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Chapter 6

Night Attack

Less than an hour later, the five companions stood before Prince Tirzah's throne. He was a handsome man in his twenties, dressed in robes of white and blue. Brown eyes twinkled in his smooth-shaven face, and a circlet of gold rested in his dark hair.

His visitors bowed in respect, and the two females curtsied, but all understood that no worship was intended in the gesture, for Abba had forbidden worship of any but himself. Prince Tirzah stood and bowed back.

"Faela!" The Prince had a pleasant tenor voice. "So good to see you and your son again!" Then Tirzah turned to the strange children. "And who are you?"

"Our names are Cheryl, Lenny, and Ralph," Cheryl said, indicating herself and each of her brothers in turn. "We came from the other world, Terra. Abba brought us here to travel to Galgolb and free your fiancé, Princess Elladia, and the enslaved Maychorians and Tappuans, and to get back the Hosiridion. We also intend to get back our sister, Sarah, who was brought here for the same reasons, but deserted us and fled to the Witch, Ryoo."

"But are you not just children? I would say you are dwarves but dwarves are shorter, stockier, and have beards. You are not dwarves; you are like human children. Is Maychoria in such dire straits we send children to war?"

Faela spoke up. "Abba works in mysterious ways. Do you remember Princess Zena's prophecy?"

"Yes, my friend, I memorized it."

"Cheryl, show him the sword."

Cheryl obeyed, holding up the eagle-sword. The gray stones flashed brilliantly in the sun, almost the way the girl's eyes shone behind her bangs.

Tirzah sat down in shock. "Gray eyes, green eyes, eagle-keen/In the dark shall brightly flash," the Prince quoted musingly. "And then small of stature, great of heart. Yes, you must be the ones. Strange warriors, indeed!" He looked at Cheryl searchingly. "Here I see gray eyes, but what of green?"

Ralph stepped forward and drew his little eagle-dagger. Gray and green sparkled together in the throne room.

"I see," Tirzah laughed. To Ralph he said, "You are not intimidated by rulers and Princes, young friend. But such warriors as you surely only bow your knee in worship to the one true King of all."

"You speak the truth, sir," Lenny said. "The unbelieving one the prophecy spoke of is me, but now my allegiance falls to Abba."

"Very good," Tirzah said. "But if all three of you worship Abba, where is the unworthy one?"

Cheryl sighed. "She is our sister. When we first arrived here she fled to Ryoo. I believe she was drawn to Galgolb by some dark power. Yet we draw hope from the prophecy's words that all in the end will belong to Abba."

Tirzah nodded sagely. "Princess was Zena was a true prophetess; Abba told her what would happen, and what she told us always came true. So of course your sister will accept El Shaddai eventually.

"But come, tell me of your adventures, and your plans. Raemon!" he called a man that was just coming into the throne room. "Come and join us, my counselor and friend."

Raemon came forward and was instantly seized by Faela and Arim. "Father!" "My dear husband!" Prince Tirzah and the Bryants smiled at the reunion.

Tirzah stood and joined the three children. "Come, visitors," he said with a wink. "Let us go to one of my parlors and have some refreshments. Raemon and his family can join us later, and then you can tell me your story."

The Bryants followed Tirzah into a room filed with comfortable seats. While the Terrans rested from their first journey, Tirzah gave hilarious descriptions of palace life. The children were still laughing when Raemon, Faela and Arim came into the room.

Once again the Bryants told their story. When they were finished Tirzah nodded. "Yes," he said. "The old prophecies in the Hosridon speak of a golden orb from which helpers from another world would come in dark times. I see now that you are the ones the prophecies spoke of. But I would not have you go to the country of darkness alone. My heart smites me that ones so young should go alone into darkness so deep and peril so great. It is such a long journey! Therefore, I will send a score of knights and men-at-arms with you. I would send all my men, but the evil Ryoo may attack while our defenses be so depleted, and also I know Ryoo will not fall by any earthly strength, but only by the power of the living God, El Shaddai.

"But rest here tonight! Tomorrow you will be on your way!"

The Terrans thanked the Prince for his kindness. Then Ralph asked a tactless question.

