The Demon Who Chooses Heaven
The nobleman sat on his bed, examining the documents the Council had bestowed upon him. The documents’ content concerned land disputes between Lumea Veshi, the direct central country of Alsra, and Sinowas, the south western counrty. Lumea Veshi was to hand over a portion of its south western land to Sinowas. In exchange, Sinowasian knights would cease raids on the villages decorating the land. These tactics were not unusual of the Council and were in fact quite common. Of course, it wasn’t the land that the Council wanted; it was the black iron deposites in the area. Many of the villages surrounded their financial income on mines extablished to retieve this resource. With control over these villages, Sinowas could now yield to the minors any price it desired, obviously damaging any profits the mines were making before. The black iron would then be crafted and purchased by any nobleman or Sinowasian knight, and the rest would be sold for the same price on the local market.
Dispicable, thought the nobleman, Could they sink any lower? He concluded that they could and would.
He rose from his bed and walked over to the mirror. He bore his usual attire: a full set of black iron armor, though it was more of a faded ebony color rather than pure black. His chest and back plates were decorated with vertical ridges, while his pauldrons and gauntlets were much smoother. From his waste hung a dark and thick cloth that covered him from the waste to the knees. His greaves were made up of the same ebony plating as the rest of his armor. For the parts that were not covered, specifically parts of the elbows, armpits, and thighs, showed instead a dark metallic cloth material. From his left side, there hung a sword of the same characteristics as his armor. The length of the blade was a little over arm’s length and a little over two finger’s width. The grip was embellished in black, smooth leather with a keen pointed pommel at its base. The guard contained a curved designed meant for both safety and demonstration of class.
Many would mistake him for a knight of Sinowas, but those who at the least called themselves aquaintances of him knew perfectly well that this noble blooded being was anything but a knight. Many times the Council had offered him a rank amongst the knights of Sinowas, but each time he refused. He showed more garce and skill than most knights, but he claimed was merely well trained. Responses to his answers were generally met with astonishment and rediculous toned demands as to why he would refuse such an honor. However, anyone who understood Sinowasian politics in the slightest knew that a knight held no spot in the political world, and this young politician had ambitions that would be hindered by becoming an “honorable” knight.
The nobleman scrutinized his lineaments. His face held all the features that would mark him as a member of the Jexous family. He held the same pronounced cheekbones as a Jexous, the same perfectly balanced mouth size, the same average sized triangular pointed nose, and the same pale golden blonde color his combed hair took. His eyes, though, spoke differently. They contained the sea green irises that generally marked a Jexous, but the shape his eyes took, the seriousness and the determination in them all spoke a different name. He was no mere Jexous, but Antos Jexous, the first and only remaining son of Head Councilman Alexi Jexous.
Antos sighed at the thought of his father. Where most would be capable of finding at least one happy moment with their fathers, Antos failed to find even a glimmer of comfort in his confrontations with his own. Alexi had never treated Antos as a son, but as a product and an investment. He had done the same with Antos’ late brother, Gabriel. Alexi wanted an heir worthy of his place on the Council, so he had set both his sons against each other. What had once been viewed as friendly competition agmonst brothers transitioned into a bloody rivalry between enemies. Antos had not wished it this way, but Gabriel was blinded by ambition and manipulation. There could only be one possible conclusion. Now, here Antos stands a victor who refuses to recognize the victory.
Antos turned and examined his bedroom chambers. Everything was of fine quality. The bed and sheets made from silk with artistic designs sprawled all over them. The pillows were of the same material. On the dresser on the left held on its surface multiple varying perfumes with a couple of decorative hair ties. The dresser on the opposite side only held a couple of books with a quill and a bottle of ink. Two closets were on the wall near the foot of the bed and next to the mirror Antos was standing in. One closet contained dresses and othe feminine clothing while the othe contain more masculine clothing fit for any nobleman, though they showed signs of neglect. There was a large window in the room off to the left side of the bed, with maroon drapes hanging from the top. At least the wealth is nice, he thought.
Antos left the room and proceeded down the hall to the stairs. He passed by two opened bedroom doors, which irked Antos. If you keep the doors opened, how can you tell if someone comes in, and how can you be sure their intents are beneficial to your well being? He shut both doors, the one that led to a room with a single small bed and the one that led to the two small beds. Antos started down the hall again without interruption.
He descended down the stairs towards the first floor, which then led to the main room of the manor. When he reached the bottom, a small boy with the same blonde hair as Antos ran up to him and hugged his legs, for that was all his height would allow. “Good morning, Fa!” the boy said cheerfully. He looked up and smiled at his father, showing his dark brown eyes, which were none at all like Antos’ sea green eyes. His face showed little similarity to Antos’ own, but the boy was only the age of three. His face was not quite developed yet to show any significant detail.
