A Prophecy Worth Blood
Prophecy is both a gift and a curse. It can gift a man with insight into the future that can benefit all of mankind, but it can also curse him with knowledge that others will kill to obtain or to silence.
Terrand of Malorez, Master Prophet
429, Third Age
The sound of iron shod hooves clattering against cobblestones rang out as three dozen men rode hard toward a drab monastery nestled in a small grove of trees miles down the road. The men ignored the cold winter wind that bit at their cheeks and the looming darkness from the shortened days. They knew the way to their destination well and the simple road guided them even in the dim light. All of these men were dressed in expensive heavy plate armor with mail beneath and carried spears in their hand and a sword on their belt. Each wore the crest of their emperor upon their chest plate. The silver mountain and the four golden stars above it seemed to glow faintly on the field of red with its gold trim. The leader had no spear, but instead carried a standard with the same crest that fluttered behind him as they rode. Their horses had armor of their own that was a combination of small plates on the head and chest and polished black leather on the flanks.
Their destination seemed a mockery of their dress and manner. There were no bright colors or fancy standards to be seen, only a line of laundry drying to the side. The monastery was already lit with torches and a large lamp at the highest bell tower, but the light showed only the dull brown and tan surfaces made from stone. A few cloaked figures milled around carrying out various tasks or simply meditating before evening prayer. The monastery itself was not impressive to the eyes, either. Its highest point, the lit bell tower, was only twelve feet above the horizon and the rest of the buildings were simple structures mostly meant to house those who lived inside. There was a perimeter fence, but it was designed to keep the chickens in rather than as a defensive barrier.
As soon as the riders approached, the heads of the cloaked figures rose to see who was arriving in such haste. By the time the riders came to the front door, a dozen of the inhabitants had assembled outside.
One stepped forward and took in the score of men who were glaring down at him from atop their mounts. These were the best soldiers in the Empire and answered only to the emperor or his empress. The monk kept his chin up and said with a voice that was strong, but not threatening, "You are not permitted upon these grounds."
The leader of the riders handed the standard to one of his subordinates before dismounting. He took two steps forward and replied, "By the authority of the Emperor, I command you to bring forth Master Prophet Terrand."
The cloaked man who had first spoken stood firm. "This monastery is under the authority of the Way. Not even the Emperor himself can command the gods. Your commands hold no weight here."
The officer set his jaw and said in a harsh voice, "They do tonight. Stand aside, acolyte, or we will cut you down where you stand."
With a glance to his brothers on either side, the cloaked man freed his hands from within his cloak to show they were empty. He knew that his next words would be his last, but there was no other option. He answered to a higher power than these men and the will of that higher power dictated a different path. With resolute sadness weighing down his voice, he said for the third time, "You are not permitted on these grounds."
True to his word, the officer pulled out his sword and ran the acolyte through. His men sprang into action and either threw their spears or dismounted in complete silence. Before their feet touched the ground, eight of the acolytes were dead with wooden shafts sticking out of their chests. Despite the suddenness of the carnage, the remaining three men did not flee or cry out in terror. Each had known where their actions would lead them, and each accepted their fate willingly.
The dozen men who had gone out to meet the riders fell in seconds, their blood staining the cobblestone road or repainting the walls behind them. The riders had all dismounted and spread out into the monastery leaving four of their number to watch the horses. There were no cries of pain or fear from the squat buildings even as its inhabitants were slaughtered. Each cloaked man stood their ground and accepted their fate without any signs of cowardice or hesitation. The riders did not scream out in the heat of the moment or mock those they slaughtered, they just carried out their grim task in silence.
In minutes, only one inhabitant of the monastery remained alive. He stood calmly in the central courtyard with his eyes closed in meditation while his brethren were slaughtered around him. The man was of middle age, clean shaven, and wore a simple dark blue robe that differentiated himself from the others. The riders killed all else, but none touched him until the massacre was complete.
When all was done, the leader of the riders stepped into the courtyard carrying a torch taken from the monastery. "Prophet Terrand, you are commanded by Emperor Caterin of Angvard to return to Angvard City and to reveal to him your latest prophecy in its entirety, omitting nothing. The penalty for not doing this is the most painful death and the destruction of your Order."
Terrand looked at the seasoned warrior in front of him and took note of the blood dripping from his sword and armor. He did not shrink back as the man approached, but stood tall with a calm, almost serene expression on his face. "You are a most interesting man, Captain Wasitpan," he said in a melodic voice. "Your fate is known to me, and it is not one you expect. Your death will be long in coming, but you will wish for it to come far sooner. Do you wish to know the manner in which you will die?"
Captain Wasitpan growled and slapped the prophet across the face with his gauntleted hand. "I will not hear of your lies!" he spat out.
From the ground, Terrand looked up at the warrior, but made no effort to get back up. "Very well, young Captain Wasitpan, your fate shall remain known only to me." He paused and looked upward to the twilight sky. "The prophecy your master wishes is a complex one indeed, dependent on many factors all falling into place. Should any of those factors not come true, all shall collapse in on itself into meaninglessness." He raised a single finger. "But should the Immortal forces of good and evil properly conspire to bring forth the needed factors, the world itself will quake in fear and hope."
With a small chuckle—the first emotion the man had displayed during the entire massacre—he continued, "A time will come when One will come into being that will change the world. He will command armies mightier than any Teladia has seen before and all will answer to him, for good or ill, wherever he goes. He will unite the lands in true harmony and rule over them all.
"Beware, dear captain, for he shall be known by the following. War will not be his choice, but it will dominate his life. He will despise fighting, but will embrace it eagerly. He will be a leader of men but will not seek to lead. He will give up that which he holds most dear, but will gain that which is necessary in exchange. He will fall before he rises. He will have no children, but all will call him father. He will be a stranger in many lands, but be welcomed in them. He will be strong and fierce against those who oppose him, but gentle and kind to those who join him. When he is needed, he will arise to carry out his purpose of saving us all from the Coming Darkness. All will bow before his strength, for he will be the one who masters magic."
The captain was not satisfied and kicked the prophet with his steel boot. "We know this to be true, it has been spoken of by others for centuries. What has not been confirmed is who this man is or where is he from. You alone have seen this and that is what the Emperor demands!"
"My poor captain, I would not tell you that for all the wealth in the world," Terrand said with another chuckle. "Not all prophecy is meant for all ears. Your emperor will never know my prophecy, neither will his heirs for generations on end. Not until it is too late will his line know that their end is at hand."
Wasitpan kicked the man again and replied with a confident sneer, "We will see about that. A few weeks in the torture chambers will loosen your lips."
Again, he was greeted with a chuckle, this one a little louder. "No, for you forget that I am a prophet, one gifted by the gods themselves with their wisdom and foresight. I have known this day would come for years. Indeed, my time here is done, but you shall not lay another finger upon me."
Intending to disprove the prophet's claims, the captain reached down for the bruised man. Before he could reach him, a strange sound like the popping of a large bubble erupted from the intended victim. Wasitpan was thrown back across the courtyard. His torch was blown out from a mighty rushing wind that caused the worn robes on the laundry line to flap violently.
The light from the torch was no longer needed, though, because Prophet Terrand was consumed in flames that lit the entire monastery like a bonfire. Wasitpan's men shielded their eyes from both the wind and the sudden light, but they could not shield their ears from the sound of the prophet's laughter as his own body was consumed by the fire. The captain and his men cowered in awe and terror at the magic before them. After a handful of seconds, the wind, fire, and laughter died out leaving nothing but the whisper of the wind where the prophet once was.