"Aren't you worried about Princess Elladia, Tirzah?"

For the first time since they had met him, Tirzah's happy countenance failed. His face was twisted by grief as he said. "I mourn for her day and night. Is she not my love and future bride? Terrible things are spoken of Ryoo's dungeons. Would that I were with her and could bear the terrors for her! Yet, that was not the will of Abba, so I must rest on His strength and trust that He will care for my love."

Ralph bolted from the seat in sudden regret. "I'm sorry!" he cried, his face a mirror of the Prince's grief-stricken expression. "I shouldn't have mentioned something so painful to you!"

With an effort Tirzah smoothed his expression to sadness rather than agony. Then he did something quite astonishing. Standing suddenly and stepping forward, he pulled the boy into a crushing embrace.

The others were rather shocked, but then Tirzah released Ralph and held him by the shoulders at arms' length.

"What I wouldn't give to have a son like you," he whispered huskily.

Through his tears Ralph's old cheerful smile shone. "I like you, too!"

In the tower room, Ryoo turned from the fire to look at her apprentice. "What do you see, Inaryoo?"

Sarah was gazing into the eerie, flickering red flames of the fire. Torches were lit in the room, for the fire gave no light, but had been called up from nothing by Ryoo. Such fires were used for seeing distant places.

"I see-" Sarah faltered.

"Yes, yes, go on," the Witch urged.

"I see a castle, a castle of blue-gray stone."

"That is Maychoria Castle."

"Oh." Sarah paused for a moment. "And now I see a feast. A gloriously huge feast with foods of many kinds spread before many important guests."

"Ah," Ryoo said. "Your siblings have arrived and the fool Tirzah is having a banquet!"

"Yes, I see Cheryl." Sarah let loathing leak into her voice. "She is speaking to a tall handsome elf with an emerald amulet around his neck. I can feel his wisdom."

Ryoo placed her fingers on Sarah's temples and closed her eyes. "Release the images to me, apprentice."

Sarah obeyed, feeling the black, corrupted power flow through her mind, taking what she saw and transferring it to Ryoo.

"Yes," the dark queen moaned. "She is talking to the Elf ruler, Emrey, of the Trastille clan. He has already lived over five centuries, and he knows more about the lands east of the Purple Mountains than any other person in Maychoria, for he once crossed Mount Oran and saw the desolation I have made of those countries. He had only recently arrived in Maychoria to tell Tirzah what he had seen, and now he is telling it all to your sister. That was an ill chance, this meeting of Emrey and Cheryl. It is Sebastoes' doing."

Ryoo let go of Sarah's head. "Who else is there?"

"I also see my brothers, your highness. Ralph is talking to a boy his own age, and Lenny is speaking to a man with a circlet of gold around his head."

"Very good, Inaryoo. You have learned well. But what do you hear?"

For the first time Sarah's attention turned from the scarlet fire. With a troubled look she said, "I don't hear anything, your majesty. Am I doing something wrong?"

"Remember, my student, to let strong emotions fill you. Only then will the power be completely in your control. Hatred, lust, greed, anger, these are the things that make space and matter able to be manipulated by those of the sorcerer's craft, such as we."

Ryoo put her hands around Sarah's head, but not touching it. The Witch used the power to fill her pupil with a sudden, violent emotion.

"Yes, yes," Ryoo said. "I can feel the anger filling you. Let it flow through your perceptions and strengthen them."

Sarah was surprised by her emotions, but she obeyed, listening to the faint whispers of conversations in Maychoria Castle. She felt very, very angry, and as her anger grew, the voices grew, until they filled her ears with roaring, meaningless babbling.

Sarah cried out in pain. She fell back against her teacher, and she felt Ryoo's hands, cold and hard as shaped ice, gripping her shoulders painfully.

For a moment the girl thought the Elf-woman was laughing, and then the anger and pain climaxed into a crescendo… then silence. Sarah fell senseless to the floor.

Ryoo laid her apprentice on the black wood table, knowing Sarah would awake in a few moments with nothing worse than a headache. Now, the Witch turned her attention to the ruby flames.

