Spock0528 writes: The Wait is over. More chapters are coming soon. No Really, Soon. Read the prologue and chapters 1 through 5 at this link. Enjoy!
The next morning Darius awoke to the sound of birds chirping outside his window. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and sat up. Blaise and Murgran, the fellow orphans that lived with him, were already up and were getting dressed. “Morning”, Darius mumbled. “Same to you”, Blaise replied. “What’s your schedule for today?”, Murgran asked. “Kitchen duty”, Blaise grumbled “And I better hurry. Old Wenchel will hit me with his ladle if I’m late again”.
“And what about you Darius?”, Murgran said, turning to him. “I don’t know. Master Pibb didn’t tell me yesterday.” That was unlike him and Darius had been so distracted last night he had forgotten to ask. While he wondered what the day’s assignment would be, Darius quickly pulled on his clothes. He wore a simple cream colored outfit with a belt and satchel. Ready for whatever the day might bring Darius left the house and said farewell to Blaise and Murgran.
He hadn’t made it ten yards when he ran into Master Pibb. “Hello Darius”, he said, his pink cheeks bulging with delight. “Good morning Master Pibb”, Darius replied. “Sorry I didn’t tell you your assignment yesterday. I wasn’t sure what you’d be doing”. He gave a shrill and rather forced laugh. “I just received a message from the king. He would like you to report to him at once.”
“Whatever for?” Darius asked. “He didn’t say”, said Master Pibb. “Now you’d better get going. Wouldn’t want to be late would we?” “No Master”, said Darius. Pibb turned sharply away causing the slippers he wore to clack together. He sped off quickly, his mind already on another matter.
Darius felt fear clasp his heart as he turned towards the palace. “What did the king want with him? Perhaps they had discovered who he was! Perhaps they were going to have him executed or tortured for information!”, he thought. “No, that was ridiculous. No one knew who he was here, anymore”.
During Darius’s first year in Teroh a boy named Mikkel had walked in on Darius while he was in the vasdi, a trance state one performed while honoring Shidiel. Mikkel had ran out of the house looking for a guard. Darius had followed hoping to tackle Mikkel but Mikkel was faster. As Mikkel had rounded a corner Darius lost sight of him. There was then a crash and a scream. Darius ran around the corner to see a crowd of people gathered around the edge of the rampart. Mikkel had slipped and plummeted over the rampart, his body breaking on the spiny rocks that stuck out of the ocean hundreds of feet below. Darius was relieved but acted sad at the memorial service that the city had for Mikkel. That was the closest call he had ever had.
“No, no one could have found out unless Methelga or Faryx had said something… No, they couldn’t have known he was here. Although that did seem like something that Fayrx would do.” Fayrx had only visited Turk manor a few times but his visits always involved making Darius as miserable as he could. Darius was glad he was dead.
Darius approached the North Gate to the palace. As he went to pass underneath the statue of Acosor he was stopped by a guard. “Yes, Darius isn’t it? The king is expecting you. Go on in. We will have a guard escort you to the throne room when you enter the tower. Go on in”.
Darius nodded and went on through. “They wouldn’t let a Zarkaran, let alone the last of the Turks through alone”, he thought. “They didn’t know his secret. Did they?” On his way to the central tower Darius passed an apothecary, stables, barracks, and a guard tower. Soldiers and official looking people milled about in the courtyard while others walked quickly heading either to the tower or out into the rest of the city. Darius approached the doors to the tower, noting how small they were. Enemies would have to enter single file if they attempted to take the castle and a skilled bowman with a lot of arrows would be just as valuable as 50 men in there. The tower was built for defense, nothing else.
The guard at the door admitted Darius in and had another guard escort him to the throne room. Darius and the guard squeezed through the narrow hallway into the center of the bottom floor of the tower. This was the great library. Shelves of books covered nearly every square inch of the room. An old librarian sat at a table, his nose buried in a book. He didn’t even look up to see Darius and the guard cross the room.
Darius had spent time here working with Barnabas Lessiar compiling information for The Scrolls of the Eastirim. It was one of Darius’s least favorite assignments. The way Barnabas described the Zarkaran gods made him sick.
He had called Shidiel the goddess of plague and disease. It was true she brought these things to those who crossed her but she was also a god of love and life. Zarkaran maidens would pray to Shidiel, asking her to help them find a husband. She was responsible for caring for the baby in the womb, protecting it from danger. She could place blessings on crops and bring people good fortune. She was the protector of mothers and the common man.
Udun was described as a merciless and barbaric war god but Udun led great warriors to victory and taught them the ways of honor. He gave old men and young boys great strength in times of need and he blessed the wives and children of fallen warriors who died in his name.
