Katarina surveyed the army that gathered beyond the fields around Illaryon from atop its Shining Walls, her mind racing. Many of the other Captains sneered at her habit of patrolling the high walls, saying that a Captain shouldn’t have to do the “dirty work” themselves, that they could count on the reports of their lieutenants and subordinates. It was not that Katarina didn’t trust her men; on the contrary, they were the best the decadent city had to offer, as she made sure that only the elite served in her unit, and because she provided additional training for them herself. No, she liked patrolling the high walls because she liked seeing things for herself, instead of having to rely on what others had seen; no matter how good they were, there were always details that they could miss, and that she would not. Staring at the gathering army, Katarina bit her lower lip in frustration. The numbers that were gathering there were such as the city had never seen before, and there were rumours of a terrible general behind it as well, and yet neither she nor any of the other Captains had received orders – either the High Lord was extremely confident of the city’s defences, or there was more afoot than the Captains were allowed to know, which bothered Katarina. She disliked not knowing, and besides, what you didn’t know could kill you before you had the chance to do anything about it.
Giving a hasty look around her, Katarina took a deep breath, calming her mind and relaxing her body. She opened herself to her Inner Source, embracing the flow of Karma that suddenly filled her, basking in the power that it brought her. She did not Weave, however; instead, she shifted that flow of pure energy into her eyes, activating the ability that had made her attain so much honour and prestige at such a young age. When she opened her eyes again, they were a bright purple instead of their usual green, and their shape was different too, appearing as a seven-pointed star instead of the normal human circular iris. The world seemed to shift in Katarina’s vision, as she suddenly saw shapes and colours in the field below, purple and red bruises indicating where men would die, flowing rivers indicating where they would move, to attack or flee depending on which colour the flow was painted with. It was a madman’s portrait, and enough to sicken any stomach, but Katarina’s eyes filtered the layers upon layers of possibilities and outcomes, and she absorbed enough battle information as if ten veteran generals had been whispering in her ear, an hour’s long analysis entering her brain in a split second.
“What do your Eyes see, Daughter of Battles?” The voice at her shoulder startled Katarina, making her lose the Inner Source and jarring her vision back to normal, the sudden change making her as sick as when she had activated her Karmic Eyes. She whirled on the spot, turning towards the speaker, saluting with fist to chest, “Apologies, my Lord General-Commander, I had not heard you come, sir.” General Derek Lento, commander of Illaryon’s army, was widely considered as one of the best strategists alive, and a force to be reckoned with in the battlefield as well. He had lived more than a hundred years already, with most of that spent on battles and wars, and yet he never dismissed the counsel of his officers – perhaps the very reason why he had been considered one of the greatest strategists of the world for most of his life. The bony man sighed, shaking his head, “At ease, Captain. You have not answered my question yet. What do your Eyes see?” Again, the capital E was clear in his voice. Katarina hesitated, looking back towards the gathered army. “Blood and death, my Lord General-Commander. If – no, when they attack, there will be many losses, on both sides. However… however, as long as the Wall holds, we will emerge victorious.” She did not tell him about the ominous shadow she had seen coming from the centre of the enemy’s camp; she did not know what it meant, for she had never seen it’s like before, and yet it made her shiver and feel genuinely afraid, something that had seldom happened in her entire career as a soldier. The older man simply nodded, accepting her analysis of the situation, but his eyes were grim. Almost as if he, too, could see a great shadow falling over the city. “Your analyses never disappoint, Kat. I feel the same, myself.” The General said, dropping the formalities as he turned towards the field, considering the army below. They stood there for a few moments, shoulder to shoulder, watching and wondering.
“You know I have always liked you, Kat.” The General said, finally, breaking the silence. “Unfortunately, others do not feel the same way, especially considering your… abilities. If the worst happens to the city, or if anything happens to me, I advise you to flee from Illaryon. I have prepared a boat for you, and a crew of a handful of trusted retainers, that will hopefully get you out of the city. No, do not argue, Kat.” Katarina bit back the reply she was going to give, knowing that when the General set his shoulders that way, he would not be moved by any arguments. She sighed, dropping her head. The General had been like a father to her, the only person to have cared for her after her parents died while she was still a child. For all intents and purposes, he was practically her foster father, having raised and provided for her, and always being there to protect her. That was why she had joined the military, to make him proud; unfortunately, she later discovered that he had wanted a different life for her. No wonder he would try to save her if things went wrong during the battle, and there was nothing she could do to stop it, no matter how much she wanted to actually stay by his side. After all, if things went wrong, he would be one of the first targets, being the commander of Illaryon’s armies. “I…. understand.” She forced herself to say, though her fists clenched at her sides. She hated feeling powerless, and that’s exactly how she felt during this talk of fleeing the city.
“Good, good.” He patted her shoulder, smiling at her, “This is for the best, Kat. Don’t be like that. Much better if you live to fight another day, if you will, than if you die here with the rest of us old geezers. You have to much potential to waste your life like this, for this decadent city.” He chuckled, “Or for an old man like me.” Suddenly serious, he turned to look at the invading army once more, “I don’t know why, but I do feel that something bad will come out of this battle, Kat. Be prepared for the worst, no matter what you Saw. Come, now. Let’s go downstairs and get something to eat.”
“Yes, Lord General-Commander.” Katarina said with a nod. As she followed the General downstairs, she couldn’t help thinking about the invading army, and the shadow that she had seen coming from the enemy camp. What could it mean? And the General’s intuition was seldom wrong, which spelled bad news for Illaryon. Looking out to the sky, Katarina wondered what the future would bring, for her foster father and for herself.