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Grandmaster awgcoleman
A. W. G. Coleman

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Legacy of War - Part 1 Chapter 2: Suburban Secrets - Part 1 Chapter 3: Legacy of War - Part 2 Chapter 4: Suburban Secrets - Part 2 Chapter 5: Legacy of War - Part 3 Chapter 6: Suburban Secrets - Part 3 Chapter 7: Suburban Secrets - Part 4 Chapter 8: Legacy of War - Part 4 Chapter 9: Destiny of the Descendants - Part 1 Chapter 10: Destiny of the Descendants - Part 2 Chapter 11: The Madman’s Ultimatum - Part 1 Chapter 12: The Madman’s Ultimatum - Part 2 Chapter 13: The Madman’s Ultimatum - Part 3 Chapter 14: The Madman’s Ultimatum - Part 4 Chapter 15: The Displacement - Part 1 Chapter 16: The Displacement - Part 2 Chapter 17: The Displacement - Part 3 Chapter 18: The Displacement - Part 4 Chapter 19: The Displacement - Part 5 Chapter 20: The Displacement - Part 6 Chapter 21: The Displacement - Part 7 Chapter 22: The Displacement - Part 8 Chapter 23: The Quickener Prodigy - Part 1 Chapter 24: A Mother’s Mission - Part 1 Chapter 25: Search for the Summoner - Part 1 Chapter 26: A Mother’s Mission - Part 2 Chapter 27: The Wildcard & The Melder - Part 1 Chapter 28: Into the Desert - Part 1 Chapter 29: Search for the Summoner - Part 2 Chapter 30: Search for the Summoner - Part 3 Chapter 31: The Wildcard & The Melder - Part 2 Chapter 32: Search for the Summoner – Part 4 Chapter 33: A Mother’s Mission – Part 3 Chapter 34: Into the Desert – Part 2 Chapter 35: The Quickener Prodigy – Part 2 Chapter 36: The Weather Master - Part 1 Chapter 37: Search for the Summoner – Part 5 Chapter 38: The Weather Master – Part 2 Chapter 39: Into the Desert - Part 3 Chapter 40: Into the Desert – Part 4 Chapter 41: Late Night Revelations – Part 1 Chapter 42: The Wildcard & The Melder - Part 3 Chapter 43: The Weather Master – Part 3 Chapter 44: Late Night Revelations - Part 2

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Chapter 5: Legacy of War - Part 3

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Chapter 5

 

* Lumarian Mountains *

The search in the mountains north of Fenallday was on its third day. Despite having a general idea of where they were headed, the Lumarian Mountains were the largest mountain range in the world and full of quartz, which blocked quickening and hindered other mentus abilities. This made things far more complicated. Franklin worked nonstop leading the expedition and used his considerable knowledge to slowly narrow down the search area.

As the librarian and a contingent of soldiers and guardians continued the search, Fantasma met in a makeshift stone hut with his highest ranked officials, the only people who reported directly to him. This included Sharanel, Fantasmal Quickener, and Honsmordin, Fantasmal Mind Mage and chief of staff, but there were also two others. One was a tall, brown-skinned man, with short black hair. This man wore the purple robe and silver belt of a guardian, but Victor Sorinson was not just any guardian. He was chief of the Guardian Council, the group that handled the deployment and assignment of guardians on the Fantasma’s behalf.

The other man among them also had brown skin that contrasted nicely with his blonde hair and bright green eyes. His ears were pointed, denoting elvish parentage, but his facial features had distinct human traits, making it clear he was only half-elf. Unlike all the others, who wore robes over their regular clothing, he wore purple and black fatigues. This was Norman Rockwall, the chief general of all of Fantasma’s military forces.

The five of them were holding a meeting around a large stone table with stone seats, all created with ease by Sorinson using mandamus.

“Sir, if these monsters are indeed from the Book of War as Chief Stokenshire claims, then I need leave to tell my troops so they know what they’re up against.” Rockwall said.