There were many things worth seeing, and many things worth hearing, in Maychoria. Ryoo intended to see and hear everything.

Cheryl felt awed to be in the presence of the wise and noble elf-ruler, Emrey. When they had first sat down for the meal, she had been surprised to note that she was in a place of great honor, directly to the right of Prince Tirzah. Emrey sat on her other side, and after they had been introduced, all she could do was stare up in awe at the handsome Elf.

"Lady Cheryl," Emrey said, "Atheos has engineered our meeting."

"He has?" Cheryl said faintly, trying to remember who Atheos was and wondering why he'd addressed her as 'Lady.'

"Yes. You see, I have information that is vital to your journey." Emrey had a voice that reminded the girl of a mighty river, deep and vigorous.

Cheryl shook herself mentally and replied. "I am anxious to hear what you have to say, as I am sure it will be beneficial."

"You are indeed courteous, my Lady. But you may not be pleased to hear my news."

"How so, sir?"

"I have seen the lands between the Purple Mountains and the country of darkness. We once called them the lands of Verdain and Viara, that is 'Green' and 'Promising,' but those names are no longer appropriate. A small band of my people and I climbed to the summit of Mount Oran in the late summer of last year to worship Atheos. From the lofty peaks and aeries of Oran we saw the lands of Verdain and Viara, laid waste by the demonic followers of Kataphage, the Katamobi. It is my opinion that the Katamobi did so at the commands of an estranged member of my own race, the Witch Ryoo. Lady Cheryl, what was once Verdain and Viara is now 'Trakinos,' a hot, barren desert. Your travels will be much complicated by this revelation, I fear."

Cheryl took a moment to digest the information. She looked around and realized that while Emrey talked, the first course had been served.

"Oh, dear," she said at last. "Thank you much for telling me, sir, but it really doesn't change a whole lot. I knew already the trip would be long and dangerous."

"I did not mean to discourage you from your course, as it obviously laid by Atheos. I only wished to warn you of the difficulties ahead."

"Of course, sir," Cheryl replied. "I didn't intend to imply otherwise." She drew in a deep breath of the delicious smell of the soup. "Shall we eat?"

To the left of Cheryl and Emrey, Tirzah and Lenny were having a conversation along the same line. Lenny had been as surprised as Cheryl to realize he was sitting next to the Prince, but Tirzah put him at ease by treating him as an equal when he asked,

"What are your plans for the journey, Lord Lenny?"

"Well, sir, I haven't really thought about it. I was depending on Cheryl to compute a route, and I believe she was relying on you older ones for a plan. Or rather, she was relying on Abba. But Faela did mention a sketchy plan."

"Ah, yes. Well, I can supply you with maps of the country from this point to the Purple Mountains. Beyond that, however, we have very little information."

"What do you feel is the best method for us to reach the Purple Mountains, sir?"

"My dear Lord Lenny, please stop calling me sir. One of the worst transitions for me from my life as a village schoolteacher to ruler of the land is that I'm no longer Tirzah but 'Prince' or 'sir.' Please address me by my name. I've known you three visitors for a very short time, but I feel that we are already close friends. Especially Ralph."

Lenny grinned. "Well, if you're Tirzah, then I'm Lenny, agreed? I don't understand this 'Lord' idea."

"As you wish, Lenny. But in answer to your earlier question, I feel you should take horses and travel through the Bluewood to Mount Oran. There are many paths through the Bluewood, as you will see on our maps. And Prince Emrey will be delighted to lead you over Mount Oran. After the Purple Mountains Abba will have to lead you."

"It seems a good plan to me, sir-uh-Tirzah. Thank you for the advice."

"Also, I will send two score men-at-arms with you. I only hope it is enough."

"Two score, Tirzah? Before you said but one."

"After reviewing the dangers of the journey I felt you will need them just to reach Galgolb. But then, maybe I should send four score."

"Prince Tirzah, have you asked Abba about this? I'm sure He will protect us."

Tirzah looked confused. "But doesn't He want us to do our best on our own?"

It was Lenny's turn to look confused. "Well, yes, I think, but there are also times we need to put our entire trust in Him."

