Trinity smirked at her Uncle’s last “Stay out of mischief!” comment and watched them all go into the conference room, and the door close. One big guard going in, and one blocking the door from outside.
Trinity looked at the wall mural and found what looked to her like the beginning of a story, and started trying to picture what was going on in the painting. As she studied the painting, Trinity was drawn in to the scenes of battle, towns being built and destroyed, knights battling men and other odd looking creatures, there were even dragons. At times the knights and soldiers looked to be winning, and further in time, they looked to be losing. She slowly moved down the wall and saw a chamber with a throne-like seat made from what looked like the roots of a tree, still growing its tendrils into the earth, all around it. Trinity studied the scene, it was similar to the one on the tunnel wall, only this one had a woman sitting on the throne, dressed in blue leather armor that was glowing, then Trinity realized the woman was not only sitting on the throne, it appeared as if the throne was blending with her. The story continued, and Trinity was looking at a huge battle scene, soldiers, knights and weird creatures were all battling, and in the background was the very same fortress that she was in. The soldiers and knights were defending the fortress while the creatures and even men were attacking. The defenders were outnumbered, and were being slowly driven back towards the river surrounding the fortress. From the fortress she could see hundreds of arrows flying, and striking the enemy. One archer, standing on the parapet stood out from all the others, he was tall, and held a longbow. Trinity could see his arrow in flight flashed a greenish tint in the sunlight, on its way to strike an apparent leader. The bowman took his time, like a sniper, and continually shot anyone that looked like they were giving orders. Trinity noticed vaguely, that his outfit resembled her Uncle Lee’s, right down to the soft moccasin style boots. She slowly moved along the wall, seeking something that would give her a clue as to how they could end this conflict, and she could tell her uncle she found it.
Inside the conference, Lee was filled in on several steps that the Treslanders were taking in preparation for more conflict. Though never directly asked, Lee could feel tension in the air as the conversation wound it’s way towards the secret chamber, the throne and it’s use throughout their recorded time. Lee found out that the Premier and his family had been, for as long as the records go back, guarding the throne, and protecting those that could control its power. One of which, was killed by a betrayal, but not before she had a child, who in turn had children, to keep the line going. Now as another lifetime rolls past, the Treslanders look to the legends and myths to help protect them. Lee knew where the conversation was headed. Eventually, it would come to Elena, and when she would come to take her place on the throne and restore peace. Lee redirected the conversation for the moment, away from that, and asked who was the most likely responsible, for this latest outbreak of violence, and where on the map on the table did they think he or she was holed up. The others around the table all looked perplexed and unsure how to proceed, then the Premier said, “We are not exactly sure. We have heard rumors of one of the expelled wizards stirring up this last round of violence”. The Premier continued, “We are not sure how that is possible, as it was ages ago when they were expelled. I have begun sending scouts out, in hopes of gathering more information, so we can have a better picture. It will take time though”.
Lee nodded in affirmation, “It’s a big place, I suppose, so I think you’re right in trying to get information. At least then we have a direction to go. I know you all wish Elena would just come here, and somehow do whatever is done to make this go away, but I will not bring her or anyone else besides Trinity, through the portals, until I know for certain what we are up against, and how we are going to keep them safe.” With that Lee looked each member in the room, straight in the eyes, to make sure they understood.
“I have my own reasons for bringing Trinity, and she and I alone know them. She also understands the risks, and I think can help me figure this puzzle out”. Lee looked at Falan and asked, “What have you found out about what I saw during the attack?” Falan glanced around and looked a bit pale.
“What is he referring to, Falan?” asked the Premier. Falan looked past Lee at Trendar, who was pacing around in the background, then at the Premier
“Sir, I request before we discuss this, the room is cleared except for yourself, Lee, Rotar and me.” Trendar visibly stiffened when he heard Falan’s request to the Premier, and started to object, but the Premier nodded at Falan.
“Clear this room immediately. Guards, make sure no one enters until I say”, commanded the Premier. The guards snapped into action and hustled the scribes and servants out, along with Trendar, who was glaring at those who remained. Falan waited until all were gone, and even then he hesitated, as he then explained what he was told by Lee to the Premier. Lee waited with interest, on whatever new information Falan had learned.
