Khorun trampled through the grass beside his twin brother-at-arms, Nurohk, their enhanced armored legs hammering the foliage with each step.
"You are wrong. Vridus could take Balzara any day in battle!" Khorun huffed.
"No, it is you who are wrong. Balzara would crush Vridus with a mere stare!" Nurohk replied gruffly.
Khorun stopped and grabbed his brother by the shoulder plate, turning to him. "Now you are simply making things up!"
Nurohk's brow furrowed and his left eye opened wide in all seriousness. "Then why do we not ask the Templar oracle and see who is just boasting!"
Khorun snorted in triumph. "Very well! We will go now then!"
Nurohk laughed gutturally. "Fine!"
The two warriors resumed their pace, heading for the Templar Archives.
Outside, two Zealots guarded the entrance. As the twins approached, the guards drew their glaives, warding them back.
"The Archives are forbidden to all but Templar," the Zealot on the left warned.
Khorun raised up an amulet chained to his neck. "Judicator Turmalis gives us access to the oracle!"
The Zealot guard to the right looked at the other and then back to Khorun. "But... Templar secrets are forbidden..."
Nurohk chimed in, shaking a defiant fist. "It tells us stories! Not secrets!"
The guard to the left looked at the other and shrugged. They withdrew their glaives and allowed the twins to pass.
Inside, the twins noticed the bizarre contents of the Archives they had seen several times before when Turmalis had brought them there to teach them lessons of war and honor. Early on, the Judicator had found it easier for the oracle to recount past historical battles and legends rather than try to explain these things himself. The twins could have cared less for Templar secrets, and were never able to understand how psionic abilities and forbidden knowledge could be stronger than physical combat — thus Turmalis believed no harm could come from it.
The twins approached a large, intricately carved marble pedestal and kneeled before it.
The visage of Adun appeared in the form of a hologram. "I am the spirit of Adun. I am the Great Oracle.You, who are not Templar, have returned. What knowledge do you seek on this occasion? Beware... seeking forbidden knowledge is death."
Khorun stood and raised his amulet. "We seek a story, Great Oracle!"
The hologram flickered as it processed the request. Nurohk eyed it warily, assuming the spirit was listening to other unseen spirit elders who were either granting or denying their right to a story.
"And which story do you wish to hear?" the faux spirit questioned.
Nurohk stood. "The tale of Vridus and Balzara, Great Adun."
The hologram flickered again. "Access granted."
Tiles in the floor behind them slid open and molded seats rose up from the floor. The twins seated themselves and listened with awe.
"Long ago, during the Aeon of Strife, a Templar warrior named Vridus was walking through the jungle toward home..." the oracle began.
Vridus listened to the guttural howls of a Bengalaas and the chirping sounds of Gryllid bugs as he cut a swath through the jungle. Out in the distance, above the treetops to the East, he could see his destination, the small village of Antioch. He was angry with himself for choosing to take a "shortcut" which instead of getting him home quicker than the normal dirt path he traveled, had gotten him lost for several hours.
As he lopped down more vines he heard the snapping of twigs and stood still, trying to discern the direction from whence the sound had come. To his right, the foliage began to shake and stir. Alarmed, he drew his blades.
Yes! Fight! Fight!" Khorun shouted as he stood up and waved his fist excitedly. Nurohk furrowed his brow in anger and Khorun sat back down. The oracle continued.
Out of the foliage came his old friend and mentor, Karydon. "Vridus, I would have thought you would have learned by now that I am not a plant, no matter how long I may vegetate on my Khat in the afternoon sunlight. Please put away your weapon."
"What are you doing out here?" Vridus asked.
"Looking for you, of course. The tribal elders have called a meeting to discuss an alliance with the Ara in preparation for war on the Akilae tribe," Karydon replied.
"I do not trust the Ara any more than the Akilae."
"Neither do I, but if we do not return to the village quickly, neither of us will have any say in the matter," Karydon explained.
"Boring!" Khorun shouted. "Skip to the good part!"
Nurohk lashed him with his head-tails. "Just be quiet and listen, or we may just miss a 'good part' because of all your noise!"
Khorun raised his fist to strike his brother.
"SIT DOWN," came a deep and resonating voice. The twins turned to see that the oracle's image had been replaced with that of the behemoth former Judicator of Antioch.
"Jepok?" they asked in unison.
The Antioch Chronicles™ © 1998, Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. All rights reserved. The Antioch Chronicles™ trademark and associated logos are the exclusive property of Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. Characters and distinctive likenesses thereof, character names, item names, place names, named events, artwork and all other related material not disclosed herein are protected under the laws of the United States of America and other countries. Any reproduction, retransmission, or unauthorized use herein is prohibited without express written permission.
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