Sword of Kings: Forged Out of Necessity
by Bill W
Copyright © 2014 by billwstories
Copyright © 2014 by billwstories
Some Truths Revealed
Kieren awoke some time during the night and panicked when he realized he wasn't in familiar surroundings. He sat up in bed and began looking around, since he was uncertain about where he was or how he'd gotten there. He tried desperately to study the room, to see if it looked at all familiar, but was incapable of recollecting the events of the previous day. Therefore, he felt he needed to discover something that might give him a clue as to where he was.
Before he could solve this conundrum, however, he was startled by something moving next to him and nearly jumped out of his skin. Excitedly, he threw back the covers to see what was there, only to discover the familiar face of one of his friends. Quickly, he pulled the bedding back into place, so he wouldn't wake his sleeping companion, before turning in the opposite direction. He lifted the covers again, but this time more delicately, only to uncover the sleeping form of his other friend. Slowly, he began to piece together this minor mystery.
It all became clear to him, when he recalled having been brought to the king's residence to spend the night, after he had said goodbye to his parents. After recollecting those events, his brain was suddenly flooded with a cavalcade of other images, which ignited a series of questions. As he tried to deal with these issues, he came to the conclusion that he couldn't resolve them alone.
Slowly, he slid out from under the covers and crawled off the bed, while being careful not to awaken his two companions as he did so. Along the way, Kieren grabbed a robe, which he accidentally discovered while feeling his way to the door. After putting it over his dressing gown, he slipped out of the room and quietly shut the door behind him.
The hallway was equally dark and once there, Kieren realized the absurdity of what he was attempting to do. How would he find Beraut, seeing he didn't have the slightest clue where he was or which room the wizard might be using?
Kieren quickly toyed with the idea of just going back to bed, but knew he wouldn't be able to sleep until he had the information he was seeking. Frantically, he stumbled along the wall, still trying to determine what he should do next, when he thought he saw movement in the distant shadows. Reacting quickly, he squeezed his body tightly against the wall and held his breath, hoping it wasn't someone who might do him harm. When he saw nothing else that roused his suspicion, he continued on, while wondering if he had completely lost his common sense.
He stumbled around in the dark for quite some time, before noticing the light from a candle or lantern flickering somewhere in the distance. Slowly, he crept toward the glow, while being careful not to trip over anything along the way. He certainly didn't want to make a noise and alert whoever was there to his presence, so he moved very slowly and cautiously.
As he drew nearer to the source of the brightness, Kieren slid closer to the corner and peered around it, to see who or what was there. He was instantly relieved when he discovered a familiar sight. He had accidentally located Beraut, who was sitting at a table and reading by candlelight. Euphoric, he discontinued his cautious approach and boldly made his way into the room. This sudden intrusion caused the wizard to react slightly, as he looked up.
"Kieren, what are you doing out of bed at this hour?" Beraut asked, in order to determine if something was wrong.
"I woke up and realized there were a lot of questions I need answered, so I came to find you. I want, no I need you to tell me more about Madumda," he announced, quite forcefully. After making this pronouncement, he stared at the aged wizard and waited to see how he was going to respond.
"You do need your rest as well, but I know you probably won't be able to sleep until you get the answers you seek, so let's try to do this quickly," the wizard agreed. "I knew I would have to explain this to you sooner or later, so we might as well just get it over with now. Why don't you sit down and make yourself comfortable."
Quietly, Kieren pulled up a chair and sat down beside the wizard, while eagerly anticipating what he might learn.
"So what is it you wish to know?" Beraut asked.
"I want to know everything about Madumda and how he came to power," he responded, without hesitation.
Beraut's lips began to curl, as he wondered if his young friend knew how much that would entail.
"You are seeking a great deal of information, but I will tell you what I think you need to know," he began. "Until nearly one hundred and twelve years ago, this land was ruled by the great King Ethelbert and his descendants, the last of this line being King Orthilue. During those many years, including the present, Tarolia has been plagued by the threat posed by Madumda.
