Chapter Twenty-Eight: Rule Breaker
“Tell Braylen to come out of hiding and face me and maybe then we can settle things” Solon said.
They had been herded into the stronghold like cattle- which Horatio didn’t pass up the opportunity on pointing out-and now stood surrounded by the mad man himself and his heavily armed artillery.
For over an hour King Solon had been insisting on talking to Braylen who had yet to show her face to them and instead his in her quarters above them.
“You’re a very persistent man I’ll give you that” Horatio said, he paced calmly before them unfazed by the fact he was twirling and pointing his pistol in directions that could be deadly to individuals in the room and for the majority of the time himself. “But like I have said many, many, many times this past hour or so. She’s busy and isn’t available. People have to arrange to see you yes? Well now you know what they feel like don’t you?” he continued mockingly.
“I am King of these four lands, rightful ruler and leader of every soul living within these clans and that includes you. Now move aside before I do it for you”
“So hostile. Look you seem like a nice guy, a bit grumpy, but I can’t let you go up there on Braylen’s orders and well we’re having so much fun here I don’t know why you’d want to go to her instead”
Solon having had enough strode forward raising the blade of Justo to Horatio’s throat.
Multiple clicks of guns being cocked rattled around the room, one being much closer than the others.
Something pushed against Solon’s side to which he imagined was the barrel of the pistol, his family was on the line but he knew he couldn’t just back down to him not when he was supposed to be king, a lot was on his shoulders as well as his mind and none of it was helping to steady his tightening grip.
“I’d lower that shiny sword of yours, you’re outnumbered and let’s just say swords and bow and arrows won’t protect you from bullets” he whispered.
“I’ll lower my weapon when you step aside” Solon replied through gritted teeth all the while glaring into Horatio’s eyes.
A dramatic sigh left Horatio’s mouth accompanied by an eye roll.
“How can I say this so you understand me? Braylen is not seeing anyone today, thank you, goodbye.”
“Horatio, step aside” Braylen called from the top of the steps.
“Yes, my lady” he grinned, finally breaking eye contact with Solon and stepping aside to stand next to the railing.
“It’s been too long old friend” she said, her footfall ghost-like as if she was gliding down the stairs.
“I wouldn’t call you a friend now Braylen, not after what you’ve done” he said lowering his sword.
“It’s to preserve the welfare of the human race, you know we can not survive Solon, times change and so must the reign of the four lands. The humans are above us in more ways than one, we must simply clear the way to their rule”
“The king is not chosen, it follows the family line, my family line Braylen. You can’t break millennia’s of tradition. We broke rules before and look where that got us, we are powerless all because of a war that should never have happened. We shouldn’t be against each other but you have given us no other option.” he said, trying to get it through to her. “As for human’s taking over the four lands, how do you fit into that equation? YOu are fae Braylen, how do you wish to survive when the rest of us are wiped out? You will not survive, if you think you will be spared then you are gravely wrong”
He was truly curious to see if she had lost all sense of remorse or sympathy because he couldn’t imagine someone sane being able to stand by and watch their people who they’re supposed to protect get murdered in cold blood and not reach out a hand of help.
“That rule by itself is corrupt Solon, your son shall one day ascend to bare the crown, if he was to be like me and the mundanes and simply want change would you be the one to align the rule of Arravan with another, not that of your bloodline?”
“My son wouldn’t be like you, and neither will his children. You have plagued this capital for too long and now you will face a trial to which I and my men will serve your sentence. Do not hope for freedom, it is not common for veterans to forget the shadows of war and I doubt they will forget this let alone forgive you for such horrific slaughter.” he said
“I possess nothing to be found guilty of, I will carry forth the new age even if my body is not able to, my plans will be accomplished and not even you can prevent the changing times laying on the horizon.”
“I will do my best, it’s my responsibility to care for every life on these lands and I stick by the laws of our people so as long as I am around you’re little plans end here. Now take a seat in there and the trial shall begin” he finished, indicating with the tip of his sword to the meeting room, its double doors wide open displaying the long table and several chairs.
