Chrono Shift Chapter 8
Heretics Among the Heralded
Candor had been speechless for several hours now, bewildered and compelled at the story that Augur told her. The tale itself was absolutely unbelievable, but she doubted that he could make up something like that. Besides, the man was back from beyond the grave, and the story hadnt been much stranger than his appearance here. Still, something did not seem right. So thats what happened to you? Thats everything that went on during your absence?
Well, Augur answered, Not quite everything. I left out a lot of important details, and if I talked about them, well, Im afraid that the consequences would change history. Some of the things Ive been told could literally destroy the world as we know it, but dont worry about that. Ive got about nine years before I have to tempt fate, and when the time comes, I hope Im ready.
So what do you plan to do during that time?
Well, my magic skills need a little spit-shine, so what do you say to letting me back into your little class?
Id be glad to have you back, she said, Seraph isnt feeling real well right now, shes got some nasty sickness thats been going around. She should be back in a few days.
Augur thanked his teacher, finally realizing that she had also been a good friend to him for the last two years of his life. Then he ran off, looking for his old house where he would have fun scaring his mother to death. Sure, it was a cruel prank, but she couldnt stay mad at him very long, considering the circumstances. Upon arriving at the door however, something seemed different. The entrance always had a personalized ornament that hung from a ledge above, but it was no longer there. Augur knocked on the cold metal, figuring he just overreacted at the sight of it. When it opened, however, a young man stared back at him, and he could not see his mother in the background. Can I help you? the man asked.
Who the hell are you? Augur demanded. A stranger coming to his house and insisting to know his identity did not amuse the man at the entryway, but he had always been good-natured, so he answered calmly.
Im Grennich. Can I ask what youre doin here? Augur began to understand the situation. His mother had probably moved out of the house during his vacation.
Did you just move in here, and do you know what happened to the lady who used to live here? Most people dont pay much attention to the previous owners of their homes, but it never hurt to ask questions.
Ive been here for six months, Grennich said, The previous owner apparently died, but I have no idea why. Did ya know her? Tears began to well up in Augurs eyes, and he quickly brushed them away. This was a shock that he hadnt prepared for, the death of his mother never even crossed his mind. Augur thanked him, and then quickly fled the premises. He could find no private areas inside the city walls, so he left the giant building to be alone with his thoughts. Augur had not truly cried since he smashed his finger at six years of age, and he did the best he could to keep them in, but to no avail. The sun had just begun to set on the far side of the ocean, and darkness had taken over much of the sky, but he ignored the splendor of the scene. Night became extremely cold at the altitude of the floating island, but Augur disregarded the sharp chill that arrived with the wind as he concentrated on the fondest memories of his only parent.
Vivid images of his childhood passed through his head. He saw his mom nursing one of his injuries, playing simple games to keep him entertained, and cooking all his favorite foods. She was never an important figure in retrospect to the kingdom, but to him she was easily the highlight of his day. She really loved me, he sniffled. He never knew how much he needed her until now, after she left him. The thing that bothered him most, though, was that he never had a chance to say goodbye, not even at the funeral.
Looking up to the sky, peering into the heavens that once housed him, He cried out to the nighttime world, demanding some sort of answer. Why must life be so cruel, and why must death be so pitiless? Augur pounded his fists into the ground in frustration. On only his second day back on Earth, and he was already beginning to forget what he had come back to fight for. So he could make the world a better place? What was in it for him? He would never see the lights of the new future, even if it did become more than a dream. He continued to whimper until he fell asleep, shivering and frozen, in the arcane, desolate dark.
Meanwhile, in the innermost sections of Zeal Palace, Melchior had just wrapped up his little talk with the king. Zeal had been growing more and more irritated at the man from the moment he started talking, but he had managed to suppress his rage until he had stopped begging for mercy. The guru would require punishment, but he could not expel him because he was needed too much. The kings face showed a stern grimace, and he pointed a sturdy finger at the elder. Melchior, Im sure you already know that your conduct hasnt been favorable, and I just want you to know that Im seriously considering having you killed on the spot. Too bad the people would turn against me for that. Get out of my sight while I think of your sentencing. Ive got to actually teach you a lesson this time. Melchior paid his respect and exited promptly while the king sighed, Damned gurus, I swear theyll be the downfall of this kingdom. He did not realize that Melchior had invented the entire story, but he had his suspicions.
A researcher entered the room shortly after, carrying stacks of paperwork. State your business, and dont take long, Im ready to go to bed, Zeal groaned. The door guard immediately sent away the remaining men waiting in line outside the chamber.
Well, Your Highness, Ill be as brief as I can, but I dont know how to compress this. You know that exploration of the Ridge Mountain, a couple miles away from the Earthbound village, that took place about a year ago? Belthasar has been analyzing it for some time, and he believes he may be onto something. He says that it may be possible that Lavos has some dangerous side effects that we dont know about.
