|namfle||Mar. 17th, 2013 10:46 pm New Fiction: The Lost Heir Saga. Book One: The Heir Exiled Chapter 6|
Alright, action drama fans, here is the sixth chapter of "The Heir Exiled", rough draft. Comments are encouraged and welcomed.
To repeat, this is a work of fiction, taking place in a fantasy setting of my own creation. What you see here is a rough draft after only slight editing for punctuation and spelling issues. The final, finished product may look very different.
Chapter one is here, chapter two is here, chapter three is here, chapter four is here, and chapter five is here, in case you missed something.
And now, I bring you...
THE LOST HEIR SAGA
BOOK ONE: THE HEIR EXILED
by V Peter Collins
PART I: Havencliff Keep
CHAPTER 6: Threshold
The sound of a loud bang entered Prince Callan's room. At first he thought it had come from outside, but the timber and direction was wrong. Just as he figured it to be the sound of a door slamming in the hallway, he heard small knuckles rapping upon his own door. He would know the sound of those knuckles in his sleep.
"Come, Till," he called. His sister rushed into the dark room. She climbed into his bed and chirped with surprise when she encountered his legs where they ought not to be. "Easy, Sister. I've been awake for..." She scrambled to find him, and he had to fend her off with his good hand, protecting his lute and his injury. "Sister! Easy, please!"
"Callan, it is terrible!" she cried. He found her arm and squeezed it.
"Be still a moment?" She capitulated, giving him time to stow his instrument and adjust his posture to favor his injured arm. She was weeping, he realized. Hadn't she been asleep? "What is the time, do you know?"
"Five notches past sundown," she answered, her voice shaking. He could feel her trembling beneath his grasp. He made a space for her beside him and coaxed her there. She moved urgently and held him for comfort.
"All is well, Tilly," he soothed. "What gave you such a fitful rise this late in the night?"
There was no hesitation in her response. "I could not sleep, so I meditated. It... it helps, often."
"Not this time," he surmised. He could feel her shaking her head.
"I had a vision." Her reply was uttered in a tiny, soft, meek voice. Callan nodded, forgetting she would not be able to see him in the darkness. Mediation and visions, she had explained to him some years hence, were a part of her training in the mystic arts. While her visions did not occur with any regular frequency, they were no t uncommon. This was the first that had frightened her, as far as he was aware.
She had paused in her telling, and he let her have the time she needed; for all the barging she did into his quarters, this was the first during the sleeping hours of the night. He put his good arm around her, and she squeezed him.
"I believe it was of the future," she began anew. "There was fire, and smoke, and screams. So many screams. I could hear swords and armor, and men shouting, and people dying."
"Do you know where it was happening?"
"Here, Callan!" she shook him, desperate and afraid. "It was in the Keep!"
She buried her face in his sleeping shirt and wept loudly, her entire body trembling. Not knowing what else to do, Callan held his sister close and kissed upon her head.
Tilly's emotional upheaval did not last long at such a peak. Callan was quite thankful when her sobbing stopped and she pulled away from him to collect herself.
"I am sorry to have disturbed you, brother," she said between sniffles.
"Think nothing of it," he said.
"I just did not know what to do with myself. It was so terrible, so frightful..." she took a shaky breath. Callan heard the rustling of his blankets and felt the bed shifting under the weight of his moving sister.
"Are you putting yourself to sleep in my bed?" he queried, full of surprise.
"Oh, Callan, please! I could not possibly sleep by myself after having that vision!" She grabbed his good arm with desperation that he could feel. He felt exasperated.
"You kick like an angry goat while you slumber, Till," he groaned. "That would do my injury no good at all."
"Oh!" and Callan could feel through the bed his sister reeling. "Forgive me! I had forgotten completely!"
Her feet scuffed against the carpet and padded toward the door. Callan shook his head to himself.
"Till, 'tis fine. Stay. I shall sleep on the floor." He grabbed one of his thick, soft pillows, and began gathering the thickest of his blankets.