“The guardians should be informed as well. They need to know what they’re facing should they come across these creatures,” Sorinson added.

Fantasma had a pensive look on his face. “My concern is how far information travels. We have to consider the widespread panic this would cause if this news reached the general public. The less that know, the better.”

“Sir, with all due respect,” Sorinson said calmly, “if you cannot trust your guardians, then who can you trust? Their loyalty to the Fantasma is absolute. If we give instructions that the information is not to be shared, then they will obey without question.”

Fantasma nodded at this. Sorinson had been chief of the Guardian Council for over eighty years, whereas Fantasma had only held his position for seventeen. Because of this, Fantasma relied on his insight. “You’re right, of course. We’ll send word out to all of the guardians. As for our military, only top officials should be looped in on the true origin of these monsters.”

“We should also inform Sunnin, too,” Honsmordin added. “We have an obligation to share this type of information with them.”

“I’m loath to agree, but you’re correct,” Fantasma said.

Before the conversation could broach other subjects, Franklin swung open the door of the makeshift rock hut. “Sir, I believe we’ve found it,” he said excitedly.

 

***

 

Fantasma and his chief officers made their way into a valley the size of a large town which was nestled between several massive mountains. Franklin was in the lead talking rapidly.

“I was able to compare several maps of the same area but from different times; that’s how we finally found it,” he said. “There are distinct signs that a battle took place here a long time ago. According to everything I’ve uncovered so far, this appears to be the valley where the last battle of the Great War took place, but that’s not all. Ah, here comes Elder Jorbedus.”

As they made their way across the valley, Karmandrian joined them and started rattling off his own report. “We’ve finished unblocking the tunnel. It’s just as you thought. The tunnel leads deep into the mountain, but there’s a lot of quartz, so we can’t be sure what we’re walking into.”

“We found a large tunnel in the back of the valley at the base of one of the mountains.” Franklin explained further for the benefit of Fantasma and the others. “It seems to have been cleared out recently, but then someone blocked the entrance afterward. The location where the Twelve Warriors faced off with Multus was said to be in a cave at the back of this valley. This could be exactly what we’re looking for. I recommend we head inside immediately”

Fantasma nodded at this. “Excellent work, both of you.”

“I’ll have my soldiers lock this entire valley down,” Rockwall said before heading off to find one of his captains.

“Karmandrian, gather a few more guardians to head into the cave with us,” Sorinson ordered.

Karmandrian gave a brief bow before running off.

Fantasma turned to Sharanel. “There’s no telling what we could be facing. It’s possible there could be more of those monsters inside. Perhaps you should stay here.”

Sharanel beamed. “I’ll be fine, don’t worry. Besides, you may need me. Like you said, there’s no telling what could happen. If there’s a chance I can help, I want to be by your side.”

Fantasma gave a troubled smile, but finally nodded. “Just be on your guard and stay close.” He turned back to Franklin. “All right, Frank; lead the way.”

 

***

 

Fantasma’s party walked slowly through the wide tunnel. At the head of the group, Karmandrian and two other guardians illuminated the way with large balls of pure light that hovered over their upturned palms.

“I wonder if this tunnel was originally created by mountain moles,” Honsmordin mused. He was at the back of the group walking with Sharanel who was looking around excitedly until he said this.

“Mountain moles? Aren’t they those huge creatures that can dig through anything?” she asked.

“Yes, they are actually responsible for most of the tunnel systems you find in mountains like these, though I’ve never seen one personally.”

“Well, I hope we don’t see any today.” Sharanel shuddered. “I don’t want to run into some huge animal that wants to eat us. You don’t sense anything like that in here, do you?”

“I really can’t sense much beyond where we are.” Honsmordin tapped the crystal in his scepter against the rock wall to his right and it briefly glowed purple in response. “It’s quite frustrating. This whole mountain range is filled with quartz. We can’t quicken, we can barely sense anything, and we’re cut off from the outside world.”

