I slumped in a chair pulling my boots off, as Lucas closed the doors to his study behind us. I fire had already been lit in the small welcoming room. I watched as Lucas went over to the fire and put an extra log in from the small basket which sat next to the fire.
“What now” I asked leaning back in the chair as my eyes scanned the floor to ceiling shelves, I had read most of them, histories mostly, though there was a small collection of myths and stories. I smiled at my eerily memories of learning to read under the unorthodox teaching technique of my Mother who had grown up in a rich merchant’s home, the matron there having taught her to read. “Lucas?” I prompted him when he remained silent.
“I don’t know, I suppose I should sue for peace. We haven’t the troops to fight the Beluse. His army is hundreds strong, now mine is just under a hundred and thirty. And then thirty would have to remain to keep order in the villages, then at least another fifty to patrol the region and pursue bandits. That leaves fifty.” He thumped his fist on the hard stone of the fireplace and turned to me, rubbing his fist. “I’ll send a letter of appeal to the Beluse now, asking for terms. I’ll send another to Drakeshrad, the Beluse have broken imperial law.”
“Then why did they attack”
“Beluse are an aggressive family, by tradition, they have always sent troops to fight in the imperial army, but already the family and its allies control much of the southern empire. I fear they wish to absorb us. With my fortune and the iron mines Beluse would be formidable, only an imperial army would be able to stand against them. Then there is you.”
“Yes the Emperor’s interest in you, making you a bondless, you’re obviously of value, though I doubt they know why” I stood and paced the small room, my hands on my head, taking it in. I stopped in front of a map of the empire. The frontier drawn around the edges of the map, and the serfdom’s drawn in. I stared at the very small, odd shape, that made up Oker, nearly completely surrounded by Beluse, then there was the frontier, on the over side of mount Oker.
“I have an idea” Before I could tell Lucas, there was a knock at the door.
“Enter” called Lucas, and an out of breath maid pushed through the door.
“Master Lucas, the Emperor, he’s here!”
“What in Oker?”
“No I mean he is in the Manor right...” she was cut off by a dark voice like chocolate.
“Here” I stood there dumfounded, my hands still on my head, at the man who stood in the entrance. The man before me had white hair; it too was long, and vanished down the back of his dark purple, hooded robe, which reached down to his ankles. He walked into the room and took a seat in the chair. He waved slightly at the maid standing in the doorway signalling her to close the door and leave, while Lucas and I stood gobsmacked. Once the doors were closed the emperor smiled at me, meeting my eyes, his purple ones boring into mine.
“Sire, I, what, how” spluttered Lucas as he stared at the Emperor, who in turn continent to stare at me.
“Leave us Lucas” the emperor commanded quietly turning to look at Lucas. Lucas glanced at me, then bowed to the emperor and slipped out of the door, whose gaze returned to me. My insides chilled. “Tulip Konos, isn’t it?”
“Please, we are both bondless, call me Drake”
“Yes si... Drake”
“Good, interesting name isn’t it, my mother named me after the lake, dead now”
“I’m sorry to hear that”
“hm, no don’t be, she died before I could remember her.”
“You made me bondless, why!” I blurted out, cupping my hands to my mouth the moment I uttered a word. The emperor raised an eyebrow
“Let us skip the pleasantries, you and I both play host to Daemons, do you know what a Daemon is Tulip?” I shook my head “well the truth be told, I know very little myself, apart from what mine and I have been able to uncover; the Daemon’s are echoes of the old kingdom, the remnants of a massive attempt by the rulers of the old kingdom to gain immortality, suffice to say they failed, instead they transferred their powers, and those of their closest followers into these ‘Daemons’ the transfer killed them all, the following chaos led to the end of the old kingdom, without its master magicians it crumbled into civil war. Not even the daemons know what they are. So far I know of six, now seven, because of you.”
“Where are they?”
“Two are here now, one in you and the other me, the others reside in their hosts, all of whom but one wait in Drakeshrad for our return. The last resides in my master General, lord Jun, who is on campaign.”
“I don’t understand how it is you are so young? You can’t be more than thirty” At this Drake sniggered
“I’m almost three hundred, I’m older than the empire, as is Jun, we grew up together Jun and I, while the others we have discovered over the centuries. The Daemon’s grant immortality, once you reach the age of the magician who created the daemon, you stay that age. You appear no older than seventeen Tulip, and you are what?”
“Twenty one this spring”
“Such a young daemon you are truly blessed. Greta’s is seventy nine!” he barked with laughter at that. He stood walking over to me resting his hand on my shoulder, looking into my eyes. “Tell me Tulip has it spoken to you?”
“My daemon, only the day it possessed me, then twice after, for the last few years nothing.”
“Interesting” I let out a gasp as I felt a burning pain in my gut. I looked down to see the emperor drawing the knife out of me. I staggered backward, my hands clutching the wound, I looked up
“Lucas!” I called weakly blood spattered out of my mouth; I fell to the floor, my body becoming numb, my vision tunnelled as I stared at the emperor as he stood over me. “why,” I whimpered in pain.
“Tulip!” Yelled Lucas as he flung the study doors open, he ran over to me, kneeling beside me, “don’t die, it’ll be alright” “Help! Someone get help!” he called his eyes frantic. My vision began to blacken. I tried to utter a warning as I saw the emperor close the doors and approach Lucas. “Shh, help will be here soon. Just keep looking at me, don’t talk” my eyes fluttered closed.