The way he had heard Barnabas describe them as nothing more than brutal, merciless demons had made Darius want to tell him some of the stories that were told of the Eastirim gods in Zarkaran. But though he had heard such hate from the Eastirim for his people and his gods he could not hate them. They were too much like him, too human. Blaise and Murgran were both good friends and Master Pibb had taken Darius in and was always kind to him. Yet he could not live in both worlds. One day he would return to Zarkaran and if it was the will of the gods to destroy the Eastirim then it must be done. But if there was a way for the people to become one, to unite and…
“No” he thought, angry at himself for thinking such thoughts. “Think of what they did to your father”. And Darius did remember. He remembered his father a man who seemed larger than life, yet was barely over five feet. A man whose eyes had a special twinkle every time he laughed. A man who let a baby Darius crawl around on him tugging at his goatee. He remembered the night they came. He had been so scared, just a nine year old boy. His father had been fierce that night fighting with two battle axes while Darius hid under his bed. His father had told him to run and then…
Darius’s thoughts were interrupted when he boarded the lift to the throne room at the end of the library. The doors closed and Darius found himself in a small, dark compartment. The lift began to rise, gears and hydraulics clanking and whirring in the background. Both Darius and the guard were silent. Around what Darius thought was 15 minutes the lift reached the top floor, the throne room. It was time to see the king.
The lift doors slid open to reveal what Darius thought was an underwhelming throne room. It was a small circular room with just a few windows that if you looked out them you could see clouds far below you. No decorations were on the walls and only a red carpet covered the ground. The King sat on a small gold throne surrounded by a few guards and advisors. Only the king had a chair. Everyone else had to stand.
Darius stepped out of the lift, noting that the guard stayed behind. He crossed the room and stood in front of the king. He dropped to his kneel like he had been taught. “Rise young Master Darius”, King Alistair said. Darius rose. King Alistair was a man that Darius had only seen on a few occasions. He was a tall, skinny man who had seemed to have a palpable air of nobility surrounding him. He could be stern and threatening but Darius had also seen him happy and joyous, playing with his five year old son on the day of the spring festival. He was an expert military tactician but he also cared deeply for his people down to the last child.
“Young Master Darius”, the king said slowly. Darius’s heart was beating like a drum. “I have some good news to tell you”, the king said. Darius awaited anxiously. “You have benefited greatly from Master Pibb’s orphan program. When you came here you had only a name. Now you, and we, have found that you are quite talented and you are a perfect example of how a young man or woman can turn their life around.” Darius didn’t know where this was going but he was beginning to feel more relaxed. The king continued: “Many of the lords you have served spoke quite highly of you. They said it almost seemed like you had been around nobility before.”
Darius’s chest tightened. “You also made an excellent food taster as I recall”, the king said with a smile. Darius’s chest loosened a little. “ I was quite impressed with you and Master Pibb’s program. I wasn’t sure about it at first”, the king said. “But I am extremely happy with the results. That’s why I am honoring you this next week by letting you squire for Sir Nicholas Snow in the tournament this next week in order to honor Lord Seacrest’s arrival here in Teroh.”
Darius gasped. Lord Seacrest of Sealaurel was the ruler of a neighboring kingdom independent from Eastirim. Sealaurel was home to the finest navy the south side of the River Tywin. King Alistair was hoping to make an alliance with Seacrest so that the Eastirim could have powerful warships in the fight against the Zarkaran. No expense had been spared in the preparations for his arrival.. Minstrels, dancers, a parade, and a tournament between William Gore and Nicholas Snow were all part of the entertainment and Darius would be right in the middle of it. It was an opportunity of a lifetime.
“Thank you sire”, Darius said, bowing. He couldn’t believe it. Squiring at a tournament, especially one as big as this was always one of his dreams. “There is still a lot more you have to learn”, the king said. “So I will have you taken off work this week and have you work with one of my Kings Guard. He will teach you everything you need to know about being a squire. He is waiting for you at the bottom of the tower.” “Thank you my king”, Darius said, barely containing his excitement. “You’re very welcome young Master Darius”, the king said with a smile. “I expect great things from you. This tournament is very important for our country. It could determine the difference between victory and defeat.” Darius noded. “I won’t let you down your highness”, he said. “Good”, said the king. “You are dismissed.”
Darius turned to go but as he did the lift doors slid open and a tall thin man walked out. The tightness in Darius’s chest returned with a vengeance. “Ah, just in time”, the king said. “I was just about to send for you”. “No worries”, the thin man said. He had slicked back black hair, dark skin, and a long droopy moustache. “Darius”, the king said. “This is Ichabod Targearan, He is one of my newest advisors. Ichabod, this is Darius.” “How do you do?”, Ichabod asked. “He’s dyed his skin but he’s still the same man”, Darius thought to himself. “Very well, thank you, my lord?”, he said. “Oh no, not a lord only a businessman”, said Ichabod. He smiled. It was the same smile. The same cruel smile Darius had gotten when the man standing in front of him now had told him to leave his father alone when he was working. For the man standing in front of the King of all of Eastirim was not Ichabod Targearan but Ilixer Targux, the Grand Vizier of House Turk and his father’s right hand man.
Send us an owl: Ooo, what a cliffhanger! What do you think of Heroes of Rune so far?