Sharanel shrugged. “I’d think you’d be used to it, living in Fantasmal Mountain.”

“That’s different,” Honsmordin said. “The quartz is there to protect the mountain.”

“But it still prevents you from seeing everything in the mentant realm and it stops anyone from quickening in or out easily,” Sharanel countered. “It’s the same thing.”

Honsmordin waved away the comparison. “It’s not the same, not for a mind mage like myself. When you’re as attuned to the mentant realm as I am—”

“Is it really that different?” Sharanel asked curiously and the question distracted him.

“What?”

“Being a mind mage, I mean. Is it that different? Like do you see things differently in the mentant realm. Is it different for mind mages and guardians than for the rest of us?”

It was Honsmordin’s turn to chuckle. He was reminded how young his companion was and how little she had truly experienced. “Yes, it very much is, though I can only speak for mind mages,” he added quickly. “For most people, accessing the mentant realm is just a sense. Like your physical senses, it’s on all the time but you may not actively be paying attention to the sensations. For example, your ears can hear the footsteps of those walking around us, but unless you’re tuned in, you don’t really hear them.

“The same goes for the mentant realm. You don’t always see it, but if you focus, then you’re able to sense the information floating out there in the realm. Usually to really focus, people have to close their eyes or concentrate hard, but for me, it’s different. I’m always attuned to the mentant realm, and the information it gives is layered atop my normal senses. When I look at you, I can see your adimus signature without even trying. So even if you were a complete stranger, I could tell your age, your rank, and even the last time you quickened, all at a cursory glance. I don’t need to focus, it’s all right there.”

Sharanel nodded, clearly impressed. “But you’re still hampered by quartz?”

“Well, that’s universal,” Honsmordin said a bit defensively, though he realized that she wasn’t questioning his skills. “Even Fantasma can’t sense much beyond where we are. Though I’m sure he can sense far more than me, he’s still hampered.”

“Well, I guess we just have to hope there are no mountain moles lurking in here then,” Sharanel said, looking around furtively.

Honsmordin chuckled again. “They’re close to extinct, so it’s not likely. Also, I’ve heard that despite their size, mountain moles are not at all fierce. Don’t worry, we’ve got over a dozen guardians and some of Norman’s best soldiers with us. I think we’ll be ready for anything.”

Sharanel seemed to concede the point but then suddenly stopped in her tracks. “Hmm…”

“Something wrong?”

She thought for a moment. “I’m not sure. Do you sense anything off in the mentant realm?”

“No, but you’re quickener sense may be picking up on something in the mentant realm that even I can’t discern,” Honsmordin pointed out.

“True,’ Sharanel agreed. “Something’s felt a little weird ever sense we walked in here. I ignored it at first, but now the sensation is getting stronger. I just haven’t been able to place it.”

Just then, the party reached a large chamber. The three guardians tossed their balls of light high in the air so that the entire area would be illuminated. There were multiple tunnels on various ledges that led out from the massive cavern, and there was more evidence of a battle that happened centuries ago. The ground was littered with helmets, shields, and discarded weapons.

“This could be it,” Franklin said as he looked around. “It’s possible this is the place where Multus was defeated and the Book of War…well we don’t know.”

Rockwall examined the ground both physically and in the mentant realm. “Someone has definitely been here recently; sometime in the past several months, though it’s hard to tell.”

“That tracks with the timeline of when these creatures started showing up,” Sorinson added.

“Still, I don’t see anything noteworthy,” Rockwall said. “Maybe we need to keep looking.”

“Wait,” Sharanel said as she walked toward the center of the cavern. “I think I know what I’ve been sensing. Fantasma, do you feel it, that strange energy? It’s coming from in here.”

“I have been sensing something, but I don’t recognize it,” Fantasma admitted.

