– Will I have one too? – Cassanda asked happily clapping her hands.
– Yes, honey, when you grow up. You will heal others as a goddess once did. Just remember one thing – stones hold great power, but the more you get from them, the higher the price. As long as I’m alive, I won’t let you cross the line. But you must be careful and reasonable, even if… Even when I’m gone.
Cassandra looked at her mother with disbelief and fear in her eyes. She smiled affectionately in response and continued, – But it will not be very soon. Do not think about it. Listen further…
On the very top of a mountain in which there was a portal, the Temple of Life was built. In it could always get helped no matter what bodily or spiritual wounds tormented you. And not far from the temple, the grypharims founded a large city. It was called Ereda – the capital, the stronghold of good. Just imagine a city where magic and art are equally developed. We all lived in peace and harmony. Even the manticores did not touch us. Then Mirtu-Ayur was beautiful…
– What happened? – Cassandra asked. Mother sighed.
– The world could not last forever. Soon a new test awaited us all…Many years have passed since then. Now Cassandra is already an adult and attractive girl. But her mother’s words about a world that no one was ever destined to see still sounded in her head…
The battle had just ended on the way to the city walls. The attack was planned in advance, according to information provided by the Illuminati. But as soon as the offensive began, detachments of shooters appeared on the walls of the city and opened fire. There were far more defenders than expected – it looks like the Illuminati spy who provided the information was uncovered. The Empire’s troops suffered heavy losses. All this Cassandra recognized from her brother Illar.
He was an experienced fighter and was in the ranks of the army of Roland the Proud. For his ability to handle a spear, Roland liked Illar and he often took him with him as his adjutant. But Illar’s main advantage was speed. No other grypharim could compare with him in the air – he flew the fastest and could always get away from the attacker, whether it was a grypharim, a griffin or anyone else. On that day, Illar was among the attackers on the city, but not on the front line – this saved him from death. When he returned, Cassandra began to question her brother:
– Illar, what happened?
– I do not know how they knew that there would be an assault, but they were waiting for us. Those who were in the forefront took the brunt of the blow. Roland wanted to continue the battle further, but, seeing that everything was not going according to plan, seeing our losses, he ordered to retreat. I obeyed the order.
– Great Goddess, you are hurt! Look at your back! – exclaimed Cassandra, pointing to her brother’s back.
– There was no way they could… – He glanced back, fully convinced that his sister was imagining things. But seeing a deep cut on his satin skin, he exclaimed, – This scratch is not life-threatening.
– You need healers.
– They are now occupied by others, those who barely survived and are in great need of help. I’ll be ok…
– If so, I’ll heal you myself. Turn around.
She picked up the Stone of Life, which hung around her neck, and brought it to the wound. The stone caught Cassandra’s mental order, glowed with a dull blue glow, filling the wound itself with the same light. Illar gritted his teeth. He knew it was a slow and very unpleasant process.
– Roland said we’d send flying scouts out at night and find out what’s going on in the city. Seeing from the air the location of their forces, we will have an advantage. – the grypharim continued to tell, – Recruitment to the scout squad will begin in the evening and I want to participate in this raid…
– But you’re hurt! You shouldn’t tempt fate.
– Will be healed. With your help, I will be completely whole by the evening. Besides, you know what I’m capable of in the air. They won’t get me.
As her brother spoke, Cassandra’s hands began to tingle. At first it was barely noticeable, but with every second it burned more and more. She looked at her sky blue palms and sank into memories.
She remembered the first day she used the Stone of Life given to her by her mother. In that moment she also was healling the wound of her brother, who was training to be a warrior. From the burning, she dropped the stone to the ground, and her hands began to acquire a blue tint. Then for the first time she learned that for sorcery, even if it was as insignificant as healing, the Stone of Life demanded a price. Therefore, she tried not to use it unless absolutely necessary.
– It looks like that’s all for today, it burns my hands. Let me bandage you, and heal you tomorrow.
– Cassandra, please finish now. I know it’s unpleasant, but I need to be with the others tonight. I can’t let them down…
– It’s dangerous Illar, stay! You may die.
– Nobody knows what might happen, but I have to try. My friends are counting on me, they might need help. So I ask you…
Cassandra looked at her brother and did not know what to do. She didn’t want to risk it, but she knew how important it was to him, how important the victory of the Empire was. And she decided to help. Bringing the stone back, she clenched her teeth and continued…
The next day, Cassandra learned that her brother had gone with the others on a reconnaissance mission. Moreover, Illar was promoted and assigned to lead the squad! She would be proud of her brother. But she was worried…
A little later, she was invited to the headquarters of Marshal Roland. A little time passed and Cassandra guessed that the operation was over. Therefore, upon hearing these words, she immediately flew to the meeting place. Her brother must have shown himself very well, since she is invited to the headquarters.