"Madumda was not always evil. In fact, he was once a member of the Great Council of Wizards where he and I were brothers. He was a very bright, adept and ambitious man, much older than myself. He was the fifth eldest on the Council, of which I was the twelfth and youngest member."
"So he wasn't always bad?" Kieren asked, amazed.
"Not at first he wasn't, although he may have harbored inclinations toward the dark side, but this is how it began," Beraut replied. "In about the twenty-fourth year of the reign of the mighty King Ethelbert, His Majesty asked the Council of Wizards for their assistance with a security matter. Thialfi, Chief of the Council, agreed and offered to help the King protect the country's southern border from invasion. Thialfi then chose the next three eldest and most powerful mages to join him in this task, because he knew it would require a great deal of magic to be effective."
"So you didn't go, because you were the youngest?" Kieren wondered.
"No, I was also invited to join them, although not to assist. I was included merely to observe, and more importantly to learn. You see, at that time I was a novice and didn't have much training or many skills."
After hearing this, Kieren took a moment to study Beraut, but he was unable to imagine the wizard as an almost powerless young novice.
"We were gone for nearly three months on this errand. During that time, Thialfi and the others helped to push back the enemy and healed the wounded, but most significantly, they set wards. The wards sealed off the southern border to any person with evil intent in his heart and made it impossible for someone so inclined to enter the kingdom."
Seeing the perplexed expression on Kieren's face, Beraut understood the teen didn't understand what he meant, so he went on to explain.
"A ward is an invisible barrier that cannot be penetrated by those it is designed against. In this case, it was meant to stop those carrying weapons, that were malicious in nature or who harbored thoughts of mayhem," he clarified.
"Does this mean that no one can see the barrier?" Kieren asked, amazed.
"That's correct. It is totally invisible," Beraut confirmed. "Anyway..." but their conversation was suddenly interrupted at that very moment.
Beraut had stopped in mid-sentence when he noticed two heads suddenly peeking around the corner. The wizard then peered in that direction, to see whom it was. He was slightly annoyed and spoke with a touch on anger in his tone when he observed it was the two young elves.
"I'm tempted to send you away," Beraut began, perturbed. "I know it probably wouldn't do any good though, so you might as well come in and join us."
Garreth and Romaric were at first startled, but then quickly relaxed, once they heard Beraut's invitation. Somewhat encouraged by his acceptance, they came bursting into the room.
"Would you please enlighten me as to why the two of you are up and standing here?" the wizard pressed, somewhat sternly. He wanted to impress upon the duo that he wasn't completely happy with this interruption or their indiscretion.
"I woke up and found Kieren gone," Romaric began, "so I woke Garreth up to see if he knew where Kieren went." Garreth nodded vigorously, to support his friend's statement.
"So what brought you here?" Beraut continued.
"Well, we were walking around the hallways," Garreth responded, "to see if we might be able to find him, when we heard his voice and followed it here. So, what are you two doing?"
Beraut cocked his head and gave the elf a dissatisfied glare, to let him know he wasn't impressed by his rude behavior.
"Well if you must know, Kieren came to find me, because he wanted more information about Madumda," Beraut clarified.
"May we stay and listen too?" Romaric asked, innocently.
"If you want, but this is for Kieren's benefit," Beraut warned, "so I expect you two to remain quiet and merely listen."
The two elves simply nodded in reply and took seats at the table, so the wizard began again.
"Now where was I? Oh, yes. While Thialfi, the other elder wizards and I were away from Treblanc, Madumda was placed in temporary charge of the Council and its fortress. He was to serve as the leader, in absentia, until the four older wizards returned, once their task had been completed."
"So Thialfi still trusted Madumda?" Kieren wondered.
"Not completely, but until then, he had no reason to totally distrust him either," Beraut confirmed. "However, during the fifth or sixth week after our departure, Madumda summoned each of the remaining six mages to attend a private audience with him. They each had been given a different time to meet with him, and when the younger wizard arrived at the reception hall, Madumda offered him a drink. What the younger wizard didn't know, however, was that what he received in the goblet wasn't exactly what he believed it to be.