Trinity faintly heard the commotion of people exiting the private room behind her, as she studied the wall mural, when suddenly she felt the armor she was wearing stiffen, and she was quite startled by it. She glanced at it under her cloak, and it appeared as if it were faintly glowing a red hue! Then she heard, “Hello! If it isn’t the curious artist!” behind her, and immediately she jerked the cloak closed, recognizing the voice as the same one in the hall earlier.
Trinity turned and smiled, “Hello, again. I thought you would be in the ‘big meeting’?”She saw the anger in his eyes, belying the fake smile he had on his face.
“My services were not needed at this time, so I am taking a break.” Trendar replied.
Trinity could tell he was fuming behind the smile, “That’s cool. I’m sure you are not missing any important stuff,” as she turned back to the painting.
Trinity was just starting to focus on the painting again, when suddenly raised voices came from the secure room, and she heard “TRENDAR!!! Get in here now!!!!” And at the same time, she was shoved forcefully from behind, into the wall which was opening into a dark room or hall, and then closed behind her, with Trendar locked inside the hall with her.
Trinity stumbled forward and rolled, popping up on her feet, facing Trendar in the dark room. She could hear shouts, and banging on the closed hidden door. “It’s just you and me young artist,” Trendar said sarcastically. “I have to wonder, why of all the people the Bevan knows, why he brought you, hmmm?”
She kept silent, as she looked for a way out or a way to open the door. Trinity watched him, as she was searching, and she kept quiet as he kept asking questions of her, yet more or less to himself. “He has so many warrior friends.” Seeing her look of surprise, he explained, “Oh, yes. I know all about the Bevan and his life through the portal. They are not the only ones who can travel back and forth. Some of us have done it for ages…”. He suddenly cut himself off, realizing he had perhaps revealed too much.
Trinity had been scanning the dark room for a way out, and found it to her right. It was a dark corridor, but it was at least an option, if she could not get the door she was pushed through, back open. She could feel the leather armor pulse, and the arm gauntlets tighten on her, and she was glad her cloak was closed as not to reveal it to Trendar. She wasn’t sure why, but she thought it best kept secret from him, for the time being.
“Oh, there’s hundreds of ways out, but I am afraid I can’t let you go, until I get what I need.” taunted Trendar, as if he could read her thoughts. “So, tell me, young artist, why did the Bevan bring you, instead of anyone else!?” his voice taking taking on a very sinister tone, echoing deep through the dark room. His eyes were seeming to glow a dull orange.
Trinity inwardly gasped at the change, and her vest and gauntlets all stiffened, and could she feel them warm, as her hands slipped back behind her, and she gripped the handles of her blades. “Why don’t you ask him?” she inquired in exasperation. Following up in a firm, but shaky voice “Or are you scared to?”
Trinity saw his head snap up, and he growled, “Watch your words, Child, you have no idea what I am or what I am capable of!!”
Trinity caught the slip of “What I am” instead of “Who I am” and she saw Trendar’s eyes seem to glow dark red, and she suddenly saw the knife in his hand, long curved and thin dark yellowish colored blade with cryptic symbols on it. She also noticed his hands did not look normal, they had super thick-looking skin, and his fingernails were round, and pointed like an animal’s. Trinity backed farther away, as Trendar appeared to slowly get taller, and bigger, and more like a creature, compared to how he previously appeared.
“Now you will tell me what I want to know, or you will suffer great pain, and agony, and in the end, you will tell me anyway!!” roared Trendar in the tunnel. Trinity was taken aback by the sheer forcefulness of his voice. She moved parallel in the room, to gain distance, as it was longer than it was wide. She suddenly felt somehow lighter, and the armor that Jondar had given her started vibrating against her, and she could “feel” as if it were alive!
Trinity slid the blades from their sheathes on her back, and moved to a guard stance. “I’m not sure who…what you are, but I’m telling you nothing, and I’m leaving! So, get open that door, or I will when you’re gone”
Trendar saw the black blades, and had a sudden thought that he had seen them before in the past, but could not place them at the moment. His eyes narrowed, as his glance caught a glimpse of what looked like leather armor under her cloak. “I see that old fool Jondar has been meddling again. It won’t help you, in the end. You will see”.
