The man staggered from a dark room and turned the corner to reach an empty corridor lined with doors. Moonlight taunted him as he licked the blood from his dry lips and released a deep laugh. "Yes . . . The day will come soon, it is not time yet, but I know that they will find a way, a way to bring on the darkness even quicker, and then the citizens will have to know who their king is . . ."
He removed a matchbox from his pocket, and feeling his way to a dark corner, collapsed there and took out a splintery match. A flame erupted. The man fixed his eyes upon the only light for miles around.
The visions began.
. . .
About 50 miles away a 13 year old boy and his twin sister sat awake in bed, both of them staring outside. It was a dark and stormy night--not to mention it was also their birthday.
The boy, Nicholas, stared up at the ceiling for a few moments before breaking the uncomfortable silence. "Do you . . . do you think the rumors about the war are real?" He paused and craned his head to get a look at his sister, Aaliyah. Aaliyah looked back and caught his eye.
She twisted her face into a look that could only tell you she was thinking hard. "I suppose. But the rumors, well, they're probably twisting the truth and putting more to the scene than there already is."
"Do you think we'll be safe?"
"It depends. If the actions they take are appropriate, we should be fine."
"Oh." Nicholas ended the conversation, and silence settled back in the way it had before.
. . .
"I must sacrifice what I know to them, they'll gain information . . . it's their rise to power, to fame, as well as it is mine . . ." The man extinguished the flame, slipped the matchbox back into his pocket, and threw away the match. He turned and entered a room illuminated only by moonlight. Slamming the door behind him, he faced the wall and muttered, "Ignacio Calverta. I have come to talk."
Come to me, the voice whispered. Tell me what I need to hear, tell me what I want to hear. I can help you succeed. I, Ignacio Calverta, am at your service.
The man cleared his throat.
Welcome to my graveyard, the voice hissed.
"Those who respect me will be respected," the man said after a long withdrawal.
Very well. Very, very well, the spirit said. You may view the room of Visions or consult the Library of Secrets. The wall slid open to admit him.
The man staggered inside.
. . .
The next morning, Nicholas and Aaliyah went up to the castle for defense lessons.
The castle was absolutely grand, painted a sharp gray with four turrets bossing you around everywhere you went. Misty fog rolled over, out, and about the hills. Big, wooden doors with fancy knockers greeted you as you entered.
Aaliyah laughed as she bent down along the bridge and scooped up with her hands a yellow frog with bulging eyes. "Look at this, Nicholas." Nicholas glanced at it. There was something slightly unnerving about that frog, the way its eyes popped like that. Aaliyah settled on her legs and released the frog, then cupped her hands and let it back in. Nicholas inhaled. The way she was holding it so close made him feel like something was wrong. Aaliyah was usually straightforward and disliked wasting time.
"Be quiet, Nicholas, can't you see I'm doing something?"
"Aaliyah, we're late, we have no time to spare . . ." Nicholas faltered as Aaliyah threw him a hateful glance.
About a minute later, Aaliyah seemed to snap out of her trance and set the frog free into the pond. She quickly stood up, brushed herself off, and went ahead of Nicholas. Nicholas took a last glance at the pond in unease and then trotted after her, still wondering whether or not something was wrong with the yellow frog with the bulging eyes he had seen seconds before.
. . .
Leave the boy.
As the rope fell to the floor, the small, impish boy scrambled up. "I-I-I'm not your s-servant," he stuttered, attempting a brave act. The blueskinned giant roared with laughter as he gathered up the stringy ropes and stowed them away messily in a box under his throne.
The boy swallowed and took a deep breath, then stood up as his legs wobbled underneath him. "You killed my . . . my . . . my da-my father . . ." He fought the urge to say "daddy. The giant glared at him in disgust and slowly drew a sword from his pelt. A shudder found its way to the boy's body, and before the giant could raise the weapon, he suddenly spoke in a voice that was everything but his own.
Darkness comes in twos and threes,
Beware, the son and daughter of Overseas,
You may just think everything's just the same,
But in the end . . .
He took a deep, shivering breath and finished, One of you . . . will lose this game.