Commander Sidrahkir had marched his army to Eema after Nodnarb fell to the enemy. The reports of the second Dark Witch troubled him. No one knew where she came from and no one expected her to appear so suddenly. As he sat watching the campfire, he felt the large scar on his stomach and remembered the small girl he had tried to defend many years before.
A Red Exemplar suddenly stood before him and interrupted his thoughts. “Commander, my Captain would like to speak with you.”
The Commander stood up. “Captain Haloz is always welcome to enter my camp,” he replied.
“You must come to him outside the camp,” the soldier instructed, “alone.”
Commander Sidrahkir allowed himself to be lead by the Red Exemplar. He followed into the forest and finally found himself in the company of the Red Exemplars. Several of the soldiers were holding torches to provide light in the darkness. Captain Haloz stood in the center of the group beside a young woman wearing a purple robe and a red armband around her left arm.
Captain Haloz smiled when he saw the Commander. “I almost thought you wouldn’t come. I have someone for you to meet.”
“Her?” the Commander asked, nodding toward the woman.
The Captain grinned. “You are not the only survivor from Latan. The daughter of Tenaiya has returned!”
“It can’t be!” Commander Sidrahkir stammered. “I never knew what happened after the dragon took me to Amehtana. I thought Naiya’Nal had been made into a Dark Witch.”
“I am both,” she stated. “I am a Dark Witch, but I am also Naiya’Nal, and Naiya’Nal has sworn to fight against Voth until the end.” Commander Sidrahkir opened his mouth, but was speechless.
“She would like to see where she came from, Commander,” Captain Haloz said. “Tell her where she will find the ruins.”
“Latan was almost three days due west of here,” Commander Sidrahkir answered. “There is almost nothing left of the ruins, but there is a small monument.”
“I will find it,” Naiya’Nal said. “Thank you for risking your life on my behalf. I am sure my father was honored to have you fighting by his side.”
“You may go now,” Captain Haloz said to Naiya’Nal. “I must speak to the Commander alone.” She turned and followed the Red Exemplars back to their camp while Captain Haloz stayed behind with Commander Sidrahkir.
“How can it be?” Commander Sidrahkir asked.
“Do not worry about her,” the Captain replied. “You have my word that she is against our enemy.”
“I saw that you had already given her an armband as a token of her dedication to our cause,” the Commander said. “I just cannot comprehend why after all these years she would suddenly turn against the Dark Wizard.”
“That is why I want to talk to you,” the Captain replied. “Things are happening; times are changing. If you believe the dark prophecies are real, she would be a fulfillment. This can only mean the three prophecies we have been waiting for are about to be fulfilled.”
“Are you sure of this?” the Commander asked.
Captain Haloz laughed. “You fight for your nation, I fight for prophecy. We are allies with two different goals. I am telling you, after the things Naiya’Nal has told me of her experiences during the past few weeks, if the king does not return by the end of summer, then I am greatly mistaken.”
“How would you suggest we plan ahead for this?” Commander Sidrahkir asked.
“I have an answer,” Captain Haloz answered, “but it goes against your strategies.”
“The hardest route is sometimes the best,” the Commander said.
“We know the sword is hidden north of Gorraf,” the Captain stated, “and that is where I believe the king will come from. In the meantime, your army grows weaker with every battle and it is only a matter of time before the rest of Tanarad’s cities fall to Narva. I suggest you withdraw to Gorraf and leave behind only enough soldiers to keep the enemy from guessing our strategy.”
“That would be a waste of many lives,” Commander Sidrahkir replied. “The enemy would break right through our lines and all the soldiers left behind would be killed.”
Captain Haloz smiled. “It could be deadly, yes, but I have a solution for everything. I volunteer myself and my men to be the front line. We can hold them longer than you would expect, and the enemy will believe they have the entire army against them.”
Commander Sidrahkir started laughing. “Never in all my life would I have expected you to make such an offer. Normally, I would never accept such a foolhardy proposition, but I know your faith in the prophecies is not without good cause. I will take the army to Gorraf and leave Colonel Balvain with eight companies to join your false defense.”
“That will be more than enough,” the Captain said. “The fiercer the defenses look the better.”
“Will we ever see Naiya’Nal again?” the Commander asked.
“She will return,” the Captain answered, “She is looking for the king and will return when the king returns. I believe prophecy means to bring them together, and not so she can kill him.” He turned to leave.
“Farewell,” the Commander said. “I hope we live to meet again.”
“Look for the sword and you will have found the king,” the Captain called back, disappearing into the darkness.
Commander Sidrahkir returned to his camp. He would not sleep this night. All his life he had longed for the fulfillment of prophecy and now he was excited at the news that soon he would see its fulfillment. When Colonel Balvain awoke in the morning, they would begin their plans for the future that lay ahead.