Love and Hate.
Good and Evil.
Light and Dark.
The Kota of Zenith have waited centuries for the Warriors. They’ve thrived on their beautiful, Earth-like planet, although nobles hoard wealth in the Sky while Ground commoners grow hostile. Now, Empress Jen Mu Ril insists that Rave force the last Kota prophecy in order to bring peace to their world. But the Warriors know what this prophecy will mean for Kynacoba. And have the Kota learned nothing about faith in five hundred years?
Shocking them all, the Warriors’ greatest enemies are discovered on Zenith. It’s then that Amu’s Magi mission becomes clear. Everything they’ve fought for as the Warriors comes together in one last, desperate mission. They must save their people and stay strong, even after one of their own is murdered.
With the help of Neema and Toel, two Zenoes with secrets of their own, the Warriors must discover what it truly means to be Kota. Only then can they fulfill their duty and reach the promised Re-Life of peace.
Galcon almost regretted regaining consciousness. The raiders had finally captured him last night, and they’d taken great relish in beating him. He wasn’t surprised. He’d eluded them for… How long had it been? He’d searched the forest for Kynacoba since the beginning of the raider attack on Phantasya, and that seemed an eternity ago. Soon, however, his time might come to an end in this… Where was he?
Lifting his head off the grimy floor, Galcon’s vision blurred. It was dark. Cold. Clammy.
I’m underground, he thought. What’s that smell?
When his eyes focused, he remembered everything.
The raiders had dragged him to a subterranean level of the Phantasyan city’s palace tower and thrown him in a dank, torch-lit prison. Here now, Galcon watched from his cage as raider laborers molded corpses of their fallen comrades into the walls. This prison was also a catacomb, and raider bodies were encased in the walls for as far as the torchlight allowed Galcon to see.
Ky’s killed a lot of them, he thought. Good for her.
A severed arm fell outside Galcon’s cage, not far from his face.
He knew he couldn’t block out the stench of the raiders’ work, but he rolled to lie on his other side. This movement took great effort. He’d grown malnourished while living alone in the forest, and the beating last night didn’t help. Too weak to stand, he inspected himself as he lay on the floor. He was bruised all over. His clothes were tattered and stiff with dirt and dried blood. The raiders had burned some of the corpses before encasing them in the walls, and the sooty smell stuck in his long hair and beard.
The smell overpowered him suddenly, and his body retched as he dry heaved into the floor. He hadn’t eaten anything to vomit in days.
Why don’t they just kill me? he thought. What do they want?
Galcon lay on his side and dropped back into restless sleep.
When at last the raiders dragged him from his cage, Galcon was so glad to be out he hardly cared where they took him. His care returned, however, as they reached the ground level of the tower. He’d been too beaten to notice his surrounds when they brought him in, but now he saw the macabre renovations the raiders had made to the Phantasyan tower. The skylight window above was covered with plaster, and torches now dotted the balconies. The troughs which had once carried water now held burning oil, adding light to the sweaty room.
The raiders carried Galcon across the ground floor, and their path crossed a crowd of chained natives. Someone spit at Galcon. He looked back and saw Pradem, one of the former Phantasyan Elders, glaring from his chains.
The raiders at last stopped in the throne area. Blood painted the back wall, and spears pinned into the wall heads of Phantasyans Galcon recognized. Torches lined the platform, and piles of furs and skins cluttered the floor.
On Elder Quar’s former throne sat the giant raider leader, Pernicious, who appropriately wore his executioner’s hood. Skulls, each cut like bowls and holding questionable contents, sat on the arms of Pernicious’s throne. Galcon felt a chill as he realized the bowls weren’t only ornamental – they were dinner.
Wait, thought Galcon. Pernicious isn’t allowed to kill the Phantasyans because of the deal he made with Vedanleé. They could only kill these people if Vedanleé got her daughter. Since Ky hasn’t come to Vedanleé, who’s killed these Phantasyans?
Galcon looked back at Pradem and the other slaves.
They killed their own people for the raiders, he thought. Pernicious must’ve promised them Vedanleé’s magic in exchange-
“Have you made him talk?” barked Pernicious.
Galcon tried to remember if he’d been questioned. He hadn’t, as far as he knew.
A raider holding Galcon shoved him. “He refuses to give us Kynacoba’s location.”
Oh, thought Galcon. That’s what they want.
“I don’t know where she is.” His voice was hoarse. “I haven’t seen here since-”
A raider helped Galcon obey by swatting his face with the back of a gloved hand, slicing Galcon’s cheekbone. He winced from the fresh pain, but it revived him a bit as well. He shook his head and blinked away the pain.
Pernicious turned to a form lying on a bed of furs. “Am I allowed to kill this one? He’s Earthborn, not Phantasyan. Is he under your magic’s protection?”
Galcon looked in surprise to see Vedanleé sit up on the furs. He’d assumed the form on the bed to be part of the gruesome décor – maybe she was. Her long, golden hair hung long and scraggly over her chest. The witch was barely clothed, but where she was it was with someone else’s skin.
What’s happened to her? thought Galcon.
Vedanleé lifted her gaze to Pernicious and looked over at his prisoner. Galcon felt a chill as he met eyes with the witch. When Vedanleé recognized him, a puzzled look replaced her expression of resigned loathing. She examined him for a long time, shivering as she did so.
She didn’t know I stayed when the others escaped, thought Galcon. Little good it’s done–
“Kill him.” Vedanleé looked back to Pernicious. “You’re free to do it.”
Pernicious needed no further encouragement. He rose from his throne, drew a machete, and stepped forward.
This was it. Even as Galcon struggled against the raiders holding him, he knew there’d be no escape. Pernicious was crazed with bloodlust and would show no mercy. If Galcon was lucky, maybe they wouldn’t eat him.
Goodbye, Ky, he thought.
Pernicious sneered and raised his machete. He swung, and Galcon closed his eyes as he heard the blade slicing through the air.
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