Chaos and Order: The War Eternal Chapter 2





I walked to the corner careful to look both ways. It was after ten p.m. and it was a brisk March evening in Norfolk, Virginia. I was tired in a good way, I thought, as I jogged across the street. Tonight’s class had been fun, if a lot of work. My Sensei was demanding and he’d been pushing me lately. I’ve been practicing Aikido since I was ten and now, at seventeen, he was getting me ready for my black belt test scheduled for this summer after I turned eighteen. Some martial arts allow kids to earn a junior black belt, at my dojo Sensei just made you wait, so I’d been a first kyu for the last three years. In addition to practicing Aikido I was on the high school wrestling team and two hours of wrestling practice followed by dinner and then two hours of Aikido left me physically exhausted. I’d be sleeping well tonight. My schedule also dampened my social life, as my girlfriend Marci liked to remind me, I thought with a slight grimace.

The walk home was only about three quarters of a mile, although if I took a shortcut up the alley by the Stop-N-Shop, I could cut the distance in half. I moved through the parking lot and ducked down the alley beside the store. As I got to the end I saw that the gate in the chain-link fence was closed. I’d expected this and tossed my backpack over it. On the other side of the fence was a small field I’d have to cut across to get to my street. Abruptly, I felt a gust of cold wind from the alley behind me.

“Help, me.”

I turned around at the sound of the woman’s voice. I squinted into the darkness and made out the pale face of a woman sitting on the ground with her back against the wall of the store.

“Ma’am, are you okay?” I moved forward puzzled since I’d just walked right by her and had missed her.

“You aren’t what I was expecting.” Her voice was little more than a whisper and her accent made it hard for me to understand her.

“Are you hurt? I can go into the store and get some help.”

“Come closer let me see you.”

I was more curious than worried. I can take care of myself, and besides the woman didn’t appear to be in any condition to hurt anyone. I moved closer and then dropped to one knee next to her and saw that her shoulder was covered in a dark liquid. She glanced down at the palm of her right hand and then up at me.

“You’re the one! I wish there was time for me to explain, but I need your help.”

“Is that blood? Holy shit, we need to get you to a hospital!”

She reached out with her good hand and clasped mine. I don’t know why, but the intense look in her brown eyes made me swallow, I couldn’t look away.

“I have a question you need to answer as honestly as you can. If you had the chance to save dozens, maybe hundreds, of lives though it cost you your future, would you?”

“I don’t know. What kind of question is that?”

She gripped my hand tightly and I felt some sort of power surge into me forcing me to focus on her eyes.

“Given the chance, would you save life, even if you must take life, even at the cost of your own, would you?!”

For a moment it seemed like the world stood still then I whispered. “Yes, I think so, but how can anyone be sure?”

This seemed to satisfy her because she relaxed back into the wall for a second and looked up at me and grimaced in pain. Then she motioned for me to lean in closer.

The words were so softly spoken I almost didn’t hear them. “I was marked on my hand for the work that needed doing. I choose to mark your brow for the leadership that is needed.”

With that she reached up and before I could stop her, placed her hand on my forehead. Then the world seemed to explode around me. Everything went white and then black this lasted for an eternal-instant and then it was like I was looking at the world through a black and white TV. Fire burned in every vein as a white hot flame seared by forehead. I would have thrown back my head and screamed, but I couldn’t move. A wind seemed to blow from this strange woman into me and my whole body tingled and twitched as the fire turned to a cold that burned just as fiercely. Then it was done and I fell over backward, away from her, to sit on the hard cold ground. My forehead burned where she’d touched it and I couldn’t help the spasms that caused my body to convulse.

As the twitching died away I felt myself blink and then I watched as I lifted a hand and looked at it. It was like I was a passenger in my own body. I stood up and moved to the woman’s side.

“Goodbye, Beth, sleep deeply and well. Your work is done.”

