Palace of the Twelve Pillars by Christina Weigand
The High Wisdom raised the crown from its golden case. A loud scream tore the silence in the tent. Joachim turned to look at the entrance. A soldier fell through the opening, blood spurting from a slit stretched across his throat.
As he bounded off the dais, Waldrom screamed, “What’s going on here?
A wild rush of wind ripped the tent flaps open, and a horse and rider burst through. Joachim gaped at the body of the dead soldier. His heart raced and leapt to his throat. His gaze traveled up the horse’s legs. A man’s black boots. A scream caught in his throat, and tears filled his eyes. He stared into blue eyes.
The horse pawed the ground and snorted. The rider dismounted and stood next to the dead guard.
Wriggling free of Waldrom, Lilia ran to the rider. She threw her arms around him. “Brandan, you’re here. You’ve come to free us.”
The prince pushed her aside. “Brother, I see you are trying to usurp me again.
It appears I got here just in time.”
“No, you’re wrong. I have no desire to take anything rightfully belonging to
you.” Joachim stepped toward his brother and reached out a hand to him. “I want
to help you and see what we can accomplish together.”
Swatting his hand away, Brandan laughed. “Help me? You’re the one who
needs help. Anything you have to offer is worthless to me. Now out of my way.
The king and I have business.”
“No, listen to me. You can’t do this.” Joachim spun him around.
He clouted Joachim, knocking him down. “King Waldrom, we need to talk.
He’s deceiving you.” He spat at Joachim then turned and bowed to Waldrom. “I’m
at your service, My King.”
Regaining his feet, Joachim pushed Brandan into the guard standing behind
him. The guard wrapped his muscular arms around Brandan. “What should I do
with him, Sire?”
Brandan flipped the soldier to the ground and put his black booted foot on the
man’s chest. “The one you should be detaining is standing there, you fool.” He
pointed at Joachim.
“What are you doing?” Lilia grabbed Brandan by the arm. “Stop this, or
Waldrom will imprison us all. Why are you jeopardizing our lives?”
He looked at his mother. “Don’t worry, Mother. The only one in any danger
here is the traitor you see standing before of you. First, he betrays me, next he kills
Father, and now he would betray you and Waldrom. Guards, seize him!”
The king stepped forward and raised his hands to stop the guards. “What do
you mean a traitor, and how do you know this?”
“Because I know my brother, and that’s the way he thinks. He’ll lie, cheat, and
kill to achieve his own ends, and his goal is to have both countries under his to rule
at any cost.”
“Why should I trust you over him?”
“Because I’m just like you,” Brandan responded.
Walking around the twins, Waldrom rubbed his goatee thoughtfully. “My boy,
you present an interesting dilemma. How do I choose one over the other? How do I
know which one to believe? Guards seize both of them.” Two guards stepped
forward, and each grabbed a twin.
“You’re wrong.” Joachim struggled to break free. “This is wrong. I’m not a
liar. I only want what’s best, and that’s for us to be together.”
“You’re the one who’s wrong.” Brandan pulled his arm free. “I’ve no use for
you.” He turned to Waldrom. “Get him out of here, so we can finish.”
Joachim broke loose, stepped across the gap and grasped his brother by the
tunic. Brandan jerked around and punched him. He rubbed his jaw and shoved
Brandan, who fell to the ground “What happened to you? You’re not the brother I
Standing up, the black prince pulled his sword. “Nothing is wrong with me. I
just realized who I am and who truly cares about me...and it’s not you.” He rested
the point of the sword on the cut Waldrom had given Joachim. As Brandan pushed
the tip in the scratch, he re-opened the partially scabbed wound. Joa laid his hand
on the side of the sword and pushed it away. Guards grabbed Joachim’s arms.
“Enough! I can see you two will not make this easy. I put before you a
challenge, which will determine my choice. You will travel to the Cave of Njori
and extinguish the flame of Asha. Melvane will accompany you and testify to its
Brandan replaced his sword and walked over to his horse. “I don’t see the need
for this. It’s obvious I am the one, but I’ll go along if that is what you want.” He
remounted his horse and reined it around to exit.
Still in the grasp of the soldier, Joachim yelled, “No, Brandan, stop! You can’t
do this. We can’t. It’s the light of Asha, never to be extinguished. If you do this,
you’ll destroy all hope and any chance we have of defeating this evil.”
Brandan laughed and kicked his horse. “All the more reason to get this done
quickly. Guards, find a mount for my brother.”
“No, I won’t go. I can’t do it.”
The king raised his hand. “The choice is made. Guards, take Joachim to the
prison tent. Brandan, we will deal with this inconsequential flame later. Right now,
we have more important business to attend to.”
He signaled two of the guards to remove Joachim and then, as if it were his
own idea, said, “I knew all along he was a traitor. I was only crowning him to draw
out the true Prince of Sidramah. Brandan, thank you for arriving so soon and
before these Wisdoms regretted what they did here today.”
As the guards dragged him from the tent, Joachim struggled and screamed,
“No, he’s lying! Brandan, why are you doing this?” His cries echoed through the
camp as Waldrom returned his attentions to those remaining in the tent.
* * * *
The burly guards pushed Joachim into the prison tent. Most of the Cratonites
taken captive during the preceding battle had already been put to death or enslaved.