Antos patted his son’s head, “Good morning to you Alistair. You are up rather early.” The sun had only come up around an hour ago.
“Mother woke us up to see you off today. She said it was important.” Alistair released his hug to Antos and trodded off into the main room. The room was decorated with multiple chairs and tables, and these spots were covered with light green carpets, which complemented the dark green tiled floor. Sitting near the fireplace was a woman with dark brown eyes and hair that was tied up to present a fine clump of hair hanging from the back. She wore a maroon velvet dress, which complimented her fair tanned skin. On her lap sat a girl smaller than Alistair with brown hair and green eyes. At her feet sat another girl of the same size. Her eyes were the same as her sister’s and Antos’, but here hair was a light bronze like hue that seemed to take on characteristics from both parents.
The woman in the maroon looked up and gave a warm smile to Antos. “Good morning, dear,” she said in a kind and motherly voice. She stood up, now carrying the brown haired girls, walking towards her husband.
“Good morning, Sanrian,” he replied in his best attempt at a soothing voice, “How are my ladies this fine morning?” He took his brown haired little girl from Sanrian and held her in his own hands. She was too old to be held like a newborn babe but still young enough to be held. She smiled and giggled as her father took hold of her.
“Well, Lucine is as energetic as ever,” and as if on queue, the girl in Antos’ hands began to grab and pull his hair, giggling while doing it, finding a childish fascination with her father’s hair. Antos gently grabbed Lucine’s small rist and sat her down next too her sister. He continued to kneel in front of Lucine’s twin and took her small hand in his.
“And how is my little Marianne? I hope your sister hasn’t been too rough on you.” Marianne looked at her father’s comforting smile and gave one of her own that contrasted her siblings. Instead showing the energy that Lucine’s held and the cheerful awe that Alistair’s presented, her smile was much more relaxed and sincere seeming. She brought up her other hand and weakly gripped Antos’s hand and brought it towards her face. She rubbed her cheek on his smooth ebony finger plates and looked at Antos with heart warming green eyes. Antos smiled and closed his as if to capture the image and reclaimed his hand and patted Marianne on the head. To think, their second birthdate was only last week.
The delighted father stood up from his daughter and turned to Sanrian, “I suppose it’s time for me to be off. Councilman Gorsov will not want to be kept waiting,” he said with a sigh. He dreamed moments like this one could last as long as he pleased. But unfortunately for him, this beauty was surrounded ugliness. Pure, malignant, corrupted ugliness. “Remember, the runes I had Betton place will alert your mind to any attempted intrusions.” He was, of course, referring to assassins sent by enemy nobles. Damned ugliness.
Sanrian nodded and smiled, “I remember. I doubt anyone ever will though. After all, who would want to disturb you and your…” Her last words were cutt off by the calls of “Fa” from Alistair, who was now running from the other room with a book in his hands. Alistair ran up to his father and handed him the book. When Antos examined the cover, he realised it was one of his books on the arts of fire, specifically fire created through magic.
“You can use that if you run into any trouble, Fa!” Alistair said, think he had just said something extremely clever.
Antos just shook his head and handed the book back to Alistair, who was confused as to why. Antos knelt down to his son and said, “The book isn’t needed for the magic to happen. The content of the book only enlightens me on how to conjure it.” Alistair looked down at his feet, changing from feeling clever to absolutley foolish. Antos smiled and cheered up his tone, “Maybe I can begin to teach you how to produce fires from your soul sometime. That way, you will also have a surprise for your enemies.” Alistair looked up at his father and smiled, feeling overjoyed with anticipation.
Antos turned to walk away. He faught the urge to look back, for he would probably never leave if he did. He stopped only to open the entrance hall’s doors. As he took his first step outside, he heard good byes from his three children: the joyful “bye, Fa” from Alistair, the high-pitched and loud “bye!” from Lucine and the faint but warm “bye bye” from Marianne. His foot then landed on the ground outside. One step from Heaven to Hell.
The sky was covered in grey clowds, with rain following down from them and thunder creaking out noises It seems that even Heaven doesn’t like what I have planned today, Antos thought, Do they ever?
