“You can’t do this!” urged the Chancellor.

 

“As King of the Kotakaya, I can do anything I please—or have you forgotten your place already?”

 

The rage-filled voice stalked like winter throughout the cold throne room, chilling all it touched. Even the knights—normally so stone-still and silent—trembled at the sound that had interrupted their pristine formation.

 

While the booming voice reverberated throughout the room, its speaker sat still and rigid upon a throne meticulously crafted of harsh iron and brittle bone.

 

His massive hands gripped two lifeless skulls that looked disturbingly Kotakoid, their sharp incisors jutting out from lifeless faces as empty as the eyes of those gathered there in the great room as they stared nervously ahead.

“King Edam, if I may speak so boldly…should you decide to rise up against the Anagativa, you invite nothing but disaster and death to the realm and the Kotakayan people!” sputtered Chancellor Bhakara.

 

“Disaster? Pah! The Anagativa welcomed their own disaster to Ailur the very moment they stole our birthright,” spat the haughty monarch.

 

“When they barred us from benefiting from the crystals’ magic…when they treated us like intolerant toddlers too stupid and barbaric to understand…when they deemed us second-class citizens of Ailur—they knew this day would come. The disaster, Chancellor, is theirs and theirs alone, for they are the ones who have called it so freely to these lands.”

 

“There is no doubt the Anagativa are selfish and wrong, Your Majesty," the Chancellor carefully replied "…and it is certainly true that they are owed a great and bloody debt—but you must consider their armament! They are creatures of magic, backed by the power of the ancient, sacred crystals. What have we that can match such terrible and impenetrable defenses?”

For the first time since the meeting had begun, the hulking King Edam grinned—a slippery, shark-like smile full of sharp daggers and malicious, unspoken intent; those in the throne room cowered before the king with immense uncertainty and unease.

 

Edam’s great, clawed hand rose slowly from the skulled throne, and as it did, a dark figure silently appeared in the room…as seamlessly and readily as if it had simply always been there.

 

As the light of the candelabras on the walls flickered and illuminated the figure, her shiny suit and opaque goggles became visible. Tufts of fur poked out here and there, but the suit revealed little more than the figure's sleek, feminine shape.

 

On her back was a strange mechanical pack adorned with a twisted, bronze coil that twisted out from a translucent, glass-like tube. Attached to the pack was a long cord that lead all the way to the figure’s hand, which appeared to hold a blunderbuss tucked tightly into its grip.

“Adeema,” the King spoke, addressing the figure and interrupting the silence that had built since she had appeared. “Would you please show Chancellor Bhakara how we intend to combat the puny, magic powers of the Anagativa?”

 

The figure—Adeema—was only too willing to oblige. All it took was the flick of a switch to send the bronze coil humming to life. The pack's electricity crawled at first—and then it leapt, ferociously sparking through the glass tube in an ever-changing lightning landscape.

 

The chancellor narrowed his eyes. He had seen this before at local faires and gatherings—entertainers who had figured out how to harness the raw, ferocious energy of a lightning storm as they wooed an enamored, awestruck crowd. It was fearsome, yes…and exciting, true…but until now, it had always been just a fun little parlor trick.

 

What happened next, however, pushed well past any performer’s simple sleight of hand.

Adeema pulled the trigger in her hand and suddenly, a lance of lightning leapt through the dim, cold room, igniting it in a brilliant, electric light. The lightning latched upon one unsuspecting, steel-plated knight—and then moved on to ravage another, and another still—leaping from knight to knight as it surged with rage from the pack and devoured.

 

At once, panic erupted within the room. Some tried to scream and were quickly silenced; others attempted to run but were fatally interrupted.

 

Fulmination spread throughout the space until there were only three figures that remained amid the acrid scent of burning flesh and charred fur: the Chancellor, the figure Adeema, and the King.

“Science,” King Edam said. “The antithesis of magic, good Chancellor. What the Anagativa have they were given by mere chance; what we have has been earned and built through great struggle and suffering.

 

"The Anagativa shall soon savor the very fruits of our misery, so bountiful and plenty, and then we shall see just how far their simple enchantments can carry them. Let them come, Bhakara. We’ll be ready and hungrily waiting.”

 

After several moments, Chancellor Bhakara—who had been knocked to the floor during the grand show of destruction—finally stood; his mind was filled with revulsion and his body shook as he heaved himself up from the cold, charred tile floor.

 

He now understood with crystal-clear clarity that he had been wrong to underestimate the king…one of the few miscalculations and missteps he’d ever made in his entire life.

 

King Edam would do anything he wanted, and at whatever cost—not because he was king, no…but because he was so clearly and undoubtedly…mad.

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