PrologueMature

‘He too had a reputation as a brutal figurehead, often decapitating any man who insulted him by not laughing at his jokes. Even the heads of his own men.’

Over the sounds of hissing, and through the clouds of steam could be heard the grumblings of a reputed nobleman. A man whom Lord Jariq recognised as Tamerlane Kantòs.

He claimed to be the long lost son of the late Lord Kantòs of Ashfael. The old capital of the eastern kingdom. His behaviour did indeed resemble that of a lord of Massaid, and his manner of speech and dress, and endless, and ever-expanding wealth did further satisfy the masses that he was of noble stock.

However, many thought otherwise; that he was a fraud. Notably his enemies in court. They believed that he could only be something else. For he always returned from journeys along the Rivers Bries or Satum, and extended ventures in Myrium, Artum and even Haven with a long train of riches in tow.

Subsequently, the kings and lords from the lands he visited often sent word that they had been robbed, or that their cities had been raided by pirates. Though such travesties usually preceded Tamerlane’s stay. So people were left to wonder where then the man would keep his plunder if truly he was guilty.

Among others, Lord Jariq was one of those convinced that Tamerlane was a criminal, and he was Tamerlane’s foremost adversary.

His chin was crooked and his nose was strong, and within his massive head, a scheming mind and a hundred thousand secrets. Though he wore a grey beard, he was still a young man. And his green eyes swirled afury, first when he was summoned to the public baths by Arloo’s crony, where he then saw the likes of Tamerlane; who was a further insult to his eyes.

Arloo was the leader of a criminal organisation in Satum known as the Seven Swords. The largest and deadliest gang in the city. Known for mutilating their enemies in such a way that their bodies were beyond recognition.

He too had a reputation as a brutal figurehead, often decapitating any man who insulted him by not laughing at his jokes. Even the heads of his own men. But with a fat face and a fat belly, Arloo was far from imposing.

Those cronies who had called on Jariq escorted him into the baths, where he met their boss. He was nude, and alone in the sauna, and sitting there peacefully, while his men and Jariq were fully clothed.

Slowly Arloo’s brown eyes widened, and his gross mouth formed a smile when he saw Lord Jariq.

Ah,” said Arloo, and he bowed his head, “Lord Jariq. It’s a pleasure to meet you at last.”

“And you, Sir Arloo.”

“Do you know me, my Lord?”

“Only by reputation.”

“Well, I have many reputations. What exactly have you heard, if I may ask?”

Lord Jariq lied, “That you are a man of the people, and a very charitable one at that.”

Suddenly, for what Jariq assumed to be the umpteenth time Tamerlane’s laboured voice rang out, insisting that his captors had made a terrible mistake. “I’m telling you, you have the wrong man!”

Tamerlane lay on the soaking tiles, with his ankles and wrists bound together by the rope of his robes. And he looked as though he’d been beaten severely. So much so the Lord Jariq, a man who had never seen so much blood in his life, wondered how his enemy was still alive. Let alone conscious.

The End

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