Mountain of Truth: The Revelations of Oriceran, Soul Stone Mage, Book 3
By Sarah Noffke & Martha Carr
The Kingdom of Virgo has lived in peace for thousands of years… until now.
Overhead a large harpy swooped in the air. The Duke of Terran knew better than to venture into the Dark Forest without a bodyguard. In his peripheral Phillip spied the blinking red eyes. He knew that the rogue dryads were lurking in the forest, waiting for a chance to corner him, turn him into a statue for his misdeeds. That’s where the stupid forest nymphs were wrong. Yes, under his rule the forest had been depleted, but he saw that as more of a problem of the forest, rather than of the humans of Terran’s overuse. The humans on Earth figured out how to innovate things so they worked better. The forest just needed to learn how to do that.
The rogue dryads were unwilling to chance apprehending the Duke as long as he had the protection of the harpies. And once he was inside the borders of the Land of Terran then he was safe. Stupid wood creatures had vengeance but no strategy. Their heads had to be filled with termites.
“Hey, you can get off my back now, rogue dryads,” Phillip said, waving a potion bottle in the air. He tipped it until a single droplet splattered on the dead forest ground. From the drop, bright green seedlings slipped through the dirt, rising higher and higher until they grew into long ferns and fast growing fig trees. The regrowing potion had been a fruitful investment. Phillip had bargained with the harpies to protect him in order to secure the potion from Charmsgood and all it cost him was the expense of feeding the large birds. However, because of the Orcs, the birds hadn’t been fed in quite some time. That was the part that he’d have to remedy soon. The harpies had to be fed or otherwise the alliance would fall at his feet.
Vines grew where moments prior there’d only been barren soil. Phillip extended his hand to a birch sapling. With his sheer will he leeched the energy from the tree which didn’t exist moments ago. The power flowed into him, filling his chest with a fresh buzz of energy. The birch tree paled, turning from white to an ashen gray. A wind blew and the tree was swept away, nothing more than soon to-be decaying roots.
Phillip revolved on the forest around him. Soon it might be strong enough for a harvest. It was becoming more dangerous for the humans of Terran to venture into the forest to fill their magical reserves. And to find something worth bringing back for harvest wasn’t easy since the forest was barren all around them. Venturing too far was a risk, even with the harpies flying overhead.
“Is it my turn yet?” A woman asked from the shadows.
Phillip had stationed her there, telling her to stay quiet until he’d restored part of the forests and leeched some of it. He lifted his head and regarded the woman who wore a mink stole and camouflage pants, both styles that were depicted in advertisements from Earth.
“Yes, Mary. It’s your turn.” Phillip waved the woman forward. “I need you to stand right here, first though.”
“But why?” the woman asked.
“Because the only way the harpies can protect you is if they meet you first,” Phillip said, shaking his head at her like this should be obvious.
“Oh, of course. I’m happy to meet them if they’ll keep me safe,” the woman chirped with a loud laugh.
“They’ll keep you safe, alright.” Phillip flipped up the collar of his trench coat and changed places with Mary.
She raised her head to the sky where the large winged beasts soared. “They are quite scary, aren’t they? And those faces. They’re like women, but without any beauty.”
“Yes, they are quite strange looking, but some might call that beauty in itself. I know I recognize them as lovely.” Phillip took another step backwards, completely covered in shadows. “She’s all yours.”
Overhead a screech. A harpy flapped its wings, its black eyes staring down at the human. Around the single harpy, the others rose up higher in the air, circling. The stripped feathers of the low harpy vibrated as the half-vulture and half-woman took in large breaths.
“What’s it doing?” Mary asked, her voice suddenly frantic.
“She’s preparing to hunt,” Phillip said from the shadows.
“What!” Mary spun on her toes and sprinted for the trees, far in the distance.
Overhead the harpy dove, rocketing toward the ground with an ear-splitting howl. Mary leapt to the forest floor, covering the back of her head with her arms. The harpy’s claws hovered just over the woman’s shoulders before clamping around her arms.
“NO!” Mary yelled, kicking as the harpy lifted her into the air. “Phillip! How could you?”
Phillip turned, putting his back to the abduction he’d need to quickly erase from his mind. The harpies had to be fed and since he didn’t have a witch or wizard to offer, he had to sacrifice his own people. This was what a great leader did. They made the hard decisions. They spared the few for the many. This was something that Emperor Frederick wouldn’t ever know how to do. This was what Phillip was born to do, he thought as the harpy’s screams sank away, drifting off father into the Dark Forest.
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