Antos was walking down the road, moving aside for any horses or chariots that may ride by. He wore a fine cloak to cover himself from the rain, hating the feeling of being soaked. It wasn’t a typical noble hatred, but a more common irritation that all people shared. As the young politician trodded along he made an effort to avoid stumbling into any puddles, as the splashes would irritate him. He even made the effort of staying away from the puddles, for if a chariot’s wheel were too roll over it, the water would splash higher and soak Antos completely, which would bring even heavier irritation. The sound the rain drops made as they hit the ground irritated Antos as well. How could one think properly with what sounded like a thousand pebles hitting the ground at every second of every second of every damned minute? It’s like a hundred roosters crowing at midnight. Irritation was the greatest word to describe.
As Antos moaned about the rain inside his mind, he passed by one of the market stalls. When he glanced over he saw fresh apples for sale. But they weren’t just any apples. No, these were the pale green apples that could only be found growing in northern plains of Leandynue. Antos had first experienced their juicy sour taste when he was around the age of ten in the city of Trexlan. His father was to attend diplomacy meetings with the nobles of Leandynue, and Antos’ mother had persuaded his father to take his whole family with him. How she ever got through emotionally with that man, Antos will never know. He and Gabriel were to attend their studies and the usual, but Antos had other plans. He escaped his studies and explored the city. In his exploration, he met a boy in rags who was sitting alone in an alley. Antos remembered offering his hand to the boy, with a childish smile on his face. He had spent the entire day with the boy in rags. It had been this boy who stole some of those apples. When Antos tried one, he became ecstatic and wanted more. It was also at this moment, Antos remembered, when his mother caught him with the boy in rags and ordered her guards to drag Antos away and beat the boy a little. Antos also remembered the punishment his father had given him that night. The same night when Antos swore he would surpass his father and all others. Antos began to wonder what had become of the boy in rags. He came to the conclusion that the boy had probably died. He never even managed to get his name. For ten years, he could only refer to the orphan as “the boy in rags.”
Antos started to take steps forward towards the market stand with the apples. He was to have a mid-day banquet with three other noblemen in less than an hour, yet Antos didn’t care to spoil his apetite. He would have his apples. That cooked turkey could go fuck itself for all Antos cared.
When he came under the roof that protected the food from the rain, Antos pulled back his hood. His mouth began to salavate as he got closer to the apples, their ora entrancing Antos. The bearded man behind the stall took notice of Antos and said, “Sir Knight! Are you actually interested in one’o’my apples?” His voice was filled with astonishment. Nobles rarely associated themselves with commoners, usually only doing so if money or necessity was involved.
Antos smiled. He felt like a boy again. “I am not a knight, but I am a noble and a politician, and I am indeed, my good ser,” he answered, “Tell me, are these apples really those you would find in Leandynue?”
The clerk smiled, showing his somewhat yellow teeth, “Why yes they are! I managed ta win a few seeds in a game of bits from some cultavaters up there once, and now I can grow as many as I damn well please, haha!” Antos took the clerk’s claim to winning the seeds in a gamble as him really just managing to smuggle them away. Antos didn’t care though. He had done much worst.
“I’ll be buying eleven of your freshest apples. Please make haste. I have a meeting to attend.” Antos decided he would share the apples with his family, two for each. The eleventh apple was to be Antos’ third, for his love for these apples was great.
The clerk picked out the best apples he managed to find and loaded them into a white sack. When he was done, he held out his free hand. “That’ll be five gold drackons, mi’lord.”
Antos reached into his small leather coin purse. He picked through the small copper drake coins and the slightly larger silver dragon coins, finally amassing the five golden drackon coins. He placed them in the clerks hand and took the sack of apples. “I don’t even care that you swindled me three drackons and a half. These apples are worth every bit of it.” The clerk was surprised and scratched his head, smiling with embarrasment.
“Well, well, looky here. A noble shit who doesn’t care to show off his wealth.” Antos turned to his right to see two men, probably farmers by the looks of them, walking up to him. The first one, who had made the assertion, was walking clumsly towards Antos with a face of disgust, both towards Antos and the fact that his face was rather disgusting. The drunkard’s partner had a nervous expression that said he didn’t like where this was going. “You noble shits shod rilly think ‘bout where you go.” His breath nearly made Antos cough.
The other farmer put his hand on the drunkark’s shoulder only to be shrugged off. “I’m terribly sorry, mi’lord. My father has had a little too much to drink this morn.” Son, uh? Antos thought, Yes, that makes sense. You do seem a little younger, and who else would hang around this drunk fuck?
“You shut yo’ mouth, Thesal!” The drunkard shouted, “It’s time I finlly hiccup told these little shits what I thinks of ‘em.” He took some more stumbling steps torwards Antos. “You thinks you so high’n’mighty, looking down on us hiccup common folk, but I’m telling ya that you awe no better than me!” He took another stumbling step. “You knows what I think? You noble shits are afraid’o’us, can’t stand the thought’o being treated equally like us,” he took another stumbling step. He was now right in Antos’ face. “It’s made you greedy! So greedy, in fact, that you’d sells yo’ own kids out to slavers if it meant an extra…” but his words never came out. Antos had him by the throat.
