Ikarla’Yol stood near the top of the White Pillar as the moon rose in the night sky. It was a tower built on a rock in the center of the Bay of Anamnesis around the same time Atalan was built over three thousand years before. At night, a great fire normally blazed to aid ships in navigating the bay, but tonight the Great King had ordered his soldiers not to light the beacon. Directly beneath the beacon was the council chamber where the High Council was going to meet. In the base of the tower, a narrow staircase led deep down into the rock and underneath the bay to a hidden underground quarry where the Lunari once mined the white rock used in the construction of Atalan and the White Pillar. The other entrance to the quarry was in Atalan, but very few people were ever allowed down there except to store supplies in case of battle. Ikarla’Yol hoped the people of Atalan would not retreat from battle into the quarry since she knew it would mean the end of Atalan and its people.
Signs of Ikarla’Yol’s nervous anxiousness were visible on her face. There had not been a High Council since she became the Supreme Mistress seventeen years before and she did not enjoy the gatherings and the bickering that usually accompanied them. Still, she knew it was necessary to determine if they would induct the Awa girl into the Sisterhood or just heal her and send on her way. She also felt troubled by the report brought back by the two women she had sent to find Shime’Kar. She felt a cool draft behind her. “The High Council is gathered,” Andara’Cas announced.
Ikarla’Yol turned. “Who has answered my summons to the High Council?” she asked.
“Only the other twelve High Mistresses who live near Atalan,” Andara’Cas answered. “All the others would require more notice.”
The Supreme Mistress nodded. “That is what I expected. How many have guessed the purpose of this gathering?”
“You will see as soon as you enter.” Andara’Cas turned and walked through the doorway ahead of Ikarla’Yol.
The chamber grew quiet and the High Mistresses knelt and recited the Oath of Jadela’Mar as the Supreme Mistress stepped into the room.
“I am a mortal woman born of man yet the blood of the ancient Lunari flows in my veins.”
“I will learn to use the magic granted the Lunari at the creation of Nebulum.”
“I will strive to do my part in the scheme of history however small it may be.”
“I am dedicated to this purpose and no other will so completely dominate my life.”
“I am a member of the Sisterhood of Jadela’Mar and bound by this pledge forevermore.”
They rose to their feet when they finished reciting the oath. “Distinguished members of the Sisterhood of Jadela’Mar,” Ikarla’Yol began, “I have called this High Council on the eve of battle against the Dark Wizard Gerzh not to refresh strategy and impart tactical instructions which I have no doubt you already know very well, but that we may determine how the Sisterhood of Jadela’Mar will receive an unexpected discovery sent to us by the actions and sacrifice of Sister Shime’Kar.”
“What is this discovery, that we must gather the High Council to determine how we receive it?” asked one of the High Mistresses. “When you discovered and stole the Dark Wizard’s collection of potion recipes, we did not require a council to tell you to keep it safe. When I took the Dark Wizard’s personal notes, it did not take a council to tell me to keep it safe and share the information with those who it would benefit. Whatever Shime’Kar has sent, whether it is the cloak of a soldier of darkness or the beard of Gerzh himself, should be dealt with accordingly. A council should not be required.”
Ikarla’Yol frowned. “Jomaka’Mon, do not bring your dislike of me into this High Council. If I feel it is necessary to summon a High Council, then the High Council will be held.” The Supreme Mistress looked around the room at the other women. She knew some of them scorned her rule just as much as Jomaka’Mon, but she doubted they would show it openly while her supporters were present.
Andara’Cas stepped forward. “It is not an item that Shime’Kar has sent to us,” she announced. “In the room below us sleeps a girl of the same bloodline that has given its power to us all. I will bring her before you so you may see her with your own eyes.”
The room was quiet as Andara’Cas turned and left the chamber through another door. The women were all trying to use their magic to probe the potential power of the sleeping girl. Finally, one of them gave up. “This is either a power we have never encountered, or you have lied about the sacrifice of Shime’Kar. The power is active in a way I have never seen before, but it is undeniably that of Shime’Kar.”
“If you doubt the demise of Shime’Kar, her body is also in the room below,” Ikarla’Yol stated. “She was brought back from the Torudo Forest earlier this evening. There were burns in the forest around her, and the corpses of two soldiers of darkness were also found.” She tossed a piece of a black cloak onto the floor in the center of the chamber. The outer edges were charred, but richly detailed embroidery covered the unharmed portion.
Several of the women snickered. “I never expected needlework from a minion of Gerzh,” one of them laughed, “much less from a soldier of darkness.”
Jomaka’Mon rolled her eyes. “I don’t think the Dark Wizard will be hiring any more discount assassins,” she said sarcastically. “I would hate to have my minions trying to kill someone with needles!”
“The soldier of darkness that wore this cloak pierced Shime’Kar’s thigh with an arrow,” Ikarla’Yol said. “She killed him before the other broke her neck with that,” she said, pointing at a large club leaning against the wall. He too was killed, but Shime’Kar could not have done it.”
“Then what are you suggesting?” Someone asked. “That this girl learned to use magic by herself and defeated him?”
