‘Aunt Celinda?’ Rimyar asked with awe.
‘She’s a magic-user,’ Baringo explained. ‘The general thinks we need magic to defeat the black-armour.’
Rimyar looked at the general. ‘I thought all the statues were destroyed in the north.’
‘Yes, but in the border region they are reappearing, as your scout found out. So we need magic to destroy magic before we can use steel to defeat steel.’
‘There are more magic-users among the tribes. I’ll see if I can gather them all here,’ Rimyar said thoughtfully.
‘That sounds like a good idea,’ the general said. ‘Let’s go, Baringo.’
‘Are you sure you want to visit Aunt Celinda?’ Rimyar asked again.
‘Yes, I am. Why?’
Rimyar gave the smiling Baringo a fleeting glance before saying; ‘She’s quite a piece of work.’
‘I only wish to talk to her,’ the genereal said. ‘What’s the harm?’
They rode to the canyon that was Baringo’s home and dismounted all the way in the back by the entrance of a cave. A faint light shone in the back of the tunnel.
Baringo heaved a sigh and entered the tunnel, followed by the general. The tunnel made a sharp turn to the left to end in a high-ceilinged spacious cave. Water trickled down from one side to form a small pool. Most of the floor was covered with carpets and rugs and pillows in all kinds of contrasting colours that could be seen by the light of dozens of torches, candles and lamps burning all over the place. Mirrors, crystals and well polished metal reflected the light to the darkest corners of the cave and was most painful to the eyes.
In the centre of the cave on a pile of pillows a stunning beautiful woman with grey in her black hair lay, sultry, looking at the visitors. The moment she recognised her cousin she was on her feet in a ruckus of rattling bracelets on her arms and lower legs.
Baringo cringed and bit his lower lip before he said; ‘Dear Aunt, this is—‘
The rest was lost as her flat hand hit him on the cheek with a loud clap.
‘You have some nerve, cousin, showing up here again. And you don’t have to tel me who he is. I know who he is.’
‘How do you–?’ General Fingers began, when he too was hit.
‘Be silent soldier boy,’ she spat. ‘I first have to deal with this upstart before I will pay any attention to you.’
The general blinked, flabbergasted, while rubbing his cheek, wondering how she knew who he was.
‘But Aunt Celinda, I had no choice. I had to answer Rimyar’s call to arms. You have seen the result,’ Baringo said, trying to calm her down.
‘Yes, an overcrowded bad-smelling town growing out of nowhere. Rimyar should’ve stayed where he was. Nothing good ever comes when it involves the empire. Be it with them or against them.’ With that she stretched her rattling, bracelet-covered arm and lifted General Fingers of his feet to float him directly in front of her. ‘Hm, yes, he looks about right,’ she mumbled. ‘A little older than the dream foretold me, but hey, let me also have my fancies. You have a tatoo?’
The general blinked at the abrupt question and pulled his head back, as hers suddenly moved forward so the tips of their noses almost touched.
‘A what?’ he asked softly.