Nonsense, weve been using it for so long that we would have detected any problems long ago. Until you have something worth my time, dont come back. The messenger apologized and left immediately. Zeal had to dismiss most of the little things instantly, otherwise he would never get any work done. He gathered his robe and began to walk down the hallway that would lead him to his quarters, where his wife and daughter would be. He rarely got to spend time with either of them anymore, and the sad part was that it no longer even bothered him that he didnt see them very much.
He walked into his extravagant house discarded his robe as soon as he locked himself inside. One of the maids was busily trying to get Schala ready for bed, and the Queen sat alone in a chair, reading. Zeal never understood her infatuation with books, but he didnt question it, either. When she heard him, she closed the book abruptly and looked up in his direction. Another long day, Honey?
The king laughed, You wouldnt believe some of the stuff they ask about. Can you believe that Belthasar actually thinks that Lavos may be causing some trouble in the kingdom?
Ha, thats ridiculous.
Yeah, I know. Im
going to hit the sack. Ill
see you tomorrow, he smooched her cheek, and in the process, caught
a glimpse of her eyes. He did
not know why, but this provoked something deep within his heart to stir and
awaken. It caused him to feel
a warmth and compassion that had not been with him since shortly after he
had taken the job as king. Still
gazing into the undying gems of his queens eyes, he added, Actually,
scratch that. Zeal yelled
at one of his servants, Get Schala to bed right now, and then I want
some of that fine wine we have in the storage room, but never
use. After that, I want to be
left alone with my wife.
The queen looked at her husband, What do you have planned? Whats going on?
He smiled and winked at her, Trust me.
Half and hour later, all the servants were sitting together in the living quarters, talking with each other. Zeals bedroom was on the other side of the wall, and although he had not said what he was going to be doing, the combination of pictures on the wall shaking due to the thuds against it and the shrill screams of the queen gave it away. One of the men in the room looked up from his meal, Wow, theyre really going at it tonight. Luckily, Im off tomorrow, so I won't have to be the one who cleans up the mess. Im surprised that neither of them has, well, collapsed with exhaustion yet.
When you say collapsed with exhaustion, do you mean what I think you do? Because if you are, who says they havent? another one said, adding, They probably just kept on going right through it.
From my experience, its not humanly possible to keep going right on through one of those. Ive heard that certain members of the royal family have special powers, but that would only apply to the king, since the queen married in. I just dont thing anyone could keep up their stamina after having such powerful sensations.
Yeah, that option is probably out. The only other thing that I can think of is that they could be trying some new things instead.
What kinds of new things would the queen let him do to her? Well, I guess he did say that he had something special planned.
A third servant jumped in, this time a woman, stating, God, its been a really long time since theyve done this. I personally think theyre just letting years of their energy out all at once. I bet the action is pretty hot.
The second man was about to add to the conversation, but the screaming woman in the other room cut him off. When the moaning subsided, he yawned. Im getting tired just listening to them. Ive never heard anything like this in my life.
The woman jumped in again, I know Ive told you all that I, much to his fathers objection, slept with the king once before he met his wife. Quite frankly, Im a little jealous that I never got it like she is.
Yeah, but thats just because you have a loose
Hey, unless you want to end up wearing your testicles as a bowtie, I strongly suggest that you dont finish that sentence! Needless to say, the conversation died down quickly after the threatening comments.
Back in Enhasa, Grennich had been more than a little concerned about the mysterious boy who came knocking on his door. This concern was magnified into anxiety after he saw him dart outside. It did not take long to find him, he had made no effort to conceal himself, and his clothes stuck out against the ground when they were hit with starlight. The boy had fallen asleep, so Grennich moved to awaken him, knowing hed never last more than an hour after the hypothermia set in. The wind burned against his cheeks as he extended a hand to the fallen body, nudging it violently. Hey, wake up!
Augur drearily forced his eyelids to open, and even then, everything blurred together. Somewhere in the distorted smudge a voice called out, Get up, its too dangerous to be out here at night. Youll be dead from the cold before ya ever see the morning. The figure pulled him up and gave him a push back toward the city. After his eyes focused, recognized the person.
Youre the man who
Relax. Lets get you inside. Are ya out here because you have nowhere else to go? Cuz if thats the case I can let you stay with us for the time being. The two entered the doors, which were supposed to be locked, but never were. Even the guards had gone home at this hour. The long absence of war in any nation will cause a military to grow weaker and weaker with each generation, but the Enlightened had always managed to do pretty well because of their magic.
So, would ya mind tellin me how ya knew the person that used to live in my house?
She was my mother.
Really!? Wow, Im real sorry about that. But how did ya manage to stay away from yer own mother for all these months and never find out about her death? By the way, whats yer name? Augur didnt notice the slang-riddled accent Grennich had when he first met up with him, but that shouldnt have been the first thing on his mind at the time.
My name is Augur, and I was actually down in the Earthbound Caves for the last year doing research, and I just got back. He had finally come up with a decent story that most people would believe. Grennich lifted his arm and opened the front door that used to belong to Augur. The teenager noticed that the inside had been completely changed around, but that was to be expected.
