A harsh wind swept across a great plain of nothingness. Dry, stiff grass bent, giving way to the force of the wind. Nothing could be seen from any direction. Only grass and rolling hills. A cold, white sun blazed just over the horizon, creating a glare on the brown grass. A smell of dry dust and dead weeds lingered in the air. There was no shield, no barrier against the Cold here. The Cold ransacked everything and everyone, leaving no trace of warmth or comfort. The sun was now directly overhead, and on top of the furthest hill in sight, a dark mass was approaching. From the exact opposite side, another mass, though slightly smaller, was coming. Both were approaching the steepest hill in sight.
As they got closer, one could see that it was not a single, immense object, but was made up of thousands of men, striding quickly and confidently toward their destination. Nearer and nearer they got, the wind picking up sounds of the clatter of chain mail and the dull thud of footsteps, tossing them about. Suddenly all noises ceased, and nothing could be heard but wind whipping through loose fabric. A man from each army stepped forward and started up the hill, as was the tradition in this world.
From the smaller army was a tall and lean man. He had warm, dark brown eyes, and short, neatly trimmed, black hair. His face was clean-shaven, and he had no lines anywhere on his face. He wore a serious, thoughtful expression and had an air about him that drew people toward him. He was greatly respected throughout all kingdoms and was Lord of the most powerful kingdom in the world, Xaveron. People knew him as Zordex. It was said that he was the greatest, wisest wizard that ever walked the planet. His long, blue tunic fluttered in the breeze, and he carried a long, thin, golden staff, with a bright blue sphere on the top.
The other man was short, and made of solid muscle. He had ice-cold gray eyes, and heavy, black eyebrows. He had greasy, black hair that just brushed the top of his shoulders and a neatly clipped goatee. The hatred that was generating out of his eyes was overpowering. He wore a scowl on his face, his eyes narrowed to slits. A blood-red cape fluttered out behind him, and the black robe underneath it rippled in the light wind. In his hands, he held a jet-black staff, with a wicked-looking skull settled on the top. He was called Yoleighwan, and was the leader of a ring of the six most evil, sinister, and dangerous wizards in the world.
The two men stood face-to-face on the top of the hill. The hatred flowing out of Yoleighwan’s eyes was potent and unstemmed and would have caused anyone but Zordex to wither. Yoleighwan opened his mouth to speak, revealing chipped, yellow teeth. In a harsh, grating voice, barely above a whisper, he spoke.
“So we meet again, Zordex. This time you won’t be leaving.”
Zordex looked directly at Yoleighwan. “Yoleighwan,” he said it politely with a small nod of his head.
Zordex’s civility and tranquility appeared to infuriate Yoleighwan. “You fool!” he screeched, “Do you not know what we are here over? Do you not know what danger you put yourself and that puny little army of yours in? Today is your last day living, Zordex. This is the last sun you will see!”
Both armies heard Yoleighwan, and both armies reacted. Yoleighwan’s army sniggered and snorted, and Zordex’s army started forward. They would have attacked their enemy if not for Zordex, who raised his arm and ordered them back to their regular positions.
Still calm and composed, Zordex answered Yoleighwan, “I am no fool, Yoleighwan. If I thought this little gathering would be of any harm to my army or me, I would not be standing here right now.”
Soft cheers and hollers were heard from Zordex’s army. Yoleighwan’s troops retaliated by boisterous boos and curses. Yoleighwan’s eyes narrowed to slits and he hissed, “You are a fool, Zordex. And I will prove that to you and your little ninny squad behind you.” A puff of wind blew back Yoleighwan’s cape and he threw back his head and cried, “Charge!” Instantly, his army started forward, yelling at the top of their lungs. The spears they were carrying soared out of their hands, directed at the hearts of their foe, and would have struck true, if Zordex had not raised his hand and caused the hundreds of spears to bury their heads into an invisible wall and stay there, handles still quivering. The yells died in the throats of the men, and catcalls and shouts of triumph arose from Zordex’s army.
Realizing that he had not prepared his men and himself for this kind of magical defense, he waved his hands and signaled “retreat” to the generals of his army. Silently, his army left. Yoleighwan spun on his heel and strode furiously from sight, his cape streaming out behind him.
* * *
As Zordex’s triumphant army approached the main capital city, Luvrann, cheers and whistles rose up from it to greet them. Although the soldiers relished this attention, Zordex had problems pressing his mind. Once he saw that his soldiers were on their way to their quarters, he magically disappeared and reappeared in his palace.