Sharanel nodded. “I’m pretty sure it’s rift energy. I studied dimensional rifts with Professor Landerpool. I think there’s one in this room.”

“You mean a rip in the fabric of space and time?” Fantasma asked, clearly in awe.

“Yes, and it’s large,” Sharanel confirmed. She walked over to one of the tall walls of the chamber and ran her hand over it. “This cave is different from the tunnel we came in through. It’s almost all traveler quartz in here. It must have formed naturally from the rift.”

Traveler quartz only formed where rifts appeared, and it was the only type of quartz that enhanced quickening and vision in the mentant realm instead of blocking it. With enough traveler quartz, a quickener could transport through any quartz barrier, making it a valuable resource.

“You’re right. I wasn’t able to sense it at first, but now that I’ve tuned my scepter, I can also detect the rift,” Honsmordin confirmed as he waved his scepter around and the crystal changed colors. “It seems quite large. Perhaps that means it’s been here for a long time, but I don’t know enough about rifts to tell.”

“Neither do I,” Sharanel admitted. “There’s still a lot we don’t know about these things and there are very few quickeners that are able to harness a rift successfully.” Fantasma looked at her as if to ask if she was one of them, but she shook her head. “It’s not something you can learn; you have to be born with it: dimensional sense.”

“Well as fascinating as this is,” Karmandrian interrupted, “what does it have to do with the Book of War or those creatures?”

“It has everything to do with it,” Franklin said with a scolding tone in his voice. “Over twelve hundred years ago, the Twelve Warriors and the last known Daughter of the Sun, Ruth Lowens, disappeared, perhaps in this very place, after defeating Multus and the Book of War. They were believed to be dead, but no one has visited this place until now, and what do we find: a dimensional rift. It’s all connected.”

“How?” Karmandrian asked, clearly confused.

“What if the reason they never returned is because they somehow went through this rift. They wouldn’t have even known it was here; we only just started learning about rifts within the last several centuries. It’s possible they ended up being transported through space, maybe even time.”

“Let’s say that’s true,” Sorinson said. “What about the Book of War?”

Franklin had a ready answer. “There are two possibilities. Either it was left here and whoever came to this place before us found it, or the Book of War was taken through the rift as well, and someone was able to access the rift to recover it. If I were to guess, I’d say it was the latter.”

“Frank, that’s a huge leap, don’t you think?” Honsmordin said. “We don’t know anything about this rift, where it leads, or even how long it’s been here.”

“Fair enough; but even if I’m wrong, going through this rift could provide some answers,” Franklin said.

“It’s worth looking into,” Fantasma agreed. “Sharanel, can you tell where the rift leads?”

“I can’t. I don’t have dimensional sense, but I know someone who does.” She tapped her staff against the cave wall. “Even with all this traveler quartz, I can’t quicken. This rift is powerful and it’s blocking my abilities. I’ll need to go back to Fenallday and quicken from there.”

Fantasma nodded. “Pathos, go with her.”

A young-looking tan-skinned guardian with short, dusty-white hair followed Sharanel back the way they came, carrying a ball of light to illuminate their path.

“The rest of you, I want every tunnel searched. Make sure there are no surprises waiting for us,” Rockwall ordered. Soldiers and guardians alike began to fan out.

“Chief Stokenshire, may I have a word with you?” Karmandrian pulled Franklin aside. “Do you really believe the Daughter of the Sun could be on the other side of this rift?”

“I’m certain of it,” Franklin said without hesitation.

“Then perhaps we should have the Sun Stone,” Karmandrian said.

“What?”

“If the goal is to find the Daughter of the Sun, then the stone can show us who she is. Also, from what we know about the Great War, Multus stole the Sun Stone because it was the only thing capable of stopping the book’s power, and he didn’t want it used.”

Franklin thought about this for a moment. “There is much about the Great War and the Sun Stone’s connection to it that we don’t know, but yes that has been the long-held theory. Still, the stone is in Sunnin Mountain and under the control of the Sisterhood of Ester.”

