Will rode up towards a giant twisting tree spiralling higher and higher towards the sky, clearly the eldest tree amongst this forest. Tug whined as the uncomfortable weight of Will, Alyss and their package burdened him. Will slowly patted Tug’s mane, careful not to disturb a napping Alyss, Tug simply trotted along until he stopped right before the mysterious trunk’s roots. Will gently patted Alyss on her golden locks, she woke with a start before coming to the conclusion that they had arrived.
Will quickly dismounted Tug and pulled on his quiver and flipped his bow around, he strode towards the middle of the massive tree and cautiously he knocked thrice. Will thought to himself, “Darn it, had Malcolm told me earlier about this trip I wouldn't have gone. And what is with sorcerers and their forests.” His train of thought was interrupted by what seemed like two huge stalks that appeared before him, Will’s hand instantly reached for an arrow. Alyss who was removing the package from Tug’s saddle suddenly shrieked and shouted, “Will look up!” Will’s eyes followed the giant stalks higher and higher slowly evolving into a barrel-like chest and finally resting upon the withered face of a man. The face looked so ordinary and yet had a sense of serenity radiating from it. Without warning, a bright flash illuminated the forest and Will dropped his bow and ran to shield Alyss. Then as sudden as the light appeared it waned away and in the tall stalks place stood a man.
The man was so tall he seemed to loom over, Tug whined and took several steps back in angst. Will recovered from his shock and cried out, “Are you Treeno the All-Seeing? We have come from the Kingdom Of Araluen to deliver to you a parcel from the healer Malcolm.” From the depths of the figure came a very subtle murmur, and then the figure spoke, “Indeed, you have come to the right place, I am indeed Treeno the All-Seeing. Where is the parcel that Malcolm has sent?” At this point, Alyss strode towards the Treeno with all the confidence that she could muster and slowly placed the squirming parcel upon the forest floor. “Master Seeker, why is this parcel so important that it required a Ranger to deliver it. And why is this package so delicate it required a woman's touch to carry it.”
The figure seemed to ponder Alyss’s words for a moment and then stepped once, twice and stopped. The figure seemed to squat over the parcel but gently picked up the parcel, Treeno gingerly pulled away the cloth to reveal a floundering and healthy baby that seemed to glow. Will and Alyss shared a deep gasp of shock realizing why the parcel was so fragile. Will asked, “Treeno, who is this baby?” and Treeno simply replied, “He will be the next King of the Kingdom of the Aericanus, he will be known for being everywhere yet nowhere, and he will be the greatest mind of them all!”
The air in the room was tense. Jeremiah, Michael, and Prince Jon were sitting around a round table with a map of the known world in front of them. Commander Bappy and Admiral Rosalina were flanked around them arguing while the Captain of the Guards, Aaliana Labradoge simply sat quietly pondering when they Bappy and Rose would ever agree on something. They were expecting a visitor who was of great importance and was not to be disappointed as well as planning their counter-attack for anything that that sorcerer Reivynn had in store for them.
The commanders were inspecting the Ng’s, suspecting their panic as they were furiously thinking on how to appease their people.
“You mean to say that you can’t scry Reivynn of the Raven’s plans?”, Jeremiah of the Bear made a pathetic attempt to try and speak quietly.
Sir Michael the Swift rolled his eyeballs. No matter how hard he tried, his brother couldn’t fully understand the concept of subtlety. Prince Jon was practically shovelling food into his mouth. Sadly, the brothers knew all too well that this was a sign of his nervousness.
“No, no. It’s not that I can’t scry them. All I know is that there is something stopping me; something malevolent - a new power.” Jon replied defensively and still chewing.
Not only did the adolescent Ng wield innate wisdom and tactical genius that exceeded anyone within the dynasty but he also had some powers in healing and scrying – the flawed ability to perceive the future and present situations.
Meanwhile, you could hear Commander Bappy’s continual argument that they must surrender to the evil sorcerer before all of the Aericanus’s citizens are massacred, but of course Admiral Rose simply fought back with the fact that they could always sail to Scandia and Araluen to aks for help from King Horace and Queen Cassandra.
Jeremiah of the Bear roared in triumph, a bit too eagerly. The goblets shook on the table and everyone within the palace felt it. He didn’t get his title for nothing. “Aha! Then you can’t see the threat, therefore, you can’t scry Reivynn of the Raven’s plans. Your powers have failed you!”. For a while, the Warrior was slightly envious of his brother’s lead. For decades, the Ng Dynasty looked up to his iron fist with Michael working contentedly in the shadows, but his younger brother’s leadership skills surpassed his own. It was only natural.
Commanders Bappy and Rosie exchanged a knowing glance. Rosie whispered, “Here we go again”.
Bappy could only agree. He hailed from the distant lands of Gallia and nobody knew how he ended up within the Ng Dynasty. Some say he appeared from the thick forest, emaciated and wild with a white cloth draped on his shoulders although nobody knew why. Not too surprisingly, he was quite a spectacle within the Eastern region. Sometimes, he could get tired of this land’s uncouth ways and missed the more diplomatic fashion of his own but there was a reason why he left.
