“Master,” came the soft voice. “Master, they come.”
Lord Kilitherananonillifaratha blinked, his awareness returning completely from Har Lithim, the Waking Dream, and he looked at his servant. The human was kneeling before him, as was right and proper, and looking up at him. The human’s face was filled with worry and concern for his Master, and for his Master’s family. This also was as it should be, for they were in terrible danger.
Lord Kilith, as he generously allowed his human servants to call him, for it was difficult for them to pronounce his name properly, blinked again, and said “How long?” His voice was like liquid honey, rich and thick and strong, but sweet and flowing, a voice that was used to command but filled with an inhuman grace that no other race could match. The human quivered at its sound, for it was evidence of the human’s inferiority, the inferiority of all lesser races.
“They are even now at the gate, My Lord. The guards will not be able to hold them for long.”
“Very well,” Lord Kilith said, a deep sadness flowing over him. “Bring the hedge wizard to me.”
“As you will it, My Lord,” said the human. He bowed until his face touched the ground, then left at a run to fulfill his master’s command. Lord Kilith stood, for he had been sitting and resting when he had gone into Har Lithim, and walked into the next room. The room was ridiculously small. It had been converted to his use from what had been the servants’ quarters. Hardly proper living quarters for a Master and Lord, but many things were not as they should be. The past was gone, and would never return. The Empire was broken, the Emperor dead, and he was the last of the High Lords.
Lord Kilith remembered the beginning of the rebellion like it was yesterday, although it had been over nine hundred years. He had been a child when he heard rumors of the human slaves rebelling against their masters, but they were far away, and rebellions had happened before, with little consequence. The lymer had magic, the lesser races had none. It was as simple as that. No pitiful peasant rebellion could compete with the awesome strength of the magic that was in the blood of the lymer. It was their gift from the gods, the sign of the gods’ favor, and the proof of their superiority over the other races.
So when the rumors came of humans wielding magic in the far west, none believed them. It was not until much later that the rumors were taken seriously. And by then it was too late. Perhaps if the Empire had united to crush the pitiful humans, destroy the “hedge wizards” that thought they could steal Hylar, the High Magic, perhaps then nothing would have come of it, but by the time that anyone in most of the Empire believed, it was too late. The Hedge Wizards had become strong, had formed an army and discovered magic powerful enough to compete with Hylar. And then, as the Empire had just started to mobilize against this threat, it was over. The Emperor was dead, the Empire was crumbling, and the High Lords were fleeing for their lives.
Lord Kilith and his wife had been in hiding for nearly nine hundred years. For most of their lives they had been hiding from the Hedge Wizards, had watched as every other one of the people with any of the High Blood were slaughtered. They had watched as humans took over the world, sending it into Dark Age the like of which had not been seen since the beginning of time. They watched as humans, with their short frantic lives, lived and died, fought and conquered. It was enough to send anyone who remembered the past into the throes of despair. In fact, it had done just this to many of the lymer, as they retreated into the depths of the forests were they were at home but where the humans feared to tread, there to wallow in self-pity and live in memories of the Golden Age.
Lord Kilith had been content to simply hide and watch, let the hand of time pass over him as he too lived more and more in the Har Lithim, where he could once more walk in the golden halls of Callenal, or see for a hundred miles from the top of the Tower of Rillinene. He would have let the world pass him by in a gloom of despair, until it was time for him to return to the bosom of the gods.
But, even as he neared the end of his life, something happened that made everything change. His daughter was born. She had been born but a fortnight ago, in Lord Kilith’s latest hiding place here, beneath the ruins of Til Tavathem, the Tower of the Last Star. He thought it was rather appropriate, since beside himself and his wife she was the last living lymer. And with her birth, Kilith’s perspective on life changed. Suddenly, there was a hope for the future. Suddenly, there was a reason to act, a reason to live.
And just as the purpose came back into his life, he had been caught. They were coming now, and there was nothing he could do to stop them. They were not the Hedge Wizards, of course, for he had remained in hiding long enough for the hasty humans to decide he was already dead, but there were other enemies that were not so hurried. Enemies that were, in fact, much more deadly than the Hedge Wizards had ever been.
Lord Kilith walked over to where his wife was holding their daughter. Lady Llanathalaranalethynim looked up at him with such incredible sorrow that he nearly cried. “They have come,” he said quietly.
“I know,” she replied, a single tear trickling down the side of her face. In the time of the Empire, that tear would have meant the death of a thousand humans, to make an example that a High Lady should not have cause to cry. Now, Lord Kilith had less than twenty humans still with him at all, and while they would willingly give their lives for him, or for Lady Llana, they were needed to help protect them. Their lives would mean a few more minutes for his daughter to escape.
The Hedge Wizard rushed into the room at a near run. The clumsiness of the human compared to the two lymer was startling. Lord Kilith’s servants were taught to be as graceful as possible to try to avoid offending their Master’s sensibilities, but this particular human had no such training. The man was middle-aged, his long hair and longer beard not yet touched by gray. He was dressed in the robes of his order, purple and black, but Lord Kilith knew little of the internal workings of the Hedge Wizards and so did not know which order the colors symbolized. The robes were faded and travel worn, and the man’s beard and hair were rather unkempt. Not, it seemed, because of lack of ability or means to keep them trim, but more a disregard for the sensibilities of others.