Trinity did not answer. She held her guard position, trying to see what he would try first. She knew he was stronger and much bigger, but she relied on her speed to make up the difference. Remembering what her Uncle said, “Fast and violent is the advantage,” she readied herself for his first move.
It came so fast, she almost missed blocking it. She was dumbfounded at the lightening speed of his attack. Trendar thrust his short sword straight at her right arm, not trying to kill her, but to disarm her. Trinity had her right arm bent at the elbow across her body with her blade up protecting her chest, and her left arm out in front, pointing at him.
Her defense was to pivot her right side back and away, and thrust at his blade with her left blade. The effect knocked his blade off line, and past her arched body, as she spun around to face him again, while he drew back from the thrust, and swiped his sword again, at where her arm would have been.
Trinity realized that despite being big and ugly, her opponent had really good skill, and she was evenly matched, much to her surprise, as she thought of him, previously, as kind of weak the few times she saw him.
Trendar did not hesitate. He again attacked, this time swiping at one of her legs, and she dropped a blade down and flat against her thigh, as his blade struck, blocking it from cutting. She immediately swiped at the blade hand with her other knife, but he pivoted away. Trinity took the opportunity to sling her cloak off, and at him for a distraction, but she didn’t need to, as Trendar saw her exposed armor, with it’s glowing reddish hue, and he visibly paled. She heard him mutter, “Lost defenders’ armor! It’s not possible!”
He again stabbed at her arm, straight thrust — not holding back, the tip striking her left gauntlet, but it did not penetrate the leather, but instead, the force shoved her arm into her mid section. Trinity gasped at the force of the blow. She just knew she had to be deeply cut, but the gauntlet vibrated on her arm. and the armor did the same on her chest, and torso. She reacted instinctively, and spun her other blade in an arc in front of herself, striking his wrist, and the blade not even slowing as it cut through the skin, muscle and bone, severing his hand at the wrist.
Trendar roared in pain, stumbling back, gripping his wrist, and screaming so loud the walls felt like they were vibrating, as he stumbled and staggered backwards, turning to run down the tunnel.
“Lost defender or not, I’ll have my revenge!!!!!!”. Trinity kicked his severed hand away, and stood there trembling for a couple minutes, unsure If she should go after him, or try and get out.
As Falan revealed what he had learned of Trendar, the Premeir grew stiffer and more angry. “That man has been by mine and my family’s side, longer than I can remember!” he growled. “You’re telling me, that he could possibly be the reason we are again at war? A spy? A traitor??” He continued, “Get him back in here IMMEDIATELY!!” bellowed the Premier. “Guards!” he shouted, and the doors were forcefully opened, and the other guard came in, sword drawn, scanning for an enemy and looking to protect the Premier. As the guard rushed in, Lee, Falan, and Rotar all spotted Trendar standing behind Trinity, by the mural, and as the Premier shouted “Trendar?!? Get in here now!!!”
But, before they could act, the wall seemed to part, and Trendar shoved Trinity into the dark void, and followed. Then, as quickly as it opened, the passage shut again, not leaving so much as a hint of where it was! Lee and the others rushed over and shoved and pushed on the walls to no avail.
The Premier said, “How did he know of these passages? They were supposed to be sealed after the priests were banished. If he knows of these, the treachery is worse than I thought. He may have found passage to the Chamber!”
The Premier continued as he quickly made his way back into the meeting hall, “Rotar, get your trusted guards and secure the Chamber at all costs!” Lee was still trying to find a way into the passage to help Trinity, and only left that when the Premier called to him, “Bevan? You will not get in that way, come, we will get the old text, and find a way in. It would be easier if there were someone that knew the old passages.”
Rotar left to assemble the guards for the protection of the Chamber, while the others looked through a huge, old, hand-written book, that had hand drawn maps, and what looked like incantations all written in a dialect foreign to Lee. The page was turned and Lee immediately saw the mural room, and there was the open passage with more foreign writing. Falan asked, “Can you read this, Premier?”
“Some, I can,” answered the Premier, “These tell of the uses of the passes and the meaning of the murals. I’ve read this, when I was but a lad. The others are in a language of the priests, and I cannot decipher.”
