Chapter 16

The Colonel carried Mara’Uto from the boat and onto the shore. A large crowd was present as were the Great King and the Supreme Mistress. A line of spearmen and thousands of archers stood circled around the soldiers of darkness. As Mara’Uto arrived, Zog Zog dropped to his knees and bowed toward her. The rest of the soldiers of darkness followed his lead.

King Felarikam turned to face Mara’Uto. “These beasts show great devotion to the young girl that all but secured their destruction. Tell me, what would you have them do?”

“When I disobey my parents, I would rather have a second chance than be punished,” Mara’Uto answered. “I would have these people be freed and have them go to a place where they cannot hurt anyone.”

The Great King smiled. “Forgiveness and caring for those that have tried to hurt you are both noble virtues. Justice too is a noble virtue and that is why I have come with my army. The soldiers of darkness must pay for their crimes of terror and wanton murder, the price of which is death.”

“The Awa agree with Mara’Uto,” Colonel Nemar’Nu growled. “We should give these people their lives and leave the justice to the Creator.”

King Felarikam glared at the Colonel. “I am the enforcer of justice, by birth and by the divine ordaining of prophecy.” He turned his head and looked at one of the commanders he had with him. “Carry out the sentence.”

“NO!” Mara’Uto screamed as the archers raised their bows. She slipped from the Colonel’s arms and struggled toward the soldiers of darkness as best she could despite her ragged fins. “Don’t kill them!” she urged.

Zog Zog looked up at Mara’Uto to see a strong arm restraining her just as the arrows began to fly. He pulled out a dagger, and with a loud roar, charged in her direction. The other soldiers of darkness also pulled out their weapons and charged toward the archers surrounding them. A well thrown dagger killed the man restraining Mara’Uto, causing her to drop to her knees, and Zog Zog pulled out his sword. None of the soldiers of darkness reached their destination and Zog Zog fell face down in front of Mara’Uto with several arrows sticking through him. “Zog Zog,” he wept with his dying breath. “One sword to...”

The crowd cheered as the last soldier of darkness was shot down and the spearmen advanced to finish off any that may have barely survived. A tear slid down Mara’Uto’s cheek as she reached forward and pulled Zog Zog’s sword to her. Colonel Nemar’Nu glared at the Great King. “By the sacrifice of the Awa you were warned of coming battle and by our swords you were given victory. I am appalled by the circumstances of this day which has brought to light a lack of gratitude for my people or a value of their opinions, and hereby announce that I am severing all formal ties between the Awa and Atalan. From this day on, there will be no associations between fins and feet.”

“So be it,” the Great King replied, turning away to revel in his triumph.

Ikarla’Yol knelt beside Mara’Uto. “I am sorry,” she said. “I too wanted to save them, but only so we could use their loyalty to increase our power, not because I thought you could give them a new life. Great King Felarikam realized my intent so it is mostly my fault that he ordered their execution.”

Mara’Uto picked up Zog Zog’s sword and looked at the strange markings etched on the blade. “We cannot change what has already happened, but we can always influence what can still happen. I will forgive you if you are willing to finish healing my fins and teach me how to properly use magic.”

“It will be a long hard month to finish your fins,” Ikarla’Yol answered. “When that is finished, I will go with you back to your home and begin your training there.”

Mara’Uto stretched out her arm and moments later, Zog Zog’s corpse was burning away. “Much can be done with magic,” she said.

Ikarla’Yol also stretched out her arm. “And sometimes more than we think possible,” she added, as all the other dead soldiers of darkness also began burn.

Colonel Nemar’Nu stooped down beside them as the smoke began to drift their direction. “We need to be going,” he said, scooping up Mara’Uto, taking care to also pick up Zog Zog’s sword. “The Awa do not belong on land and the Sisterhood has always been distrusted by the people they protect. Let us leave these people to their own affairs and find our own way to live.”

Ikarla’Yol stood up and followed them down to the boat. “Through Mara’Uto, the futures of the Sisterhood of Jadela’Mar and the Awa are now intertwined, but the interactions between our two peoples will be rare.”