The Red Sapphire

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Chapter 43

Evan was not quite the way it was when he left it. First of all, it was extremely difficult to get in through the gates. His presence was unquestioned as he rode with the General of the Army, but he noted that other people were being searched and interrogated before being allowed through the city walls.

The markets were empty and very few people walked along the streets. He noted that some parts of the city had been burnt flat and that workers were along sections of the western wall repairing what might have been damage by cannon. Further east he saw vultures circling under a cloud of dark smoke. A mass grave was probably in the vicinity. Arnay had hit home hard, but had Garion not wasted time either.

He knew exactly what was happening here and had provided information as to where would be the best places to strike. But he was quickly finding out that fighting a war on paper and one in real life were completely different. It was easy to be detached when not on the ground, but in the midst of the battle he was slightly repulsed at himself for what he’d helped to unleash on these people.

That is why you need to kill Ana-Moriah quickly and end the war. He reminded himself.

“It is hard to defend a seaside city without a navy.” he said to Lord Baston.

“It is hard to defend a country with unworthy monarchs.” replied Baston. “I am going to the barracks. You know where the palace is.” he said stopping his horse.

Milos nodded and tipped his horse towards the palace road. “When we meet, hopefully it will be on better terms Lord Baston.”

“If not, don’t expect a similar greeting. I will do what I must for my country.”

“As will I. Arnay is also my country, as Garion is Aliana’s.” the general harrumphed and then trotted down another street.

Although Baston had made no attempt to capture him throughout their entire journey, he still didn’t trust the man. For now, they were on opposing sides and he would continue treating him as an enemy. There was no way he was going to the palace now. An ambush could be laying ahead for him.

He turned his horse around and headed towards the sounds of the canons in the west. On approaching the gate he took out an envelope which bore the unbroken seal of Lord Baston. During his journey he took some time to procure the stationery, the seal ring being the most difficult of the lot but when he’d got them he did what was needed.

The first guard approached and he got off his horse to greet him. “I have an urgent message that needs to be delivered to the ground captain coming from Lord Baston.” said Milos in his best Arnayan accent.

“What happened to Umbridge?” asked the man.

“I don’t know, on another task. It isn’t my place to question but to obey. The letter bears the seal of the generals’ house.” he said showing him the letter sealed with the spreading branches of an oak tree.

The man studied it and then nodded. “Open the gate and let him pass.” he said to the men above him and they moved to open it. He then said to Milos, “My shift ends at dawn.”

“And a brighter dawn it will be.” replied Milos.

The man came closer. “We expected you two evenings ago Your Highness.”

“I was unavoidably delayed but it is good that you never wavered.” he said as he mounted the horse. “How many of you work along the gates?”

“Just me and Quimby at this gate.” he said indicating with his chin to the short soldier on the parapet who was trying very hard but failing not to stare directly at them. “Another two at the north and east gates, on the night and morning shifts as requested.”

“very well then. In an hour, make sure that you and Quimby need to take a break.”

The man understood. “We heard of what you did at the lake, it is an honour serving under you Prince Milos.”

“It is an honour serving you as well. Now let go of the name calling. Walls have ears and even bigger mouths.” the man grinned and then walked back to his post.

Milos then trotted through the gates and headed towards the shores. Three flames not two now burned along the western wall. In an hour the Arnayans will wonder why the Garians have retreated to their ships. In an hour Evan would have no walls and his men would be ready to invade.

Darrien his spymaster had done well selecting the right men to carry out his wishes.

Lord Baston had assumed that he was going to go to the Queen, but he knew that it would be stupid to enter her stronghold not knowing what magical traps she had set up. He avoided the camps and found a secluded spot along the cove and then dismounted. He dug in his pack for food while he allowed his horse to graze on clumps of grass close by.

The hour passed and he removed the obsidian pendant from around his neck. The earth energy blanketed him and he welcomed it into his being.

Building took time, but destruction took mere seconds. Loud wails went up from out of the city as tonnes of rock, metal and mortar suddenly flew outwards and scattered away into rubble. The lights of Evan now shone like beacons out to the sea. The north, followed by the south and then east walls fell in succession. A fault line ran under the city. The earth around him shook and more screams followed.

By now the Arnayans were terrified. By now they were confused. By now they knew he was here. By now they were fleeing from the big wave they thought would follow. That would be enough for now.