One lone dark figure sat in a corner. Joachim walked over to the opposite corner
and fell to the ground. The tent smelled of unwashed bodies and excrement. The
ground was mushy and muddy. Joachim felt it seep into his clothing. Two camp
dogs covered with blood and dirt wrestled over what appeared to be a human leg
He retched, and tears coursed down his cheeks. The prince buried his head in
his hands. “How could Brandan do this to me? I only wanted to protect him from
Waldrom and the evil, yet somehow it got to him anyway. And what have I done to
Father? I know I wasn’t there to kill him, yet everyone believes I did. How can this
be happening?” As the tears dried on his cheeks, Joachim fell asleep, and dark
dreams began to plague him.
He stood in the Cave of Kobata. A Nemean lion leapt on his back. He twirled
around, throwing the lion off, and then reached for a knife hidden in his boot. He
went to slash the lion, and it turned into Waldrom. He paused in confusion.
“Your father and brother have deserted you.”
“No, Father loves me. He would never leave me.”
“Don’t you see he already has? He no longer searches for you, and Brandan
has betrayed you. You have no other option than to kill them. Remove them from
your life before they do so to you. You no longer need them.”
The king changed into his father as Joachim finished the slashing motion
putting his knife into the heart.
“Joa, why are you doing this to me?” Theodric asked as he died.
The prince ran across the cave to a tunnel leading farther into the mountain
and felt a stabbing pain in his heart as he fell to the cold, hard floor. His father
was dead, and it was his fault. He killed his father. The pain of abandonment and
desolation overwhelmed him.
The prince jerked awake. I killed him. He dropped his head into his hands. A
hand touched his shoulder. He looked up and saw the dark figure who had been
sitting in the corner.
“Listen, my boy. You’ve done nothing wrong. You couldn’t have killed your
father. Pull yourself together. You must find a way to escape and get back to him.
Your father needs you now, more than he has ever needed anyone.”
“No. Don’t you see I’ve killed him? I can never be forgiven for that. There is
no place left for me to go.”
The man shook Joachim. “You didn’t kill him. Sidramah is planting these
thoughts in your head, so you’ll become discouraged and give up. You can’t let
him take your heart and mind. You must fight him. Come, you are needed.”
Joachim pushed the stranger away. “Who are you, and why do you care what
happens to me or my father?”
“My name is Salochin, but that is unimportant. Just know this, you must find
your way out of here quickly.” Salochin turned and walked into the shadows and
The prince sat for a moment, attempting to assimilate what he had seen. Who
was that man, and why did he care? He didn’t have time to figure it out. Right
now, he needed to find an escape. He stood and walked over to the spot where
Salochin vanished. He ran his hand up and down the wall but didn’t find any tears
or weak spots. How could the man have gotten out of the tent? Joachim walked
around the inside perimeter of the tent, poking and prodding, trying to find a
weakness or an opening, but he found none. Soon, he sat down in a discouraged
He wished Brandan were here. His brother would be able to find a way out. Joa
recalled how as children his brother always found a way to hide, to escape. But,
how did he do it? The prince couldn’t remember the invisibility spell. He thanked
Asha King Waldrom hadn’t felt the need to bind his powers. “What were the words
for that chant?” It hadn’t been a chant but a way of thinking. He imagined a white
light surrounding him. The light started to blur and take on the color and shapes of
his surroundings. He faded into the light, became a part of it. When he had
completely disappeared into the camouflage around him, he walked out of the tent
and through the camp. Brandan’s spell appeared to be working for him. Joa could
see everything and everyone in the camp, but no one seemed to be able to see him.
He kicked a cook fire which set one of the dilapidated tents aflame and watched as
its inhabitants ran to escape. When he reached the tethered horses, Joachim set
them loose and smacked them, so they would wander off. The few guards on duty
were dozing, and Joachim full of overconfidence with his success thus far, tried to
walk past them.
A scraggly looking dog covered with sores and dirt lay in his path. Joachim
failed to see the dog and stepped on it. The animal jumped up and yelped in pain,
waking up a tall, skinny lookout. The guard’s eyes widened as he looked into
Joachim’s face and sounded the alarm with loud shouts.
When the guard yelled, Joachim froze. The little Mantion stepped over the dog
and pointed his long spear at Joachim’s chest. A second guard stepped up behind
the prince and put a spear point to his back. Joachim’s heart beat so fast it felt like
it would jump out of his chest. They saw him. What had he done wrong? He
panicked. “Frog!” he yelled. The two Mantions turned into frogs and leapt away.
Joachim took a deep breath and bolted into the woods surrounding the camp.
The sun had gone down, and clouds covered the quarter moon in the sky.
Shadows scared Joachim as he ran through the forest. Soon he collapsed in an
exhausted heap. This must have been how his brother felt after doing forbidden
magic. Even though he had lectured Brandan about it numerous times, he never
realized how much energy was wasted by actually using the magic. Now he had
used the black magic. He had killed his father and abandoned his mother and
brother. He had no place to go. No one would welcome him, except to punish him
for his crimes.
The stranger from the tent materialized in the darkness. “Go to Crato’s battle
camp. You are guilty of nothing except caring about your family.” He disappeared
as suddenly as he had appeared.
Now he was seeing phantoms. He must be more tired than he realized. He
shook his head. Maybe he would find a place to rest for the night and then decide
Christina Weigand’s a writer, wife, and mother of three grown children and a middle school daughter. She is also Nana to three granddaughters. She lives with her husband and youngest daughter in Pennsylvania, returning there after a short sabbatical in Washington. Currently, she’s working on fantasy novels and inspirational writing. Through her writing, she strives to share the Word of God and help people young and old to realize the love and mercy He has for everyone.
When she’s not writing, she’s active in her local Church as a lector, Bible Study, or with the church theater group, volunteering at her daughter and granddaughter’s school in the library as well as helping the children develop a love for reading and writing. Jesus fills her home with love as she shares Him through her writing.