Karnax and I walked through the halls of the building. They seemed eerily empty. Odd, for I recalled that usually there was constant motion throughout this strange underground complex, like a massive beehive.
“Where have all the Hâfléngs gone?” I remarked, glancing around curiously.
Karnax shrugged. “I suppose there’s no harm in telling you. They are moving into position in Simar, awaiting the surrender of the Sivva Council.”
“You seem so sure they will surrender. If they do not?”
“You will do your best to sway them. If that fails, then the war begins, and continues until their surrender or…” he paused, a dark smile crossing his face, “their deaths. Whichever comes first.”
We didn’t speak to each other again as I was guided silently to my cell. Karnax did not enter with me, instead choosing to remain outside, locking the door behind me.
I sighed, sitting on my cot. I rested my head on my hands, and began to think, planning what I would say in order to prevent the war that I could feel coming- and somehow escape alive.
Something was wrong- I could feel it even before I woke that day. It was the day I would speak to the Sivva Council- but already I had a terrible feeling of foreboding that warned me something was going to go horribly wrong today. I Was unsure what exactly- it was simply a vague feeling. Purely instinctive. But then again, I had learned to trust my instincts.
I was only given moments before Karnax entered the room.
“Good day, Sivva,” he said formally. “Are you prepared to speak to the Sivva Council today?”
“I am under a heart oath,” I replied, shrugging. “I suppose I must be.”
He nodded thoughtfully. “True enough. Come, we must be on schedule.”
I rose, and followed him from my cell. We walked through the empty hallways, until we arrived in a large room- incredibly similar to the arena room, except the floor was black marble. A large circle was inscribed there, inscribed with runes. I looked over them, discovering them to be transportation runes. These would take us straight into the heart of Zila, to Shivax itself. A daring plan- which would trigger alarms all over the city. Of course, the Sivvas wouldn’t see the army that was creeping through the city like a plague of rats- they would only see me, a Sivva turned traitor. A second Karnax. Perhaps they would hear me out, perhaps they would not. Everything rested on that one choice. If they chose to execute me instantly, the war had begun. Their only hope was to hear me out, and allow me to speak in my own defense.
As we entered the circle, I noticed it was divided into rings. In each ring was a different division of Hâfléngs. The ones in the outer ring held bows. Then spears. Then swords. And countless other weapons. The rings must symbolise troop divisions. I would have desired to study it more, but I had no time.
The Hâfléngs parted for Karnax wordlessly. I could feel their eyes on me as I passed, and I shuddered slightly.
Eventually, we reached the center of the ring. Karnax shouted orders to the surrounding army. All motion stilled- as if we were surrounded by ranks of statues. The room suddenly began to vibrate. There were worried murmurs, but Karnax yelled at the Hâfléngs to hold, and they did. The temperature in the room began to drop, and I shivered. It grew colder and colder, until, just when I thought we were all going to freeze to death, it stopped. But that was just the beginning. The vibration increased, and with it came another sound, a deep thrumming noise, like a long cord vibrating deep within the earth. The pressure in the room dropped, and my ears popped. Whatever Karnax was doing, this was no ordinary transportation spell. It could just be the large numbers he was attempting to transport- and some of their weapons might have been iron- but that would not have interfered. Something else was going on here, something I wasn’t aware of. And, possibly, something even the Hâfléng army wasn’t aware of. A plan solely known by Karnax. No doubt something dangerous. Something that could change everything.
I waited, expecting something horrible to happen- something to go wrong. But nothing did. Perhaps it was my earlier assumption. The world around us began to warp and drip- alarmingly, not in the usual way of a transportation spell, more as if the walls were melting. The temperature- which had been incredibly cold until now- rose suddenly, causing a stinging sensation from the rapid heat change. I glanced at Karnax, wondering if something had gone wrong, but he seemed pleased, so this must have been part of his plan.
There were more cries of alarm from the assembled Hâfléngs, but Karnax yelled to them again.
“Stand firm! This is no accident- it is all part of our grand plan in the end. You are in no danger- unless you step out of your sector. Remain where you are!”
Now I realized a second purpose for the rings. Not just sectors for individual units- but circles of protection. The outer ones would be the most vulnerable, while the innermost circle- ours- was the most protected.
Now I was positive that we were not simply being transported. This was a summoning. And a powerful one too, if the sensations I felt had anything to do with the power of the thing being summoned.
As suddenly as they had come, the strange sensations were gone. Karnax nodded with satisfaction. “Good. It was successful then. Prepare to cast the transportation spell!”
There was a sudden scrabbling of movement, as the entire army seemed to move at once. Relics were activated all around the perimeter of the circle. Karnax watched with satisfaction, then reached down, crouching to place his hand on a gem that I hadn’t noticed before- right in the center of our circle. Seconds later, a large iridescent bubble formed around the circle, and it began to hum. The world began to dissolve around us, colors melting and running together. This time everything was going normally- nothing else strange was happening. And there was still no sign of whatever Karnax had- or attempted to have had- summoned.
“Remember,” Karnax hissed to me as the world began to fade away, “you will be on your own here. And you must not fail, or the war begins, understand?”
“Don’t forget your heart oath,” he added.
“I cannot, or I will meet a sudden death,” I replied, smiling slightly. “A good way to remember things.”
Karnax shook his head. “You will have less to smile about if you fail! Remember that!”
There was a sudden strange reverse transportation effect. A second bubbled appeared inside the first, solely around myself. The army around me began to blur and melt, just like the rest of the world. I only had a moment to wonder where he was sending me, before the colors swirled back together.