Karmandrian nodded in understanding. “Well, the sisterhood has maintained, just like you, that the Daughter of the Sun will return. They should want this as much as you. It can’t hurt to ask. I’ll go with you to show you have the support of the Fantasmal Government,” he offered.

“Well, it’s worth the effort at least; better than just sitting and waiting.” Franklin turned to where Fantasma was still consulting with Sorinson and Rockwall. “Sir, I believe there’s something I can do to help. I’ll head back to Fenallday as well and get Sharanel to drop me off.”

“I’m going with him if that’s okay,” Karmandrian added.

Fantasma gave them a curious look but finally nodded. “Keep him safe, Karmandrian.”

“Yes sir.” Karmandrian bowed before heading out with Franklin, and they quickly caught up with Sharanel and Pathos.

 

 

* Sunnin Mountain *

A few hours later, having made their way out of the quartz filled mountain range, Sharanel was able to quicken Pathos, Karmandrian and Franklin from Fenallday to Sunnin Mountain, located on the southern continent of Candovia in the Gibano Mountains. Just like Fantasmal Mountain, Sunnin Mountain had an invisible protective barrier, so Sharanel could only quicken to the marker several hundred feet from the entrance on the southern side of the mountain.

“I’ve got to head off. I may be back in the mountains by the time you’re done. Are you going to be okay without me?” Sharanel asked.

“I can call Trinity in the mountain to quicken us back,” Franklin confirmed.

Sharanel tapped her staff on the ground and she and Pathos disappeared. Franklin led the way to the entrance of the mountain, which was manned by two guards.

“You know, I’ve never been here before,” Karmandrian said in sudden realization. His post in the Gibano Mountains was nowhere near Sunnin Mountain.

“Not surprising,” Franklin said. “Sunnin Mountain used to be very open to the public, but over the last few centuries, the Sisterhood of Ester has slowly retreated inward. No one is really allowed beyond the lobby areas without appointment except for the sisterhood, staff, and board. They’ve become very secretive about their inner workings. It’s troublesome.”

“Oh,” was all Karmandrian could think to respond before puffing himself up. “Well surely they’ll let us in; I’m a guardian.”

Franklin laughed. “Perhaps, but there’s no need for that. The charter of the Sunnin Social System mandates that at least one Stokenshire must always be on the board, and that Stokenshire, currently, is me.”

They reached the entrance and the guards bowed them in without question. Similar to the entrance at the base of Fantasmal Mountain, the main entrance of Sunnin Mountain led to a large comfortable looking lobby with no other discernable doors or exits. A blonde woman sat behind a semicircular reception desk at the center of the room.

“Welcome to the Sunnin—oh Chief Stokenshire!” She beamed in recognition. “How can I help you?”

“Annabelle, it’s good to see you,” Franklin said. “I’m sorry to come unannounced, but I need to see Sister Heather. It’s rather urgent.”

Annabelle nodded. “She’s in her office right now, but if it’s urgent, I’m sure she’ll see you. Carmen!” she called and within seconds a tall, blonde quickener in a blue robe appeared. “Could you please take Chief Stokenshire to Sister Heather’s office?”

“Of course,” Carmen said with a smile. “Chief, if you would come with me.” She stepped forward to stand between the two visitors and tapped her staff on the ground.

In an instant they were transported from the lobby to an expansive anteroom where another blonde secretary sat behind a near identical wooden desk.

“The chief is here to see Sister Heather,” Carmen said.

“Yes, Anabelle contacted me and said as much,” the secretary replied. “Chief, head right in. Sister Heather is having a casual briefing, but I’ve let her know you’re here.”

“Thank you, Zoe,” Franklin said cordially as he turned toward the office door.