The boy named Thesal was terrified now of what might happen. His father always had somewhat of a temper, and Thesal was always afraid that it would get him in trouble like this. This is it for him, he thought, he’s dead.
Antos’ grip became stronger around the drunkard’s throat, squeezing all his air out, even some tears. Antos’ face was serious now, with a touch of anger in it. He looked down at the drunken farmer, who was now on his knees, struggling for air. When the farmer looked up, it was as if the wrathful eyes of divine being were judging him. “Rethink your assumptions about me now, mongrel. If you even dare to compare me those bloated asses on the Council, then keep it in your head, less you want this.” Antos knew he was making a scene, but he didn’t care. This was a time when someone needed to be taught a severe lesson.
Antos held his grip a little longer, then tossed the man aside to the ground, allowing him to breathe once more. Antos was only an average sized man, something one would compare to the average soldier, but Antos knew where to grip a man’s throat. He now looked down on the man he had been choking. He was gasping for air and grabbing his throat. His son, Thesal, was now on his father, checking to see if he was all right.
Antos began to hear the crowd that gathered around. At first, none of them recognized him, but some did and others caught on. “That’s him…” they said, “Antos Jexous, the man who murdered his own brother… I heard he had lured his brother out into the cemetery at night under the guise of a secret meeting, only to impale him on a sword… Wasn’t he also a criminal at one point…? Yes, but his name was cleared on the account of it being fraud. Said it was the brother’s doing. Damn nobles… Keep your voice down…” He only sighed. Nothing can be done about gossip, so there is no point in retaliating.
“So tell me, why is your father already intoxicated at this time of day?” Antos asked Thesal. The farmer looked up at the nobleman, finding the same stark face that had been there while strangling his father. However, it was different this time. The face no longer had anger, but curiosity instead.
“Well, mi’ lord,” he said nervously, “our landlord has raised our taxes unbelievably high. Our crops are not fairing well this season, and we were barely paying the old taxes. These new ones will run me, my papa, my ma, and my three younger syblings out of our land. We can’t afford to go anywhere else.” Thesal thought of little Aree, starving on some road somewhere with them, barely able to keep her eyes open. Thesal could barely hold back his own tears.
Antos took the story in. How many more of these are out there? Antos knew just how badly the nobles treated the commoners. It was inhumane sometimes. “Tell me,” Antos ordered, “who is your landlord?”
Thesal looked up in bewilderment. What did this noble have in mind? “Lord Gorsov of the Council,” he answered with uncertainty as to why the noble wanted to know.
Antos raised his brow. “Interesting…” was all he said before walking away while eating one of his dear apples.
“Ah! Welcome, Lord Antos! Welcome!” Gorsov said as he witnessed his servants leading Antos into the main hall of the manor. The whole time, he fingered his sandy blonde mustache. Gorsov’s long hair didn’t hold the same golden value Antos’s did.
Councilman Gorsov was not a fat man, but he was a bit puggy, as all lazy nobles tend to be. His forty years marked him with some wrinkles that only added to his social status as a member of the Council. Just like the rest of the Council, he was corrupt. Just like the rest of the nobles, he was pompous. Antos hated both of these qualities, “Good morning, Lord Gorsov,” Antos said with a smile, “it is a pleasure to be dining with you for a mid-day banquet.” Flattery was key.
Gorsov smiled smuggly with thick lips, “It is always a pleasure doing business with the members of the Jexous family. You are such a small family, yet greater allies than any large family could ever be. Antos knew Gorsov was referring to his dealings with both him and his father. Which the bastard enjoyed more, Antos did not know. It could be inferred that Antos is the preferred one, since Gorsov was technically betraying Alexi by choosing to work with Antos. Though Antos knew Gorsov would do the same thing if things were the other way around. Money is, after all, like food to a noble. Without it, he would probably starve, or in a more realistic sense, kill himself.
After Antos hung his cloak up and set his sack down, Gorsov and his servant led Antos through the halls of the manor. As they walked through it, Antos examined the painting on the walls. Some were portraits of Gorsov himself, others were paintings of famous battles, portraits of First King Liam Sethous, etc. Antos had to admit, the paintings did bring the place to life..
