As I tied up the last lord, about half a dozen guards came out of the door from which Soren and I had made our escape. Apparently Toranux had done away with Sarine and left the door unguarded. I quickly tried to untangle my hands from the rope so I could draw my sword and everyone else also got ready to attack, but then something strange happened.
The guards bowed.
At first I was confused, but then one who I assumed was the leader spoke.
“We pledge our allegiance to you.” Jon looked around and realized that he was addressing him.
“I renounced my title.”
“But you are the only one who can lead us out of the oppressive reign the recent Magisters left behind.” He glared at one of them, who moaned softly.
So there was dissent in the ranks! There were probably lots of guards that were not loyal to the old Magisters. Jonathan seemed to mull this over, then spoke.
“I do not think that I am the right person for the job, but I will try and correct the mistakes of my ancestors. However, I would like Soren to help me in making my decisions.”
Soren gave a small smile. “I do not want an official job at the palace. I have had enough of working for the Magisters. However, I will help you as I see fit.”
Jon turned to the rest of us. “All of you are to be knighted for your bravery, and I hope that you will help me restore order to this land.”
“That’s awesome,” I said, “but I’d also like to have that hefty price taken off my head.”
“Of course,” Jon said with a laugh. “You can come and work for me as a guard in the palace if you like. Or what’s left of it,” he added with a sigh.
This was beginning to sound pretty great. Training and food and not having to sleep in a barn every night. But then I remembered why I had met Vand and Gwen, why I had been chased by guards, why I had been on the street in the first place.
“I’ll get back to you on that. I have something I need to do.”
As I approached the manor, I began to wonder whether this was a bad idea. Part of me really wanted to. But the other half felt scared. But I couldn’t chicken out now.
It was a bit more rundown than the last time I had left it, but I still recognized it. The stone walkway. The crest. And the large oaken door. I stood there, steeling myself to knock. As it turned out, I wouldn’t have to. It opened up on its own and suddenly I was face to face with Arman Grey.
His hair was that same steely gray that the family got its name from, and if I was unlucky my hair would be that exact same shade by the ripe old age of twenty five. Joy.
His face contorted as he went through confusion, shock, and then happiness all in the space of a few seconds.
“Roland, you came back!”
At first I had no idea why he was smiling, but then I realized that he did not know what I knew.
“I heard you selling me out to the guards.”
My dad stared at me dumbfounded for a few seconds, and then spoke softly, shaking his head as if speaking to a small child.
“You must have made a mis-“
“I did not.”
I could almost feel him tense up as the volume of his voice rose.
“I had to show compliance to the lords! I had to keep the family safe!”
“So suddenly I am not part of your family! You could have fought! Many other lords have done a lot worse just by slipping the Magisters a couple of coins! You felt that you could just sacrifice me just so you could raise your political position a couple of notches-“
“Enough!” I could hear the crackle of energy coming off my father. I calmed down, but I decided to leave him with one last message.
“The Magisters have fallen. You can join the new regime or be pushed aside. It’s your choice.”
Hiking up my belt, I began to walk away.
Then I tripped and did a face plant in the dirt. Probably a good thing too, because the bolt of energy that can flying over my head probably would have killed me. It exploded in the dirt a few feet away.
Once a generation, a Grey ends up with the power to turn magic energy into a solid. I was supposed to be trained in it, but then the scandal broke out. It is a very useful power, unless of course it is being directed at you.
I jumped up and turned to my dad, who had a smug expression on his face.
“I suggest that you comply,” I said, taking my sword out of its sheath, “or else I will be forced to take you down.”
My dad just laughed. “You? Last I saw you I had only taught you defensive magic. Don’t tell me you’ve improved that much in such a short time.”
It was true. I knew little outside of defensive magic. However, I did know how to fight.
I tightened my grip on my sword. Several tentacles of magic came at me and I cleaved them in half. More tentacles and several sharp projectiles came at me, but I dodged out of the way. Invisibility was useless. My dad knew almost every anticloaking spell in the book. Of course there wasn’t really a book, but there should be. I had to get in close. My dad was good at magic, but weak with weapons. My mother had taught me everything I knew.
I tried to edge closer but the volley was unending. What infuriated me was that my dad was using light so he wouldn’t wear himself out. Like a fight with me wasn’t worth the effort. But it was effective. Several sliver slashed my leg, and one hit me in the arm. Then I remembered what had happened in the room when we were fighting the guards. And suddenly I realized that I knew exactly what had happened. Seeing a break in the attack, I sent magic energy to my feet and formed a skin of energy around my boots, and then I used it to skid quickly over to my father. This happened in the space of a moment. In fact, my father only really noticed when I poked the edge of my sword not-so-gently into his side.
Turning to me, he chuckled.
“It looks like there is a Grey in you, yet. Stay with me and I will continue our training.”
I looked into the face of the man who I had loved and admired, who betrayed me and even now refused to show remorse, and shook my head.
“No thank you.” Then I sheathed my sword and walked away. And this time I did not trip.