The voice that came out of my mouth was a woman’s voice and if I’d been able to I’d have shouted and looked around. I then watched as my hand reached down and closed this strange woman’s eyes. I abruptly realized that she was dead! I now felt tears running down my cheeks. For a minute I knelt next to her, quiet and unmoving, head bowed, with one hand resting over this woman’s eyes then I pulled my hand away. I watched, unable to control my hand, as I reached down into the pocket of her blazer and pulled out a small bag, covered in strange symbols, and stuffed it into my front jeans pocket.

Then I stood and jogged to the fence. It was only four feet high so I put one hand on it and vaulted over it, just like I normally do, and picked up my backpack and trotted into the field. By the time I gotten to the far end I realized that I was again in control of my body. For a second I thought about turning around and going back to the Stop-N-Shop, but something inside me made me think that would be a bad idea. Instead, I headed for home trying not to think about what had just happened.


I opened my eyes groggily and slapped at the alarm as it buzzed next to my bed. Every bone in my body ached as I rolled over and up into a sitting position. There was enough light streaming in through my curtains for me to stumble to my door. I opened it and could smell the coffee that my dad had already started down in the kitchen. I love the smell of coffee, although I don’t understand how anyone can drink the bitter stuff. I walked across the hallway and was happy to see that the bathroom door was open. If I’d hit snooze a couple of times then my sister would’ve beaten me into the bathroom. She’s only a year younger than me and already took twice as long to get ready. I turned on the light, shut the door, and started brushing my teeth and was a little surprised at how pale my face was this morning. My sandy brown hair was cut short and my naturally tanned face seemed pale. For a second I stared at my forehead suddenly remembering my trip home last night. There was no sign of a mark on my forehead. I must have imagined the whole thing, I tried to rationalize.

I finished brushing and rubbed my chin with one hand. Lately, I’d had to start shaving every morning so today I was pleasantly surprised to find a smooth chin. I started the shower and stepped on the scale. 135 lbs. not to bad I thought since I was wrestling at 132 this year so I only had to cut three pounds before Saturday’s weigh-in. At six foot cutting weight to get under 140 lbs. was normally hard for me so only having to cut three pounds over the next two days was great news. I’d been expecting to have to cut five or six.

By now the shower was warm so I climbed in and started cleaning up. As I did I thought about last night. I must have imagined the whole thing, a woman dying in an alley, my forehead burning yet no mark or scar, and then that weird feeling of not being in control of my body. I mean once I got to my street everything felt normal I got home and found my mom and dad watching TV and my sister sitting at the dining room table working on her calculus home work.

She’d asked for help and after I put my gi in the washer I sat down next to her with a large glass of water. My sister and I often teased each other but we’re actually very close. We had to be since my dad was in the Navy and we’d moved every two years for as long as I could remember. I’d been in 7 schools and was now getting ready to graduate. Christina and I had been through so much together and it had forced us to become close. I’d had calculus last year and AP Calc this year, so helping her wasn’t a problem. Except that I found myself unable to focus and after drifting off for the second time she’d suggested I go to bed.

I finished up and dried off quickly knowing that Christina would want to get in soon. I wrapped a towel around my waist and opened the door just in time to find Christina lifting her hand to knock. My sister Christina is very pretty with long blonde hair and a skin tone several shades lighter than mine. She was also six inches shorter than me and already had plenty of curves for a sixteen year old.

“Are you done?”

“It’s all yours.”

I turned sideways to slide around her and darted into my room. My room drives my mom and dad crazy since there are clothes scattered all over the floor along with plates and cups from snacks. I’ve tried to explain that everything is exactly where I can find it. That doesn’t stop them from forcing me to clean it every Sunday. By now, Thursday morning, it looked like a tornado had spun its way around my room.

I found a rumpled pair of jeans from the floor and a t-shirt from a basket of clean laundry I was supposed to put away two days ago, socks, cross trainers and I was ready to face school. Abruptly, I froze in shock. There was a lump in my jeans pocket. I reached in and pulled out a small black bag with symbols stitched into it with silver thread.