In his own home, Zordex relaxed. He decided to go to the dining hall for some dinner before he retired to his room. He walked to the great hall, traveling down a long, comfortably carpeted hallway. After passing countless doors, he stopped and turned right into a set of double doors on his right.
He paused in the doorway of a huge room furnished in blue and silver. A long, low, chrome table stood in the middle of the hall. Puffy cushions of blue and silver were scattered about the room and along the table. Many people were in this room, as it was the main room of the whole palace. Foreign diplomats seeking to be allies, townspeople with arguments or presents, dancers, servants, the list could go on.
Once Zordex passed through the doors, the hall immediately went silent and every person present rose to his or her feet to show respect. Zordex nodded his head and sat on a cushion at the head of the long table, the seat of honor. A servant placed a fragrant soup in front of him, and he started eating. People immediately occupied the cushions to his left and right, and they all started talking to him at once.
Zordex placed his spoon down on the table and looked up. Everyone stopped talking, waiting for him to speak. “I will try my best to meet your needs, but will you please speak one at a time?”
A short man to his right piped up in a high voice, “Sir, may I take the liberty to propose a new plan to the bridge we are planning to build over the moat to the city?”
“We are having a meeting about that tomorrow at high noon in the town hall. You can tell me and all my advisors about it there.”
“Thank you! I will surely be there!” He smiled at Zordex, got up, bowed, and left the room.
Zordex felt exhausted by the time he had finished giving advice and solving the problems of the people. He wearily got up from the table and started down the long hall to his bedchambers.
His bedchambers were a mystery to the city. He let no one enter them, and no one had ever seen what lay beyond the door. People loved to whisper about what lay behind them and make up stories about what he might do when he was locked in there.
Zordex took a large key off the key chain that dangled from the belt on his waist. He fit it into the lock and crossed through the door into his favorite room of the whole palace.
Zordex’s chamber was not huge, smaller than one might have expected for a great wizard. It had a fluffy blue carpet on the floor, and silver drapes hung from a huge window next to his bed, which had curtains of silver velvet. The bed itself was a king-sized bed and had a warm, fluffy blue quilt covering it. Zordex closed the drapes, changed quickly into his sleeping attire, which he took out of a large silver wardrobe in the corner by the window, and flopped onto his bed. He fell asleep as soon as he drew the covers over himself.
* * *
Beams from the golden sun snuck through the windows of Zordex’s room and tickled his face to wake him up. Zordex opened his eyes and grinned at the sun. He heaved a yawn, stretched, flung the covers off of him, and stepped onto the warm carpet.
Ten minutes later, Zordex appeared in the common area, fully dressed and thoroughly washed. The common area was not as crowded as it was the night before, and Zordex was able to eat his meal in peace. As soon as he finished a delicious breakfast of fried güala (a delicacy made of the feathers of a butterfly’s wings), spices, and wheat, he rose from his cushion and walked to his throne room.
The throne room was an enormous marble hall, with sapphires and diamonds glittering from where they were embedded into the walls. A long blue carpet led the way to a large throne at the end of the hall. It was made of silver and had upholstery of fluffy blue velvet. Zordex walked down the blue walkway and took a seat on the large throne. His most trusted general, Omnipuj, stepped right next to him and spoke.
“Sir, there is some paperwork still needing to be filled out concerning our alliance with the Dorrs. Are you up to filling it out?”
Zordex nodded “Yes, bring it here. I will have it finished in no time.” He tapped his staff on the cold marble floor, and a large desk appeared in front of him. Omnipuj placed a sheath of papers on the top of the desk. Zordex opened the top drawer and drew from it a quill. He dipped it in black ink and started writing rapidly. Omnipuj left the room and all was quiet for about a half hour.
Zordex finished filling out the papers and tapped the floor with his staff. The desk disappeared, and Zordex leaned back and closed his eyes, thinking. The heavy silver door at the front of the hall swung open. Zordex jerked his head up and looked at the visitor. A tall woman with a flowing golden dress and a purple sash tied around her waist gracefully stepped in, accompanied by two guards. When she reached the bottom of Zordex’s throne, she bowed, opened the scroll, and started reading.
A message for Zordex, Lord of the great kingdom Xaveron. Queen Qyera, Ruler of many great cities on the western coast of Cabella, wishes to make a request of you concerning conflicts with the Six Black Wizards. She will make her entrance tomorrow at high noon and discuss details. Will you have her in your palace?