After navigating through the corridors, they finally arrived at Gorsov’s dinning room. When the servant opened the door, a large room with a long table was found. Hanging over the long table were multiple chandeliers. There were also candle hanging from the walls. Overall, the lighting in the room was adequate, with some dark corners resisting the candles’ takeover. At the long table were four chairs, each with decorus designs and made of fine wood. In the chairs on the sides sat the two other lords that had been invited to the meal as well. On the left sat the Lord Pentros Miertovich, a thin man who was competing for an open seat on the Council. No doubt he wasn’t doing it for the responsibility of governing the people but rather to use the power to increase his profits in his shipping company. Why merchants were even allowed into the Council, Antos never understand. The noble sitting across from him was Lady Sarria, who owned some rather prosperous mines in southern Sinowas. Those mines had once belonged to her late lord husband, but after a few untimely assassinations, some strange disappearances, and a carriage accident involving fire and a cliff, she was the only person capable, as in not crippled, and alive to inheret the mines. Antos heard she enjoyed parties and was known for disappearing with both men and women for more “invigorating” conversations. On the table were many fine foods, all cooked by the personal chefs of Gorsov. “Have a seat, my good friend, so we may get started.”
Antos assumed his spot at the far end while Gorsoc chose the other. Antos nodded his greetings to Lord Pentros and Lady Sarria. As soon as everyone was seated, they began to pick their foods. As nobles, they all sat in refined manners and were careful to stay clean when grabbing the meats and other foods with slimy textures.
Lord Pentros was the first to break the silence. “So to my understanding, a couple nights ago, you discovered the smuggling den your father had been using to achieve more profit?” he said to Antos.
“Yes, it was most gruesome event.” Antos confirmed. He took a small chunk of meat off of his fork.
Lady Sarria was using her knife to cover her role in butter, “I trust the weapons and armor I provided the men that accompanied you lived up to their duties.” Her plate was covered in food, more than all the other’s plates, even Councilman Gorsov’s. To maintain that figure of hers, she must resort to rather grotesque measures, thought Antos.
“Yes, the weapons were sufficient, as were your men, Lord Pentros” Antos said, as he took a bite of his bread role then swallowed it down with water, handling his utilities with gentle grace.
“Come now, my good sir, when my men returned, they did nothing but speak of you.” He took a sip of wine that had been provided. He sighed gratefully after swallowing it, apparently enjoying the burning sensation it gave his throat.
Antos rested his left cheek on the knuckles of his fingers, “Oh, what did they say? I find myself most curious.” Antos held a mask that showed a casual smiling face, rather than a scowling face of impatience.
Pentros took another sip of his wine to wash down his meat, “They spoke of how calm you were, how you easily presented yourself and they as messengers from Alexi,” another sip, perhaps two simultaneously, “They jabbered on at how gullible the ring leader was and how he proved even more so after drawing your sword,” he put his goblet down, “and how it ended when you took his head off in one swipe. They also spoke of the elaborate plan you had for trapping and slaughtering the smugglers. They said your orders were to leave none alive. I must say, you do not fool around in life or death situations, my friend.” Antos nearly scowled at Pentros’ assertion of “friendship.” I’ll give you a personal experience with it, Antos threatened in his mind.
“Well,” Antos began, “when in battle, you can’t afford to show mercy, in any category. Not in the physical aspect of or in the tactical aspect of it.” Or in the mental aspect of it. Antos took a sip of his own wine. He felt it was adequate.
“Mmmm, I find a liking in that cold atitude of yours, my lord Antos,” Sarria said seductively. If one were to look into her wine goblet, they would find it empty, then full again, then empty once more. It was a cycle all drunks knew all too well.
Pentros slammed his palm onto the table, bursting with laughter, “I would becareful, Sarria. He is a married man, after all. Though that never stopped you with your pursuit of Lady Isabelle…” he began to snicker, obviously fantasizing.
Councilman Gorsov finally broke his silence, “That’s enough, Lord Pentros. I don’t need you two’s blood filling the cups. That’s the wine’s job!” He laughed as he swigged his refined liquor down his throat. Antos had already had to deal with one drunk today…
The dinner conversation continued, as the nobles got drunker by the sip. Antos, though, restrained himself from the wine. He didn’t really care to have his senses fucked by some toxin, though anyone who could read his thoughts would find this hypocritical. The “meeting” continued on until all the food was gone. Unsurprisingly, most of the wine had ended up in Pentros’ cup. “I must say, Sarri-hiccup-a,” he said sloppily, “you ate up quite a bit of food.” He giggled as he ended his comment.
Lady Sarria scowled at that, “Was that an insult to my waste, you pig?!”
“Actually, your cheeks give it away. They seem a bit pudgier now.”