“As you wish, My Lord” she scorned, taking her time to saunter into the room and take her allocated seat at the head of the table.
The rest filed in always aware of each other with keen and watchful eyes, their hands never one leaving their weapons, they took their posts at opposite walls behind their on leaders, just waiting for someone to make a move.
Solon and Halda too a seat opposite her as Horatio too joined, taking up the seat next to her placing his pistol on the table along with his combat boot clad feet.
Solon found some amusement in the look of distaste on Braylen’s face at the sight of mud smeared onto the polished surface from Horatio’s boots who looked none the wiser to her glare and instead seemed bored and waiting for someone to say something.
“Braylen Ackroyd, Leader of the High Council, mother of Jeanove Ackroyd and Wife of Rowan Ackroyd” Halda began.
“That is me, yes, but you have indeed missed a name” she replied placing a hand upon her swollen stomach that lay beneath the silk fabric.
“Another child, I see. Well, do you yet have a name for said child?” Halda asked.
“Tollen. Tollen Ranemis-Moore”
The name hung, suspended above them all.
They knew of no-one with the last name, it stood as a result of an affair long since beginning and whether it was known of by Rowan was another question but not for the time being.
“Very well. Braylen Ackroyd, you sit before us on the twenty-sixth day of summer on accounts of High treason against not only the crown but the four lands as well. You will be trialled, judged and dealt your verdict. You may argue your case and present evidence to support said case, if found guilty you will be executed at the hands of the king and his blade Justo. If found not guilty there will be rules assigned depending on the outcome of the trial and the severity of the charges against you. Do you understand?” Halda concluded, looking to her for an answer.
“Then let this trial begin, Braylen please state your defence against the allegations of treason”
“The allegations are true, but I do not think treason is the accurate word neither is murder.” she replied calmly.
“What would you have us call it instead?” Halda asked
“The strengthening of our race”.
“And how is that?” he asked trying to refrain from beginning a pointless argument.
“Eliminating the weak and unreliable leaves strong and compliant followers. Life is the same is it not? The ill and weak perish without help from the strong, it’s only natural selection, I simply hastened the selection and personally saw to it that they were as you could say, taken care of. You question whether I would be spared when the age of man comes, I have been promised it as will my followers, those that stand beside me will be spared from the inevitable death to come. a time of war and destruction, the end of the fae is closer than you think Solon. I hope you choose your side wisely”
“You had no right to make the choices, it was never up to you to decide who lives and who dies Braylen. There were children, innocent and young that now lay on the stone streets of the city you vowed to protect” Solon contributed.
“And I have protected them, I saved them from a vision they could not comprehend, a world they did not want to exist in. I released them” she said her voice slightly raised.
“Do you feel any remorse for those you slaughtered?” he asked, genuinely curious.
“Well I never harmed a soul, I wielded no weapon and struck no flesh. Do I feel remorse for those I did not know? No. Would you feel remorse for a stranger you did not know?” she retaliated, ignoring the irritated expression of Horatio’s features.
“I would, yes. I would also not murder innocent families and children. Even if you were not the one to take their lives you still gave the order and to me, that is enough to call you guilty”
“Be that as it may, Horatio and his men were the one’s to pull the triggers as well as following the orders I enforced. He has his own mind and thoughts, he could have easily denied any part in it. If I am guilty then he too should be charged.” she said
“Very well, Braylen if you are found guilty then Horatio and his men will share the same fate for being accomplices to the crime”.
“I don’t follow pointy-eared fairy rules” Horatio added with a snarl.
“Here in this building, in this city and our lands you do” Halda said.
“What if I refuse?”
“Then you will still be trialled for trespassing your borders without informing the King, as well as for murder” Halda informed him, resulting in Horatio’s smirk falling to a scowl.
“You have a chatty mouth, I don’t like it. People like you should learn to be silenced, trained like a dog.” he spat and stood up to tower over Halda’s sitting figure which sat up straighter.
His hand resting steadily on the hilt of his sword he gave a testing eye to Horatio, daring him to see what would happen if he moved closer to Solon who he swore to protect at all costs.
