THEN A PENGUIN WALKED IN #29
Dominick looked up to see a bald man with a long, white beard standing before him. The man wore official-looking blue robes that hung past his ankles and he clutched a thick, wooden staff. The staff was topped with a five pointed star and the old man pounded it into the surface of the wooden floor. Five times he pounded the staff, the concussive force reverberating through Dominick as the sound echoed about the room.
“Head down,” Vivian hissed.
Dominick dropped his eyes. “Who is that?”
“He is the Speaker of the Stars. He is a holy man who has studied the Prophecies and uses the stars to see the future. Now hush,” Vivian said as the old man began to speak.
“The Prophecies speak of the One who will come to us from the Ancient World. He will bear the Mark of the Hammer of Maxwell and will harness the might of the storm. The One will have power greater than even he shall know, power to hold dominion over us all. But with all the might at his disposal, the One will have the heart and the wisdom to serve, not conquer.”
The Speaker paused and Dominick could feel the people around him being sucked into the old man’s words. Though the man had looked ancient and craggy, his voice was clear and commanding. What was once a hall filled with the idle conversations of those waiting for the show to begin was now so quiet that his own breath rang in his ears like the sound of thunder.
“The Prophecies tell us that the One will come to us in a time of dire need,” continued the Speaker. “And that he will light the way with a blade as black as night. He will be the first, but not the last, and he will bear the standard of peace.”
Dominick felt an itch forming at the base of his nose and he fought the urge to scratch.
“And though the Prophecies tell us that the coming of the One will signal a time of war and despair, he will be the instrument that will bring peace to the land.”
The itch grew fiercer and Dominick crinkled his nose back and forth in rapid succession.
“Know that the day spoken of in the Prophecies has arrived,” the Speaker said, his voice rising. “Know that the One has come at last.”
“Stand,” Vivian whispered in his ear.
Dominick rose to a collective gasp from the crowd.
“Tremble before his might,” the Speaker called, his arms held high, the staff in one hand. “Feel the power of our salvation!”
This last echoed out around Dominick and silenced the mutterings and cries of the crowd.
“Speak thy name so that we may know thee,” the Speaker said.
“I am Dominick Hanrahan,” he said following Vivian’s prompting.
Dominick Hanrahan, I present you to the Triumvirate.” The Speaker turned and swept a hand toward the dais and the woman with the long red curls.
“Lady Genivene of the Triumvirate, Queen of the human nation of Talton, I present to you Dominick Hanrahan. The One,” said the Speaker.
Queen Genivene gave a slight bow of her head. “We welcome you, Dominick Hanrahan, and embrace you as a brother.”
“I am honored to be seen under the eyes of the Queen of Men,” Dominick repeated as Vivian spoke into his ear. “I pledge to you my hand and heart.” He touched his right hand to his heart and bowed.
“Lord Honrig Stonechurch of the Triumvirate,” called the Speaker, his hand sweeping to the next throne where sat a small and stocky man with a wild beard of black. “King of the Dwarven kingdom of Throndil the Under Realm, I present to you Dominick Hanrahan. The One.”
The King of the dwarves nodded. “We welcome you, Dominick Hanrahan, and embrace you as a brother.”
“I am honored to be seen under the eyes of the King of Dwarves,” Dominick said, again repeating what Vivian spoke for only him to hear. “I pledge to you my hand and heart.” As with the Queen, he touched his right hand to his heart and bowed.
Next was a tall slender woman in the third chair. Her hair was long and the same shade of green as her skin, like that of a field of grass. “Roberta Green Tree, First Lady and Queen of the Fae,” said the Speaker. “I present to you Dominick Hanrahan. The One.”
The Fairy Queen smiled broad and wide, showing her yellow teeth, and gave Dominick a thumbs up. “We welcome you, Dominick Hanrahan, and embrace you as a brother.”
“I am, uh,” he floundered for a moment. The thumbs up had thrown him off. “I am honored to be seen under the eyes of the Queen of the Fae,” Dominick said. “I pledge to you my hand and heart.” He touched his right hand to his heart and bowed.
Dominick then turned to the next one along.
As the Speaker began speaking, Dominick stole another glance at Roberta Green Tree. She threw him another thumbs up, still smiling.
“Kendrick of the Triumvirate, Chieftain, son of Glamdir the Giant Slayer, brother of Falbur the Bright, nephew of Jontrin the Not So Bright, and cousin of Nilton the Hider of Other People’s Things,” said the Speaker. “I present to you Dominick Hanrahan. The One.”
Kendrick, even sitting, towered over the rest of the Triumvirate. A course brown fur covered every inch of the troll’s body but the area around his eyes and nose. The fur at his chin, his beard, was done together in two long, thick braids, and when he spoke, his voice rumbled like an avalanche in a thunder storm. “We welcome you, Dominick Hanrahan, and embrace you as a brother.”
“I am honored to be seen under the eyes of the Chief of Trolls,” Dominick said. “I pledge to you my hand and heart.”
“Lord Uto of the Triumvirate,” called the Speaker, reaching the last of the rulers. “Elf Lord. I present to you Dominick Hanrahan. The One.”
Lord Uto had a savage look about him that made the Troll Chieftain seem like a big stuffed bear. He dressed in tanned animal hides and wore pale white beads around his neck. He was bald and his pointed ears reached almost a full two inches above his hairless pate. His almond eyes were blue like the clear sky, and his smile . . . Dominick thought for a moment that the elf was going to go for his throat when he showed his teeth.
“We welcome you, Dominick Hanrahan,” Lord Uto said in a quiet voice that took hold of Dominick’s heart with an icy grip. “And embrace you as a brother.”
Dominick tried to repress a shudder, but found himself failing under Lord Uto’s gaze. “I am honored to be seen under the eyes of the Elf Lord,” Dominick said. “I pledge to you my hand and heart.”
“Rejoice, People of Gund,” the Speaker called out to the assembled. “The One has been so named and accepted into our embrace.”
The crowd roared and for a moment, Dominick felt better than he’d had at any point in his life. He felt accepted, needed.
Then she stepped from the crowd.
She was beautiful with dark skin and even darker hair. She wore leather armor covered in the scars of battle and her hand rested on the hilt of a sword that rode at her waist like it was a part of her. She walked with the grace of a stalking panther and eyed Dominick like so much meat to be hunted and devoured.
The assembled celebration died as she stepped to Dominick.
Though he was taller by at least two inches, she made him feel small under her gaze.
“Um,” Dominick said as everyone around him went quiet.
She only looked him in the eyes and spoke.
“I challenge this man’s claim.”
To be continued . . .