Ordas had been surveying the land, trying to get his bearings, and resented the intrusion.
“Yes, Slark?” He frowned.
“I’ve been studying the maps, and I believe we are…”
“I know where we are,” Ordas said. “This was our capital. The minions of the Dark Lord did not leave one stone on top of another and filled all of the foundations, trying to erase our very existence, but he didn’t succeed. See those trees? The heart of the capital was rooted to the center of the Earth in that spot and there are still ruins.”
Ordas smiled to himself. He could see the disbelief in his lieutenant’s eyes.
It was the same for every new generation, generation after generation for over 500 years. They would come to court and find Ordas as the head of the military. They would hear of his eccentricities, particularly his claim that he was almost a thousand years old. They would grow old and he would stay unchanged.
But they never believed.
Ordas walked a few paces, Slark right behind him, and studied the large field that once held a gleaming city. A few stones were visible. Looking closely it was possible to tell that they had been carefully shaped yet later shattered as the Dark Armies took hammer to every little piece of masonry.
A few of the stones were familiar. The patterns came back. Even though all had changed over the centuries, the bones of the land remained.
“Come, Slark,” he said. “I need some help.”
As they were walking, a soldier came to them for a report.
“Sir, although this field appears barren, there was once a great city here. Many ruins are still visible in that stand of trees.”
Ordas pretended not to notice Slark’s sour expression.
“Here, Slark, see that stone?” Slark nodded. “There is a box under it. In that box is a sword. I am to wear the sword into battle. Have several of your men move the stone.”
Stark rolled his eyes again, but called some men over.
“The sword might have saved the city, but a minion of the Dark Lord hid it on the eve of the great battle. It was discovered too late, but hidden in this place by myself and a few other survivors. The Dark Lord thought it was lost.”
It took over a dozen men with the help of three horses to move the stone, a piece that was so hard that the hammers of the Dark Lord shattered when they hit it.
A soldier approached carrying a sword as if it were a rotting body.
Ordas examined the sword. It gleamed in the sunlight as if it were new instead of being buried under a rock for more than six centuries.
“Slark, this is the center of our camp. Build defenses and earthworks around it. You will find plenty of dressed stone that can be used to create walls. The Dark Lord’s army will be here tomorrow. We defend the capital. Again. This time, there is a chance that we will win.”
After supervising the beginning of the work on the defenses, Ordas left on a personal pilgrimage.
His parents had both come from the mythical land of magic, Camlinian. There had been little contact between the two worlds, but after the Dark Lord overran Camlinian, a few refugees were able to escape to the non-magic world of humans.
Ordas’ mother was a princess of his people while his father was a slave freed for his valor in battle. Once refugees leaving a ruined world, rank had no meeting and they fell in love.
For centuries they strove to fit into the world of mortal humans unnoticed, but when the Dark Lord found a way to send his minions to Earth, they came forward.
A sword was created to defeat the Evil One and new defenses put in place. But it all came to nothing – the sword was lost, and the defenses breached before they could be completed.
Always cruel, the Dark Lord, knowing their true identity, showed even less restraint than usual when Ordas’ parents were brought before him. Even the most savage of his minions turned their heads in horror.
After the vast evil armies left the plain that had once been a great city, Ordas found his parent’s remains. He gave them a proper burial and built a mound over them. He vowed vengeance, even if it took a thousand years.
The mound wasn’t hard to find, though it was much changed. Two towering trees grew over it, their roots exposed in an intricate tangled mass over the surface. Sparkled ribbons hung from the branches.
His parents were part of the place, and he knew he was as well, his destiny rooted to the ruined capital.
He knelt before the mound and its two great trees.
“Tomorrow I will face the Evil One. I ask for strength to overcome. May your memories live forever.”
A dizzying array of colors played across the ground as the breeze played in the ribbons.
Saluting the grave, he went back to the camp to oversee more of the defenses.
After a life time of preparing to meet the Dark Lord face to face, he had only one more day to wait to find if he could rid the world of the evil, or cast it into everlasting darkness.