Councilman Gorsov slammed his goblet on the table, spilling some of his wine, “That is enough, you two! By Heaven, you’re both like a couple of children.” He broke out a grin that shouted “I’m drunk”. “How about we bring out this meeting’s main event? Wine brewed from the very best brewers in the Eschave Highlands.” He called in one of his servants and ordered him to do so. Just as planned, thought Antos. There were a few moments before the servant returned with the wine vase.
Pentros was the first to comment, “Lord Councilman, you shouldn’t have. Eschave wine is an expensive luxury. Then again, no doubt your wealth saw no trouble in acquiring it.” He smirked as the servant poured his goblet full of the praised drink.
“Why would he use his wealth? I wouldn’t be surprised if he used his connections to take it freely,” asserted Lady Sarria. She knew all about the business of crime.
“Well, I would not leave such a fine meal with the coup de craw,” said Gorsov, as Antos’ goblet was filled by his servant. He noticed his servant give a slight grin and say something to Antos. Antos did not show any reply. “You, what did you say, whelp?” Gorsov said abusively to his servant, “How dare you think yourself worthy enough to even considering speaking to a man of class such as Lord Antos! Please forgive this wretch’s stupidity. I took him on only a week ago. I had no idea he was such a simpleton.”
Gorsov’s apology did not strike Antos one bit. In fact, the young noble thought it pointless badgering. “No need for apologies,” he said casually, “He was simply giving me his gratitude for guiding him towards his position.” Antos had done such thing of course. He turned his eyes to the “servant”, whose eyes were smiling with ominous intent.
“Well now,” Gorsov admitted embarrassingly, “forgive me for my rudeness. If I had known, I would have made the connections.” No wouldn’t have, Antos thought, You would done the exact same thing. Your mind is dense enough without the liquor.
Antos stood and raised his cup, “A toast to the lord and councilman Gorsov. For without his reliable sources and vouchsafed information, the raid on Alexi’s smuggling operation would have never come to pass.” Indeed, without Gorsov, the raid would have never happened. Gorsov was a strong ally of Antos’s father, Alexi. However, he is also a recreant of the alliance. If had not shared his sources with Antos and instead turned him over to his father, Antos would be on a chopping block rather than a seat at a fine banquet. “To Lord Gorsov! May his health never deter.”
Lord Pentros and Lady Sarria raised their own goblets in agreement. “To Lord Gorsov!” they said in juxtapose.
Gorsov stood and raised his cup towards the center of the table, “Thank you, now lets get to the drinking part, no?” With that, he shoved the edge of his goblet into his mouth, gulping the entirety of the wine. Lord Pentros and Lady Sarria did the same, though in a much more mild way. The only one to not take even a sip was Antos. Gorsov looked at Antos after he had swallowed his wine, under the delusion that Antos had drunk his share. “So when shall my profits from this arrangement come? I am a man of good trade, after all.” He laughed after he finished his comment.
“Soon enough,” was all Antos said. His face was wiped of all emotion. It was the kind of face that suited a cold and calculating man, one who could sacrifice life in the name of his cause, one whose determination never wavered, and one who saw other humans as tools for a means. One who only cared for results and not the means for them. “In fact, my fellow lords,” Antos continued, “your compensation should arrive right about now.”
At first, there was confusion as to what Antos had claimed. Then, Lord Pentros felt a pain in his chest. He fell to the table, his right arm holding his upper torso up with his left hand over his chest. He looked over at Antos, realizing what he had meant and done. He gave Antos a sickly stressed scowl. “Damn you,” was all his trembling body could manage.
“Allow me to assist you, my lord,” said the servant as he pushed the chair to Pentros to save him from the fall. Now the merchant lord’s head was lying on the table with his right arm laid out beside him, the other hanging loosely by his side. He was not filled with death, but it hung over him now like a lover lies upon another. Lady Sarria began to produce the same spasms, though she didn’t have the same fortune as Pentros and fell to the floor, trembling just as he was. Gorsov soon followed suit. He fell back into his chair, his head falling sideways onto his right shoulder. His eyes maintained movement, as did Sarria’s and Pentros’. Antos and the servant were still standing, looking upon the scene. When Gorsov laid his eyes upon Antos, he saw the same as the drunken farmer had in the market: cold eyes of judgement.
“Betton, could you please help Lady Sarria into her chair. It’s indignant for a lady of her stature to just lie on the carpet,” Antos said as he retook his own seat.