Karmandrian put a hand on his companion’s shoulder to slow his pace. “Okay, is it a coincidence or do all the women here look eerily similar,” he whispered in Franklin’s ear.

“Oh, just you wait,” Franklin said with a slight chuckle before pushing open the door.

The office held three small couches, a round coffee table, and a wooden desk in front of a bay window. There were six women present, each with blonde hair of various lengths and styles. They all stood when Franklin and Karmandrian entered, except for the one behind the desk.

“Good afternoon, Chief Stokenshire,” the five who were standing said in near perfect unison, giving variations of respectful bows or nods. Each wore a yellow robe with a white belt.

“Good afternoon, ladies; I apologize for interrupting your meeting. This is Elder Jorbedus,” Franklin said, indicating Karmandrian.

The women all took their seats as the two guests stood in front of the desk.

“I take it there’s not some board meeting that I’ve forgotten,” said the woman behind the desk with a tinkling laugh that sounded a bit too hollow to be sincere.

“No Sister Heather, nothing so mundane,” Franklin said with his own fake chuckle. “I’ve come here on a matter of some urgency. It concerns the return of the Daughter of the Sun.”

This evoked instant murmurings from the others in the room.

“What?” Sister Heather said almost shooting out of her seat.

Franklin seemed almost pleased to catch her off guard. “My apologies, perhaps we should start from the beginning.” He turned to Karmandrian who understood that it was his turn to play his part.

“I’m sure you are aware of the many attacks that have been happening from an army of unknown monsters,” Karmandrian started.

“Of course,” one of the other women said. “We were just talking about the relief efforts we want to send to the towns that were recently decimated. Many need healers and supplies.”

“Well as you might imagine, the Fantasmal Government has been investigating these incidents, and I have personally done reconnaissance and discovered crucial information that I was able to bring back to the Fantasma and his top advisors, including Chief Stokenshire.” Karmandrian decided to embellish the details of what happened for the sake of the crowd that was listening with rapt attention. “It’s been determined conclusively that these creatures are from the Book of War.” He paused for the inevitable gasp of shock, and the ladies did not disappoint.

There was stunned silence before Heather finally said, “Well, if this is true—”

“Oh, it’s very true, believe me,” Franklin said pointedly.

“Of course, but still,” Sister Heather adjusted her yellow robe as if to regain some composure, “I don’t understand what this has to do with the sisterhood or, as you said, the return of the Daughter of the Sun.”

“It has everything to do with the Daughter of the Sun. I do not need to remind you of the prophecy. ‘When war threatens anew, and the warriors return, the sun shall rise again.’ That time is now. The Book of War has resurfaced. War, like we’ve never seen, is knocking on our doorstep, and even now we are mere hours away from determining what happened to Ruth Lowens all those years ago,” Franklin said with a slightly dramatic tone. “We’ve found the site of the final battle of the Great War, and we’ve discovered a dimensional rift there.”

“A what?” one of the women asked, her expression turning from awe to confusion.

“It’s a rip in space and time,” another explained, sparing Franklin the need. “It’s a scientific phenomenon. They’ve already proven that rifts can send someone to different places, and even back in time, but they’re very unstable.” She paused, her face lighting up in revelation. “Are you saying that Ruth Lowens may not have been killed in the Great War but sent through a rift?”

“That is the theory we’re operating on.” Franklin nodded. “Which would explain why, after over twelve hundred years, a new Daughter of the Sun has yet to emerge.”

“Oh my heavens, that’s it! That must be how I saw her,” one of the sister’s said excitedly.

It was Franklin’s turn to be confused. “Saw who?”

“You’ll have to forgive Sister Sherrilynn,” Heather said. “A few weeks ago, she had a dream that the Daughter of the Sun returned.”

“It wasn’t a dream,” Sherrilynn insisted. “It was real. The Daughter of the Sun returned. She was here in this mountain. She touched the Sun Stone and it reacted to her. I saw it with my own eyes, but by the time I brought the others to see, she was gone. Could it have been this rift thing? Could that be how she was there but then disappeared?”

