TORIA (Photograph of a possible representation of Toria provided by pixabay of the caves in Cappadocia, Turkey.)
The houses were in a dozen raised tiers; individual homes carved into the rock like elaborate caves. Each house front was different from the others, uniquely carved by the original inhabitants to show ownership. At the end of each alley between the houses was a wall of rock. The three were trapped in the alley they had selected, but the thought never crossed their minds. They waited in the shadows, watching the road for their friends.
The rooftop garden was one of Sharra’s favourite spots. Her husband, Nikolai, had had it built as a wedding gift for her when he had brought her to Dundarden Castle as his bride, five years before. From here, she had an excellent view of the countryside that surrounded them, which was mainly miles of forest dotted with villages and hamlets. The Gillian River, which began its journey in the rugged Zagoroth Mountains in the west, passed them by with swift determination on its way to the Mogell Sea in the north. She had grown quite used to the soothing sounds of the river. There had been many nights when she had gone to bed, her head filled with the concerns and problems that needed to be solved for the diverse inhabitants of Draukenberg, only to be lulled to sleep by the sounds of the river.
She watched with pride as her two-year-old triplets scampered in and around the trees and bushes playing a noisy game of tag. She would have enjoyed it more if the feeling of foreboding that had been with her since early morning was not starting to increase. Sharra glanced once again at the sky. It was probably her imagination, but she was certain that it had darkened slightly in the east. Something was wrong, and she had a terrible feeling that she knew exactly what it was.
“Azmodeus,” she whispered so that the maid would not hear. “Come quickly.”
Seconds later, an elderly man dressed in a tunic and sandals, stepped out from behind one of the trees. His once red hair and beard were streaked with grey, and the lines of experience on his face spoke of a man who had lived long and seen much. However, there was nothing weak or frail about the man. He strode forward like a warrior, emanating power and strength with every step.
“Has he shown himself again?” he demanded.
Sharra shook her head as she gestured to the startled maid to move away.
“No. The sensation I am feeling is not of him. There is another coming, Azmodeus. This one hates and wants revenge. It’s her, Azmodeus. I know it’s her. You must take the children and hide them. She mustn’t find them.”
With every word, Sharra became more and more frantic.
Azmodeus called out to the maid. “Lucilla, take the children to their father as fast as you can. Do not stop for anything.”
He turned back to Sharra and taking her hands pulled her to her feet.
“Do not be afraid, Highness. You must go into hiding with your husband as we planned, and I will look after the children. Everything has been arranged.”
“Why are the others allowing this?” she cried. “They promised us. They promised to leave us alone.”
“I don’t know,” growled Azmodeus. “But as soon as you are all in places of safety, I intend to find out. Now come.”
He turned and began to stride quickly toward the door that led into the castle.
“Wait,” called out Sharra as she turned and ran back to fetch her cape that she had left under a tree.
“No,” cried Azmodeus. “Come quickly. You don’t dare be alone…”
It happened without warning. Sharra snatched up her cape and took two steps toward him just as an impenetrable mist settled on the garden. He saw her turn and look over her shoulder, and then she disappeared from sight. When the mist lifted seconds later, the Queen of Draukenberg had vanished, her cape left forgotten on the ground.