“Horatio enough, take a seat and please refrain from shooting holes in my home” Braylen said.
Slowly- and with little enthusiasm- he sat down keeping a sharp eye on Halda.
“Do you wish to argue your cause further?” Solon asked after a minute of silence.
“What use is there? You and most in this room have made your minds up already. It would be futile for me to waste my shortening breath. I do however hold a question I wish to be answered before my verdict”
“Which would be?” Halda asked.
“Would you execute a mother who bears an infant inside, one that is yet to be born and too young to be born prematurely?”
Halda looked to Solon for an answer, they hadn’t had a situation where a mother was on the line of execution.
It was rare enough for there to be an execution let alone that of two people to one blade.
“Considering the circumstances, you will be executed, however, the execution will be postponed until the baby has been born. Until that day, you will be held in a cell on Haven’s Gate where you will be provided comfort for the sake of the child. No harm will come to you or the child” Solon clarified.
“You’d save a child you do not know, it could take on my insanity for all you know.”
“It will not, it will be given to a family who will raise it right. Now as for your verdict. Braylen Ackroyd, on accounts of treason, attempted genocide and murder you are hereby sentenced to death by the blade of Justo. Horatio, you and your men hereby possess the same verdict and will be executed at first light” he announced standing from the table to glance at each and every one of them.
“Very well” Braylen said.
“Was this your plan all along!?” Horatio hollered “You lying piece of-” he began but was swiftly stopped by Braylen’s calm hand.
“I did not know of the King and his plans to journey here, I also did not intend for there to be a trial. You too wanted power and land but we do not always get what we want Horatio, you knew of the risks and yet you agreed to the job”
“Boys let’s head out, there’s nothing here for us” he called
“I’m afraid that you can’t leave, the verdict stands as does your execution, you are to wait within these walls until then.”
“There is no use fighting Horatio, It would be folly to think you could escape, you have nowhere to go and you cannot run and hide forever. They would find you and you would still face the cool kiss of the blade around your throat. Spare your breath and revel in the little time you have to feel your own heartbeat” she said laying a protective hand over the bump.
“Easy for you to say, you’re not about to be decapitated and it’s all because of you” he spat, beginning to pace the room.
“The events are in motion, it is futile to even attempt to stop the time Horatio. YOu may not get to see the world we want but you have paved the way nevertheless” she continued learning a deep scowl from the man she was addressing.
“There is one question that is insisting to be heard and answered by you, Braylen” Solon spoke up
“And what question would that be?”
“Where is your son and your husband?”
“That is for me to know, they are not of your concern” she replied
“If they are part of your schemes then they are of my concern considering they would then be fugitives of the crown. They too will need to be trialled and punished for their collaborations with you” he explained.
“That is of your concern to mine”
“Don’t take me for a fool Braylen, we will find them”
“And she’ll probably give them up as she has done with me, just put her in a corner and she’ll tell you everything you want to know” Horatio growled.
“If you would both prefer we can separate you until the time comes” Solon spoke up, tired of the bickering.
“That’d be great, as long as I don’t have to look at her before I die”
Halda personally took the opportunity to be on of the four guards to escort Horatio to a room, the tone the man took and the snarky remarks he made towards his king didn’t sit well, the weasel was going to die anyway so he doubted anyone would mind if he roughed him up a bit.
The room they ended in was near the back of the establishment and looked to be an office of some kind with a solid oak desk carved with engravings of trees and other sceneries of their lands.
Behind it was a chair to match, paper set in neatly arranged piles adorned the desk as well as quills and impressive crystal jars of ink.
behind the desk lay large windows, they allowed the eyes to those inside to gaze upon the far off skies, it was an odd sight to see, the greyish clouds and cold starry night skies seemed so peaceful and yet in their own lands, there was so much corruption and increasing tensions.
Even with its thousands of stars, galaxies and planets it all lived harmoniously, coexisting although not one is the same and yet they couldn’t because their minds and ideologies collided and ended with catastrophe.