"But how do you know the difference?" the Prince sounded desperate, as if he'd asked himself the same question over and over and couldn't find the answer.

"I-I don't know!" Lenny stammered, flushing. "I-I am just too new to the faith."

Tirzah was very quiet for the rest of the meal. Lenny didn't know how to comfort him, so he talked to others. Cheryl never even noticed the Prince's melancholy. She was too busy listening to Emrey tell of the Bluewood. It sounded wonderful to her.

"My home," Emrey said, "is a beautiful forest, about the size of Maychoria and Tappuah put together. All the trees have black trunks, and there is little underbrush. The leaves are a beautiful emerald green, with a slight bluish tint. When fall comes, they turn red as rubies, though the blue tint stays on in some mysterious way. In fall flowers of blue and green and white emerge, and in winter these blossoms are rendered edible by the frosts. The red leaves stay on the trees through the winter, so little snow reaches the forest floor. Then, in spring, the new green leaves push the red out onto the forest floor, covering the dead flowers we did not consume. The Bluewood is a beautiful place, Lady Cheryl. I hope you will have time to visit it after this business with the country of shadows."

"After?" Cheryl whispered. "I just hope to live through it."

Emrey smiled encouragingly. "As do I, my lady."

Ryoo stepped back from the crimson fire that shed no light. She had heard enough, and would have stopped watching earlier, but that Emrey's description of her lost home caught her off guard. For a minute she almost wanted to go back. But then she remembered her power and importance now, and all thoughts of repentance vanished.

"If I go back, I'll be no more than a prisoner, and I will always be feared, even though I'd be sincere. No," she muttered fiercely. Here she was queen and controlled the destiny of over a thousand people, including the girl from the other world, Sarah.

The thought reminded the Witch the girl would soon wake. Ryoo stepped to the table and watched her apprentice.

Sarah's eyes opened suddenly, and she sat up with a groan. "What happened?" she asked, rubbing her forehead. "Why does my head hurt so bad?"

"You meddled with power too great for you," Ryoo said shortly as she turned and briskly strode to the fire. She threw some powder on it and muttered a word, and instantly the fire flickered and died. It reminded Sarah of a light bulb.

The girl swung her legs over the edge of the table and sprang lightly down. Ryoo turned to face her pupil, who asked, "What are your plans, your majesty?"

A wicked smile spread across Ryoo's face.

"What?" Sarah asked, seeing the glee on her master's face. "What is it?"

"Inaryoo, they will never know what hit them."

"Are you going to cast a spell on Maychoria Castle? But I thought Abba protected it!"

"He does, but His guard is slipping. Tirzah is slowly drawing away from that fool Sebastoes and it will be very easy for me to cast a cloud of melancholy and despair around him. Once the Prince falls, enchanting the castle will be an exercise in simplicity. Apathy and spiritual sleep will fog minds and dull faith, and that will be the end of this so-called resistance of me." She chuckled evilly. "This could have worked out no better if I'd planned it!"

After the feast, (which lasted all evening and into the night,) Cheryl was led to a luxurious chamber across the hall from where she saw Lenny and Ralph were to sleep. Once there, the girl barely had time to slip into a silk nightdress she found in the wood wardrobe and tumble into the soft feather bed before she fell deeply and suddenly asleep.

A few hours later, she began to dream she was still at the banquet. As the frightened girl watched, the hall grew darker and darker as a sense of evil pervaded her perceptions. Cheryl found herself looking up into the face of Prince Tirzah. His face grew gradually sadder and more desperate until he seemed to just give up. Tirzah laid his head on his plate of cold meat and wept a pool of tears that spread over the table in waves, knocking over goblets and filling empty bowls.

Cheryl looked around in sudden terror and saw that everywhere people had laid their heads on the table and fallen asleep, their ruler's tears washing over them. She saw a Dwarf snoring like a locomotive, his breath pushing waves of tears back toward the Prince. Several men-at-arms had fallen asleep at their posts, leaning against the walls in the darkness, drenched by the salty water which now stood several inches deep on the floor.