“I’m not sure,” Franklin said. “Rifts are still a phenomenon that we’re only just starting to learn about. Even now Chief Quicksilver—”

“Wait, Chief Quicksilver?” Sherrilynn brightened. “Do you mean Sharanel Quicksilver?”

“Yes,” Franklin confirmed. ‘She’s bringing in an expert so that we can access this rift and find out what happened to the Book of War. It may lead us to whoever has the book currently. It’s also my belief that we will be able to ascertain the whereabouts of the current Daughter of the Sun.”

“Which is why we need the Sun Stone,” Karmandrian added suddenly.

Franklin was a little annoyed that Karmandrian had brought up the stone at that moment, he was still building his case, but he didn’t let it show. Now was as good a time as any.

Sister Heather was taken aback again. “What does the Sun Stone have to do with this?”

“As Sister Sherrilynn pointed out, the Sun Stone responds only to the Daughter of the Sun,” Franklin said. “You know this; after all, it’s the way you test each new descendant of Ester to see if she is the Daughter of the Sun. We need it so that we’ll be able to tell when we’ve found her.”

Franklin was grateful that there were others present for the conversation. He knew this would make Heather tread lightly. Already her smile was fading, and he could see her wheels turning.

“The Daughter of the Sun was integral in the Great War. It was by her death it all started. I am certain that her return and the return of the Book of War are linked,” Franklin continued. “The prophecy says as much.”

“Prophecy,” Heather scoffed, and everyone turned to look at her as she folded her arms resolutely. “I’m sorry Franklin, but there’s no way that I can allow the Sun Stone out of Sunnin Mountain. If I believe everything you say and the Book of War has returned, then that’s all the more reason to deny your request. It’s said that Multus killed the Daughter of the Sun to steal the Sun Stone. What if the person who has the Book of War is also after the stone? If anything, we should lockdown the mountain and keep the Sun Stone under guard.”

“Sister Heather,” Karmandrian said in a diplomatic tone, “it’s also believed that the Sun Stone might very well be the only thing that can stop the Book of War. If that’s truly the case, then taking it now could save thousands, if not millions of lives. I understand your hesitance, but even if we’re wrong about the Daughter of the Sun, there’s still no place safer for the Sun Stone than with the Fantasma and guardians. We can assure its safety.”

“Elder Jorbedus, the Fantasmal Government has no say over the Sunnin Social System or the artifacts within our jurisdiction,” Heather said as she stood. “I can’t hand over such a priceless relic based solely on conjecture, legend, and your so-called prophecy.”

Some of the others in the room seemed visibly uneasy about Heather’s stance.

“Sister Heather,” Sherrilynn said in a quiet voice, as if afraid to speak. “If this is really happening, wouldn’t it be best if…well maybe we could go with the chief at least and take the Sun Stone with us instead of waiting. It would still be under Sunnin control. It might be safer than keeping it here. If there really are creatures from the Book of War out there and they know the stone is here, they may come for it. Could we really stop them if they did?”

“Quiet Sherrilynn,” Heather ordered. “I’m well aware of the risk, but this mountain is as secure as Fantasmal Mountain itself. I’m confident we can handle ourselves.” She walked around the desk and politely shook each of their hands, signaling an end to the conversation. “I’m sorry you came all this way, but I do thank you for warning us of the serious nature of this new threat. I assure you; we’ll take every precaution. I promise that If you do find the Daughter of the Sun, we will be waiting for her here.”

Before either Franklin or Karmandrian could respond, Heather ushered them out of the office and called for her quickener to take them back to the lobby.

 

***

 

Minutes later, Franklin and Karmandrian were exiting Sunnin Mountain. It wasn’t until they were out of earshot of the guards that Franklin finally let his frustration show.

