Olgath knew nothing of Zarange’s doings. Had he known, she would have become a target. Still, she knew that the arrangements needed to be made before the need for allies arose and had done what was needed. Now, she awaited answers from her chosen allies.
She knew her brother would join her, if the need arose. He was not a worry. The Azitli, pirate kingdoms, the Carribii, and the Amazon nation were. No one had sent any form of diplomatic mission to them for millennia.
She also worried about the Nazqua. Had they survived? Were they a viable ally? And what about the star-child kingdoms of the Anasazu?
Mayatlan would accept. So would Moche. And Muspel. Mayatlan would solidify their allegiance to Olamesia, Toltezia, and Meztesia—convincing the three to throw in with them on any march northward.
She would send messengers eastward as well as westward as soon as they returned from the south. There would be a few messengers headed north, beyond the lands of mist, as well. One of those messengers would be searching for the gods in hopes of bringing them back. Another would be in search of Vallal, the mighty city of heroes.
She sat down on her throne. Twenty-four sets of armor stood in twenty-four capitals. Each set of armor belonged to a hero or heroine of an Order. They had been brought with each Order from the barbarian wilds when they came to the Renge.
Tales, legends and myths, were told of those heroes and heroines. Tales of mighty battles. Feats of strength and prowess. Daring rescues and of leadership and courage beyond comprehension.
Each had become gods in their own right, rising from the dead to become a part of the Order’s pantheon and to be sent to Vallal for future wars. But none of the heroes had returned during the wars with the gods. Nor had they returned to lead the people.
It seemed that the kingdoms of the Renge were on their own. No heroes were coming. No gods. No hope.
But that was just the way it seemed. The reality was much different. In reality, once the message was sent, everything would be set. She smiled.
But everything had to go as the prophets had said. The fall of Olgath. The appearance of the chosen one. The rebirth of the Ring.
Only one thing had her baffled. There were twenty-four missing artifacts. A bracer. A bow. A sword. An axe. A set of mail. A shield. A diadem. An amulet.
The list was a long one. And no matter how hard they tried to, they could not find these missing artifacts. Though they suspected the aristocracy of having taken them, they could prove nothing. It almost seemed as if they had simply vanished.
She shook her head. No use in worrying about them now. They would appear when the time was right. She hoped.
“Thinking, I see,” Bruin’s voice made her jump.
“Sorry,” she stated dryly, “I wasn’t expecting you back so quickly.”
“I am a shade, Zarange,” he reminded her, “I can be anywhere at any time.” He floated to where she sat and offered her the scroll. “Your answer from the Nazqua. They were quite glad of my visit. They do not receive many visitors and a fellow shade was a welcome change.”
“Did you say shade?” she looked up at him, her eyes filled with surprise. “I thought…”
“The Nazqua are shades, yes,” he replied, “they ceased being a part of this physical realm long before your tribe was ever organized enough to invade the Renge. They were shades long before the Rengelands rose to become the empire of the Assassinidii. They are far more ancient than any kingdom of today. Why should it surprise you that they are shades?”
“I thought I was sending you to meet with a kingdom of living, breathing people,” she replied, blushing.
“You would send a shade to visit living people?” It was his turn to be surprised.
“I-I had no choice,” she stammered, ashamed, “the White Ring and the Forbidden Ring are both no longer an option. Besides. Those I would have originally asked have all either been murdered by the aristocracy or have contracts on their heads or—were killed by the Inquisition at the behest of Olgath.”
Hadrax began his siege of Korlabdis as the first rays of the new day reached over the hills just east of the city. His generals had carried his orders out very carefully, digging trenches around the city. Sappers had been dispatched to strategic points in the trenches around the city to dig under the walls. This would either cause a small section of the walls to collapse, allowing the troops to flood into the city, or it would create four separate tunnels that the waiting army could use to enter the city secretly and force the surrender.
He wanted this battle to be as bloodless as possible. No need in killing when he could take things through surprise. He was betting on the tunnels remaining open. It was why he had ordered that they be dug, at a certain point, deeper than any had ever been done.
If his orders were carried out to the exact, the tunnels would be able to withstand the weight if the walls on the surface. The tunnels were all to converge under the palace at the center of the city, coming out within the governors’ chambers. But that was if his plans went correctly. He could only hope they went exactly as he had drawn them up.
He would lead a false charge when he knew the sappers were close to their goals. It would be just enough of a distraction to allow the main troops to collect at each of the tunnel entrances. He would slip away from his small contingent and lead the invasion. But could he?
He stopped in mid thought. No. He had to be at the head of the invasion, not playing distraction. He pulled one of his generals aside.
“You will be the one to be the decoy,” he ordered, “just make sure that you inflict minimal casualties. I will need the garrison intact. If this plan works, the gates will open to you without a fight.”
“Aye, sir,” the general replied.