The messenger finished reading, rolled up the scroll and asked him, “Will you have Queen Qyera in your palace tomorrow?”
Zordex was quiet for a moment. Then he asked, “Where is Cabella? How come I have never heard of it?”
“Qyera expected that you would not know where it would be. It is on the other side of this earth across the Open Plains, across the desert beyond the Open Plains.”
“How long of a journey is it?”
“We made the hard journey in five years and four months.”
Zordex leaned back onto the cushions, thought for a minute, then said, “Very well, I give my consent for her to come to my palace at noon tomorrow. Go now and tell her.” Then he said, more severely, “I warn her that if she tries anything violent or hurtful to me or any person in my kingdom and palace, that I and my army will make sure that she sees not another day.”
The messenger bowed gratefully and strode back down the carpeted lane and out the door.
As soon as the door closed after her, Omnipuj spoke to him heatedly. “My Lord! Are you sure that is wise, inviting an unknown wizardess and queen into your palace? You must be mad!”
“Don’t be so judgmental, Omnipuj. I am willing to give her a chance. Get my army on guard in case there is any trouble, though. Thank you.”
“Yes, My Lord. Anything else?”
“Nothing. You may go.”
Omnipuj bobbed his head in respect to Zordex and left.
The next day, all the servants in the palace were up and working hard at the crack of dawn, Zordex among them. He helped the servants with the hard chores using magic, and checked the rooms, making sure that they were immaculate. By eleven o’clock, the palace was sparkling. Zordex dismissed the servants and told them to take the next hour off. Zordex walked back to the throne room and took a seat in his throne. Unable to sit still, he got up and started pacing around, apparently deep in thought. His eyes turned from dark brown to black, and his brow furrowed. The large clock struck a quarter to twelve, and Zordex once again took a seat on his throne.
The huge clock in the corner of the throne room struck twelve times. Immediately after the twelfth ring died out, the doors on the far side of the throne room swung wide open with a resounding bang.
Soldiers, dressed in gold chain mail, strode in the room, two by two, footsteps perfectly synchronized. Zordex’s eyes opened wide. He saw that all these soldiers, every single one of them, was a woman. This was something extraordinary, because Zordex was brought up with the idea that women were to stay home and take care of the men. He had learned that they couldn’t do half of what men could do.
The soldiers finally stopped marching into the room. They bowed to him in perfect timing, then got up and stood at attention on either side of the carpet. Entering through the door now was Qyera, dressed in deep purple robes, with a huge white tiger at her side. Her hand rested on the head of the tiger, and they made their way to Zordex.
As Qyera passed her soldiers on her way to the front of the room, they bowed respectfully to her. Finally, she stood in front of him. She curtsied gracefully and looked straight into Zordex’s eyes.
Qyera had striking green eyes and long black hair that hung down her back. Amethysts were woven into the strands of her hair, sparkling and glittering in the light. She was a little taller than average and stood straight and tall. She had long, straight fingers and purple painted fingernails. On the third finger of her left hand, she wore a ring with a slender silver band and a gem in the middle. She wore flowing robes of purple, sewn with golden thread. Gold slippers were on her feet, and a big golden sword hung at her side.
“So you are Zordex, the great wizard of whom I have heard so many praises. I am delighted that I finally have the pleasure of meeting you.” Qyera said in a silvery voice. She offered her hand to him, and he took and shook it.
“I am honored to have you in my presence. You have traveled for many years without invitation to speak with me. I am greatly impressed,” Zordex replied.
“I have a request to make of you, Zordex. For many generations, the Cabellan people have been oppressed by the dark wizard, Dertte Zohnn. He is a follower of Yoleighwan, about whom we have heard much. We put up with him until he burned our capital city and killed over half the population of Cabella. I want to put a stop to this, and I have come to request your consideration in becoming allies with my army and my people.”
Zordex leaned back into the cushions of his throne and thought. Finally, he raised his head and said, “Your army is trained excellently, and I have sensed great magical power from you. I would be honored to be your ally through these hard times.”
Qyera felt tears streaming down her face. She fell to her knees in front of him and kissed his feet. “You are by far the most noble person I have ever met, Zordex. Thank you.”
Those simple words touched Zordex in the deepest place of his heart, and a single, diamond tear coursed down his face.