Another short piece I wrote for my university application. This is set in a medieval fantasy setting, the culture here is based off of Arabic sultanates but I thought it would be nice to mix this slightly with Italian culture surrounding the prominence of wealthy families.
Silence fell across the room as the last in a long line of messengers who had been waiting to deliver the increasingly foreboding news finished. The last traces of speech lingering in the stagnant air like a foul stench.
“They have been sighted.” Master Muhir, his once vibrant voice was now hollow and his shining eyes had become dull. His mouth hung open revealing two rows mostly golden teeth. As his voice died he seemed to subconsciously rearrange his lilac robes, carefully folding several layers atop one another before smoothing them out again.
“How long do we have?” Queried Master Saif, panic flooding through his voice. His brittle fingers toying with his emerald robes.
“Judging by size of the dust cloud, our scouts reckon two days, maybe less.”
From his voice it was clear he had resigned himself to his fate and that of the entire city.
It had been a tense three years for the Western Kingdom with relations between the cities growing colder and an unnatural aura emanating from the capital Rosetta. As the Sultan had begun to grow old he realised how far his Sultanate had fallen. Once, the Western Kingdom had been the centre of technological and cultural achievement, however, over hundreds of years the twelve cities had grown weak and decedent, becoming consumed by bitter rivalry and so they had turned away from their Sultan and now he had become little more than a puppet to be controlled by the city with the largest army.
The Sultan had turned to his prophets for guidance and they had delivered unto the land a great evil under his command. With his new power it seemed as if the Sultan had changed, he could march for days without needing rest and it was reported that he had not eaten for many months. Slowly, word filtered through the cities that, one by one, the Sultan’s army had raised the rebellious cities to the ground and now he was approaching Vismayah, one of the last remaining cities that stood defiant.
As the messenger quietly left, anarchy seemed to break out among the five Masters, so called because each was master of a family that ruled the city in a Cabal. Four of the elderly men were shouting panicked, desperate pleas at each other, flinging scorn across the room for failure to act. Among them two figures clothed in red sat, seemingly unaware of the maelstrom around them as their eyes scanned pages of ancient texts. Master Rahn however, simply sat watching the masters of his rival families.
He was the youngest amongst them with not a single wrinkle carved into his olive skin and lengths of flowing brown hair creeping down the back of his velvet blue robes. His eyes darted between each member of the Cabal. They would linger on a figure, taking in every subtle movement and detail of their character before moving on. Having surveyed each person he raised one of his hands in the air, seeming to part the torrent of animosity that passed between his colleagues, he quietly asked for silence. The sound of his voice carried with it an enrapturing melody that halted all conversation in the room. The others turned to regard him with a mixture of anger, for daring to interrupt them, and curiosity at Rahn, whom all viewed to be little more than a whelp, had to say.
“Now that we have all had a chance to relieve ourselves of our opinions, I feel it is time we acted on the issues at hand.” Rahn said calmly, a cold smile appearing across his face.
“What do you suggest we do then? Stand and fight? Every city that has done so was sacked, their families captured and tortured.” The master of the Saif family said, genuine fear in his voice.
“You damn coward!” Roared Master Alden. “I say we ride out and meet the Sultan and his hoard head on, I’ll slaughter a thousand of them before I see any of my family’s blood spilt in this city!”
“Perhaps our deaths will not be entirely necessary, as I’m sure you will all be pleased to hear.” Interrupted Master Bathshir as he rose gently from the cushion he had been seated on. Rahn turned to regard him with cold, calculating eyes. Bathshir was senior to Rahn by only a few years and since his ascension to the City Cabal the two had become bitter rivals. At first, Rahn had relished the challenge and enjoyed the constant game of cat and mouse between each family’s spies. However, after years of almost constant failure, that had seen Rahn’s influence slowly slip out of his hands and fall, all too conveniently into Bathshir’s lap, Rahn had simply wanted the man and all of his family dead.
“My spies have informed me that the Crown-Prince has fled to one of the port cities and there he gathers an army. Common sense suggests that it would be far more practical for the peasants to defend the city and for us to quietly leave with our forces and join him. I’m confident that we would be rewarded handsomely after this war for our efforts.” As he finished he began to sit once again, a lip curling smile aimed at Rahn spreading across his face. The sight of it made Rahn’s blood boil and momentarily, his tranquil world was engulfed by rage, his mind turned to dark thoughts of him slashing the throats of every member of the Bathshir family and watching their blood trickle through the sand ridden streets, or leaving them in the desert to waste away, inevitably turning to cannibalism before either bandits or desert creatures had their way with them. At the thought of this Rahn’s eyes glazed over, beads of sweat beginning to form on his brow and flow along the angular features of his face. He fought to regain his composure. Not yet he thought to himself. Soon he would execute his plan and watch with an almost childish glee as their flesh would be torn from bone, agonised screams echoing into the vast sand dunes surrounding the city, their corpses rising from the dead, their souls bound to the service of Rahn for eternity.
“Had it not occurred to you to mention this sooner?!” Spat Muhir, his words echoing the thoughts of masters Saif and Alden.
“I wished to see if there were any other thoughts on the matter,” Finished Bathshir condescendingly.
“Perhaps Master Rahn would care to finish his suggestion?” Bathshir added, his serine tone disguising the underlying vehemence.
At that moment the two red robed figures clutching books looked to Rahn. It was the first time they had shown any interest in the Cabal and Rahn knew it was his signal.
The two men were sorcerers and so what he had led the Cabal to believe was true, in a sense. They had been looking for a way to prevent the Sultan’s army from reaching Vismayah. However, what he had kept from the rest of the Cabal was their practise of necromancy. The Sultan’s army had never been on its way to the city, it was simply a dust storm summoned by Rahn’s agents. The Sultan had expressed to Rahn his hatred of the city’s other ruling families as traitors and Rahn had requested that he be the one to secure the city for the Sultan and his Council of Prophets. The Cabal had been summoned to ensure that they would be unable to give orders to their men once the dead began to rise and demons began to pour through rips in the fabric of this plane of existence. His enemies were trapped, powerless to prevent the immediate slaughter of every inhabitant of the city. The look from the two sorcerers signalled the culmination of months of planning. With that, Rahn simply looked on and smiled as screaming began to erupt throughout the city.