The servant looked at Antos and obeyed his order, “Yes, my lord. Anything for my employer.” He circled around the table on Gorsov’s end and picked up the shaking noble woman and sat her in the chair. “Ah, you are all trying so hard to move, but alas, it is a hopeless struggle. The poison has rendered your bodies numb. I’m afraid to inform you that the effects will not wear off till this evening, though you needn’t worry that far.” The servant’s face revealed a casual smile the entire time. His eyes sung a different tune. It was one of death and a job well done.
Gorsov managed to lift himself a bit, only to fail and collapse back into his position. “Poison..?” he croaked. The Councilman was a sad sight now, with drool dripping down the side of his mouth, as well as Pentros and Sarria. They were helpless before Antos and this Betton.
Antos took out an apple he had placed in his back pouch. It could be said it was much more enjoyable than the extravagant Eschave wine that had been served. “Yes, Gorsov, poisoned. You see, my fellow kin of class, I do not play the same game as you do, or as all our kin seems to indulge themselves in. I instead opt for a more daring game, one that very few choose for fear of responsibility or for the curse of sloth. It is a game only the most ambitious and those who desire change play. It is a game only the greatest can win,” Antos took a bite of his apple, seemingly mocking his fellow lords. His facial expression had not changed, “It is a game I intend to win at all costs. All who dare stand in my way shall be put to the torch. Those who would stand by me risk being put to the torch,” Betton’s smiling eyes faltered at that, “You three are not my equals. No, far from it. You are my pieces, my pawns. You are simply there to provide me with steps so I may reach my throne.” Gorsov took another look at Antos, and he did not see some armored nobleman eating his fruit. He saw a man robed in the finest armor with a fur cloak around him in a throne of his own, bearing a silver circlet around his head. A king, he thought. Antos continued on, “Your steps are still needed though. Betton, do you have the documents?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Then set the proper one out for each of them, and make it quick.” Antos was on a time limit. He couldn’t afford for the show to run past curtain time.
“Your will, my lord.” With that, Betton pulled from his coat three roles of paper, each with a line for the signature or seal.
As he set the documents down in front of the proper noble, Antos continued his speech, “In front of you is a document concerning land that applies to you: Pentros, your trade ports, Sarria, your mines, and Gorsov, your farms. Each of you will stamp your seal, with help from Betton, of course, on these documents, henceforth turning over ownership to me.” He saw the shock and disgust in each of their eyes all simultaneously. Antos sighed. “If you refuse, as if you could, this is the death that awaits you.” Antos grabbed the half eaten roll on his plate and held it out in his hand to show them. At first nothing. Then, fire began to produce from the palm, then erupting from it, incinerating the roll. “That is what awaits you.” Antos smelled the ashes. It was a smell he knew he would never cease to experience.
Betton proceeded to search each of their pockets for their seal stamps, being successful on each search. He then placed the stamps in their hands and “assisted” them in engraving the seals on the documents. When it was completed, Betton collected the documents and brought them to Antos, who took them and placed them in his back pouch. “Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on to the next step in business.” Betton’s smile grew wide, though his mouth stayed the same.
“You see,” Antos continued, “Allowing you three to live would be counter productive to my ambitions. As such, I’ve arranged for Betton here to take a dagger and slit your throats.” Betton took out his knife, with obvious black iron origins in it. He began to walk towards Sarria, “It was such a tragic incident, too. How three nobles were killed, with one barely surviving the assassin’s wrath,” Betton was now behind Sarria, curressing her neck with his hands as so many had done with their tongues, “How he slit poor Lady Sarria’s throat open.” On queue, Betton slid the knife across Sarria’s throat slowly, causing the blood to poor out slowly, causing the wench to choke on her own blood. Betton let her corpse fall to the floor, causing blood to splatter over the carpet. Betton then walked back around Antos to Pentros. Antos continued to tell the tragedy, “How he toyed with Pentros’s mind,” Betton was now running the tip of the dagger down Pentros’ spine, knowing the poison had not numbed his body enough where his skin couldn’t feel and shudder at the knife’s sharp point, “before running it through his back into his heart.” Betton did just that. He then made his way to Gorsov and took his head with his hand and pulled it up so it faced Betton’s ecstatic eyes, “How he thrust the blade into Gorsov’s face, making him unrecognizable.” Antos’s tone was dried and emotionless. Betton then brought the dagger down on both of Gorsov’s eyes, for Gorsov had been blind to Antos’ true intentions, and as such, his corpse didn’t deserve to keep them. “Such a tragic hour,” Antos finished. He took the final bite of his apple. The ugliness of it all.
Betton cleaned his dagger with Gorsov’s dinning cloth, and then wiped the blood off himself. He had thoroughly enjoyed that. Never once had someone deemed his killings worth of use. Antos was a rare breed of humans, for sure. “That was rather messy, wouldn’t you say, my lord?” he addressed Antos.