Grennich hung a bulky overcoat on a hanger on the inside of the door, You must be hungry, so Ill have my wife fix ya up a little somethin. Shes real nice, youll like her. I jus met her bout nine months ago, and weve only been married about four. Grennich, who looked about twenty-five and weighed easily over two hundred, sipped a bit of alcohol. He wouldve made a strong physical warrior, but Zeal needed no such men. Shes the light of my life, he sighed as he swallowed the booze.
A woman entered the room from the familiar hallway, and something about her struck Augur. The deep green eyes seemed so recognizable. Grennich turned around, Oh, Astra, Id like ya to meet a kid I brought in. Hes been havin a real bad time, and I was wonderin if ya could fix him up a little food.
Astra looked at the boy sitting at her kitchen table, I believe that we may have already met. Extending her hand, she asked, Augur, howve you been? That woman who was with you said that you were dead when she came back from the caves.
Augur could not control his thoughts. In the last year, Astra, the lowly innkeeper who had shown affection for him at Port Dalton, ended up getting married to this guy named Grennich. Then his mother died, and the couple ended up moving into his old house. No one could possibly overlook the irony of the situation. Coming up with a quick lie, Augur responded, Well, I got injured in the caves, and everyone assumed I died. I woke up from my coma a couple days later, but it was too late to hitch a ride back. I just got home earlier today, and I found out that my mother had died and you two moved into my house. Astra had gotten even prettier than when Augur had last seen her, and that reminded him that he hadnt been with a woman in over year.
Hmm, I thought ya said that you were doin some research down there.
Astra turned to face her husband, For pitys sake, the boys been through a lot. You dont have to question everything he says. Turning back to Augur, she added, Ill get you something good to eat and make up a bed for you to sleep on. Im sure you could use a nice rest. Augur nodded, although he did not feel the least bit tired. The woman started to explore the various cupboards for morsels of food, and Grennich left the room, presumably to fix up his sleeping quarters.
Augur stared at Astra as she moved around the floor, and examining her appearance. Living with lizards and ogres and plants for over a year tended to make women look even better, but he wondered why he hadnt felt this around Candor. Sure, Candor was older, and not quite as beautiful as Astra, but she was eye catching nonetheless. Maybe it had something to do with Candor always being so serious and absorbed in her work. This trait had been the one that had kept her from ever marrying, but she never regretted it, at least not publicly.
Astra set down a bowl of soup and a mysterious fruit drink in front of him, Dont be afraid to ask if you need anything else. We can talk about everything in the morning. She moved to leave the room, but stopped at the doorway and started to giggle. Im sorry, it just seems so weird that youre actually here. I was shocked when I heard you were dead. Strange how things have a way of coming back into your life. Augur smiled despite all that had happened to him in the last couple hours. Astra hadnt grown up in the past year as much as she liked to think she had, and she still had a typical teenage girls mind. Though he had never asked, Augur assumed she was a year or two older than him.
The soup tasted terrific, but paled in comparison to the amazing drink he had been served. He craved more, but did not want to abuse his welcome. Grennich soon called him in and showed him his bed, which, coincidentally, sat in the same spot as his old mattress. Augur crawled under the covers, not bothering to strip down, and tried to fall asleep.
A few hours later, and not much more than a mile away, King Zeal groggily pried his eyelids open and peered out the bedside window. Exhausted from the sex, it did not take him long to doze off. He rolled over, leaving most of the blankets behind, and stared into the heavens. The twinkling starlight brought back the memories of the evening, and he soon realized his mistake. Idiot! he cursed softly so as not to wake his wife, but the anger remained in his voice. Quickly grabbing a pen and some paper, he started to inscribe a quick note to the queen. Stupid, he said to himself, Youre lucky you didnt blow the whole thing.
He crumpled up three pieces of paper in record time, not being able to find the correct way to write the letter. The king again looked out the window, noticing by the position of the stars that it was early morning already, although no sunlight would show for another hour, more than likely two or three. As a child, he had done some astrology work, and it had stuck in his head. He looked from the stars in the sky to his personal twilight, lying in the bed. He knew he could not tell such things to his wife face to face, but he hadnt understood that writing them down while looking at her would be just as difficult. Deciding to get away so he could think clearly, Zeal dressed and left the room. It took only a minute for him to be through the doors of the palace, despite its size. The cold outside air should have overwhelmed him, but instead he ignored it and continued down the mountainside that the kingdom sat on.
As he walked, he tried to piece together all the things that would be necessary to say in the letter. A lot had to go into this message before dawn destroyed the night and someone realized that he was missing. Unfortunately, daylight was not the only time constraint he had to remain in, there happened to be another deadline, and this one could pass over at any moment. All that Zeal could do was hope that he hadnt wasted too much time.
By the time he reached the outermost reaches of the kingdom that his ancestors had built, a few of the stars had shifted their position. He sat down on a patch of soft grass near one of the waterfalls that bubbled from the assorted springs of the island. The water cascaded off the edge not far away, and seemed to capture the serenity of the view better than the rest of the features in this area. One of the things he had never understood was why the nighttime temperatures did not freeze the water or kill the grass in the kingdom. His only guess involved the magic surrounding the landmass. Pulling up a flat slab of stone from the ground nearby, he put the paper down and began to pour his thoughts onto the page.