Lee was becoming more frustrated by the second, and said “The let’s get some tools, and some men, and knock a hole in the wall! My young kin is trapped in this space with him, and we need to get in there NOW!” Lee walked back out of the doorway and was surprised to see Jondar coming into the mural room.
“Rotar told me what happened. I came as quickly as I could.” Jondar explained. The Premier and Falan had come back into the room, joining Lee and Jondar. The Premier carried the ancient text. Jondar saluted him, “Sir, unless you can speak the language of the priests, you will not get that door open with that book. It was written for them to use to pass on the escape and spy routes.” As he was talking, Jondar was running his hand over the mural, where the hidden door was, and said, “Some of these passages were used after the priests were expelled, but not for spying or escaping, but for quick movement of the Lost Defenders”. As he said that, he pushed a spot with his finger on the mural and the door flung open!
Trinity heard a click behind her, and quickly spun bringing her weapons up to her guard position, not yet sure if Trendar had somehow managed to get behind her and open a new passage. Jondar, her Uncle Lee, and Falan, all came rushing in! Trinity dropped her guard and Lee grabbed her, “Are you ok? No injuries? What happened?”
Before Trinity could reply, Jondar said, “It looks as though Trendar is a SkinWalker, and not who he seemed,” as he pointed his short sword at the severed hand and knife. Jondar retrieved the knife and looked at the inscriptions and designs. “Nothing of interest. It’s all curses for it’s victims, more important, is the fact that a SkinWalker still survives. They were thought to be hunted to the last one, ages ago. Very powerful they are, very skilled, but not, I see, a match for you, young lady,” he said to Trinity. “I was correct when I sensed something in you, and I am justified in giving you the armor of the Lost Defenders for sure now. Premier, there’s not much hope of catching him, but I will follow and see what I can find, if that is your wish?”
“Yes, Jondar, take who you need, and find that traitor and destroy it, or bring it before me!” directed the Premier.
Jondar saluted and rapidly walked out of the room, headed to his quarters to get his weapons and gear, “I’ll be back in a couple minutes,” he said as he left.
Falan had gone a short way down the tunnel and came back, “He’s leaving a trail a blind Brak could follow, maybe he will bleed out before too far,” he said.
Jondar came back in as he said that, and replied, “SkinWalkers rarely die easily, they take a lot of killing. I’ve seen SkinWalkers take on entire squads and win. I’ve seen them stuck full of holes that no one would survive, and they just kept going. I’m hopeful his injury slows him down, but I have little hope he’s expired.” Everyone turned as Jondar walked back in the room, wearing bronze colored leather armor with dark red highlights, he had a short spear in his left hand, and a sword in his right, on his back were two short doubled-bladed axes.
Falan immediately snapped a salute, as the Premier said, “Not since I was a child, have I seen the armor of the Lost Defenders’ Destroyer Squad, Jondar. I was wondering how you knew so much about the shapeshifter and the hidden passages. It is truly an honor to be in your presence, I had thought that line was gone long ago.”
Jondar inclined his head in a slight bow, “There are, as you see Premier, still a few of us left. We remain hidden, but ready to serve when needed. We watch, teach, and always prepare, and try to find those with the inherited talent to become a Lost Defender.” As he spoke he was looking straight at Trinity. “Tell me, Trinity, did you feel anything unusual when you were in danger? Anything at all?”
Everyone in the room was suddenly looking at Trinity, and she blushed a little, but quickly spoke up, “The armor, it felt, how do I describe it? Before I knew he was there the armor tightened, then during the fight, it constantly felt like it was changing, like it was ALIVE!” she exclaimed.
Jondar nodded, “Then you truly have inherited your skill from a Lost Defender, for only with them does the armor meld with so completely. Now, I must go, if I hope to have any chance of catching him in the fortress. I will report back with any news.”
The Premier nodded, and as Jondar started down the passage, Lee, Falan and even Trinity all said, “You can’t go alone!”
“This is what I do,” Jondar explained looking back at them over his shoulder, “what I’ve always done, protect at all costs, from evil, this fortress, and it’s Premier, and family. You three must now find what it is you are supposed to do,” looking at Trinity again, “If what I suspect about you is true, your job is here as a Defender. There will come a time you will have to make an impossible decision, but this isn’t it.”
With that, Jondar walked into the dimly lit passage.