Excerpt from Chapter 24 of
Laura and the Final Liberation
By James Haselton
Fire of Revenge

List of booksy the time the sunset service began everything was in place. The priests entered the temple and spread out in the front rows of benches trying to disguise the fact that there were about fifteen less of them than was usual. The temple was always dark which would play into their hands this night. There were candles on candelabra spikes along the middle aisle, across the dais in front, and on either side of the altar where Lu-Kri stood to deliver his address but there were no candles at the rear of the temple. Light was only needed by Lu-Kri so that he could do the various text readings that had become the pretext for their continued worship services. The readings were of materials that the priests now spent a certain amount of time writing, being essentially coded references to the cult goddess. It had been their only opportunity to defy the soldiers for many months.

"This is for our beloved goddess; she now rises again as surely as your King shall die!"

The soldiers entered exactly at the beginning of the service and sat in the back benches. They had all done this dozens of times by now and the priests often heard references to games or other forms of gambling in which the losing men had to do their stint in the temple that evening. Most of them were dozing or lost in their own thoughts by the middle of the service and that is when the priests made their brazen move. Lu-Kri began a reading of one of their strange coded texts. This was a signal to other priests who had come to the doors of the temple and waited just outside until they heard the right words. Then fifteen priests, walking in bare feet so as to make no noise on the ancient stone floor, entered the temple and filed across the back of the room to take places in the dark recesses behind each of the soldiers.

Lu-Kri came to a line in the text which went, ‘And now brothers; may thy lives be touched by the mysteries of the great beyond.’  And at the word ‘touched’, each priest prodded the soldier in front of him in the neck with a short stick, at the end of which was affixed a poison dart. The soldiers all reacted as if they had been stung by some insect, swatting or brushing at their necks. A few managed to turn around and see their attackers grinning at them with looks of triumph mixed with curiosity before their eyes rolled back in their heads and they slumped over dead, every one. There were a few other priests standing nearby with daggers in case there were any slip-ups. They now went from corpse to corpse making sure they were all dead. Ra-Jin was one of these and when he was certain that the eleven soldiers were quite dead, he said, “Well done, brothers!  The first battle is over. The next will not be so easy. Let’s get rid of these bodies.”

Ky-Ri went from priest to priest collecting the sticks with the poison tips and Ky-Ra went from soldier to soldier collecting their short swords and any daggers they had; these he handed to the priests who had wielded the darts. Some of the older priests who had been in the front benches during the service hauled the bodies outside and laid them out of the way between the monastery and the temple. There would be more.

Ra-Jin said, “Let us return to the monastery quickly and prepare for the next strike. You all know what to do!”

Fifteen minutes later seventy priests were streaming out the doors of the monastery, all of them carrying torches into the night; each had some kind of weapon also. They paraded down the street to the soldiers’ camp and surrounded it. Every fifth man placed a torch at the bottom of the fence and watched to make sure the old dry wood caught fire. Laura and the Ancient EnigmaOnce set, the flames rose quickly up the fence. Ra-Jin and his three companions from Lavros were stationed outside the main gates near the well. As soon as Ra-Jin saw flames in several places, he nodded to Ky-Ri who produced a bird-like whistle. At this signal, the priests all lobbed their torches into the compound and ran to position themselves near the two gates on opposite sides of the camp, swords and other weapons at the ready.

In what seemed like just seconds there were screams from inside the fort. The soldiers who were not themselves on fire began running to the gates. The first of those who went out the rear were met by sharp swords and were hewn down, but those who had the sense to try for the well, were felled by darts shot by the priests lurking near the well, or stabbed to death by the dozens of priests who swarmed over them like ants and then rushed into the compound.

The fighting inside the fence was brutal and some priests were killed or wounded but the bewildered soldiers were cut down one after another because most had no weapons; they having been left inside the burning tents. It was nearly all over in as little as fifteen minutes. The final blow came when Marshall Va-Shi came through the front gates on a horse, probably the only one kept inside the compound. The horse had no saddle or bridle and Va-Shi was hanging onto the horse’s mane for dear life. He almost made it but as he rode past the well, Ra-Jin, now wielding a sword, made a twirling move at the horse’s thigh, wounding the animal and bringing them both crashing to the ground amid the screams of both the horse and its rider. Ra-Jin and one of the twins ran to the fallen man to make sure he would not escape. They were determined not to allow any warning of this to reach the King’s ears.

When they approached Va-Shi, he was attempting to free himself from the injured animal and finally managed to get to his bare feet, one of which was crushed and causing him unbelievable pain. He looked at the two priests silhouetted against the inferno blazing up to the sky behind them and cried, “Mercy, show some mercy!  We killed no one here. Why? … such brutality … I’ve never seen such cruelty!”

Ra-Jin looked into his face and shouted, “This is for our beloved goddess; she now rises again as surely as your King shall die!”  As he spoke these words he rushed at Va-Shi, both hands on his sword hilt, and plunged the sword into his chest, his momentum carrying the stricken man down onto his back where he lay convulsing momentarily and then lay still, the final victim of a suppressed rage like nothing ever before seen in this city or anywhere else in the land of Oikama. And the priests were just getting started.

The next day at two hours past noon in Lavros, Quantos let out a blood-chilling cry of triumph that was heard in every dark corner of the inner circle. Even Jamel, who was way out by the lake, heard it and smiled as he polished one of the mysterious black crystals which would soon lead another army into war, an army the likes of which the world had never seen.


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