But still, the skies look on, constantly changing as if to mock them and when the heavens cry their teas of sorrow or lash out with their forks of light, who is it that pays the price? They’re never the ones to fight amongst themselves and instead, they scorch those below them and condemn them to an unpredictable life.
Hardly seems fair but then were they not the same? Lashing out at those they deemed below them, who knew if it was even self-defence anymore, they all retaliate not all the while sure of why they started the dispute in the first place let alone who started it.
Over the years lines had blurred and so had the reasoning for it all, but they had to keep fighting because if they didn’t things would change and others would win, he guessed each side wanted to win, to run a course to a future they believed in and who were they to say no when they had a future of their own in mind?
“You will remain here until sunrise, do not try to escape because I will not wait until the light starts to show” Halda informed and gave a nod to the guards who took their position outside the room bringing the door to a close leaving the two alone.
“I’m going to die anyway so why not make it interesting?” he teased, taking a seat and with no manners rested his boots on the polished oak, knocking over a pile of papers sending them drifting to the floor. “Oops” he mocked shrugging his shoulders.
He pulled a blade from his belt, Halda’s hand instantly tightened on his own, a reflex he’d drilled into his mind.
He watched as Horatio began to scratch away at the wood table, the irritating sound of splintering wood as the knife dug jagged paths into its glossy surface.
“If it were my choice you’d be dead already but I wouldn’t defy my king so do not make me give in to my impulses”
“You seem very close to him, almost like a pet or maybe a servant. Tell me, what are the benefits of doing everything he says? A big paycheck at the end of the month? Or maybe even a pat on the head?” he chuckled maniacally
“You’re foul” Halda replied turning to take his leave.
“OR is it maybe you suck up to him so much because you see him as the father you’ve never had?” he continued on in a childlike tone while also continuing the indentions on the wood.
“So what if that is the reason? It is none of your business. Also stop that it’s ruining the desk and it’s irritating” Halda spat, glaring daggers at the man he turned to once again.
“You mean this sound?” he asked while dragging the blade across the table once again.
“Stop or I will make it so you never hold a blade again” he snarled producing a smirk from Horatio.
“I didn’t take you for one to get easily annoyed”.
His foot moved and sent another pile of documents tumbling to the ground layering on top of the others before dragging the blade once more.
Halda lunged for the blade as Horatio stood sending the chair tumbling to its side, they stood with weapons drawn on either side of the table although Horatio hadn’t selected his usual one-shot kill weapon instead he held onto the knife with expert fingers.
As a chuckle left Horatio’s lips he swapped his grip in the knife to the blade before throwing it the aim clearly for Halda’s forehead.
Moving to avoid the blade he narrowly escaped, the tip of the blade slicing through his cheek before sticking into the wall behind him.
Following the thud, a loud smash accompanied by the gush of twinkling glass like a deadlier storm of rain filled the room.
Millions of broken shards were scattered across the stone floor and paper, a razor blade hole in the window let in the chill air and rushing winds.
The clouds had darkened, the skies grew tense as the tension of electricity raised the hairs along his arms.
A storm was brewing and moving with the haste of forces unmatchable, it would be upon them soon enough.
“Guards the prisoner has escaped, find him and alert the King!” he called, not removing his line of sight from the jagged pane.
Paper documents laying on the desk swirled into the air which drew his eyes down to the desk, to the scratched marking.
A triangle, each corner replaced with a circle, the two on the bottom held a small depiction of an arrow which held a number of possible meanings, however, the one that sat on the top point, encircled in the rough lined ring was an eye.
The eye seemed open yet held no emotion within it, it just stared back as the endless thoughts clouded his mind.
What it meant he did not know and why Horatio had drawn it he did not know either, whether it was something his deranged and scattered mind had created or if it was something else left the questions repeating.
It could well be another threat, another organisation or even the one he works for.
Nothing could be answered for sure until they had the man responsible back in their midst.
But the time was ticking, when the storm hits all hope for finding him would be out of the question for when the heavens speak they have no choice but to listen.