Casimir didn’t turn from the window. “Yes, Bronislaw, I’ve seen it. Prepare your men for battle. Hold a few back as guards. If any of the slaves turn against us, execute them.”
The sound of Bronislaw’s footsteps faded as he exited the chamber.
A bird flew past the upper chamber and caught Casimir’s attention. I thought I killed all the birds. Oh well, I’ll get rid of this one too.
He raised his staff but lowered it when the bird redirected for the temple. A scroll of parchment dangled from its ankle. The bird landed on the altar in the center of the room. Casimir approached it with caution. It held up a leg, and he removed and unrolled the scroll. The letter didn’t have a signature, but it didn’t need one. He recognized the handwriting from years of correspondence.
I’m free. I understand what you plan to do, but it must stop. You aren’t powerful enough with magic. The temple will open a portal to the underworld, but you’ll never manage to close it and whose body do you think he’ll take? Someone so powerful won’t survive in a body with no magical experience. He will exhaust it in less than a day. Surrender your plan and join me in the swamp in the Southern Domain. Argnam already built the necessary accommodations there.
The paper flashed into flames on his palm. “You had your chance. I have a plan and a reasonable backup plan, which is more than you’ve ever had.”
The bird pecked at a pair of tiny beetles scurrying along the wall. With the flick of his staff, a green orb of light shot and hit the bird. A singed smell and a few feathers were all that remained.
From the window, he could see troops following the path from the beach to the temple. He watched the ships for the sign. A few flashes of light came in quick succession from the southernmost ship.
“Damn!” He thought back to the note. “It’s all right. I can still do this even though he doesn’t have the magician.” He held his staff high and returned a message in flashing lights. “Change of plans. We have to capture Mansfield. Alive.”
Three lines of slaves faced east in anticipation of the troops coming through the woods. Perfect.
Casimir closed the towering double doors as he exited the chamber. With his staff and a brief incantation, he placed an invisible barrier on the room. He took a piece of stone from a pile of rubble in a corner and tossed it at the door. In a flash, it became dust and smoke. Smiling, he left in search of Bronislaw.
Outside the door of the temple, the slaves waited for the pending battle. Bronislaw had taken a spot on high ground where he could overlook the battle soon to unfurl.
Casimir strolled up to him. “We have a new arrangement. They lost the magician. I need Mansfield alive. If you find him, bring him to me.”
Bronislaw nodded and signaled to his lieutenants.
He returned to the entrance of the temple and watched the battle unfold. The first troops emerged from the forest to an onslaught from the slaves. They had probably expected to hit them with a surprise attack, but the slaves had known. Casimir had known. Casimir always knew.
The second group emerged with their swords and shields at the ready. The slaves matched them well in strength but outlasted them in stamina. Most of the fishermen from Beroe had little or no battle training.
Mansfield’s men had one major disadvantage that greatly outweighed even their lower endurance or their lack of training. Twice Casimir noticed the soldiers relinquish an opportunity to slay their opponents.
They don’t want to kill. They see my slaves as innocent victims.
Another group emerged from the trees. They almost exclusively donned long beards and, barring their sunburns, looked a lot like many of the more recently acquired slaves. Some of the slaves hesitated; others dropped their weapons.
Now we’ll identify my dedicated servants, those who recognize what they have gained by coming here.
Several slaves, most of them having significantly different appearances to the men from Beroe—taller, more muscular, darker skin, some thin with scraggly beards—turned their attention to the traitors. With their weapons lowered, they had no defense. A distant voice shouted, “No!” Heads and limbs splashed into pools of blood as men turned on each other, betraying their former lives for the promises of their master.
Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud, received the Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval and the Literary Classics Award for Best First Novel. His second novel, The Squire and the Slave Master, continues the Saga of the Wizards. It is scheduled for an August 4, 2015 release. Find him online at authorericprice.com, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.