"Thank you, brother, thank you, thank you!" And she pounced onto the bed once more and tried to hug him madly. He managed to embrace her without causing more harm to his injured arm.
"But I shall take the quilt, if you please."
The siblings caused quite a quiet ruckus as they maneuvered themselves and the bedding around each other blindly, until they were both panting for breath. Callan had managed to bring his pillow and quilt to the floor and was willing his heart to slow as he lay himself down. Tilly tossed and turned noisily like a circus acrobat, to Callan's mind, trying to find a comfortable position.
"Your bed is lumpy," she decreed.
"The bed is fine. You are the one that is lumpy."
Stillness and silence returned to the room immediately. Callan, laying contently upon his back, wriggled slightly on the carpet to make himself comfortable. A pillow slammed into his shoulder, startling him.
"Good night, Callan," said Tilly haughtily, her back to him. Callan could only laugh, glad the worrisome moment had fully passed. Laughing made his arm ache, however, so it did not last.
With Tilly finally still, the night seemed to become much quieter in general. The thunderstorm had passed and the rain had become a pleasant rhythm, steady enough to lull a tired, achy prince to sleep.
Another percussive sound jarred Callan's mind to consciousness before it could slip away into the pleasant throes of sleep. It had been the sound of another door slamming, of that he was certain. It had been further away, though, as if he had heard the echo of it.
A scream then, that of an older woman. Too far away to be nearby, but close enough perhaps to have come from the servant floors one story down. He sat up, alarmed, initially unsure of the reality of what his senses was telling him.
"Till?" he said quietly, not wishing to wake her needlessly.
"I heard it as well," she replied instantly. She sounded fully alert, as if she still had not yet fallen asleep. She too sat up, and Callan could hear the breath in her come and go rapidly.
Another loud sound brought Callan to his feet. He crept toward the door. Tilly was by his side in the beat of a heart. Cautiously, he opened his door but a crack and listened. He could hear the distinct sound of folk in armor marching about on a lower level. Fear gripped his stomach tightly.
"We must to Father," he told his sister. Moving swiftly but quietly, Callan and Tilly, hand in hand, slipped into and crept through the hall, away from the stairs, towards the Royal Bedroom, marked by a large, ornate pair of wooden doors, the family crest carved into each. Before they could reach the doors, they flung themselves open, swinging inward, revealing King Jardinne, his daily robe tossed haphazardly over his sleeping shirt, and his sword in his hand. His hair, beard and mustache were bed-tossed, and he had clear bags beneath his eyes, but those eyes were open widely and alertly.
"Father?" spoke Callan, his fear growing. "What is...?"
"Come," Jardinne barked. He took Tilly's hand in his left and moved swiftly down the hall. "To the throne room. Keep behind me, and stay near me," he ordered. They were hurrying to the stairs; as they approached, the heavy sounds of marching feet grew in volume, and voices could also be heard. There were two more cries of pain, one of a man and one of a young girl.
At the stairs, Jardinne bade his children climb before him while he guarded their retreat. Callan fearfully peered over his shoulder as he run up the single flight between his sister and his father. Once on the landing, Tilly bolted to the throne room and leaned into the massive stone door, desperate to force it open. Callan joined her a moment later and together they had the thing open enough for a person to slip through just as their father arrived.
The room was massive, and at the moment, cavernous, with only a single time candle lit to provide any illumination; the throne room took up a full third of the story, and nearly matched the width of the Keep. Jardinne swiftly scooped up the candle, showing it to be closer to sun up than sun down, and with both urgency and care, lit the rest of the candles on the front wall on either side of the door, casting the room in deep amber and wildly dancing shadows. Moving swiftly, he took to lighting the candles along the walls on one side of the room. Through the doors, the sounds of the chaos and tragedy the family had fled could be heard faintly.
Callan felt his innards clenched with a fear and uncertainty as he had never previously experienced. It took him a moment to understand that his father wished to set alight every candle in the throne room. Being careful to avoid hot wax, the young man snatched up a freshly lit candle and set to work on the opposite side of the door.