Passing along the corridors to the great hall where the Marshal-Protector held the gathering of military leaders, she stopped at the door. She had never seen Roland before, but only heard inspiring stories from her brother about his prowess in battle, nobility and sharp mind. And since she’s here, it must be very important.
Having entered the room already with a ready greeting, Cassandra was speechless – her brother lay in the middle of the room, and a wound gaped on his chest. The sister rushed to him, surprised to find that he was still conscious.
– Oh one god. Illar! Please don’t die.
– Who could have known it would turn out like this? – Quietly said brother – I really wanted you … to see you and I was allowed to call you.
– I can try to heal you!
– It’s getting late… I’ve been to the healers… I just wanted to say that… that I love you…
Cassandra’s paws gave way. From the sight of a dying brother, the soul tossed about not knowing what to do. Just wanted to squeeze the wound with hands and not let go until it heals.
– Don’t leave…
– My time has come … – said the brother and took his last breath. Cassandra sank to the floor. Tears flowed from eyes. She did not want to let him go, but she knew that nothing could be done. For long minutes she just cried on the floor.
But then Cassandra stopped mourning her brother and wiped away her tears. She took his hand and, according to the tradition of the grypharims, said a prayer to Aria so that she would accept his soul in another world.
Then, opening her eyes, she looked around and saw that Zenobia, queen of the grypharims, had entered the room. It was so unexpected that Cassandra even forgot to greet her. Meanwhile, the queen approached Illar and bowed her head.
– I heard about his accomplishments. Big loss for all of us…
– I wanted to dissuade him, but I did not. – Cassandra said, standing up, – If I only knew…
– I learned that Brissa, Warlord and heroine of the city, shot him. She was on the roof and, seeing our scouts, opened fire …
After these words, the queen fell silent. Time passed, and they stood in silence looking at the grypharim, who sacrificed his life in the name of the Empire.
– Cassandra, have you heard the legend of the Oracle?
-Of course, queen. My mother told me that the Oracle helped everyone in the Temple of Life, predicted the death of Odaenathus and… – At these words, Zenobia grew gloomy and Cassandra faltered. – Excuse me… Yes, I heard.
– But there is something you don’t know. The Oracle was not born with her powers. Seeing the future can be learned with the help of Stones of Life. – Cassandra’s eyes widened, – But the price is too high. The Oracle sacrificed her eyesight and a free, happy life in exchange for this gift…
– And I will do the same!
– There will be no turning back, Cassandra. Life will no longer be the same.
– Let it be! Life will never be the same without a brother.
She lowered her head. Eyes were staring into space, but face was determined. Such determination can only be seen in the eyes of warriors going to their deaths. She was ready for anything. Even if it doesn’t help brother in any way.
– I promised my mother that I would look after him. I promised that I would always be there. But now that he’s gone… I have to do something! And if I can help others, I will!
After these words, Cassandra turned to the window. She wanted to take one last look at the sun while she still could. Grypharims flew outside the window, people walked, the wind swayed the trees.
“This world is as beautiful as Mirtu-Ayur. Everything that we can see was created for beauty and goodness. But until the war stops, until the City joins us and surrenders, life will leave this world too. Blood will be shed over and over again. And finally, I myself can prevent it.”
Cassandra took out the stone of life and turned to Zenobia.
– What should I do?
– I know how the ritual goes, which allows you to open the gift of foresight. Do as I say. And get ready, it’s going to hurt…
Roland looked at the map of the city and thought about the best way to get to it. Nearby, on the table, lay a pile of papers. They contained a few news from the scouts, but this was not enough to make a whole picture and find a weak spot. Again and again the eyes swept over the map, but one could only wonder how well the defense was thought out.
– It seems that Khan-Dir did not exaggerate so much when he said that the walls of the city were invincible. – He said to himself, – but it’s only a matter of time …
With these words, there was a knock at the door. After permission, the grypharim came into the room with a bandage over her eyes. She greeted Marshal.
– Who you are? I think I’ve seen you before, but I don’t recognize you.
– I am Cassandra, sister of Illar and now the Oracle of the Empire.
– Cassandra. I’m really sorry about your brother and…
– Me too, but that’s not what I’m here for. You are in terrible danger. I saw a vision in which you led an attack on a city and were killed…
Marshal smiled ruefully.
– Listen girl, I have been fighting for many years and have been in countless battles. Dozens of times they predicted death for me, and if I had been afraid of it, then for sure, I would have been killed by now. Get your visions out of your head. They won’t help us take Vallor. – he was silent for a minute, and then suddenly added – Or will they help?