At the same time, Augur awoke from a troubled night of dreams. In several hours of lying on the mattress, he had not slept more than several minutes. His thoughts clouded his mind too much for him to nap, and when he did, it never lasted long. Finally disgusted by his unproductive efforts, he tossed the covers to the side and stood up. As he yawned and stretched, he decided to go for a midnight stroll to relieve some of the stress. Grabbing his rapiers in case he needed them, he left the small house, making sure to remain quite and not wake Astra and Grennich. There was nowhere to go in the city and he left the gates and entered the desolate world outside. Augur felt the chill of the wind almost instantly, and shivered, wishing he had brought a coat of some kind.
Augur sat down, leaning his back against the eastern wall of Enhasa. In the distance, the very first cracks of dawn were revealing their golden orange glows. The sun would not be truly up for another hour, if not more. The altitude of Zeal made the sunlight visible for much longer than it would have been down on the continent, although only hints of the brightness would show during the long dusks and dawns. Another attribute that contributed to the beauty of the scene was the vast ocean, which reflected the light onto the clouds. The night was unusually clear, and more stars shined on earth than Augur could ever remember seeing. Strange how quickly he had forgotten about the events that had occurred inside those stars, and how it had changed his life forever. Still, he had to admit that death had given him a greater appreciation for life.
Bored with staring into nothing, he started walking along a path. He had no idea where it would lead him, but he had a feeling it would be in a big circle around Enhasa. As advanced as the Zealian society was, they could not work out a decent system of transit. All the dirt roads led to nowhere, barring the main ones which led between the cities and the palace. Augur shivered as the breeze smashed against his naked face, and he decided to use some magic to his advantage. In one of the last classes he had been in before he died, Candor had taught him that he could heat the temperature of the air without actually using fire. Immediately after he cast the heat barrier around himself, he noticed the difference. Doing this took little of his energy, but maintaining the shield of warm air it would slowly drain him. Shrugging, he knew he needed more practice with his magic, and saw this as an opportunity.
Eventually, Augur got used to the warmer air, and he even forgot that he had the fire barrier on. He somehow managed to maintain it subconsciously, and the heated area around him stayed up despite his lack of effort. He had no idea how far he had gone, but the sun still wouldnt be up for a while. The thought of watching a sunrise made him smile, and he decided he would stick around until it came up. To pass the time, Augur drew his swords and started fencing with the air. His skills did need a tune up, and although he wouldnt admit it, he had also felt a little out of shape since he returned. A little conditioning never hurt anyone, so he started to fight imaginary opponents.
Augur jumped into the air, and upon landing, spun around and extended one of the swords. He moved to block a strike from the invisible enemy, and then slashed upward, causing the air to swish. Dodging an attack, he rolled on the ground, and summoned some water, which he sprayed into the empty night around him. Leaping back on his feet, he kicked a nearby tree a few times. Aiming downward, he sliced into the ground beneath his feet. He continued this routine until he tired, and then he lay on the ground to rest until he would be ready for more. Once he was revitalized, he continued shadow sparring until he tired again.
After one particularly long rest, he noticed that the sky had begun to change as morning drew nearer. Deciding to get a first-rate view, he walked down to the edge of the floating island. It would still be a little while, so he started to work out a little more. Noticing he was wearing down faster than before, he dispelled the heat shield. Rays from the bright star had already warmed the air considerably. Ignoring this discovery, he released some black energy to allow him to float in the air. Using more black magic, he flew forward rapidly while slashing. Unable to control his landing, he hit the ground and tumbled for several seconds and scraping his arm badly on some stone. Augur healed the wound and figured that he had done enough training for one day.
Hey, can you keep it down over there! Im trying to work! Augur turned to see a man sitting mere inches from the edge of the island, near the waterfall.
Sorry, I didnt know that anyone else was here. After examining him closer, Augur noticed that the mans clothes were different than his. In fact, he had only seen the crest on his robe in one other place. In disbelief, he approached the stranger. Hey, you wouldnt happen to be
The man snapped around and glared at him through bloodshot eyes. Listen to me! Yes, I am the king, but I have failed the kingdom. The entire Zeal bloodline has failed this kingdom. It is time for everything to come to an end! Zeal slammed a piece of paper into the ground as he reached inside of his robes. A clinging sound that could only be a knife leaving its scabbard echoed across the sky, and a split second later he jammed the dagger between his thumb and his forefinger. The paper had been pinned to the ground so that it would not blow away.
