The Red Sapphire

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Chapter 31

“The earth?” asked the lordling Doranand.

All the power he had siphoned from the earth still hadn’t left him. Every nerve in his body was still alive with energy, it was probably still obvious in his aura considering the way Doranand was staring at him.

Why had he chosen to come to Garion? Revenge was the most likely reason. Milos had outwitted him and caused him great embarrassment in the Arnayan court.

Him losing the princess to a Garian thief must not have gone over well with King Arro-Bar, Milos imagined. If he were any other soldier, then he could dispose of him easily, but he had to think of Aliana. She was still attached to this lordling and might possibly love him, a fact he hated to admit. He had told her today that he loved her, something which had taken them both by surprise. He knew that her feelings towards him were quite unstable—possibly non-existent, and it twinged to not have the sentiment requited. He had time. He would change that.

Doranand and Aliana had shared history and friendship. Killing him could mean losing her. Yet keeping him alive might very well do the same.

There was a slight tremor as he allowed the rest of the energy back out into the earth.

“For a thief, Prince Milos, you sure think highly of yourself.” he said defiantly. The loathing was obvious in his eyes. Good, Milos thought, the feeling was mutual.

“And have every reason to be as you see demonstrated here today.” he said folding his arms.

“Well we both had demonstrations today, didn’t we?” Milos frowned and he smiled.

“All those people, mainly women and children that you’d killed in the outlands. Targeting the weakest of our society is hardly something to brag about Lord Doranand.”

“Garian scum all. The women would bear more sons and the children grow to be soldiers. All Arnayans in the future will be grateful. And it is Admiral now.” Milos’s heart turned and unconsciously had started pulling energy from the earth. He inhaled deeply. Two could play this game.

“Admiral? Wouldn’t you need a fleet to be an admiral? I don’t see any ships about, do you?” He charged forward and Milos readied himself for the attack, his guards too drew their weapons. All that wasn’t necessary though as he stumbled forward and fell on one knee.

“Curse this!” he said rubbing his temples.

“You look unwell admiral.” said Milos as he appraised him. Looked worse than unwell. Even in the fading light he could see that the lordling was pallid. His breathing was shallow and ever so often his body would have severe bouts of trembling, as it fought against the cold which was probably seeping in through his wet clothes.

“I’ve had better days, no thanks to you.” he said standing and Milos could see the effort it took. “So are you going to finish what you’ve started or just keep talking?”

“I am definitely going to finish this war. As for killing you, as I said we Garians tend not to prey on the weak. Perhaps when you are worth fighting, I will consider it. In the meantime, you should remove some of the wet clothing and armour.”

“Thank you for the advice Your Highness.” he sneered but only removed the armour. He must have been more badly hurt than he’d let on thought Milos. It was getting late and he needed to start moving to the other side to meet the soldiers he hoped his father would send.

More and more Arnayans were coming on shore, but they were hardly in the position to fight. “You two come with me.” he said tapping the soldiers closest to him and to the others, he said, “Round up the Arnayans, if anyone of them retaliates, you are free to defend yourselves. We are far too stretched to deal with troubled prisoners. However, keep an eye on that one especially.” he said pointing to Doranand. “Keep him alive, no matter the cost, he may be valuable to me in the future.”

Doranand let out a dry laugh, “You overestimate my value to Arnay Your Highness.”

“It is not for the sake of Arnay that you still live Lord Doranand, but for the happiness of my wife.”

“Why would you care about Aliana’s happiness?” he bristled. “If you did, you wouldn’t have taken her to Garion and forced her to marry you.”

“I do care about her and for your information, the marriage was not forced.” coaxed, but not forced. “Besides we both know that she wanted to come to Garion.” He watched Doranand’s face fall as if trying to make sense of what was said. Aliana would flay him for his insinuation, but he really enjoyed watching the Arnayan lord squirm. “I will see you in the morning that is if you don’t die.”

He turned away and headed to the other side of the gulf. When he got there, he was surprised to see Garian soldiers milling along the coast. “They’d come.” he whispered, not believing the sight before him.