Meanwhile, Michael sighed and thought to himself “The higher they are, the further they have to fall”.
With a glare, he chastened his huge brother “Jeremiah, whose side are you on? We are facing a common enemy and we need all of our attention focused on him. Now, will you please give up your foolish squabbles with our brother.”
Jon looked at Michael gratefully. He was one of the only people who could silence the mighty Warrior himself without violence and he did it at the best times possible. Past experiences have taught them not to trifle with the champion of the Ng Dynasty in his forte, which involved hitting things… very hard.
However, the otherwise levelheaded Hunter was getting worked into a frenzy and began one of his famous episodes.
“Jeremiah, how could you be so foolish?” His voice grew shrill.
“We are facing a foe, possibly even foes, even greater than we have ever seen. People are losing faith in us and you are here trying to prove our brother useless. We need all of our talents and abilities combined to win and it is of utmost importance that we do so, otherwise, may the gods help us for…”.
“For what?” rang a new voice. At this, Michael the Swift cut his angry tirade short, Jon sat up noticeably straighter and everyone looked in the direction of the doors.
There was a deafening silence as Princess Amanda, Heiress of the Hunt stepped into the room. At 18, a similar age to Prince Jon, she was forced into adulthood as well as our hero. With the Queen of the Hunt dead, she was left with her advisors to guide her. The Hunt was a band of scouts who had the very similar skill to Michael and carried out the more covert tasks maintaining the Ng Dynasty had to offer. They were the Rangers of the East you could say, except for the fact that most of them were women and the Princess was very good friends with the Ranger Madelyn. The Queen answered to the three brothers and the three brothers alone and her rangers looked up to her in turn.
Jeremiah commended her for her bravery. At only the starting years of adulthood, she could muster the courage to get the attention of three of the most powerful people in such a straightforward manner.
Despite that, her movements looked a bit forced and there was a hint of nervousness in her eyes. The death of her mother was still fresh and was still a sensitive topic to her. Michael shook his head. She’s just a child but a leader was a leader and he had to make sure she knew who was superior.
In a businesslike manner, Michael strode towards his subordinate.
“You’re late”. He stated succinctly.
Once he was at arm’s reach, quicker than thought, her dagger practically flew out of its scabbard and was pointing at his throat. However, Michael was faster and grabbed her wrist.
Dangerously, she spat. “I may not be my mother but you should treat me with the same respect you have given her”.
Exhaling, Michael knew he wasn’t flawless. Like his brother, he was jealous of his unofficial predecessor. She was light years ahead in his skills in the woodland crafts when he was her age and that frustrated him. But for now, he was the senior and his powers were beginning to decline. At the age of 62, he could remember back decades when he would teach her mother the ways of the hunter. Now her daughter was challenging his skill. Michael felt guilty - he should be proud to have such a worthy successor.
Gritting his teeth and looking down, he asked for pardon “I apologize. I respected your mother and you deserve nothing more or nothing less.”
The anger vanished as soon as it came. She grinned “Good. Let’s talk about more important matters.”
“So Jon. What do you think we should do? What is the threat?”
He stuttered and started wrinkling his nose “Umm – Hmm. Well… do you mind sending some detachments of scouts here, here and here” He was pointing to different regions in the map. “um, fire at anything that causes trouble and report of any weird activity?”. He ended the sentence with a somewhat questioning tone.
Looking frustrated, she said “I have only fifty hunters within my ranks and at least 10 of them are not ready for action and 30 more are still out there and we haven’t heard of them. Surely I can’t send the 10 more out? Those are all of my forces. This isn’t an army. It takes time to train these people and there are few who have the ability to apply much less earn an apprenticeship.”
Prince Jon simply resumed eating.
In realization, she asked: “Do you really know what you are doing and are your scrying abilities working for you?”
In reply, Jon’s tone was simple and his face began to redden. “I am still eating”.
“Excuse me?” She asked in disbelief.
“HE IS STILL EATING!!!” Jeremiah’s cry once again shook the palace. In his silence, everyone forgot of the large and boisterous warrior but once again he got their attention.
The would-be queen if the prince actually agreed to anything, Amanda, stormed out of the room - her body rigid with rage and hurt dignity. The Captain of the Guards Aaliana filed out along with her, perhaps in an effort to mitigate the damage.
Michael nodded in approval. For once his brother has learned to work as a team. He would have preferred it to be a bit quieter and less aggressive but it was a start and there was room for improvement.
Jeremiah of the Bear gave his younger brother a playful grin and roughly elbowed him. Prince Jon winced painfully.
“So brother, what do you think of that vixen, eh? Easy on the eyes isn’t she?”.
The youth simply kept eating and looking straight at his food.
Michael couldn’t help but follow up with his brother’s teasing.
“What do you think?” he prodded.
Prince Jon looked up, swallowed his mouthful and took a deep breath.
“6.5”, came his hasty reply and another spoonful came in.
And with his legendary words, the decimal was invented.