CHAPTER SIX: IMPERIUM (4/5)

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Sol didn't know if it had anything to do with the ring, but time did seem to come to a halt then as he gazed at the small purple stone in its band. It had a strange aura about it, almost as though it was alive. A tingle spread through his finger and danced up his arm.

"When Navok and his army attacked," continued the Emperor, "Alyara knew the Nempus Kala was the only thing that could stop him. She used its power to stop time and took Navok's wand, along with the wand of every dark creature in his army.

"What took her many days happened in the blink of an eye for the rest of us. Unarmed, Navok's army had no choice but to concede defeat. If not for Alyara and that stone, Navok would have claimed not only this world but yours as well."

Sol gulped and lowered his hand which suddenly felt very heavy.

"After the war was over, Alyara knew that the stone was too powerful to hide away unprotected, so she went to Maeyana and had her create a ring to contain it—but the ring is not simply for decoration; it ensures that only one person can ever wield it. If someone should try to take the stone from it, it will kill them. The only way for it to change owner is if it is given willingly."

"So how did it end up with Pan Magal?"

"Elders can grow to be very old, but even we do not live forever. After the war, Alyara lived for five more centuries before she eventually passed on, but not before leaving the ring to a man called Rhiln, which is, in fact, Pan Magal's true name. Pan Magal is really just a title, meaning 'Father of the People'. He has kept the Nempus Kala safe for the past thousand years."

The sadness in the Emperor's voice was painfully clear. He stared at the painting on the wall in quiet contemplation for a long moment.

"Do you think the ring's what got him killed?" Sol asked.

"Rhiln was a very peaceful man; he had no enemies that I know of. The ring is the only thing which would have drawn enemies to him."

Sol could feel fear blossoming inside him. "Then whoever killed him might still try to take it."

The Emperor nodded. "I'm afraid it is quite possible, yes."

"What should I do?"

"That is the very question I have been asking myself. You are the ring's owner, which means by simply existing, you are a target. The obvious solution would be to give the ring to someone else..."

Sol remembered what Goone had said about not taking the ring off and closed his hand into a fist.

"...but I do not think that would be wise. I believe the very reason Rhiln took the ring to your world in the first place was that he knew it would be safer there; access to your world is tightly controlled by the Order. Until we know more about the circumstances of his death, I intend to honour his final act and send you and the ring back to the human world."

Sol blinked. "You want me to go back?"

"I think that would be for the best."

Sol's thoughts immediately went to his new house. It was a strange land, yes, but he had a home here, and that was a lot more than he had back home. He knew exactly what awaited him in Manhattan.

"When do I have to leave?" he asked.

"As soon as possible."

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