"Father..." His question remained on his lips. He had many questions, in fact, but one was prevalent above all others.
"Daughter," the King interrupted, "have you a spell that might seal the door?" Tilly was quiet, eyes wide, mouth open, body trembling furiously. Callan, on his third candle, realized that her fear must be fathoms deeper than his own.
"Tilly," he said gently when she gave no answer. Jardinne, clearly anxious for a reply, paused a moment to witness their interaction.
Slowly, she responded, turning to her bother first then her father. "A seal?" Her voice was a fear-choked whisper.
"Aye," confirmed the King, speaking softly now, following his son's example. Tilly's trembling increased. Callan finished lighting another candle, then raced to replace the one he had taken, leaving an entire corner of the room in darkness. Quickly, he came to his sister's side and took her firmly by the arms. He peered directly into her large, fear-stricken eyes.
"Sister. You mustn't allow your fear to paralyze you."
She blinked, and the light of thinking intelligence returned. She saw, at last, her brother and father, in turn.
"What is happening?" she asked in a small, meek voice. Jardinnne stepped to his children, a peace in his expression that had not been there just a moment before. Outside the door, the sounds of anguish echoed closer. Callan marveled at the calm he could now see in his father despite the chaos poised to reign down upon them at any moment.
Jardinne placed a hand on each of his children, bestowing his calm to them. He spoke softly as he explained to them, "We are under attack."
Tilly's fear returned, but her wits remained. Callan tried to determine which of their neighboring lands and cities had the ability to launch a full-scale assault and breach the castle defenses before an alarm could have been raised, but the possibility simply did not exist. His father had spent the better part of his five decades fighting small wars across the neighboring land, defending the keep against a cascading chain of uprisings and revolutions ignited by the tyranny and oppressive ways of Grandfather Durst's iron-fisted rule. Unless the three major cities and countless small towns that spotted the Havencliff Kingdom had banded together in secret and pooled their resources to forge, train, and equip a powerful army without even the slightest hint reaching the King's ears, there simply was no way conceivable way, to the Prince's mind, such an attach could have come so quickly. Unless...
"It is as if the attack comes from within," he said to himself. From the corner of his eye, he saw his father look sharply to him. The expression upon the King's face proved to confirm Callan's spoken thought. The young man's throat suddenly went dry. "A usurper?"
"Quickly, my children," said Jardinne. Taking hold of Tilly's hand once more, he ushered them to the large support pillar in the far, lit corner of the throne room. Light from the candles lashed at grey stone and colorful banners of celebrations past. Releasing Tilly, Jardinne reached high beneath the banner of Morning Bay Castle which bore the fish and grain emblazoned shield of Rotherford Village. There was a grinding sound as stone slid unhappily against stone. A draft came suddenly from behind the banner, slapping it aside in an almost playful manner that absurdly opposed the tension Callan was feeling.
Jardinne cast aside the banner, revealing a dark chasm and space for a person to slip into. "You must flee," he instructed. "We are undone, and you must retreat to safety..."
"We!?" screeched Tilly. Callan felt his heart begin to race as never before. His head spun as he tried to grasp the meaning of what exactly was happening.
"No, Father," he said breathlessly, not even sure of his desire to speak. "We must stand, we must fight!" He spun, looking for a sword within the amber gloom of the throne room. He knew his father usually kept one near the large seat that occupied the center of the room.
"Can you fight your own army?" barked Jardinne, drawing his son around. Callan saw that the peace had fled his father's eyes. His fear had returned, now with anger. The young man felt lost and confused.
"But... how can we...?"
"You must come with us, Father!" cried Tilly. With surprising strength, she began to haul Jardinne into the newly revealed passage way. With an effort, he detached himself from Tilly.