“No,” the Supreme Mistress asserted, “I am suggesting that as she died, Shime’Kar discovered a way to surround the girl with her power, thus rendering the girl invincible to any attack.”
Jomaka’Mon snorted. “There is no such thing as invincibility. Perhaps the girl’s power merely resembles Shime’Kar’s. If you think the power can be tamed, then she should be treated as any other girl of the bloodline and inducted into the Sisterhood.”
“That is the problem,” Ikarla’Yol replied. “This girl is unlike any we have ever inducted.”
“And what makes this girl so different from any other?” Jomaka’Mon asked.
“See for yourself,” Andara’Cas loudly said as she stepped back into the room. She held the sleeping girl in her arms with a wet light blue colored blanket draped over her. The women gasped as they noticed the light green scaly skin of her face and the fins that dangled to one side.
“That is no girl,” Jomaka’Mon argued. “Are you trying to tell us that Shime’Kar saw fit to send us a fish?”
“We share the same common ancestry as the Awa, and thus we should treat them as one of us,” one of the woman countered.
Jomaka’Mon glared at the other woman. “If you want to be a fish, Wona’Lek, the sea is right outside.” She looked around at the others. “The oath we all took has the words ‘born of man’ and yet some of you think it should include ‘born of Awa’. I tell you, I will be dead before I lower myself to the level of a fish person.”
“Her eyes are purple just like yours,” Ikarla’Yol calmly said. “Perhaps you would like to contest her lineage before the Lunari at Iswa.”
Jomaka’Mon stepped toward Ikarla’Yol. “Perhaps I have another case to make, that you are no longer fit to be the Supreme Mistress of the Sisterhood of Jadela’Mar.” She looked around the room at the other women. “My case presents itself. Each of you must choose now if you will break all tradition and lower yourself to the level of the pathetic fish people, or if you will remain faithful to the ideals of the Sisterhood of Jadela’Mar and select a new Supreme Mistress.”
Ikarla’Yol shot a bolt of lightning at the floor in front of Jomaka’Mon’s feet. “Stay yourself; you whore of the Dark Wizard! I should have left you wandering the halls of Gerzh where I found you many years ago. If you wish to call for a new Supreme Mistress, then do so before the entire High Council, not when we have this paltry few.”
Jomaka’Mon raised her hands toward Ikarla’Yol. “Do not threaten me, old woman.” The women around the room split into two opposing groups of equal numbers and pointed their hands at each other.
Ikarla’Yol took a step toward Jomaka’Mon. “This council is divided so the final decision is mine. I will take the girl as a Daughter of the Sisterhood of Jadela’Mar and train her to use her power. If you deem it necessary to select a new Supreme Mistress, then gather the rest of the High Council and let them decide. Until then, my word stands and you are under my authority.”
Jomaka’Mon briefly paused. “Then I release myself and those who join me from the Oath of Jadela’Mar,” she finally said. “You cannot stop me, old woman. Our numbers are equal but those with you are old and frail while those with me are still strong and full of life.” She glanced at the woman next to her. “Ashle’Der, the girl must be killed before she is made into a new adversary.”
Before anyone could react, Ashle’Der pointed her hands at Mara’Uto. A blinding flash filled the room as the bolt of lightning ricocheted harmlessly into the ceiling and a raging inferno engulfed Ashle’Der. It was over as quickly as it started. All that remained of the woman was a small pile of ashes and the acrid smoke that filled the room.
“Your arrogance has left you outnumbered,” Ikarla’Yol informed Jomaka’Mon. “I suggest you leave quickly or you may share Ashle’Der’s fate.”
Jomaka’Mon turned and stormed to the door. Before leaving, she briefly paused. “Do not think you have seen the last of me, old woman,” she growled. “You better hope we do not meet again.” As she disappeared into the darkness, her other supporters turned and followed her.
The seven women still standing in the chamber lowered their arms and breathed a sigh of relief. “Now we know the power of Shime’Kar truly is protecting the girl,” Andara’Cas said softly.
“It is regrettable that we have lost some of our fellow Sisters,” Ikarla’Yol said, “but this High Council has not yet come to a close. Is there any still here that disagrees with my taking this girl to be trained by me?”
The women all shook their heads. One spoke up. “I am confident that as the Supreme Mistress, you know fully what you are doing. I will support your decision.”
“Then Mara’Uto is now a member of the Sisterhood of Jadela’Mar,” Ikarla’Yol announced, “and through her, those of her race capable of the power of the Lunari will also be permitted to be brought into our ranks.” She looked around at the other women. “There is nothing left to discuss in High Council tonight. Holuna’Kov, go spread the word among our members of what has transpired tonight. Tell those who are near Atalan to assist the army of Tanarad in battle. The rest of you I want to stay here. If that heathen ingrate, Jomaka’Mon, takes her pack of minions and returns to her old master, then I fear for the worst and the White Pillar is as good as any place to make our stand.”
“Do you really think it could be that bad?” Andara’Cas asked.
