“No!” Screamed Areia with all of her will. Her skin red and slick with sweat, she was convulsing as if being interrogated, tortured. “No!!!!!!!!!!!! What are you doing, you fucking fool!!! Do you know what you have done? Do you know what you have done!!!!!”
Andril was quick to his work and Haryk knew that his trick was one for the history books. But there’d be no history book unless they made it.
Haryk dared not look back. His fate was in the hands of the mage now. “Now, Andril, Blast you. Now!”
“I’m working on it,” muttered Andril through gritted teeth. He stepped on the platform and spoke a sharp command of magic. Instantly, the runes around them all began to glow, lighting up the darkness. Haryk half expected to see gaping jaws and sharp teeth clamping down on him, but there was nothing but empty space. For now.
Haryk heard the mage mutter his magical incantations. He was trying hard to concentrate and not be kicked.
The rogue fought against the magical bonds that Andril had placed upon her–back arched, chin craned upwards then forwards and back again, agony spread across her face. Areia was not known for this, and the look seemed far worse. Haryk knew that someone (and someone meant Andril) was going to get a dagger in the back, sooner, rather than later. What was the Bookworm thinking would happen here? Areia stabs people. People who piss her off!
Her body sprung back and forth like a fish caught in an invisible net. Andril guided her by his outstretched hand and Areia drifted quickly through the air until she was over the glowing platform as well.
“One day you will understand, Areia. We had no time for…”
“I’m going to fucking stab you in the eye, you piece of shit!”
“No need to get feisty. Let’s calm down a bit shall we?” He spoke matter of factly, still checking the runes around him, and yet he didn’t look at her at all.
“You better move your ass Bookworm, you said this would only take a minute!”
“It is. Minute’s vary in length depending on one’s perception, Lord Haryk.”
“Well, my perception is you and I are about to be swallowed by the baby mama of those fucking things that chased us through the tunnels on First Isle so let’s move our ass please!”
Just then, there was an enraged roar like the front of a storm freeing itself of lightning. A concussion of sound that blasted through the tunnels from the direction they had magically escaped. The cavern shook and Andril did too. He stood in the center of the platform, with Areia in the air around him, still kicking and shaking wildly. Haryk stepped up and stood next to them. Areia’s boot smacked him in the face, and Haryk stutter stepped a half step so as to avoid another of the same caliber. He looked down to make sure he was still within the glowing runes. Check. The roar behind him echoed again, ringing and echoing all around them. Haryk began to whistle, thinking the words aloud in his head. He deemed it a perfect send off. Or perhaps, his last tune as he became a dragon’s meal.
To you shall I come home.”
A Large piece of the ceiling fell all around them. Blocks and bricks, their mortar separating as they struck the ground. Haryk looked up just as a terrific sized hunk of stone broke off from a crack which was snaking it’s way along the ceiling. The piece hung limply, dangled precariously. Then, there was a sharp crack and it broke off, speeding downward for them.
He closed his eyes, waiting for the strike to finally do what a horde of darkened beasts from hell apparently couldn’t today.
“I’ve missed your shores,
and your tavern whores
But mostly I’ve missed you!”
Fancy tricks can only last so long, he knew. And they were fresh out. The block sped downward, where it would crush them all flat.
He remembered that he had opened one eye first. There were no fluffy clouds, which puzzled him about what he understood would be waiting for him in the afterlife, so he opened the other to see if he could figure out what was going on with his death.
With both eyes now investigating matters, he knew a couple of things quickly. For starters, I am not dead. Congratulations he told himself. Thank you he replied. Also, he was surrounded by people. Hundreds, if not thousands, of men, women, Celns, halves, all manner of folk, most of them at arms. Most also wore the green and gold tunics, emblazoned with the seven rooted tree. It was the symbol of the royal guard, the Lighted Infantry, the symbol upon his father’s shield, of the King himself, the image upon his father’s sails as he watched him leave to the unknown isles of dread. He was but a child. It was the symbol he himself would wear colonizing the isles.
As if somewhere between this memory of his father, and this magnificent crowd, he heard talking, commands, heard the familiar clinking of armor, or was it ties creaking on the mast? Rank and file orders were being given. But he wasn’t there, or here, just yet. He wasn’t sure really if he were anywhere. All of these sounds were so far away, Maybe they were. Maybe not.
“I sail to the West, Haryk, my son,” his father’s voice was saying. It was a warm spring day. “I sail into the unknown, past the still waters.”
“But Papa, why? Why must you go?”
“For Cellinor child. I sail for Cellinor. For you. For our family’s heritage. for our future. When I return to you boy, you will be a man. No time for dilly dilly while I am away. A man whose name will be worth the title of Lord, must act upon his instincts.”
“And a man worthy of the title of Haryk-lon must possess a weapon worthy of his father’s greatness.”
The flash of the memory disappeared. His father’s face, even in his deepest of slumbers would never really come back to him. It was a thing that would not be imagined.