Suddenly a golden light drove out the darkness, and Cheryl realized the only ones left awake were Faela, Arim, Ralph, Lenny, and herself. But they were looking more and more sleepy. Cheryl felt pretty tired herself. A nap would be nice…. The girl's head sank toward her soup.

Suddenly Cheryl was jolted awake by Emrey's rich voice shouting, "Lady Cheryl, Lady Cheryl! Waken! Arise!"

Cheryl struggled to open her eyes, but she felt so tired-

"Lady Cheryl, Lady Cheryl! Awaken!" the elf-Prince insisted.

Cheryl's gray eyes opened at last. There was no pool of tears, no evil darkness, and no sleeping people, just her room, and Emrey outside pounding on the door.

Cheryl bounded out of bed and rushed to the door, flinging it open just as the Elf was lifting his fist to strike it again.

"Ah, Lady Cheryl," he said, slowly lowering his hand. "I feared for you!"

"Why?" The girl stepped out of her room and saw that Lenny and Ralph had joined them in the hall.

"Atheos visited me while I slept," Emrey explained. "He told me of Ryoo's attack."

Lenny had been blinking furiously to get rid of his sleepiness, but now his pale gray eyes opened wide.

"Attack?" the three Bryants said in unison.

"Yes." Emrey's usually grave voice was as excited as that of any two-year-old.

"Ryoo can cast spells from as far as Galgolb?" Lenny sounded justifiably scared.

"Not exactly," Emrey replied. "She rode one of the winged Katamobi, I'm sure. But she has definitely attacked."

The three Terrans rushed back into their rooms. Soon Cheryl was back, dressed in a simple dark blue gown and carrying the eagle-sword. She buckled it on as Lenny and Ralph returned, Ralph with his eagle-dagger.

Emrey looked at them with a little surprise, then said, "Strange warriors indeed. Well, follow me." Sleeping Guards

On the way to Tirzah's chambers they passed guards asleep at their posts, leaning on their battle-axes or slumped on the floor. There were two more sleeping men-at-arms outside Tirzah's door. Unfortunately Ryoo was already gone, leaving chaos in her wake.

Emrey went directly to the Prince, who lay sleeping in his bed. The children tried to wake the four inner chamber guards, who lay like dead men. All the Bryants' efforts were in vain, but Tirzah woke almost immediately with a cry of grief and fear.

"She is gone, she is gone!" Tirzah cried. He sat up and buried his face in his hands.

At first his four rescuers thought he was talking about Ryoo, but the Prince kept sobbing, tears dripping onto the expansive silk quilt.

"Elladia, my love! She is gone and all is lost! The lands of Verdain and Viara are now desolate, the Purple Mountains are no protection, and the Bluewood is a vain hope. Tappuah has fallen, and Maychoria is next! All is of no avail!"

Emrey and the Bryants had stood still in shock, but now Emrey, who was closest to the Prince, put his hand on Tirzah's shoulder.

"Prince Tirzah," the Elf said, "Tappuah has not fallen, and Ryoo will not overcome Maychoria. Atheos has told us, and we know this to be true. These three children are traveling to Galgolb to free your love. She is not gone forever."

Tirzah could not be comforted. He kept muttering, "All is lost, all is lost!" with an occasional grief-stricken, "Elladia, my love!" thrown in.

Emrey was deeply pained to see such grief and despair, as the children could see in his eyes as he told them:

"Prince Tirzah is under a spell of despair. I knew he had been drifting from Atheos of late, and apparently Ryoo knew it too. Have you tried to waken the guards?"

Ralph nodded. "We shook 'em and shook 'em. They won't wake up."

"It appears they've been drugged," Lenny added.

"Is it Ryoo's spell?" Cheryl asked.

"Yes," the elf-Prince replied. "She is long gone now."

Cheryl felt suddenly silly holding her sword with no enemy in sight, and sheathed it. At that moment Faela and Arim entered the room.

"Ralph, Cheryl, Lenny!" Arim exclaimed. "I'm so glad you aren't asleep like everyone else."

"Everyone?" Emrey asked Faela with a sinking heart.

"The entire castle is under a spell," she replied. "All are asleep, and none can be wakened."

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