The king grabbed Augurs shirt and forced his face right next to his own. I dont expect you to understand, but Lavos is evil! He can corrupt the minds of all that come into contact with it. Last night, as I fixated myself on my wife, something strange happened. Lavos released his control on my mind, leaving me with only a small amount of time to set things right. Lavos is going to destroy the entire kingdom unless something is done! Still grimacing, he shook Augur, causing his head to shake back and forth, Do you understand? Any moment now, Lavos could regain his control on me, and
Zeal released the young adult, and Augur crumpled to the dirt. The king grabbed his head and screamed in horrifying agony. Aaauurrrgh, damned beast! You wont Dark bolts of electricity surrounded his body, and he shuddered and jerked more violently with each passing second. The king managed to stay on his feet as he convulsed from the shocks and swore at the evil engulfing him. Black flames burst out of his crest and back, burning away his clothes.
In a desperate effort to save himself, Zeal cast every holy spell he could, trying to overcome the darkness. After fighting Lavos for what seemed like hours, but in actuality was only a few seconds, King Zeal overthrew the energy and stood up at the same exact second that the sun truly rose. His figure blocked out the direct rays from the fireball, and was outlined by the flaming edges of the celestial body. Out of the stature of the man came a strong, demanding voice, aimed at Augur. Liberate the kingdom from Lavos! Save Zeal from his black reign! He extended his arms outward and looked directly overhead, Bastard, you wont use me as your dark pawn ever again! Even as he said this, the shadowy forces were beginning to overcome him. Once again screaming, he allowed him self to be thrown backward, and his feet slipped off the edge of the island.
Augur rushed to the edge, but Zeal had already fallen fifty feet. He watched, helpless, as his body spun around twirled from the vicious winds below. As he rotated, a gust pushed him underneath the waterfall, which ravaged his body. From below, his cries for mercy from the evil creature were barely audible, and only existed for a couple seconds. Despite his self-invoked demise, King Zeal had won his battle with Lavos, and freed his mind from the powers of the anguishing malice that had existed in his head for so long.
Shocked by this turn of events, he wondered what exactly he should do about the king. He already knew that Lavos was going to destroy Zeal, and unfortunately, he also knew that he could do nothing about it. As for the king, he could either flee the scene, or tell someone about the events. Either way, he could be prosecuted if someone claimed that Zeal had been pushed over. While contemplating his course of action, his eye caught a glimpse of the note. Sitting on the soft earth, he removed the knife and opened the letter. He immediately noticed that it was addressed to the queen, but continued reading.
To My Dearest Wife,
I have loved every second that I have held you in my arms, and my sole desire is to embrace you and never let go. My fondest memories are of stroking your beautiful hair and touching your soft angelic skin. I would trade all I own if I could gaze into your eyes once more. My dearest wife, my queen, my love, I adore every little thing you do more than you could imagine. Now as the sun begins to set on the greatest dynasty this world have ever known, it is time for us to say goodbye. To the one who has given my life meaning, I leave you the power to change the empire, to make Zeal great once again.
I apologize for so often avoiding my duties as a husband and father, and I also apologize for the pain and suffering Im sure will come with this letter. I blame myself and myself alone for the actions I may have wrongfully taken during my rule. I am leaving the kingdom in your hands because I could no longer handle the duties that were asked of me. If only Id had a stronger mind, I could have been the one who saved our great nation from disaster. Unfortunately, however, I was too far gone to have a positive influence, and I had lost sight of the things that are truly important. Though I have made a lot of mistakes, my deepest regret is that I failed to please you and worship you as I should have. The only thing I have left to promise you is that I will always be looking after you, through the good times and the bad.
When you take your oath as the new ruler of Zeal, I want you to make sure you never lose sight of the important things. I know that you will be nervous, but I have no doubt that you will lead our people into a new age of prosperity. Beware of the evils that lurk in the kingdom, and do not let them mislead you. I have put a burden on your shoulders, but I believe in you, and I know you can do it. Make me proud, and do what I wish I could have done.
Finally, my fairest queen, I have two favors to ask of you. I want you to nurture our child and make her as happy as she can be. She is an irreplaceable gift from all the gods, and she deserves only the best. Second, I need you to free the kingdom from the evil of Lavos, before he destroys Zeals legendary sovereignty. Lavos is a demon that is corrupting all of Zeal, and I do not want anyone else to fall victim to him as I did. Fight the monster, because feel that if he is not beaten, our beautiful kingdom will be nothing but ruins.
To Schala, I have much love that I failed to give to you while I was here, and I hope that you can forgive me. I love you more than you can ever comprehend. If Mother ever gets too absorbed in her work, I want you to tell her. You are a girl with unlimited potential, and you can do anything you want. I know that one day you will make the best queen that Zeal has ever had. You will face many hurdles in life, and sometimes it will seem like the best thing to do is to just give in. But you must never give in, Schala. You must be true to yourself, and you must follow your beliefs. Chase your dreams, and your life will be your greatest reward.
Although Augur rarely became emotional, this letter touched a place in his heart. Perhaps it was because King Zeal had summed up his feelings for his mother so perfectly, and probably her feelings when he had been killed in the caves a year ago. Refolding the paper and sticking it into his belt, he opted to deliver the note to the queen, personally if he needed to. He picked the knife off the ground, held it over his head, and threw it off the island. He didnt want any unnecessary accusations against him, and the blade could have been used as evidence. With his business complete, he marched up the path that would take him to Enhasa.