"You see, before each one arrived," the wizard continued, "Madumda prepared a sleeping potion and slipped it into the goblet he was going to give to his guest. Then, when the younger wizard accepted his offer, Madumda merely poured the drink in with the sleeping draught and the two instantly mixed together. This way, Madumda was able to fill his goblet from the same jug and skillfully avoided arousing anyone's suspicion. However, once the younger wizard drank the concoction, the drugs began to take effect and Madumda was then able to do what he pleased with each one."
"That was really sneaky," Romaric observed.
This comment earned Romaric a brief scowl from the wizard and caused the young elf to shrink into the background again, once he realized his mistake. Now that Beraut had made his point and Romaric understood his host was unhappy with the interruption, the wizard continued.
"One by one, Madumda bound each of his younger brothers and sealed his mouth, so he couldn't recite any spells. Madumda did this in case any of them came to before he had finished his evil deed. Once each wizard had been restrained, Madumda used a form of an ancient invocation to steal the other wizard's power and thereby neutralize him. Madumda had uncovered this obscure spell some time before, but never used it or let anyone else know about it. Instead, he held it in abeyance until he found the perfect moment to use it."
"But how did he steal their power?" Kieren wanted to know.
"Madumda placed his staff near the head of his victim and then recited the appropriate spell. This caused a thin strand of silvery light to stretch from the victim's head to Madumda's staff and slowly drained the captive of all of his supernatural powers. Methodically, Madumda siphoned the magical potential from each of those under his control, so he could accumulate and control it for his own diabolical use."
"Did doing this kill the other wizards?" Garreth interrupted, in total disbelief. This also earned him a quick stare from the wizard, before Beraut responded.
"Yes, that's what happened," the wizard agreed, while still glaring at the elf.
Beraut studied Garreth's reaction, to see if he understood the unspoken message. Once the wizard saw the boy's reaction, he concluded the young elf would not interrupt him again, so he continued.
"By draining them of their power, he had also consumed their life force and sent them into oblivion. More significantly, he had simultaneously increased his own potency and heightened his status on the Council. Madumda had effectively reduced the membership of our body by half and now singularly represented that half's magical potential, along with his own. He even began to arrogantly think of himself as a god."
"Really? He thought he was that powerful?" Kieren asked, astounded.
"Indeed he did," Beraut confirmed.
"But how could Madumda have learned all of that magic without anyone else knowing?" Kieren followed, and the expression on his face let the wizard know how bewildered he was.
"It was because we were all encouraged to study on our own in the library at Treblanc," Beraut began. "Somehow during those sessions, Madumda discovered volumes of magic the rest of the wizards had either never seen or had forgotten existed."
"But how could the Council have allowed such evil magic to continue to be around?" Kieren wondered. "Why didn't they destroy the volumes that contained those spells?"
"There is no easy answer to this question," Beraut responded. "You see magic, in and of itself, is not evil. The nefariousness comes from the user and how he utilizes the knowledge. The Council realized many decades ago that they could not destroy various forms of magic merely because it might someday be subverted. If they had chosen to follow that policy, then there would be little, if any magic, still left to be used."
Kieren was aghast. "Do you mean all magic can be used for evil too?"
"Much of it can," the wizard concurred. "So instead of randomly destroying the information, the Council decided it would be better if it tried to safeguard and maintain it in written form. That way, they could one day retrieve it, if necessary, to counter its ill advised use. Intentions, however, no matter how pure, are not always enough to prevent mistakes and this was no exception to the rule. Eventually, the members of the Council neglected to monitor access to those volumes, as they had vowed to do, and over time they'd even forgot the information was there."
"So the magic Madumda used could be used other ways too?" Kieren asked.
"Yes, it could," Beraut agreed. "Instead of using it the way Madumda did, by draining the others of their powers and destroying them, there was another way. Others could use the same spell to combine their powers willingly, so they could defeat a stronger foe. By doing this, they could stand against a more powerful wizard or magical creature, such as a dragon."
"So no one could have prevented this?" the young man wanted to know.
