Diadem: Better Book of War

By Luna12 & Courtney

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Author(s) Note: Courtney and I were mildly disappointed with Peel's Book of War, and have decided to "tweak" it to our satisfaction. Hopefully, other fans will enjoy it as least as much as the original.

Disclaimer: Diadem: Worlds of Magic does NOT belong to us. It belongs to Peel and his publishers, currently Llewellyn Worldwide. We highly respect his work and are making no profit from this, nor do we intend for this piece of fanfiction to interfere with his profits.

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PROLOGUE

Helaine stared at the familiar and yet unfamiliar surroundings. The trees, the sky, the very earth beneath her bare feet told her where she stood: Ordin. Yet, she was not just anywhere on her homeworld, but standing directly in front of her father's castle.

Her 6th sense, a nagging inner itch crawling in the back of her mind, told her she was in danger. She did not doubt it. The once proud castle gates were down and broken, lying like rotten lumps across the moat. The muddy waters were tinged with more than the usual human filth and castle garbage: they were red with blood. She ran on impulse towards the castle, unable to listen to the reasoning part of her brain screaming at her to be cautious, to hold back.

Helaine's heart rose into her mouth and for a moment she could not breathe. Catapults had bombarded the outer defense walls, leaving rubble and stone at her feet. The Votrin banner was gone, and in its place flew the insignia of the Border Lords.

What had happened! Instinctually, she reached for her sword – but it wasn't there! She was still in her night shift, shoeless and defenseless. For that matter, how in the seven hells had she arrived here? Pushing aside her shock, she entered her broken home. The further inside she walked the heavier her heart sank. The stench of death surrounded her. In the courtyard was a burial pyre of bodies, strewn across each other haphazardly. From their armor it was clear who they were; her father's men, slain in battle.

Suddenly, she realized she wasn't alone. The Border Lords' soldiers were still pilling the dead before her. To her horror she recognized one of the newly pilled bodies: Borigen. More than just her fighting instructor, he was the only true friend she had on this world. He had kept her male disguise a secret all the years she lived in the castle and he had taught her the skills of battle. Borigen had been the warm father figure she always found lacking in her biological one.

A mangled scream of despair and rage left her throat as she hurled herself at one of the soldiers. She may be without her blade or her gems, but as long as she had breath, she would avenge this massacre.

Or at least, she intended to.

The soldiers didn't even look at her direction when she cried out, and when her fist was to make contact with one of the men's faces, she found her entire body went through him, as if he were no more than air.

Off balance from her charge, Helaine stumbled and fell to the ground. "What.. what is this!" she cried out, desperately hoping this was some nightmare she could simply wake up from. She remembered the old wives' tale that pinching oneself could end a dream. She took a piece of her flesh and squeezed. She felt the pain, but the world around her refused to leave.

Fine. It was real. Even if she couldn't touch anything or make anyone hear her, she was not going to stay on the ground waiting in vain to wake up! She was going to get the bottom of this.

She picked herself off the floor and turned towards the castle doors. All the blood drained from her face and she felt her stomach roll. Seven pikes stood around the door, each with a human head skewered on top. Helaine took a deep breath through her mouth and forced herself to approach. As she neared, she finally recognized their distorted, pain-filled expressions: they were her six brothers, with her father's head in the center spike.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

With a hard THUNK Helaine landed on the floor of her bedroom, tangled in her bedsheets.

She was wide awake, her heart beating so hard that she could feel each chamber at work. This was the second nightmare since last evening, only tonight's had truly been the worse.

Before, she also had dreamt of Ordin, but not of the castle grounds. She had stood outside one of her father's villages, starring in utter shock and disgust at the burnt fields, ravaged homes, and pillaged livestock.

Last night she had been able to dismiss it as nothing more than a bad dream. Not any longer. Her 6th sense was mildly tingling the back of her scalp and she knew with a certainty she could not dismiss that the threat she saw was real.

She had to leave. Now. Her family was in danger.

Helaine shoved herself into her breeches and tunic. She pushed her boots on violently, and did the same with her chain mail. At last she clipped her belt on, strapping her sword and pouch of gems into place.

It was time for the prodigal daughter to return.