About halfway up the trail, he was stopped by a pair of noblemen. Sir, one of them spoke, Were out looking for the king. Have you seen anything?
Seeing no reason to lie, Augur answered, The king is dead. He jumped off the edge of the island.
Both the noblemens eyes grew wide. Youre telling me that King Zeal committed suicide?
Yes. I saw it with my
Why would he do such a thing?
Augur could not tell about Lavos. History would be erased if he explained about the evil demon, so instead, he looked to the ground and muttered, I dont know.
Sir, this is going to be an inconvenience, but were going to have to take you in for questioning. Augur understood and followed the royal guards all the way into Zeal Palace. There he was put in a room and told to wait, but as a precaution, they locked the only door to the chamber behind them.
As a result of the mass chaos that filtered throughout the kingdom, it took
forever for anyone to enter the room.
Although Augur had no way of telling time in the windowless room,
he could tell that at least an hour or two had
passed. Just before he went
over the edge and started destroying everything inside his confinement, the
sound of keys fiddling with a lock pulled him back to
reality. Two guards entered,
and following them came a man in a brown cape that Augur recognized immediately
as Dalton. Signaling the security
to leave, Dalton approached him.
After they had relocked the door, the two men fixed their eyes upon
Alright, Junior, I dont want to be here any more than you do, so how about you just tell me what you saw, and well get this over with as soon as possible. Augur agreed, but wasnt sure exactly how much to reveal to him. He could smell the cheap whiskey floating from Daltons breath, indicating that he had been at the bar killing more brain cells before he was dragged here.
Whats there to tell? I walked down to the edge of the island and I saw him jump off. He could tell that Dalton wasnt buying his story, and figured that he was trying to get a confession out of him.
Are you absolutely sure that youre telling me everything that
happened? Pulling a sword
out of his cape, he threatened, Because if it isnt, then youre
going to be in some trouble. Why
were you down there in the early
I couldnt sleep and I wanted some fresh air. Probably the same thing that the king was doing, at least until he decided to jump. Dalton, half drunk and enraged, thrust his sword into the air, and allowed it to stop when it pressed against the throat of his prisoner.
Dont talk that way about our king! Youre a little too defiant for your own good, and its going to get you killed. Pulling the sword back, he challenged, Can you prove that you didnt kill him?
I thought that you had to prove me guilty, not me having to prove my own innocence. Frankly, I think youre trying to enforce a law you know nothing about.
Dalton frowned, No, thats just what we tell the civilians of Zeal. It makes us look more like a government for the people, and they give us their support. In reality, wed rather kill a law-abiding citizen than let a criminal go free. In other words, if you dont convince me that you didnt push him off the ledge, then Im gonna shove this steel blade right through your chest!
Times like these made Augur wish that he hadnt had his rapiers taken away by security. Alright, I guess thats a fair deal, Augur said while thinking of a response. Well, for starters, there is no way that I could have possibly forced Zeal to go all the way down to the edge of the island. The only way I could have gotten him there would be to ask him, and if I had done that, why would he agree to go in the middle of the night alone with someone he didnt know. I can prove that he didnt know me because not one of the servants or maids, or Queen Zeal and Schala, for that matter, would recognize me.
All circumstantial evidence, and if thats all youve got, youre in trouble.
Big words, Dalton, for a man like yourself. Augur reached inside his clothing, which made his enemy grow cautious, and pulled out the letter. How about King Zeals personal suicide note addressed to his wife and daughter? After he slid it across the table, Dalton picked it up and read through it. Growing bored quickly, he laid it down on the desk.
The letter looks real, but how can I be sure. Its not that hard to forge someones handwriting. Dalton was becoming uneasy, partly because he was losing his edge in the conversation, and partly because he knew he had seen this boy somewhere before. Pushing the thought from his head, he listened to the prisoners response.
Actually, its not very easy to forge handwriting, especially for several paragraphs, like this letter was. Check with the queen, and shell confirm that this is his writing. Also, how would I know all the personal information written in this note unless I knew the family personally, which is a point that I have already made. By the way, if you take a look at the crest on the paper, youll realize that its paper thats only used by the royal family, so theres no way I could get my hands on it.
Uh-huh, and how do you explain these giant rips in the paper?
Hey, dont ask me, I went down to look at the scene and I found it on the ground just a few feet away from where he jumped. I can only guess how it got the tears in it. Augur did a good job of covering up the incident with the knife, and Dalton skeptically accepted it. Throwing his chair aside, he rose and asked the guards to remove him from the interrogation room.
Outside the door, Dalton talked with the guards, being careful so that Augur did not hear him. Personally, I dont know if this kid did it or not, but he does make some good arguments. He also gave me this thing, Dalton handed over the note to the sentry on the left. Give this to the queen, I think that shed want to have it.
What are you going to do about our suspect? We cant just let him go free without examining his case a little more.