"Possibly someone could have, if anyone had remembered those volumes were around and realized what Madumda was up to," the wizard conceded. "The problem was, it had been too long since any of us had dealt with the material contained within those documents. During that time, my brothers had forgotten about the ways the contents could be perverted. Madumda's accidental finding of those musty tomes was unbeknownst to the rest of us, and even though his research may have started out innocently enough, it soon changed."
"So what happened next?" Kieren wanted to know.
"That's when Madumda challenged Thialfi, since he wanted to become leader of the Council," Beraut responded. "The rest of us had just returned to Treblanc and discovered his treachery, when Madumda openly declared himself Chief of the Council. When he demanded we follow and obey him, it incensed Thialfi and the others and caused them to storm out of Treblanc. There was no way they would have respected him as a leader even before he did those terrible things to the others, but especially not afterward. The elder mages were left with no other choice, but to discover a way to neutralize, or if need be, eliminate him instead."
"Do you mean they planned to kill Madumda?" Romaric gasped aloud, but this time he didn't seem to draw a negative reaction from Beraut.
"Exactly, but at that point in time Thialfi and the others didn't dare challenge him directly, because they didn't know the true extent of his power. In turn, Madumda had no idea if the others knew how to combine their powers to stand against him, so a very uneasy stalemate was created, with each side hesitant to make a move."
"So neither side wanted to fight, because they didn't know if they could win?" Kieren asked, in order to get the wizard to clarify his understanding of the situation.
"Precisely! That's why we followed Thialfi to Leander, so we could plan our reprisal," Beraut announced. "When we arrived at the castle, we were warmly welcomed by King Ethelbert and provided for by his court. Once we were settled in, Thialfi sent a message to Madumda stating he was willing to negotiate with him at Leander, under the sponsorship of the King. This, of course, was merely a ruse meant to draw Madumda away from Treblanc, so we could carry out our true plan.
"Believing he was going to get his way, Madumda eagerly accepted the offer and set off for the capital. While he was journeying there to parley, one of our other brothers was making his way to Treblanc. His goal was to see if he could discover an antidote, of sorts, to negate Madumda's madness."
"You mean it was like a sickness and you thought you could cure him of it?" Garreth asked.
"No, we knew there wasn't any way to cure him, but we needed to find a way to either drain him of those powers or get rid of him altogether," Beraut replied.
"So there was no other way to solve this problem?" Kieren wondered.
"None that we knew about or could think of," the wizard explained, "but we were willing to try to find another option. To do this, we would have to search through those long forgotten books of magic that were still at Treblanc. That's why one of us had to go there, while Madumda was at Leander."
"So you were being sneaky too?" Romaric observed.
"Yes, I guess you could say we were," Beraut agreed. "It was risky, but we felt it was also absolutely necessary. We realized Madumda might have left magical forms of protection to safeguard his newly acquired possessions, so this also became a possible suicide mission. Bravely, one of the older wizards volunteered for this duty and set off for his former home."
"Was it really that dangerous?" Kieren questioned.
"It didn't turn out that way, but it could have been extremely dangerous," Beraut replied. "Anyway, after a lengthy journey, the wizard who volunteered for this duty was able to search the library at Treblanc and located the answer to our prayers.
"During his time there, he also discovered a spell that would allow him to transport a large number of items great distances, so he took advantage of that spell too," the wizard continued. "Since he didn't have time to read everything while he was at Treblanc, he used the spell to move part of the contents of the library. He transported the items he selected to the Woods of Wildoness, where they were housed for the Council's benefit and guarded by the elves. Those volumes still remain there, under the protective cloak and watchful eyes of your kinsfolk, but back then it was done so the elder wizards could study the various volumes in depth and at their own pace.
"Once that portion of the library had been relocated, the wizard who had accomplished the deed performed one more task. He then made it appear as if those volumes, as well as others, had been accidentally destroyed by a combination of dampness, rot and insects. He felt this was necessary, in case Madumda went to look up something in one of them later. He didn't want to take the chance Madumda would learn we had stolen them. If he found damaged volumes instead, Madumda wouldn't question their destruction and merely consider it a bit of bad luck, caused by his own carelessness and oversight."