He slipped back on the obsidian gem which instantly dulled the magic within him. He mounted his horse and was on the way back to his men when his horse suddenly pulled to a stop. He nudged the beast forward but it wouldn’t move as it reared back on its hind legs.

“Whoa girl.” He said as he held onto the reins tightly to maintain his balance. He then turned the horse around. “What did you see out there?” he asked as he rubbed the animal along its neck. He looked behind him but saw nothing.

“He saw us,” said a voice coming from behind him. He felt a hand grip his shoulder tightly while he watched another cloud of darkness and shadow solidify in front of him. Whispers, he realised.

“The Queen will be pleased that we’ve found you Your Highness.” said the one in front. Her voice chimed like bells and song which made him instinctively want to move forward. “It is curious that we cannot scent your magic.”

“Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for you.” he said as he pulled out his sword and shoved it into the being’s chest. It let out a high pitched shriek and dissolved into a thick cloud.

“My mate!” The one behind him screamed and as he was about to plunge the sword into its torso, but the creature instead threw him from the horse, which then sped off leaving him.

The sword meant for the Whisper planted itself in his left outer thigh. He cursed loudly as he removed the blade embedded in muscle.

The Whisper then came to stand in front of him. “I have tasted your blood once and the scent of it pleases me. I will have it all when the Queen is through with you prince.” It said as it grabbed him. Milos felt himself dissolving along with the creature.

In one second he was on the beach, in another he found himself sitting in the back of a wagon. Looking in the faces of the king and queen of Arnay.

“What is the meaning of this? Moriah I told you that I don’t want to be anywhere near these wraiths.” said Arro-Bar.

“It is alright this time my love. He has brought us a gift.” she said looking down on him.

“One of my own men bleeding in my presence is hardly a gift.”

“This isn’t just any soldier, but Prince Milos himself.” she said pulling back her hood and leaned forward. “He looks even better in person. Your daughter did very well in choosing her husband.”

“Too bad she will be a widow so soon.” said the king raising his sword.

“Stop!” said Ana-Moriah holding him. “I have better use for him alive.”

“This boy just single-handed destroyed my capital!” bellowed the king.

“The capital isn’t important.” she said cutting him off.

“What do you mean that Evan isn’t important? It is the chief city and he destroyed it. He dies now.”

“Be reasonable...” she started to protest.

“No! I have enough of him and your scheming which is losing us this war. I am king and I have decided...”

“You were king and you are done deciding.” she said as she pulled the twined bracelet from around her wrist and then snapped it in two.

Arro-Bar’s sword clanged on the floor as his hand flew to his chest. “What have you done?” he said turning to his wife.

“It was such a bore having such a weak husband, but I have the feeling that you Milos will serve me much better.” She said without looking at him. Milos watched as a dark fluid seeped from the king’s mouth before he slumped forward and fell still beside him.

The Queen was indeed as powerful as he’d thought. Somehow she had bound her marriage band to the king’s life. Now she wanted him. “I have no intention of leaving my wife. Especially not for you.”

A smile curved on her lips. “Bigamy will hardly be an issue, considering that my step-daughter is already dead.”

Milos sat up. “That is impossible! I would have heard!” he would have felt it. He could feel himself shattering and was trying to reach through his bond to her but the pendant around his neck was preventing it. Then again he used his magic, so she was lying. It seems that Moriah was unaware of how their magic worked or was being intentionally cruel.

“No you wouldn’t have. I replaced her with an imposter who has for the last few days causing chaos in Turion.”

“You lie.” he said tears that had sprung forth from the initial shock of thinking that he had lost his wife surfaced.

“Interesting. It seems that you actually love her.” she shrugged. “He loved Allison as well, but I eventually broke him.” she said looking at the dead king. “Demos bring his body back to the palace, make it look accidental and have the blood of anyone that may dispute the same.”

The Whisper released Milos and then moved over to the king, fading out with the body.

“Your plan will fail. I will never marry you.”

“I agree, marriage is quite tiresome. But you will be bound to me as soon as we are in Nur.”

Milos shot up and went for her neck. “Sleep,” she said as backed away from him and then waved her hand in front of his face.

The lethargy came on immediately and he felt himself being pulled further into oblivion. He wondered how he could have failed so miserably. He now left the continent in the hands of a monster. Hope flared as remembered that his wife was not dead. Aliana was alive. She was alive, so there was hope. He then floated into unconsciousness.

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