My legs suddenly felt weak and I sat down on the bed. This was the bag I’d watched myself take from the woman in the alley. Reluctantly, I worked at the knot holding the bag closed until the string came loose and I was able to empty the contents of the bag into my hand. The only thing in the bag was a simple yet beautiful ring made of either silver or white gold with a birds head caught mid-screech and an emerald for an eye. As I held the ring I felt a tingling sensation from it and then it was burning my fingers.


I dropped the ring and moved away looking at my fingers. I had a pair of blisters from where I’d been holding it. How is that possible, I wondered? The ring hadn’t been hot, was I allergic to whatever it was made of? I grabbed a dirty sock and picked up the ring and put it back into the black bag pulled the strings tight and put the bag on my bedside stand. I sat there looking at the evidence that I hadn’t hallucinated last night’s events for a few minutes. What should I do? Who would believe me if I told them? At last decided I needed to go to school. Tonight I’d talk to my parents about what had happened.

I pulled out my backpack and stuffed in clean clothes for wrestling practice this afternoon and then almost as an afterthought books and homework. I rushed down the stairs taking them three at a time and plunked my bag down next to the kitchen table. My mom turned around and smiled at me.

“In a hurry this morning Joel?”

“I’m just starving.” I picked up the cereal box and dumped a bunch of Cheerios into my bowel.

“Aren’t you cutting weight?”

“I’ve only got to lose three pounds by Saturday. I can do that in a day.” I mumbled around a large spoonful of cereal.

“Your sister has ballet after school and will need the car. Can you get a ride home from practice tonight?”

“Sure, Jeff can drop me off.”

By the time I was done eating Christina walked into the kitchen. She was wearing Capri’s and a light blue blouse and looked really pretty, although I’d never tell her that.

“Are you ready to go?”

“Yep,” she said, picking up an apple from the fruit dish on the table.

“Christina, you need more than that!”

“Mom, I don’t have time, see ya.”

I went to the cubby where we kept the car keys and saw that the keys to the Cavalier were missing.

“Looking for these?” Christina held up the car keys.

“Hey, it’s my turn to drive to school! Where did you get those?”

“From your desk, you drove the car home from wrestling practice yesterday and as usual never hung them up.”

“You went into my room without my permission?”

“Obviously, if I hadn’t we’d be spending the next ten minutes looking for the keys.” Christina handed them to me. “Come on its time to go, or we’ll be late.”

On the one hand I was annoyed at the idea that she was going into my room, on the other hand she was right. I’m always losing things. I decided to shut up and followed Christina to the garage. The used Chevy Cavalier wasn’t the coolest car but Dad had bought it for Christina and me to share so I couldn’t complain. The drive to school took ten minutes and since Christina had put on the head phones to her IPod the second she’d jumped into the passenger seat it was filled with silence. After I parked we got out of the car and I tossed her the keys which she promptly dropped.

“Hey, can’t you hand them to me like a normal person?!”

“Learn to catch,” I said with a laugh and jogged up the steps toward school.


I stood in the locker room with a towel wrapped around my waist looking into the mirror. Practice was over and guys were showering up but I was preoccupied. School had been pretty normal. Although, as I thought back a few things had seemed odd. I’d been easily distracted all day, a new color would catch my eye, a vibrant shade of red, or I’d hear a noise and become mesmerized trying to figure it out. Only to discover that it was a fly banging against a window at the far end of the classroom. Then there was wrestling practice.

This had easily been the best practice of my life. I’m a decent wrestler, I’d earned a starting varsity spot as a senior but there was a junior, Brian, who was constantly pushing me. Today I’d been so full of energy that I’d raced through the exercises and drills and when wrestling with Brian he’d suddenly seemed slow and weak and I’d pinned him several times without any trouble. The Coach had been so pleased he’d matched me against several of our best wrestlers in heavier weight classes. I’d beaten them as easily as I’d beaten Brian. After practice coach had pulled me aside and said that I was peaking at the right time and if I won my weight class in the tournament on Saturday I’d have enough points to make state! This meant that our team had a shot at winning a state championship. If we did everyone would remember the team of 1998!

