anointed One. With that comes great power.” Waldrom waved his free hand, and Lukan fell to his knees.
“You think you can take me captive and not use magic to do it? Of course, we have already seen that Brandan's magic is powerless. Joachim, you‘ve some silly notion you shouldn’t use your magic against me. So, it seems as if I’m the one with control here, not you.”
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