"And no one saw this other wizard do this?" Garreth asked, amazed.
"If they did, no one told Madumda about it" Beraut confirmed. "Remember, Madumda was often very cruel to those who served him and was, therefore, despised by many of his underlings. If any of his servants had noticed what had taken place, they apparently chose not to tell their master about it."
"Serves him right," Romaric offered, reflexively.
"Precisely," Beraut acknowledged, with a slight chuckle at the elf's less than mature observation. "After making sure his handiwork had been concealed, our brother left Treblanc and made his way to the kingdom of the elves. He felt it imperative to investigate whether or not the task had been successfully completed first, before he returned to Leander. Once he was certain the multiple volumes were securely held, he made his way back to the castle. When he arrived, he quickly learned the negotiation process was extremely strained and Madumda's patience was wearing thin.
"In order to cover the fact that one of our number had been missing," the wizard added, "Thialfi and the others had been rotating into these meetings in groups of two. They would also take everyone's staff with them each time, including a replica of the missing wizard's staff, so Madumda would believe they had control of the cumulative magic. Not only did this conceal the fact that one of their members was not present, but it also eliminated the possibility that Madumda would try to attack and destroy them. They felt he wouldn't take the chance unless he was certain those present didn't have control of their collective power or was somehow convinced he could eliminate them all at once.
"When Thialfi and the others saw their volunteer had returned, and noted his signal that everything had gone as planned, Thialfi immediately called a halt to the sham proceedings," Beraut announced. "This sent Madumda flying back to Treblanc in an uncontrollable fit of rage, as he spewed a progression of threats and curses in his wake."
"I'm surprised he didn't start a fight right then," Kieren observed.
"It was only due to the fact that he still wasn't certain if he could win such a battle, so he somehow managed to resist the urge," the wizard explained. "However, the most fortunate aspect was that our misguided brother had been so completely absorbed in his attempt to gain domination over the Council that he failed to learn about our true agenda. This allowed us an opportunity to peruse those materials until we discovered how to counter his treachery.
"Madumda compounded his error by failing to discover our thievery, even after he returned to Treblanc," Beraut added. "It was this particular oversight that allowed us the time we needed. It gave us an opportunity to find the information necessary to formulate our strategy to neutralize him and then set our plan into motion."
"So by getting him to focus on his anger about being rejected as leader, he didn't notice what you were really up to," Kieren noted.
"Exactly!" Beraut beamed. "It was a simple case of misdirection that helped to keep our secret. Anyway, after the elder wizards completed a very exhaustive search through those numerous volumes of spells, the remainder of the Council held a meeting. It was then that they agreed about how they would handle the situation. They even put the welfare of the kingdom ahead of their own concerns. After reaching a consensus on a specific strategy, they then set about putting their plan into motion. The first step was to seek out and procure the assistance of the most proficient blacksmiths known to exist, the master dwarf smiths of the Amber Mountains."
"What did you need their help for?" Kieren wanted to know.
"We needed to ask them what ore would allow us to create a nearly indestructible metal from which we would create our talisman," the wizard explained. "The dwarfs, and only the dwarfs, knew the answer to our problem. They had accidentally stumbled upon it while mining for diamonds near the planet's core and named the ore 'rigilliad'. Immediately, the Council commissioned them to forge a talisman for us, which we prayed would someday be used to control or destroy our wayward brother."
"But it didn't work, did it?" Romaric noted.
"Unfortunately, not the way we wished, but the dwarfs were able to provide us with the object we'd asked for," Beraut explained. "The problem was, the opportunity to use it never arose. It did have one positive effect though, and that was once Madumda learned about it, he immediately associated it to the prophecy, which worked to our advantage.
"You see, within a double fortnight of making our request, the dwarf smiths had forged a magnificent talisman and presented it to us," Beraut stated. "Their job was only part of what needed to be done before it would be ready to use and the rest was left up to the survivors of the Council of Wizards. They now had to discharge their most important duty since the inception of the order. In order to do this, Thialfi summoned his three aged brothers to join him and they performed a very selfless and exceptionally potent task."