Dalton smirked slyly, Well, we cant let him go if there
is any doubt that hes completely
innocent. What if word got out
that we had the assassin of our king right in our very hands and let him
go? The public hysteria could
destroy the entire legal system in Zeal, which means my job, not to mention
yours, is in danger. I think
our best course of action is to kill him and make a public statement that
he admitted everything.
Yes, but this note from the king
Hmm, I see what youre saying. If we buried this boy but showed the queen the letter, then were just contradicting all our actions. That wouldnt look to good, and my credibility is all Ive got. Both of the guards had to try their hardest to stifle the laughter that was building inside them. Everyone knew that Dalton wasnt a credible man, but no one dared to say it to his face, especially when he had just come out of the bar.
Dalton eyed the men, wondering what they were doing, and then demanded, Give the letter to me. After the man surrendered the paper, Dalton crumpled it into a tight ball and closed his hand around it. Within a second, small flames engulfed his black glove, reducing the page to ashes. Dalton threw the dirty soot into the air, and cast a wind spell to scatter the pieces. No letter, no evidence, he chuckled as he entered the cell once again. The men closed and locked the only entrance behind him and waited for the screams of the prisoner.
Inside, Augur searched Dalton for some clue about his intentions. His eyes were met with a cold, devious stare, and his captor once again drew his sword. Augur remained calm and undeterred, even when the adversary pointed the weapon at him. After much debate, Ive decided that I would really enjoy killing you, Dalton said, pressing the tip of the blade on Augurs chest, in the seam between the ribs. Anything you want to say?
Augur carefully dropped one hand behind his chair, so as not to draw attention to it, Well, first of all, I want to know if it bothers you at all when you kill an innocent man.
Dalton responded by smiling, Not the least bit, considering that I dont care about them. Anything else?
Augur did his best not to shiver from the icy club that was forming in his hand, and stalled a little longer. Yeah, I just think it must be nice to know that no one can ever count on you for anything. With that, Augur removed the icy shaft from behind his back and brought it across his chest. He struck Daltons sword perpendicularly, and the unexpected assault sent the tool of death flying to the far wall. The top half of the ice stick broke off, and shattered into hundreds of tiny shards when it crashed on the floor.
Dalton was surprised by the attack, and struggled to find a decent rebuttal. Hey, you cant do that! It isnt fair!
Oh, okay, and I suppose that shoving a sword into a hostages heart without giving him a chance to fight back is. Augur stood up and whipped the remainder of his bat overhead, aiming for Daltons skull. Dalton saw that attack coming, and ducked in time. He threw aside his chair and scrambled to grab his blade, but Augur jumped and grabbed onto his feet. Quickly freeing one foot, he kicked Augur with the heel of his boot in the face, causing him to let go. By the time he had recovered, Dalton had regained possession of his sword and was charging. Augur jumped out of the way to avoid a slash that came dangerously close, and landed standing off to the side of his opponent. Before Dalton could prepare, Augur kicked him in the side, sending him sprawling to the floor. Augur jumped on the older man and grabbed at his hands, attempting to pry the only weapon in the room away from him.
Dalton used some black energy to remove the teenager from him, but lost the sword in the process. Augur nearly hit the ceiling when the results of the spell rocketed him upward, and when he came down, he fell on top of the table, crashing through the finely crafted wood and leaving multiple splinters in his back. He ignored the stinging and got back on his feet, adjusting to the weight of the heavy iron in his hand. Once he found Dalton, he ran towards him, prepared to slice downward. Dalton dropped to the ground before the sword hit him, and from his new position managed to trip Augur by sweeping his legs. Although decorated with bits of marble, the floor was made of hard stone, and when Augur hit his back on it, he dropped the weapon reflexively. Dalton grabbed it, barely allowing it to clang against the ground. Instantly, he became upright, and Augur was pinned to the floor by the sword, with the tip pressing into his neck.
Heh heh heh, Ive got you now, Dalton proclaimed, but as he thrust, Augur moved his head to the side and the top of the blade bounced off the stone below. In a single motion, Augur kicked upward to knock the sword from Daltons hand, performed a flip, settled on the floor upright, and caught the falling weapon. Augur stabbed at the enemy, but he retreated and avoided it. Augur raised the deadly metallic edge again, but Dalton counterattacked by throwing a large fireball at him. Unable to react in time, the flames immediately swallowed him. Casting several water spells, he was able to extinguish the fire, but it had done its damage. Dalton again had the sword in his hands.
Augur formed a sword in his own in his hands, but it was made of ice like the club, and was nowhere near as strong as the real thing. Dalton swung his blade overhead, and Augur held his out to block it. When the steel hit the ice, it ripped through it like butter, and continued downward until it sliced into Augurs shoulder. He dropped to the floor, wincing in pain, but thrust the remainder of his sword at Daltons midsection. He connected with his stomach right by his left kidney, but it did not penetrate deep enough to hit it. Dalton held onto the wound to hold the fresh blood in, and Augur also took a moment to rub his cut.
Using his good arm, Augur swung the mass of ice at his adversarys head, and hit him above his temple. The weak sword shattered upon impact, and did little more than cause Dalton to temporarily drop to one knee. Dalton slashed at Augurs neck, but ended up missing by several inches. Augur could tell that he had angered Dalton, and he backed away.