“You sound surprised, Your Highness.” said the inquisitive soldier who he had learned was called Carlos.

“I am. I am sure that when I disappeared two years ago there were many stories about that and my antics predating that time.”

“There were Your Highness but seeing what I did today they couldn’t have been true.”

“They were for the most part and would have remained so if I didn’t have reason to change. My father would need a lot of convincing to listen to me.”

“But then, you are his heir, so that must have factored.” piped up the other man, Larry.

“That might be part of it, but I suspect otherwise.” he smiled. Aliana had somehow managed to convince his father to support him. He wondered how many rooms in the palace she’d threatened to raze before he listened. He couldn’t wait to get home to hear how it happened.

Loud shouts started in the camp as they’d entered it. “Your Highness,” said the sentinel that had met them first. “You are alive.” he said sounding shocked and relieved.

“Take me to your commanding officer.” he said.

“Yes, this way.” and as he walked through the camp more and more eyes rested on him. The silence grew until he was led to a large fire on which four soldiers gathered as they seemed to be studying a map of some sort.

“Captain Hardling, Prince Milos.” he knew Hardling from the palace and the man turned to face him.

“Prince Milos, thank the gods! When we came and saw the ships and the water damage, we thought you were dead. We were about to dispatch a search party.”

“So I have inferred,” said Milos grinning.

“What happened out here? There seemed to have been a powerful storm, but the skies have remained clear. Yet so many ships have crashed.”

“The short version is that I did as promised and closed the pass. An earthquake did the rest.” He was sure his men that had witnessed the whole event would soon supply them with the happenings of the day, so he would spare his breath and energy.

“I see.” said Hardling not understanding. “We came here expecting an army, but it seems that we are rendered useless.”

“Not useless. We have to collect the dead strewn across the coast and burn the bodies before the stink sets in. The survivors if any, we send on a ship back to Arnay. The rest of my guards are camped just two miles east of here. They’ve already started carrying out my orders there. Send a dispatch of twenty men to help them.

“It will be a long night Captain and I want that we be finished as soon as possible. I would like to return to Turion quickly. I have only wedded last night and in less than a day, I have separated from my bride. Do what you can to change that.”

“As you would have it your Highness.” said Hardling and went to pass along his orders.

Though they’d started the same night, it was two days before they finished. The sun had revealed the extent of the horror that he’d rained down on the Arnayans. As the twenty who were there with him mixed in with the newcomers, the stories spread, taking on a life of their own. Each man had added their own thoughts and feelings to the telling making it seem more fiction then fact.

It wasn’t long before they all knew that he was the Green Sapphire. He could see them watching him, waiting for any indication of the same. But Milos had enough of destroying things to last a lifetime. Only thirty men had survived without serious injury and another two hundred badly injured. All the wooden ships were damaged and five metal ones which were in any working order.

He kept his word and sent home the Arnayans, except for Doranand. The amount of weapons strewn around would be invaluable to his army and the other damaged ship would be scrapped for parts.

But all that could be done later and by someone else. He simply worked on clearing the dead and saw the Arnayans off. He thanked the gods when he touched the shores of Turion. A large crowd waited for him and he received a hero’s welcome. His parents and the barons awaited him at the pier. He greeted them all before coming to stand before Aliana.

“Wife,” he said as he looked at her. He felt the usual awareness of the earth energy whenever he was close to her surge to new heights.

“Husband,” she said and closed the distance between them. Hugging him tightly to her chest. The earth around them rumbled and cries of surprise shook the crowd. “I am happy to see you.” he whispered in her ear.

“I can tell, now control yourself. You’re scaring the city.” she laughed and touched his face. He clasped her hands in his and kissed her fingers.

“You too.” he said as her aura had changed. Tongues of red whipped around her hair and the gold flecks in her eyes were now a brilliant amber. That was a good sign, he told himself. Even if she didn’t know it yet, she might feel for him more than she let on. The thought warmed him greatly.

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