“Joel, stop admiring yourself and let’s get going!” Jeff shouted pulling a t-shirt over his head.

I hustled to my locker and changed into my street clothes.

Jeff had an old Chevy S-10 pickup truck which even though it was older than the Cavalier, I thought, it was cooler or at least manlier. As Jeff pulled out of the school parking lot I spotted a black Suburban parked across the street. The guy sitting in it caught my eye for a second and I felt a chill wash down my back before Jeff turned the truck away. I looked over my shoulder at the SUV which was still parked and I wondered why I was being so jumpy.

The trip to my house was filled with Jeff talking about the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament. Even though he was a wrestler Jeff loved watching basketball. I wasn’t really into the sport so I mostly listened as he talked about who he thought would make it into the tournament. Just before we arrived at my house I felt the hair on my neck stand up again and looked over my shoulder, behind us was a black sedan and there was something about either the car or the man driving it that made me shudder. Then Jeff pulled into my driveway and the sedan continued on. I let out a breath that I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.

“Hey, Joel, I don’t know what you’ve been doing to improve so much, but do you think you could give me some pointers?”

It took me a second to realize that Jeff was talking to me.

“Uhm, . . .yeah, sure.” I grabbed my bag from the floor and slid out the passenger door. “Why don’t we work out at the dojo this Sunday?” Jeff nodded. “See you tomorrow.”


Christina had returned just in time for me to snag the car keys and head over to the dojo for practice. I normally walk, but when my mother had come home from work she’d told me that there’d been a murder down by the Stop-N-Shop and she didn’t want me walking tonight. When she’d explained that they’d found a woman’s body in the alley next to the store with some kind of knife wound in her shoulder I’d felt a chill run over my body. It just wasn’t possible, was it? I knew that I should tell her that I’d been there and explain what had happened. I opened my mouth and for some reason nothing came out. I tried to clear my throat and start over and again I found I couldn’t speak. ‘What the hell is going on?’ I wondered.

Aikido had been a great balm for my troubled mind. I’d driven to the dojo and practice had been exhausting and that had allowed me to postpone thinking about the dead mystery woman or trying to figure out why I’d been unable to talk to my mom about what had happened. Once I got home I got cleaned up and went down stairs planning to talk to my parents about it.

I stopped in the doorway to the living room and saw my parents sitting on the sofa watching TV and hesitated. What should I tell them? I thought I’d met the dead woman from the Stop-N-Shop, and that she’d marked me? There was no sign of a mark and dad would want to know why I hadn’t tried to help her or at least called 911.

Telling them that something or someone had had taken control of my body and forced me away from the woman would make me sound crazy. A wave of exhaustion hit me and I had to reach out and grab the wall for support. For several seconds I focused on breathing and then slowly made my way to my room. I was so tired it was hard to focus. I swatted at the light switch, turning off the lights on my second try, and then I collapsed fully clothed, face first, onto the bed.

My dreams were fitful and strange. I dreamt of a woman’s face half covered in blood screaming in defiance, then it changed and I saw a clear field where a female warrior in form-fitting plate armor battled a monster with black wings, then it shifted again and again. In each scene the beautiful brunette woman battled one monster after another, sometimes in armor of both familiar and exotic designs and at other times she was clothed in leather and once she simply wore shadows. Then there were the shadows! In every scene, they seemed alive and they responded to her commands becoming weapons that she used with great skill or armor that she used to protect herself.

Sometimes she fought on the streets of strange cities and at other times battled the endless horde of monsters in forests or mountains. Most of the time the brunette fought alone but once in a while she was joined by other warriors who grappled with the bewildering variety of foes. In every dream there was one thing that was constant; the beautiful brunette always protected the defenseless and fought against a horde of chaotic looking creatures.

Then the dream shifted and I was standing alone in the middle of a plateau filled with columns of stone. The stones were made of either black or white marble and alternated with each column. There appeared to be a path between the column’s that wound around to my right and something told me that I should follow the path. As I walked I noticed that there wasn’t really a source of illumination and that each column cast a shadow. I felt oddly content here like this was a safe place unlike the previous dreams. Then I stopped.