Antos rose from his seat and began to walk away, his hand on the pommel of his blade, “It was.” It will only get worst from here. It always did.
Betton grinned. “So I trust my way out of the country has been arranged. That was a part of the deal. You can’t expect the infamous killer wizard Betton to not let this chance to get away.” He was tired of always hiding from the knights, never allowed a good spree of kills. In Sysral, he could continue his trade, savoring the death as long as he wished.
Antos stopped. “Yes,” he said as his right hand reached for the handle, “about that…” Betton saw what was happening and pointed his dagger at Antos’ back and started forward. He intended to puncture an open point in his armor. This fool should have never turned his back on him. However, he found himself to be the fool as Antos swung around with speed and sliced Betton’s hand clean off.
Betton fell to his knees, gasping with pain and holding his dismembered wrist. Antos then grabbed Betton by the shoulder, turned his sword up side down, and plunged it into Betton’s abdomen. “I forgot to tell the part where Antos managed to fight back and kill the assassin.” Betton began to cough up blood, experiencing first hand what all his victors had felt as he butchered them and tortured their minds. Antos withdrew his blade, allowing Betton’s corpse to collapse to the side. Another death, another step towards the throne. He had to admit, it was a long walk.
Antos examined the scene, and his eyes hardened. One would wonder why Antos would go to such measures. But, as Antos would say, death comes to us all. And I intend to deserve, he thought to himself. Antos walked back to his seat at the table and picked up his wine cup that contained the familiar numbing poison. He knew the healer he had arranged to come here would be arriving any second now. So with haste, Antos tipped the goblet over his mouth and choked the poison down.
He stood there a moment, nothing happening. Then, just as it was with Pentros, he felt a pain in his chest and fell to his knees. His body began to feel numb, his mind trying to push the body to move.
He did not suffer long though, for the healer he had contacted came rushing in and ran to Antos. She looked at the gory scene before her but did shudder from it. This was her profession after all. She began to work her magic on Antos, working the poison out of his body slowly, being ever so perceptive in her work. Antos was relieved when the pain was gone but did not regret it. After all, he intended to deserve it.
“Come to bed, Antos. You’ve had enough work for one day.”
Sanrian was lying in the bed with her silk night gown on. Antos wore a loose fit white shirt and similarly fashioned brown pants. He wore no habiliments on his feet, for he didn’t intend to go any where else that night. He was at his desk, writing down the new tax plan for the farmers on Gorsov’s land. “I’ll be a moment.” He rested his quill and left his desk and started for the bed.
“I swear, no other politician works like you do,” Sanrian commented, “Though that’s fine. As long as you don’t get yourself killed.” She gave Antos a warm smile.
“I try my best,” To get close to it, it seems. Tomorrow, Antos would spend his day writing letters to the southern mines about their new owner and visiting the docks that once belonged to Pentros. He had his work cut out for him, if nothing else.
“Well that’s well. I’d hate for the children to have to grow up without their father.”
Antos was now lying on the bed, facing his wife, “What about you sleeping alone on the pillows and under the sheets?” He gave her a dangerous and suave smile the best he could with his naturally cold face.
“The thought itself is unbearable,” she said. She leaned in and gave Antos a kiss. Antos adored the feeling of her lips, finding so much to look forward to. Unfortunately for him, the plan the two of them had that night was shattered by a knocking on the door and a young Alistair’s cries for Fa and Ma.
The two left their bed, somewhat apprehensively, and walked to their door. When Antos opened it, he found all three of his children there, with Alistair standing, Lucine somewhat standing, and Marianne sitting on the floor. “Fa,” Alistair said, “Marianne had a bad dream.” Marianne did seem rather sullen.
Antos and Sanrian looked at each other. Antos raised his brow as to what to do. Sanrian simply smiled and said, “Why don’t you three stay in here tonight? I’m sure Marianne would find that appealing,” and she did, as she smiled at the sound of the suggestion. “Come on now.” Sanrain picked up Alistair and carried him to the bed. Antos, who was a little disappointed by the turn of events, sighed and picked his twin daughters up and followed suit.
All five of them laid there, sleeping, knowing each other were there. Antos had had other ideas for the night, but this was fine. He looked at Marianne who slept facing him. She was the closest one to him, so he could feel her faint breaths coming from her small body. She had such a peaceful face.
Antos smiled to himself. He did not know whether he was a product of the Hell that surrounded him or the Heaven that lied there in his bed, but he had no doubts as to which he desired.