The soft declaration was followed by a shocked silence and Arderine slowly slumped to the ground.
Almost desperately, she reached out and caught hold of the blanket draped on the bed and in a hoarse voice, she asked out
“How do you know?”
Nick made no attempts to break the silence, choosing to stand there, head bowed.
“You’re marred”, the soft voice of the previous Consiliur whispered.
Aurora didn’t understand the shocked looks on the three girls’ faces or the look of pity on the Consiliur’s.
The Consiliur did seem to have noticed her confusion for she elaborated, in a voice barely audible by those even in the room.
“The relationship of an Aide and a Royal is a very delicate one. It is one of absolute trust and confidence. To protect the purity and piety of such a bond, the Antiquons placed constraints on both that would be involved in this contract.
In event of mistrust or betrayal, both the aide and the royal will bear upon their skin a mark called as A Mar.
To an aide, to bear such a mark is the highest level of shame. It either implies a loss of trust, the telling of a lie or betrayal.”
Somewhere during her explanation, she had stood up, and gliding towards the man with his eyes downcast, she placed a hand on his head.
“You were betrayed, weren’t you?”
For the first time since he had entered the room, Nick raised his eyes.
“You remain locked in this prison for decades, and ask me if I was betrayed?”, came his incredulous reply.
“How does this prove that she didn’t kill my father?”
Aurora’s sudden question shifted the attention immediately.
Nick’s mouth opened in reply but the Consiliur beat him to it.
“A marred aide can feel the Mar on another. It is a mark said to burn every time you are in close proximity to another.
If I was marred, I doubt he would be able to stand in the same room as me.”
Why did you spend all these years inside this prison?
Why did you leave me to fend for myself when I needed you the most?”
The Consiliur softened her gaze, looking at the young Queen.
“While it is true that I did not kill the King, I was there when it happened. For hours, I stood guard over his body, fending off the shadows. Their claws sinking into me time and again.”
Everyone in the room recoiled immediately.
The incident of light and dark was still too fresh in their memories.
Aurora touched her discolored eye and looked away.
Maya hadn’t stopped haunting their thoughts yet.
“How did you survive?”, Nick asked quietly. Maya’s words of forgiveness would never be enough to purge his memory of that dark day.
“Tvorish magic.”, came the quiet answer.
“Tvorish folk are known for their magic.
Long ago, they used to live as slaves, when a race much older than us presided over the world.
Their magic would grant them power but it came with a clause. Some could transform at will, but would have an inevitable blind spot. Some could show superhuman strength, but could never touch holy oil.
Such creatures served as slaves in games for this race. The Protectors decided not to interfere until one day when this race, drenched in their arrogance, did the unthinkable.
One among them dared to steal half a soul of one of the ancient protectors, leaving him in immense pain for a century and a half.
His soul manifested as a demon, one that was caged and used in fights that this race would bet on.
The protector’s rage, malice and hatred stored itself into this demonic form, feeding it, nurturing it into a vile demon that no one could beat.
Then one day, two young boys came to the arcade.
The older of the two fought the demon, and managed to force it into the protector’s body.
The rage returned, the protector stripped the race of its all and granted the land to the slaves.
The few who had grown tired of living in Tvor left willingly and settled outside of the forest and called it Celaver.
They were the Antiquons ”
Throughout the story, not a leaf seemed to have moved, it was as if the entire room had been stopped in time. The silence remained unbroken until Nick whispered softly.
“Drocorex. The Dragon King”
All eyes turned to him as he continued where the Consiliur had left off.
“The Antiquons were under peril during the first ages and so the protectors came together, helping them create a society, rules and government.
They appointed kings, saw us through technological advances and passed the knowledge down to the next generation.
When I went into Immersion the second time, the third generation of protectors were in power. Tvor and Celaver were at peace and the moon maiden was being chosen.”
The Consiliur looked on quietly, and everyone stayed silent, letting her commune with Nick telepathically, until she bowed her head to Nick once and resumed her story.
“The Tvorish people are skilled in using more than one colour of light. The people to the Far East tried to emulate them.
These people were simple and there was talk of trade relations with them.
Behind the scenes, however, a few of their men tried to find out the secrets of the Tvorish.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
They tried to suck as much light as they could, but ended up with bad consequences.”
Aurora and Nick flinched.
“They unleashed a hidden soul, so bereft of light, that it had turned to darkness.
Valdir was born”
“The rest is history”, Arderine spoke up
The Consiliur nodded slowly and turned towards Aurora.
“Quesios knew of my quarantine. The lady protector had entrusted him with a very important task.
I believe it is your wish to cross the lands of Ammolofoi”
Aurora nodded immediately
The entire room hung on to her next words.
“Then come, you must choose an aide”