Next to him now, more real to him, lay Areia. She was doing something Haryk could not have imagined well either. She was weeping, crying out through a clenched jaw. “Abraxas!” Andril’s spell no longer holding her aloft in the air, she was doubled over in the throes of grief.
Haryk next saw Andril, to his other side, appearing through the blurry haze of the space. His long hair hung all around him now, and his hands were in his trouser pockets. Haryk had seem him do this before. It was the mage’s way of putting away his weapons. He had once called it, sheathing his swords while they were having far too many ales at Slimmy’s.
“Well, you really did it this time, Bookworm.”
Haryk’s eyes began to come into focus of his surroundings and he now saw beyond all the figures a view of a great bay. Columns of carved stone and towers of gleaming white, red bricked roofs and domed buildings with parapets and weather vanes. And ships. A bay filled with triple-masted ships. The great Celn galley ships of trade.
“Cillandar!” He cried aloud. “What in the name of unholy fuckery did you do this time, Andril Tainer?”
Andril cleared his throat, ready for his smart reply but stopped. Armor clad soldiers in the front of the crowd parted, and in a simultaneous fashion, they clinked their weapons against their shields. A figure stepped forward from the crowd massed around them, a figure gilded in gleaming armor, wearing a sword like no other.
His long dark wavy hair was covered in the grime of war, his armor was bloody and parts of the mail were missing in a few places, other plates were bruised, and battered from where weapons had struck him. His usual smile, so youthful and full of hope, was now covered in the smear of war and leadership. But there was something else, and Haryk knew it for what it was immediately. It was pride.
A smile spread broadly across his strained yet handsome features. “You’ve done it indeed Lords of Black Hollow! By the Light, you’ve done it!”
There was then a great shout, a word of command and so instinctually did it strike Haryk that before he knew what he was doing, he was bending his knee. He looked up to see all those assembled behind and around the man were bending their knees as well. Each row of people, like a great wave spreading outwards bowed their heads and took their knees, and as they did so a plaza was revealed behind them. Somewhere atop a great tower overlooking the great bay below, there was a plaza which he now found himself in. The prince stood there before him smiling. And then he walked towards the rogue, hand outstretched. “Madam, I…”
“Oh, I wouldn’t do that right now if I were you!” Haryk tried to say but he never got past the first word!
Areia had always been the fastest he had ever seen, and although it had been years since he had seen her, she hadn’t lost a step. If any, she’d gained a few. In less time than it took to blink, she was up, lunging and covered the distance between herself and the prince.
He should have seen it coming. So too should the prince! For Haryk knew that if he hadn’t approached at that exact moment, it would have been Adnril’s throat slashed, and not his own!
Her blade, a cruel dagger, whipped out of her boot, slicing through the air in an arc, and found Lord Genoran’s throat.
Hundreds of voices cried out at once.
Haryk watched it all in slow motion, and when the blade struck the ill prepared neck above the breast plate, he didn’t understand why the prince’s blood was not spraying across his chest.
Genoran’s eyes, now wide with surprise, stared into Areia’s enraged face. Dirty, tear streaked, strained. She wasn’t just in front of him, she was atop him, like a cat, her whole body off the ground, surrounding the blade at his throat with every fiber of her being.
A long moment passed. And then slowly, while the vast crowd, and Haryk and Andril too watched on bated breath, the prince raised a single hand.
Every single figure stopped still as a statue.
Areia’s face was only a hair length from his, her pointy ears, through her silver hair, turned upward, parallel with her dagger, holding his chin so high, his body seemed to follow it. All she had to do was put one fiber into that blade. It would be over.
Haryk watched Areia’s hatred melt like a flower placed into the fire.
Genoran, the dagger blade against his skin across his neck, tried to answer but couldn’t. Then, with the greatest of efforts, he said hoarsely, “When I….when I last saw you…Lady Areia of Far Realm, it was you who were held at the end of a blade.”
Haryk watched Areia’s reaction, her dagger gripped firmly, her legs and arms around the prince like a raccoon chased up a tree.
Without moving the blade an iota, she put one foot on the ground. Then another. “I’m getting too old for this…” and she was falling backwards, her head lolled on her shoulders, her eyes closed.
Haryk and Andril stood staring, open mouthed.
“Guess she’s met the prince before?” said Andril.
“TO THE KING!!! SECURE KING GENORAN!!!!”
There was a blur of movement and motion. Haryk heard shouting and yelling, the drawing of swords from sheaths and before he knew it something struck him on the back of his head. He reached for his weapon and realized he had not the fortitude. He felt the sensation of falling, his knees giving out beneath him, He could see Andril being jostled about before all went black.
Sometime later, coming to, he saw the prince’s face, above his, men at arms behind him, he waved them back. “Give these goodly heroes to the crown space! Give them space!”
From somewhere behind them, he heard a rough voice shout, “You heard the King! Make way!”
Haryk closed his eyes himself then. He had just enough energy for that. As he fell into the darkness of sleep he wondered why everyone made such a big deal every time he saved them.