"No, child!" His raised voice, a rarity in quiet times, was like a hammer slamming down upon the children, commanding their attention and obedience. Tilly grew still. "If I am not found, they will search for you and find you before you are two steps from the grounds." He drew them both close and knelt for his daughter's benefit. "Take care of one another. Remember everything I ever taught you. Always, the open hand before the closed fist."
"But, Father..." Tears flowed openly from Tilly's eyes. Jardinne hugged her tightly.
"Go, you both. Know that I have loved you since before each of you were born. Know that I have, and always will be, very, very proud of you." He embraced Callan. The Prince moved automatically to return the embrace, his mind numbed and wits dulled. The bottom of his heart had given way; he had no means of knowing or understanding the feelings he was experiencing.
Their were voices suddenly in the hall. Something heavy and metallic slammed into the stone door from the outside.
"Go," the King whispered sharply. He gave his daughter a gentle push into the passageway, stood, and gripped his son by his shoulders. The gaze he laid upon Callan cut through the fog in the young man's mind, if only for a moment.
"My son. You must go now. Protect your sister. Stay hidden. Raise an army, when you are strong enough, and return. I fear the Kingdom will fell to pieces. Return, my son, and repair the damage done this day. Restore these lands to their glory."
"How?" choked Callan. Jardinne kissed him gently upon his forehead.
"You will find the answer out there. Now go, before it is too late."
King Jardinne guided his first born and only son into the dark passage way and sealed the entrance swiftly. A door slid back into place, merging seamlessly with the stones around them, cutting off all light and casting the children into complete darkness. Callan and Tilly found each other and clung, desperate and fearful. She wept into his nightshirt and trembled in his arms. Callan could only stand, his feet paralyzed by the purest forms of uncertainty and fear.
The royal brother and sister remained still and distraught until a great, percussive sound and a tremble in the ground beneath their feet gave them cause to be alarmed. Callan imagined the great stone doors to the throne room had been bashed open.
Voices followed immediately, but the great stones that made up the pillar in which they stood muffled the words beyond any hope of recognition. Both children leaned closer to the door that had just closed behind them. Callan pressed an ear to the cold, damp bricks. He could hear his father for certain, then in retaliation, he could hear the unmistakable tones of Master Garunth's commanding voice.
"By the First Son's breath," he swore.
"What?" implored his sister desperately. "What is it?"
"Garunth is the usurper. He..." The sounds of furiously clashing metal carried through the stones. Tilly immediately became agitated, bouncing upon the toes of her feet and shaking her brother.
"We must do something!"
Callan clamped his hands over her mouth after three attempts. She became still as well as stifled even as the fight continued. The confusion that dulled his wits was lifting, and he was beginning to grasp the full weight of the events that were occurring. When he spoke, it was with a harsh whisper.
"Garunth means to kill us all. Father placed us here so that we might escape. He is fighting, right now, so that you and I may live. Do you wish to waste his sacrifice?"
She shook her head. Slowly, he lowered his hand. He still himself, then, as the sounds of fighting suddenly ceased. He put his ear back to the stones. He heard what he thought to be a sword flung carelessly to the ground. His heart raced, and his throat became very dry. He heard his father's voice, faintly, and he felt a spark of hope. It was immediately snuffed out; his father cried out in pain, a cry that was cut short unnaturally. Callan stepped back from the wall, stricken by what he heard.
"Brother!" His sister's call came from a short distance behind him. He moved slowly in that direction, his good hand against the wall for guidance. "Take care!" she warned as he brushed past her. She held him fast, and he heeded her warning. He could feel the floor give way, just under his bare toes. He felt the nearby walls for a torch or a candle, but none were to be found. He yelled between clenched teeth, a release of fear disguised as frustration.
"What now?" came Tilly's frightened voice. Callan cursed himself for frightening his sister needlessly.
"'Tis nothing. I simply wish to see what is in this wretched space."
"I can manage that," she returned. He heard her whispering softly, and her clothes rustling with movement. "Guard your eyes," she warned. He shut them and placed a hand over them. A dim light penetrated through. With care, he uncovered his eyes to see an orb just above his sister's head, casting a beam into the darkness before them.