“I hope not,” Ikarla’Yol answered, “but with the army of her former master camped at the gates to Atalan, there isn’t anything to keep her from returning to him.” She paused and looked at Mara’Uto. “We need not worry about things we cannot be sure of. Right now, we must work to heal Mara’Uto’s fins as I promised her I would. Did you all bring the items I asked you to bring?”
Andara’Cas laid Mara’Uto in the center of the floor. “I did manage to get the dried blackrift,” she said, pulling the leaf from under her cloak and setting it on the floor beside Mara’Uto.
The others pulled out what they brought and set it beside the dried piece of seaweed as the Supreme Mistress began to name the items. “Dried blackrift, spoonfish oil, ranra weed, powdered fupo lizard horns, live water worms, the shell of a red-ridge clam eaten and excreted by a na’karden, and I have brought the water. Everything we need for the potion is here except the mixing bowl that Jomaka’Mon was to bring.”
Wona’Lek grinned and pulled out a mixing bowl. “I talked to her earlier and was given the impression she wouldn’t, so I brought my own.”
Ikarla’Yol knelt down and set a large book on the floor beside the other items. “Of the thousands of potions listed in this book, there is only one that may be able to help Mara’Uto, one that was developed by the Dark Lunari Mathol and taken only by the Dark Wizards Zarvaz and Gerzh.”
“What I was wondering,” Andara’Cas interrupted, “is why the hagsnik if we’re going to be using a potion?”
“I believe that hagsnik alone will heal her fins,” the Supreme Mistress answered, “but she would have to use it for many years. The purpose of the potion is to shorten the healing time by hastening her growth and aging.”
One of the other women shook her head. “I must ask if it is ethical to cause someone to lose years of their life for the sole purpose of reconstructing their body.”
Ikarla’Yol looked up at the woman. “Burita’Nel, let me assure you, I have considered this as well. However, only the Dark Wizards Zarvaz and Gerzh have taken this specific potion and the only thing in common with them is their longevity. We may age the girl to adulthood in a month, but the long-term effects will lengthen her life beyond anyone’s expectations. There is the issue of her young mind waking up and finding herself in an adult body, but I think that problem will eventually be overcome.”
“I do trust your judgment,” Burita’Nel confirmed. “I will do anything the girl needs of me.”
“Then let us mix the potion,” Ikarla’Yol replied. “Each solid ingredient must be submerged in the water and brought to a boil until the water is gone. We then put the next ingredient in the bowl and repeat the process. Once all the solid ingredients are in the bowl and have been boiled at least once, they are then reduced to ash and mixed with the spoonfish oil for Mara’Uto to drink.”
“It definitely doesn’t sound too appetizing,” Wona’Lek muttered.
Ikarla’Yol grinned. “That’s why we’re giving it to the girl and not you!” She began to work with the ingredients, using her magic to create the fire to boil the water. First, the blackrift, then the powdered fupo lizard horns, then the clam shell, then the ranra weed, and then the water worms. When everything was boiled and dried, she set them on fire until they were blackened ashes. She then ground the ingredients into a fine powder before pouring in the spoonfish oil and stirring it together. “Now to let it sit for a few moments.”
They watched as the dark brown liquid slowly darkened as it swirled in the bowl. When he potion was completely black, Ikarla’Yol took a spoonful and put it to Mara’Uto’s lips. The only sign that the sleeping girl had swallowed the liquid was a brief shudder that passed throughout her body.
“Is that all?” asked Holuna’Kov. “You’re only going to give her a spoonful when we have a bowlful?”
“There was nothing in the instructions about dosage so I dare not give her more,” Ikarla’Yol answered. “Spread the hagsnik on her fins before the potion starts to take effect. Then wrap her in a blanket.” She walked to the door while the other women followed her instructions. “We cannot leave the girl unguarded while in such a weakened state. We must stay here to keep her safe and leave the Great King and his army to fight their battle without our assistance.”
Andara’Cas picked up the mixing bowl with the leftover potion. “What should we do with this?” she asked.
Ikarla’Yol turned and looked at the bowl. “We shouldn’t need anymore. Throw it into the bay.”
“People drink that water,” Takora’Het interrupted. “It may not be a problem, but I do not think we should risk exposing all Atalan to longevity and the side effects that may bring.”
“How would the fish be affected, and the birds?” asked Burita’Nel.
Ikarla’Yol sighed. “If you don’t want to just toss it, someone will have to put it in a jar and keep it hidden in a safe place. Takora’Het, would you like to do that?”
“I will do it,” Purishi’Kan said. “When Mara’Uto is healed, I will take what remains of the potion to Etnyben.”
“Then the matter is settled,” Ikarla’Yol agreed, turning back around to face out the doorway and look toward Atalan. The scattered moonbeams shining down on the city shifted with the clouds, but the city was mostly illuminated by the lamps and campfires and torches of the bustling people. There would be little sleep in Atalan with battle so close at hand. “Sisters,” Ikarla’Yol muttered, “this will be a long night waiting to know the outcome of tomorrow’s battle. The soldiers of both armies are filled with fear and hope while they await the moment when their courage will be tested beyond all limits. The world watches anxiously because whatever happens tomorrow will affect it for many years to come.”