“Dellan!” the King shouted, “what are you doing?”
“Shut your royal fucking mouth, sire,” he spat on the floor, then kicked the guard off his sword. The body crunched to the floor emitting a sickening crunch and metallic scrape.
“No, didn’t I just say?” he roared, “Now you just stand right there—“ the King was already moving towards his own greatsword.
“I said stand fucking still!” he reached out with his spare hand, yanking the Prince by the front of his doublet and spinning him to face the King. The Prince could feel the cold steel tasting his neck.
“Yeah, that’s right, you fucking stop now don’t you. Good choice,” The Prince felt the man’s hand shaking where it was clamped on his chest. “Alright, listen good sire—“
“Dellen why are you doing this?” Dellan grunted in anger, the sword bit into the Princes next, drinking his blood. He emitted a small groan of pain.
“Asking questions ain’t listening now, is it?” he barked, and laughed, somewhat hysterical. “Now if you’d like your heir to have a second smile, a red one, then by all means ask your little questions.” But the King said nothing.
“Aye, much better, that is.” He grabbed the top of the Prince’s head and jerked it up by the hair. “Now listen, this is what I want,” Dellan checked over his shoulder. “I want you to go out onto your balcony,” he nodded, indicating the door opposite him. “Then I want you to denounce your Kingdom in front of everyone and then,” he laughed once more, “then I want you to jump.” The King neither spoke nor moved. “Well?” Stony silence ensued. “I—“ his mouth opened and closed then, several times, before falling forwards beside the body of the guard. A bloody, red gash had opened up where a sword lay lodged into the back of his head.
“Well now, that’s enough of that,” a voice said. The speaker moved into the light and bent down to pick his sword from the body. A spray of red followed the sliver of steel. Arthran wiped the blood on Dellan’s cloak and turned towards the two guards on his left. He nodded and they nodded in return.
“Thank goodness Arthran, we need to escape now, it’s finally come.”
“I warned you of this, so very long ago, I told you if you fled you could escape the bloodshed.” Arthran’s pale mask was void of all expression.
“And you were right, I should have heeded your council, but I thought...” he trailed off, to weary in mind to continue.
“What?” a spasm of anger pulsed in Arthran’s temple. “It would all go away?” his hand clenched around his sword, still out of its scabbard. “That the people would forget? Forgive?”
“I am not so naive as to believe such a thing, but I am still your King, so mind your manner,” he shook his head then, moving over to his desk, leaning heavily against it with both hands. “This could all have been avoided such a long time ago, if only I had been stronger.”
The King stood upright then, retaining his dignity, and this time approached his shelf. He ran a finger across the sword that lay there, the finger ending at the handle. He clasped it and picked it up. “Hello old friend,” he murmured. And for just a moment, his eyes told on his mind, drifting back to days past, and once unshakeable friendships. The blade was heavy in his hands, but he still had the strength to wield it, so he kissed it and finally, he pointed it at Arthran.
“Get behind me, Leon.”
“Behind me, now.” The Prince obeyed immediately, staring at what was going on, not comprehending. Now the King turned his attention to the men, “Do what you must Arthran, but you will not find me yielding.”
“Clearly we misjudged you, you are less blind than we first believed.” Arthran smiled, bracing his own blade. “Though I am surprised that you have not had me killed before now if you knew. Please, sate my curiosity, tell me how you knew.”
The point of the King’s greatsword swerved slightly as he surveyed Arthran. “I did not truly know until today. I saw you and Dellan from my window. When Dellan came first, I knew he had not the wit to caretake any elaborate plot, so you could not be far behind, you were the only other with the ability. But tell me now, for the love you once bore me. My son’s life near the forest today and his friend...” he did not need to ask the question.
Arthran sighed as he spoke. “The girl... it was an undesirable thing, yet necessary all the same.” He shifted his gaze to the shuttered window. “But there are more ways than one to achieve an end. Now, if you will, open your shutter.” The King hesitated. But slowly, he shuffled toward it, his hand stretched out, half blocking his view, half preparing to push. He reached for the shutter, pushed lightly, then gaped.
Instantly the room was alive with sound, washing over them. The Prince shivered.
The darkening sky hummed with the song of steel, piercing notes that were almost beautiful in a way that sparked them sinister. And the King could see it all. Over where the Craftsman’s square stood, where once thick smoke drifted from the bakers, the smelters and the smith’s, now all the building belched their acrid stench into the blackness that the clouds had become. And the clear, undulating flow of ravenous fire gorged upon wood, thatch and even brick. It deathly trail tainted the sky as the colour of blood.
This corruption was spreading as a surge of soldiers crashed upon the residential districts between the crafter’s and the palace, in finely made, shimmering steel.
“How could I let this happen?”
“The reign of Old Victum is ending. When this city burns, when it feasts itself on flame and fades to no more than embers, the new Fort Victory will rise, steadfast and glorious. It has no cause for weak Kings. The people will speak for themselves, govern themselves.”
A third guard suddenly appeared behind Arthran and whispered in his ear.
“Submit yourself,” he ordered, when the guard had finished. “To the punishment owed by your crimes, Your Majesty. Age has already begun taking you and I would rather your blood were not spilled this day.”
“But it will,” the King turned back around, the corners of his mouth pulled down. “If not today. I will be your first trial. And what a first it would be for your new age. What better way to secure this golden age than with the blood of a King at the fore of your justice hall.” He readied his sword and Arthran motioned his three guards to move forward. “Age may indeed become me, but it has not finished me yet. Even now, when I have not played at swords for so long, I can still take you whelps.”
“Dellan!” the King shouted, “what are you doing?”