Lyron paused on the hilltop. The land before him was desolate, hills red with dust, fields brown with dead plants, trees skeletal and leafless even in spring. A Darktalker had been here and perhaps still remained.
In the distance, a village of around two dozen cottages rested on top of the largest hill in sight. He followed the road toward the village. A hot wind swept clouds of dust around him, and he covered his mouth with his cloak.
As he neared the village, several thin, dirty men and women stared at him.
“Where is your leader?” Lyron asked.
One man pointed a bony finger to the largest cottage. Lyron walked to the dwelling and knocked on the door. No answer came. After several moments, he knocked again.
The door swung open. A man with a long black beard, similar to Lyron’s own, looked out.
“Why are you here, Swordtongue?” the man asked, his voice filled with the twisted charm of a Darktalker. “You are the cause of the drought that is destroying our crops. You and your Light Bringer, whose sun burns up our land.”
A crowd gathered nearby, muttering in bitter agreement with their leader’s words.
“Tell me, servant of the Dark One,” Lyron replied, “was the drought here when you came?”
The Darktalker smiled, his tone like that of an adult addressing a silly child. “Of course it was. I’ve tried to help the people who are under the curse of the Light. I’ve revealed pleasures beyond their wildest dreams, bringing them happiness in spite of the drought.”
Looking to the other villagers, Lyron unleashed the power of his order, the Swordtongues. “Tell me the truth, my friends. Was the drought here before he came?”
Several people nodded, but none spoke. Most looked thoughtful, for Lyron’s words gave them the ability to see through the Darktalker’s deception, if only for a moment. But would they choose to believe it? He watched one face after another harden as people embraced lies instead of truth.
Yet several men and women stepped forward, and one woman said, “You are right, Swordtongue. The drought was not here before he came. Only when we followed his teachings did our land become parched.”
“Lies!” the Darktalker cried. “He has bewitched your minds. He wants the drought to last forever!”
Lyron kept his gaze upon the people of the village. “Remember the blessings of the Light, before this Darktalker entrapped you with his lies? Remember how the Light Bringer loved you, and his ways brought you peace?”
The men and women who had stepped forward began weeping, and their tears splashed to the dusty ground. Where the salty droplets fell, small flowers sprouted, the green stems and yellow buds standing out on the dry, hard ground. The crowd gasped, and many people ran over to see the colorful plants.
Several women tried to push past the Darktalker and get out of the house, but he clung to them. They kept fighting his grasp and broke free, rushing over to the flowers. More people cried, their tears causing flowers to multiply, forming a small garden beside the road.
The Darktalker raised his hand, which was able to spew mighty flames when many believed his lies. He pointed his fingers at the flowers. As most of the people cringed and backed away, Lyron prayed that the villagers would hold onto the truth.
The Darktalker’s smile no longer appeared benign as he sneered at the frightened crowd. Sparks flew out of his fingertips, quickly growing in size. The people fell to their knees before him, pressing their faces to the ground.
“Trust the power of the Light,” Lyron said, all the love in his heart filling his voice. “It is more powerful than the fires of the Dark One.”
Several men and women stopped cringing and stood up, glaring at the Darktalker. A flame appeared out of the wicked man’s hand. As the fire grew in size, many people looked back and forth between the plants and the flame, but stayed on the ground.
Lyron raised his voice. “Behold! See the Darktalker for who he really is! He only destroys! It is he who wishes to burn the flowers, not I.”
The fire shot out from the Darktalker’s fingers, sending a line of flames toward the flowers. At the same moment, a dozen people leapt to their feet. Soon more joined them. Just as the fire was about to reach the flowers, the flames shrank into sparks, then sputtered out.
The Darktalker stared at his hand. “This is my village. Mine!”
“No.” Lyron stepped toward him. “Your power has ended here. Leave, or I will make you slither in the dust like the snake you are.”
After glaring at the crowd, the Darktalker started running. Lyron watched him until he was out sight, then walked to the newborn garden where all the villagers were gathered.
“My friends,” Lyron said, “if you truly turn back to the Light, this garden will spread across your land, and all will be as it was before the drought.”
Falling to his knees, one man said, “Thank you, Swordtongue, for showing us the truth and setting us free. Will you stay with us and be our leader?”
“The Light will guide you.” Lyron smiled kindly. “I would stay if I could. But many other villages are enslaved by the lies of Darktalkers. I must go set them free, too. Pray that my order and I will win the battles we fight.”
The man stood. “We will never stop praying.”
“Then all will be well here.” Lyron knelt and touched a flower. “May the blessings of the Light stay always in this place.”
Waving to the villagers, most of whom returned the wave, he headed down the road. After a while, he glanced back. Green plants had filled the whole village already. Smiling, he continued on his way.