"What did they do?" Romaric asked, almost breathlessly.
"They gave our talisman the power it needed to put an end to Madumda," Beraut told them, somberly. "I was charged with presenting it to the King, after I collected the mortal bodies of my elder brothers and placed them in a tomb. It was the very same tomb that already contained the bodies of those Madumda had slaughtered."
"You mean they committed suicide? That's awful." Garreth gasped, shocked by the notion.
The wizard looked the young elf in the eye, truly impressed by his empathy and concern. For that reason, Beraut endeavored to come up with an answer that would satisfy the lad's curiosity, yet not overly upset him.
"What they did was to voluntarily relinquish their essence," Beraut conceded, since he was worried his response might fall short of his intentions. "They did this to preserve their magical potential, so it could be used at a future time to deal with Madumda's threat."
At this point, the wizard stopped to make sure Garreth understood his meaning, before he continued. Satisfied this was the case, the wizard began again.
"I did not play a part in this feat for several reasons. In the first place, as a novice my skills were negligible and not a threat to Madumda. Second, Thialfi and the others felt that as I matured and my potential grew, I could be the deciding factor in the balance of power. In that sense, I inadvertently became the key in the uneasy truce between the forces that threatened and protected Tarolia.
"My brothers also wanted to leave a representative to relate this story about the rise of Madumda, the creation of the talisman and the history of the Council," Beraut added. "They also charged me with someday reviving our order, whenever we finally put this chapter of our history to an end. They believed if they left me as a cornerstone on which to rebuild, one day a new Council would be established to once again preside with power, wisdom and integrity.
"Finally, as the youngest member of the Council and the one with the greatest potential for longevity, my fellow wizards determined I would have the best chance to survive long enough to see Madumda either neutralized or destroyed, and still be able to rebuild the Council."
"So that time it was good to be the youngest, wasn't it?" Romaric mused.
"If you are referring to the fact that I survived because of my age, then it is true," the wizard admitted, with a touch of sadness in his voice. "However, it was a great burden that was placed upon me in return. I'm not so sure it was an advantage, but I was determined to carry out my obligation.
"From that day on, I was left to my own resources to carry out this responsibility," Beraut continued. "The worse part was that I was enjoined to endure this task alone. I was devoid of leadership and guidance, separated from my instructors and confidants, and ripped from the security the Council had always provided me. I was now orphaned, homeless and facing the greatest challenge that anyone had ever known."
As the emotional wizard paused, Kieren thought he noticed the glimmer of a tear in the corner of his aged eye. Seeing this caused a wave of sympathy and despair to sweep over the young man, which prompted him to do something to ease his mentor's pain. Empathetically, he stretched his arm across the small gap between them, so he could touch the wizard's wrinkled hand. Feeling the contact, Beraut turned in the lad's direction and smiled in response.
"Your concern is duly noted and appreciated," he whispered. "But now," he announced in a much louder voice, "it is time for you boys to get back to bed and get some rest. No arguments! Now scoot!"
The three youngsters jumped up and started off in the direction they had come earlier, but this time with Beraut following behind them with a lantern. His primary purpose for doing this was to make sure they did as they were told, but he carried it out under the pretense of helping them find their way back to their room. Once the boys were safely inside the bedchamber, the wizard made his way to his own room, so he could also get a few hours of shuteye before it was time to depart.
As soon as the door shut behind them, all three boys jumped into bed and settled in. For the two elves, sleep seemed to come quite rapidly, but for Kieren it was a totally different matter. He was too wound up from all he'd learned to doze off quickly. Instead, he spent his time glancing back and forth between his two friends, while considering how lucky he was to have them.
Kieren couldn't possibly begin to explain how much he appreciated always being able to count on them, no matter what he was facing. This caused him to think back to the very first time they'd met and he was amazed when he realized how long ago that was. It didn't seem as though that much time had elapsed, yet somehow several years had managed to slip away since that fateful day. How could he have not have noticed this? Suddenly, he had even more to think about.