“That power-crazed fool,” he vented. “I knew she wouldn’t give up the Sun Stone. It’s a symbol of status to her, even though she can’t use it.”

Karmandrian nodded. “I still don’t understand why we couldn’t just take it as representatives of the Fantasmal Government.”

“We have absolutely no authority,” Franklin said. “The Sunnin Social System was purposefully placed outside the jurisdiction of the Fantasmal Government so that the Daughter of the Sun could function with complete autonomy. It was done to give her the ability to act in the best interest of any people she wished without fear of breaking global law. That status falls on the entire Sunnin Social System, even with no Daughter of the Sun at the helm.”

“Right, of course,” Karmandrian said dejectedly. “By the way, you never did explain why they all looked so similar. What’s with that?”

“Ah, yes.” Franklin smiled. “The first Daughter of the Sun, Ester Fantas, had fair-skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes. As part of her legacy, her female descendants tend to look like her, especially the direct descendants and all Daughters of the Sun, so those are physical traits you’ll find with most of the sisterhood. Of course, not all descendants of Ester share those traits. Many look nothing like her, but you won’t find them in the sisterhood. I’ve always suspected that they are secretly prejudice against any descendant that doesn’t share Ester’s physical appearance. Also, female descendants of Ester share another near identical trait: a small birthmark on the back of their neck in the shape of a sun.”

“Really? I didn’t know that,” Karmandrian admitted.

“It’s not widely publicized,” Franklin said, “and those who are too far removed from the direct line are not born with the birthmark.”

Karmandrian pondered this for a moment before speaking again. “Do you think they could really hold off an attack from those creatures?”

“One thing she was right about: Sunnin Mountain has most of the same defenses as Fantasmal Mountain. Short of sheer incompetence, they should be able to withstand a direct attack. Though I hope we don’t have to find out.” Franklin sighed. “It was a good idea young guardian, but we might as well head back.”

They approached the black box affixed to a long metal pole that served as the southern marker. Franklin was about to call for a quickener when something distracted him.

“Wait!” came a high-pitched voice. “Chief Stokenshire, wait!”

They turned to see Sherrilynn running from the base of the mountain.

She was panting by the time she reached them. “I want to come with you; I want to help.”

“I’m sorry but where we’re going is far too dangerous for a civilian,” Karmandrian said.

“I’m not a civilian, I’m a descendent of Ester Fantas. I took a vow to serve the Daughter of the Sun, and I believe she’s coming back. I saw her. They don’t believe me, but I did,” she said stubbornly. “And if you think that you need to have the Sun Stone to help get her back, then here.” She reached inside her yellow robe and removed a large, smooth, golden-yellow stone.

Karmandrian beamed but Franklin gave her a worried look. “I’m not sure about this. If Sister Heather finds out what you did, you’ll be banned from the sisterhood, or worse, imprisoned.”

“I know.” Sherrilynn tucked the stone back into her robe, which showed no sign of any bulge where she put it. “I left a decoy in its place. We have a replica for public viewings, so I used that. It should trick them for a while, hopefully long enough to bring back the Daughter of the Sun.” She looked up at Franklin with pleading eyes. “I risked everything to bring this to you. Please take me with you.”

Karmandrian turned to Franklin as well. “You said it yourself: Sister Heather is blinded by her own motives. This may not have been the way you wanted to get the Sun Stone, but I think we should see it through.”

Franklin nodded slowly. “All right, but we must tell Fantasma everything when we return. This is not something we should hide. Sherrilynn, are you prepared to take responsibility for this when the time comes?”

She nodded fervently. “I am.”

“Well, we’ll do our best to protect you then.” He gave Sherrilynn a reassuring smile before calling for a quickener. “Trinity!”

Within seconds a raven haired quickener, clad in a blue robe, appeared in their midst.

“We’re heading back to Fenallday,” Franklin said.

Trinity nodded and with a quick tap of her staff, the group disappeared.

 


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