I suddenly realized that I was being watched.

“Who are you?” I shouted turning around in a circle. I was greeted by silence. “Come out and let me see you!”

Something told me I needed to continue to the center of the maze of columns if I wanted an answer to my question. So after waiting for a few seconds I turned and continued following the arcing path. As I walked deeper into the maze I lost track of time. It felt like I’d been walking for a long time although in a dream it’s hard to be sure. As I walked I noticed the columns were getting taller. They’d started out just taller than me and now they towered far above my head. Then all at once I found myself in the center of the maze.

I assumed it was the center of the maze because I’d found a large open circular area. In the middle of the open space there were a pair of columns one white and one black about five feet apart at the base. About ten feet up they leaned in toward each other and by the time they’d reached twenty feet they’d begun to twist together spinning around each other forming a single pillar. They continued to climb until I lost sight of the column in the featureless grey sky. Then my eyes were drawn to the shadow at the foot of the twined columns and the stone chair hidden within the shadow.

I moved closer and by the time I was halfway to the throne concealed in shadow I saw that there was someone sitting on it. I froze when I realized that it was a woman.

“Joel Ryan Campbell, I’ve been waiting for you.” The woman said in a powerful female voice that sent shivers up and down my spine.

For several long seconds I didn’t know what to say. Then I blurted out, “Who are you?!”

“I’ve had many names over the years, here, now, in this time and place, I’m known as Caecus Cordi, but Beth used to call me Cordi.”

“You’re the woman from the alley behind the Stop-N-Shop!” For a second the shadows around the woman moved and flickered like they had a life of their own.

“Yes, and no. The woman you saw was Beth, she was my vessel.”

“Your vessel? I don’t understand who, . . . no . . . what are you?”

“I’m a Knight of Order. There aren’t very many of us here in your realm, although I suspect that is about to change. This realm is becoming a new front in the war between Order and Chaos. The Daemon Lords of Chaos have begun a fresh campaign and this realm will soon become a front line, maybe even THE front line, unless we can turn them back now.”

I looked at her and then around the calm still plateau before I glanced back at her. It struck me that it was very peaceful here and that everything was either black, white, or a shade of grey there was no color. Then it also occurred to me that there were thousands and thousands of shadows cast by the pillars under the dim grey light.

“This is obviously a matter of magic, have you talked to the Guild, or if there is trouble, the police?”

“Your human Guild of Magic-Users is unprepared for what’s coming. And it’s my duty to prevent the Daemon Lords form arriving here in force in the first place.”

“If that’s true then why are you talking to me? I don’t understand.”

“Do you know what happened yesterday when Beth passed my mark on to you?”

“No, what mark? I looked in the mirror this morning and there wasn’t a mark!”

“That’s because we are still going through the Joining. Once we are fully merged you will be able to draw upon my power at will and when you do the mark will become a visible warning, anyone who sees it will know that you are a Knight of Order.”

“What do you mean, joining?” I said, and then added, “And what power?”

“Neither the Knights of Order nor the Daemons of Chaos can manifest a physical form in this realm. We need a human body, a vessel, for our spirits and power. When Beth passed on my Mark she passed on both my spirit and power to you. You, Joel Campbell, are now my vessel.”

At this the woman stood up and moved out of the deep shadow into the dim grey light. She was tall over twice my height and I had to admit stunningly beautiful.

“I can’t be your vessel!”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m not a Magic-User,” I said, grasping at straws. “I’m barely able to sense magic and I don’t have enough strength to cast a spell.”

“What makes you think that I need a Magic-User as my vessel? In fact, you’re the first vessel I’ve had who has the ability to sense magic. No, Beth used my power to craft the search and call the standard, and you answered the call. You are my vessel.”

“What does that even mean?!” Just then the dream faded and the annoying sound of my alarm pulled me from my dream.

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