He radiated a hate that surpassed Djarret’s by far. His voice sounded shrill. “If you don’t let us go, Ceres will raze this fortress. Your remains and those of your women and children will be food for wild beasts.”
“Who is Ceres?” Kervaal looked at his adviser.
“A warrior king. An upstart from another world. The High Priestess already takes care of him.”
“I see. Well, hear my verdict: The traitor will be hung at dawn until he is dead. His helper …”, Kervaals voice trembled slightly, but nobody seemed to notice. “… gets one hundred and fifty blows on the bare soles of his feet.”
Young Djarret paled. “We are brothers, Kervaal. Let us go.”
Kervaal shook his head.
Djarret’s eyes contracted to narrow slits. “Then let me hang beside my friend at least. It is dishonorable to die though flogging.”
Kervaal bent forward a little and looked deeply into Djarret’s eyes. “You will not die, I promise.” He signaled his guards, who took the two convicts by the arms and dragged them from the throne room.
“Down with tyrants. Death to all magicians”, the traitor shouted, and Djarret called, “Equal rights for everyone. Down with magic!”
When they were gone, Kervaal said to his adviser, “Will I get away with letting them both go secretly?”
“Never, Sire. Durimeh put an observation spell and a death spell on the traitor to make sure he won’t survive.”
“Did she bespell my brother, too?”
“No. He is only a little fish in Ceres’ army.”
“Good.” Kervaals face gained color. “Have the gallows built. We don’t want to disappoint Durimeh. And send for the captain of my guard and the cook.”
The adviser bowed and left.
Soon, the requested people stood in front of Kervaal. He arranged for the traitor’s last meal, and the cook left.
Kervaal turned to the captain. “Tonight, you will put on the traitor’s uniform and free my brother. Give him a good horse and enough provisions for a week. Hide his tracks magically. I do not want anybody to learn how he escaped. Not even he himself should know.”
The captain bowed and left.
Open mouthed, Djarret stared at his brother. A tear rolled down his cheek.
Melissa smiled. For the first time, she sensed feelings that Djarret had buried under his hate for years. “Did he surprise you again?”
“Kervaal saved my life, and I only wanted revenge.”
“You surely thought that Ceres sent the man.”
“Whatever. Fact is that I have killed my own brother. A brother who has done more for me then my father ever did.” Djarret looked as if he had been beaten.
Melissa wanted to end the vision, but he grabbed her arm. Something flickered in his eyes that scared her. “You want to see who I am, what I am? Take us a couple of years further.”
Melissa let her magic run free but the room did hardly change. They were still in Kervaal’s throne room. But a look from the windows told Melissa that much time had passed. Where she had once admired green meadows, fields and houses, there was only black earth and burned ruins. Kervaal looked tired and old. He was talking with his adviser.
“We are running out of food, Sire, and Ceres’ troops don’t look as if they will give up the siege any time soon,” the adviser said. “The people grumble. They want a Master who will call creatures that can take one Ceres’ army.”
Kervaal sat up. “Only demons will be able to defeat his army. And I, the representative of the One, will never condescend to call demons.”
The adviser bowed. “I only bear the wishes of the people.”
Something in his voice made Melissa prick her ears.
Kervaal wiped his eyes with a tired gesture. “We will withstand Ceres as long as it takes. I have asked Durimeh for help. Surely, she is already on her way.”
“Durimeh’s power fades. We should consider joining Ceres’ army. Soon, a traitor might open a door. You cannot supervise everyone who took refuge with us, Sire.”
Kervaal could not answer any more. The doors of the throne room slammed open. Djarret and two men came in with swords drawn, bringing with them the muffled noise of fighting from other rooms.
“Well, brother, you surely didn’t expect to see me again, did you?”
Kervaal got up and extended his arms toward Djarret. He seemed happy to Melissa but she wasn’t sure. His expression changed too fast. His eyes widened with surprise when he stumbled forward. A dagger rushed toward Djarret.