"That is spectaculous," he marveled breathlessly.
The light revealed the empty space beneath his foot had been naught but a deep step, the first of many that spiraled down and out of sight. With sorrow, Callan looked once more at the door through whence they had come. A lump formed in his throat. He took his sister's hand and, sorrowfully, broke his gaze and began moving down the stairs.
General Garunth stood over Jardinne, the life having been recently purged from the King's body. The blood on Garunth's sword was still warm, and his breath still came heavily. Behind and around him, Captain Liendra and her guard remained still; the only sound to be heard, in fact, was that of Garunth's breath echoing about in the small spaces left in his helmet. He ripped this off, revealing the grimace of hatred that had been etched upon his face during the hard-fought duel with the man that had been his closest, and at times only friend. Without a care, he flung the helmet aside; it clattered noisily upon the floor behind the large, ornate throne. With a look and a nod of her head, Liendra bade one of her officers to fetch the helmet.
"You had to make this as difficult as possible!" Garunth roared. He paused, almost as if he expected Jardinne to reply. "Your father had meant for me to be your conqueror, not your nursemaid!" He dropped his sword as if its weight were too much to bear. He staggered backwards a few steps, stricken. "And certainly not your executioner." He covered his face with his gauntlet-guarded hand and sagged. "His was a glorious plan, Jardinne. We had this world, you and I. We had it firmly in our grasp!" He slipped backwards and bumped into the throne. He leaned heavily against it, his face contorted in a savage conflict of emotions. "But you went soft. Oh, how King Durst would be disappointed, Jardinne. Lands, shores, riches. Things to make this kingdom stronger. You should have taken them, you doddering fool. You should have..."
A sob shuddered through his body. He slammed a fist into the throne, denting it. "Damn you for making me kill you!"
Garunth paid no mind to the members of his army that bore witness to his tirade. The young guard with the helmet handed it to Liendra. She took it with a nod and walked slowly to her commander. After a silent moment, she presented it to him. The general sucked back his tears and rose to his full height, pride returning to his stature. He took the helmet and placed it under his arm, scanning the guard before him.
"Fetch me the rest, have our flag raised, and..." He interrupted his orders to spare the still form of the broken man before him another look. Liendra produced a handkerchief and silently offered it to Garunth. He took it as he turned back to her. "Dispose of the body. A simple grave, by the cliff's edge. Unmarked."
She nodded, turned on her heel, and began barking orders at her charges. In a moment, they had sped away, leaving her and Garunth alone.
"Sir... Garunth..." She touched him tenderly upon his cheek. He closed his eyes for a moment, almost as if he relished the contact. It was a fleeting moment, however. When his eyes snapped open, the harshness for which he was known best had returned.
"Fetch me the children."
"Aye, sir." She turned, meaning to exit as swiftly as the guards she had commanded.
"Personally." She halted in her tracks and faced Garunth, puzzled. "Even handicapped, Callan is a capable fighter, and his sister's magic may prove tricky. Do what you must with the boy, but the girl is to be unharmed. And for the Earthsea Father's sake, keep them separated."
The Captain hesitated a moment before acknowledging her orders and striding out of the room, leaving Garunth alone. He wiped the lone tear that had sprung from his eye, flung the kerchief onto the King's corpse, then sad heavily upon the throne. He leaned forward, elbows upon knees, and let his head sag, his helmet forgotten beside him. From his chest and lips came a great, heavy breath. Garunth sat back then, slumping, hand to his face, fingers massaging his temples.
"So it be this, then," he said, possibly to himself, possibly to Jardinne, possibly to the spirit of the long dead King Durst. "Blood cannot be undrawn, war unmade." He sat up abruptly then, determination writ upon his face. "Forward, then, by the Earthsea Father, or by the riptide of the Underlord himself."
That's the end of Chapter 6. Any comments will be treated as from a beta reader, and will be sincerely appreciated.Leave a comment