Glaring at his enemy with deep rage and hatred, Dalton dashed at Augur ferociously, and tore a bit of his clothing with his first swing. His next attack was a diagonal slashed aimed at the chest, which missed completely. Dalton swung at Augurs kneecaps next, but Augur hurdled the sword. The following hack tore the sleeve of Augurs shirt, and he tumbled backward, rolling on the ground. Dalton tried to chop off an arm, but his downward attack met the floor as his opponent rolled to the side.
Augur grabbed a piece of wood from the broken table nearby, and used it to block the sword. The wood was surprisingly dense, and the metal did not penetrate more than halfway through it. While Dalton was preparing for his next strike, Augur threw the board at him, hitting his target in the head. Augur used the spare time to get off the floor and run to the far side of the room, where he picked up one of the two chairs and used it to defend himself. Dalton sliced upward as soon as he was in range and removed a pair of the legs from the furniture, and Augur countered by rushing forward and jamming him in the stomach and chest with the remaining legs. After stepping back for a second to regain the oxygen lost in the blow, Dalton carved a large wedge out of the bottom of the chair, removing the other pegs. Augur swung the significantly lighter weapon across his body and broke the remaining portion of the chair on the swordsmans arm, causing him to drop the deleterious stick.
Augur picked the sword off the stone below his feet as he watched his opponent rubbing the throbbing welt on his bicep and struggling to recover. Magic tingled over his body, which must have been a supplemental spell. Augur took a moment to heal his own wounds, but was ready when Dalton tried to take him down. After sidestepping, Augur stabbed at him, and the edge sunk into the skin below the back of the shoulder. He waited until the sword had a chance to sate itself in the blood, and then ripped it out of the flesh. The skin stretched impossibly far before bursting, almost like forcing a pencil through a thin piece of plastic. A small part of the tissue was propelled across the room and hit the nearby wall. The blood oozed out of the deep gash and soaked into Daltons clothes as he yelped in pain.
Augur forced Dalton to roll over, making him lay on the warm, sticky liquid. Youve won, Dalton observed, So why dont you kill me and get it over with?
What purpose would that serve? Im locked in here, and if I kill you, the guards will come in and kill me. Get up. Youre going to get me out of this room.
Fair enough. Dalton was allowed on his feet, and he led the way to the door with the tip of the sword pressed against his back. Once he got to the exit, he pounded on it, Open up! Im wounded, but I got the job done. After the sound of a key opening a lock, the lights from the palace flooded the room, and the guards discovered the real situation.
What the the sentry started, before Augur pushed Dalton down and trampled him. His left foot landed on Daltons back, doing little damage, but his right foot connected with the back of his head and smashed his face into the ground, breaking a bone in the nose and causing blood to flow from the nostrils. Both the guards had drawn swords, but when Dalton ascended he grabbed one of them and ran after Augur, swearing. Augur had run out of his cell blindly, and had backed into a corner with three angry men closing in on him. The armed guard behind Dalton waited patiently while his partner charged the sword with what appeared to be holy magic, but Dalton was too furious to wait for support and swung aimlessly at Augur.
Augur dodged several attacks easily, while at the same time charging Daltons former sword with shadow energy to counteract the white power of the guards weapon. When he rushed towards him, Augur met the noblemans blade with his own attack, and the clashing magics from opposite ends of the spectrum created a stunning effect that darkened the entire hallway except for the area surrounding the two combatants. Shortly after, delayed shockwaves accompanied by a low but violent rumbling sent all four men to the ground. The immediate vibrations of the blades had caused severe pains in Augurs arms, but he still pushed himself up with them.
Augur was prepared to escape from the scene when he heard a footstep from behind. Swinging the long dagger around, he turned and gazed into Daltons eyes and attempted to block the attack in time. Dalton was moving to fast to redirect his trajectory in time, and his swing missed wide. Augur also couldnt keep from moving his arms, and the fast-moving sword traveled across the face of the man. The top of the blade entered the side of the nose near the top of the bridge, and although the resulting cut would be less than a centimeter deep, it was enough to slice through a bone. As the swing continued on its path, it exited the bridge of the nose and instantly sliced into Daltons eye, cutting horizontally just above the pupil. The eyeball exploded on contact, and the gelatin material of the vitreous body inside the eye mixed with blood and splattered onto the walls, floor, and ceiling. Augurs clothes became covered with the thick, reddened gel as soon as the sword finished its journey, leaving the emptying socket and putting one last gash on the side of Daltons head.
AAAAUUUUUHHHH!!!!!!! Damn, I cant see! Dalton cried in agony as he performed a 270-degree turn while spinning to the ground. On the floor, the destroyed membrane deflated as air and bacteria infected it, and a thickening river of blood flowed freely, soaking the clothes thoroughly. Realizing what he had done, Augur fled the sight of the brawl, in search of safety. The two prison guards pursued him aggressively, calling for help as they bolted after Augur.
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