The Hedge Wizard had found Lord Kilith three days ago, and had come with a warning. “The Dirrin come,” he had said. Lord Kilith had believed him, and now he knew that he was right to have done so. He still wondered, however, as he had wondered then, why this human cared. The human had said that he cared because of the child, and had gone on for some time about prophecy, but Lord Kilith was still not sure. It was possible that the Wizard did care about the life of his child. Perhaps he really did believe in some obscure prophecy about the last blood of the lymer. But Kilith thought it was more likely that he had his own dark purpose. This was, after all, a member of the order that had slaughtered his people and destroyed an empire that had lasted since the beginning of the world.
Still, what choice did he have? The human had offered to save his child, to take her away, hide her and keep her safe. The only other choice was to keep her here and have her die with the rest of them. And that was no choice at all.
“Are you ready, Great Lord?” The human spoke in the High Tongue. It was something that Lord Kilith still was not used to. This was the first human that he had ever met that was able to speak in the tongue of the lymer. He had not thought it possible. But it seemed that it was. And although the human’s inflection and accent were atrocious, for some reason it inspired in Kilith confidence in the human. If he had taken the time to learn the High Tongue, perhaps he was honest in his intentions after all. And it certainly must have taken time, for the lymer had more than seventy years of childhood to learn to speak. Had. For the three in this room were the last.
Lord Kilith sighed deeply. “I am ready,” he said, also in the high tongue. “Do what must be done. But do it quickly, for our time is short.”
The human bowed, like a man not used to doing so, but at least it was a token of respect. The he stepped up to Lady Llana and looked at the child. He began to speak in a strange tongue, and make odd gestures over the baby. The words seemed to echo oddly around the room, but Lord Kilith could not help but have scorn for the ritual. This was why the lymer had called these humans Hedge Wizards. Unlike Hylar, the magic of the humans required rituals and acts. Hyler required nothing more than thought. Still, there must be something to it, Lord Kilith thought, for it had brought down the Empire.
Suddenly the very ground shook and over the echoing sounds of the Hedge Wizard’s spell there came the muffled sound of an explosion. Quickly on its heels came muffled cries and the sound of clashing metal, and Kilith knew that his servants were even now spending their lives to give the Wizard time to complete his spell.
After another moment the Wizard came to a stop, not in response to the noise, but because that portion of the spell was competed. He gestured for Kilith to come over to him, and said “It is time, Great Lord, for the portion that requires your assistance, as we spoke about before.”
Kilith nodded, for they had spoken at great length about the method that they would use to conceal the baby from the eyes of her enemies. A combination of the magic of humans and of Hyler, together with the purpose of concealing the girl as human and also hiding the fact that there was a spell at all. The Hedge Wizard thought that the only way the child would be safe was for her to be concealed as a human, and as much as it galled him Kilith agreed. The Dirrin would never stop hunting as long as they thought that one of the lymer survived.
If it had been merely a problem of hiding the child’s race, Kilith could have done it himself, but he knew that the Dirrin, and in fact anyone with any magical talent would realize she was enchanted. While they might not know the nature of the enchantment, the spell itself would call dangerous attention to her. The Wizard knew this as much as Kilith did, and had come up with a plan that would hide both the girl’s race and the spell itself. Kilith could only pray that the human was right.
Kilith held his hand over his daughter, and as the Wizard spoke his strange words Kilith called forth the magic in his blood. It was a simple spell for him, changing his daughter’s features to resemble a human. His spell settled into the child, and her face changed. The distinctive features of a lymer faded, replaced by the rather homely features of a human. The change made Lord Kilith want to cry, to see his beautiful daughter changed to look like one of the lesser races, her beauty disguised behind the blocky, squared human face.
The change was not, in fact, particularly pronounced, not nearly as much as it would be when the girl matured, but Lord Kilith still felt horrified at so marring his daughter’s beautiful looks. Still, if he was to save her life, what choice did he have?
The Wizard continued to chant, and suddenly Lord Kilith noticed that the aura of the spell he had set over his daughter was fading. Slowly but surely, all traces of magic disappeared from the girl. The Wizard’s spell was working!
The Wizard said one final word and stopped, and almost at the same moment there came a roaring blast that rattled the door to the living quarters and sent tiny tendrils of flame through the cracks around the door. The sounds of fighting, which had grown louder, suddenly stilled, and Lord Kilith knew that the enemy was almost upon them.
“Quickly now,” said the Wizard, reaching for the child. Lady Llana, now openly sobbing, handed the girl into the arms of the Wizard.
“Take care of her,” Llana said through her tears. “Keep her safe.”
“I will, Great Lady, Great Lord. I will keep her safe, and keep her hidden. May your gods be with you.” And with that, the human bowed and turned away. He faced the solid stone wall of the room, spoke two words in his magic tongue, and, carrying the child, stepped directly into the stone, passing into it as easily as if it were water.
Lord Kilith watched the Wizard take his child to safety, and turned to face the door. The Wizard and his daughter were still not out of danger completely, for the Dirrin were still coming. He narrowed his eyes and swore that he would sell his life dearly, and give his daughter as long as he could to escape.
The chamber door burst open, bringing his enemies, and with a bellow of rage and revenge Lord Kilith released the magic in his blood. Everything in the Tower of the Last Star died.