‘If man cannot control himself he is no longer man but instead, beast’
The Book of Truths; Mant Harkin; 1560cy
“Let not a single one of the treacherous slime live,” cried out a captain of the Black Swords.
“Except for good King Arnos,” ordered Prince Moric. A man of forty, his eyes had seen many battles and had tempted fate many a time. At this predawn hour they swept across the torch lit battlefield. Amidst the fighting he spotted his mute son Loric astride a great war horse, his sword making great arcs through the dark mass.
A sudden barrage of fireballs from the besieged castle brought the entire campaign back into focus. Several of the flaming missiles landed in the center of the warring troops while others overshot the battle, Prince Moric and his camp to set the forest behind it ablaze.
“By Balis’ flaming hair,” Moric cried astonished, “those bastards have a sorcerer in their service.”
“This is not against morality, my lord,” commented a knight assigned to guard him.
“No, but is it surprising. That senile old King Arnos always hated wizards.”
“Perhaps he has become desperate, my lord.”
“Perhaps. No matter what though, I must lead my armies and show Arnos that his sorcerers do not rattle us.” He pulled on his chain mail hood and slipped his great helmet down.
With the image of a crouching lion atop his silver helmet and a sword in hand, Moric waded his horse through his sullen troops. As he passed the soldiers knelt in deference. Behind him the men rose and followed enmasse, banging sword on shield and causing his ears to ring after a few seconds.
When he reached the front of his army he turned to address them. Raising his arms he signaled for silence. “Protectors of Calthay, tonight we stand on the verge of defeating the forces of King Arnos. For too long have they raided our shops, killed our ambassadors and burned our flags. We have taken the war to them and they are losing. In a reckless act of desperation they now send a sorcerer to defend them. They insult us with this move. They think that we will cower under the power of this charlatan. Do they not realize that we also have wizards. Tonight we will march upon the castle and take it, if they send their sorcerer against us they will feel the fire of our power, if they send their army to fight us we will ride over them. Tonight they are ours.” He swept his sword over his head and then pointed it at his men.
The men clanged swords on shields and screamed out a war cry that filled the night.
The huge wooden doors that blocked the entrance to Castle Pers splintered after two blows from the steel-headed battering ram. As the doors imploded and Calthanian Black Swords rushed in, a rain of arrows and quarrels fell striking many. The ram itself was brought behind the walls and rolled towards the onrushing Persian troops.
Prince Moric galloped in with his silent son, Loric, behind him. Around them the forces ran and rode with swords, axes and lances waving. Moric glanced behind him at Loric and pointed towards the main hall. “Arnos will be cowering in there.”
Together, Father and Son rode proudly towards the white marble steps that were now stained with the red blood of both Persians and Calthanians. The huge oak doors were wide open and inside Calthanian warriors stood nonchalantly, most with their helmets off and their hair matted down with sweat and blood.
“Your Majesties, King Arnos has barricaded himself in the Throne Room with his wizard,” reported an officer.
Moric acknowledged the report and then lifted his face plate. He looked over at Loric who was removing his helm. “Tonight you shall use your powers to show them a royal heir.”
Loric smiled at his father. A younger version of Moric, the mute heir had shoulder length blond hair that framed a face with princely features. His chin and nose were not pointed now were they too rounded. His eyes carried the royal trait of changing color with his moods. Behind his handsome face, though, no sound came. Mute from birth, Loric was able to talk only when he wore the crown he was now placing upon his head.
“They shall fall before our might,” he spoke confidently, his voice crisp.
“That they shall, my son,” laughed Moric.
They dismounted and armed themselves with broadswords. Walking briskly, father and son found the doors to the throne room blocked from within. Two Black Swords stood outside, their ebony blades drawn and ready. When they recognized the king and his son they brought their swords over to rest on their left breasts. The royal pair returned the salute.
“Not a sound from within,” said one of the Black Swords.
Moric nodded and looked at Loric. “My son,” he said softly.
Loric knelt and began chanting. He knew the two Black Swords were looking at him in fear for the magic he was using but he pushed the thoughts out of his mind.
After several minutes, he rose and, taking his Father’s hand, walked towards the double doors. At their approach, the thick oak doors became ethereal. They walked through the incorporeal barriers and into the impressive throne room of King Arnos.
The curved roof of the room was more than thirty feet high with three rows of three chandeliers. The far wall beneath the roof and above the three arches was a huge stained glass window. Beneath the two end arches hung tapestries depicting a war on one, a maiden picnic on the other. Under the center arch was a dais on which sat a golden throne.
“Welcome Prince Moric and heir apparent Loric,” said the figure lounging in the throne. One leg was hanging over the left side and the man was balancing a goblet on his knee. He was fair skinned with short, over the ears black hair. Under his left eye was tattooed the image of a snake. His dark eyes danced with amusement as he absently twisted one end of his beaded mustache.
“Thi’m Landtov,” Moric said emotionlessly.
“I’m pleased to see that you remember. I do, of course, recognize your son, Loric. Does he still suffer from that weakness?”
“If you’re referring to my muteness, then the answer is yes. But, it is not a weakness,” answered Loric.
“Yes, yes forgive me. I can see that it has made you an angry young man.”
Loric felt heat rising and knew that his blue eyes were turning a fiery crimson. Taking a deep breath, he brought his emotions under control. When he opened his eyes he saw that Thi’m had risen out of the throne.
“Arnos is dead and I am now King of Pers.”
Moric took a step forward and made sure that Thi’m saw the Calthay emblem of a white triangle over an upside down black triangle. “Then you are the sorcerer who threw fireballs at us?” Thi’m smiled proudly. “Your aim was off.”
“Well, may Ballis have pity on me, I did use the fire in war.”
“A war that is about over.”
Thi’m smiled humorously. “Yes, I believe it is.”
From behind the throne, King Arnos appeared quite alive and with javelin In hand. “Thorm, guide my aim!” he cried and hurled the weapon at Moric.
The point entered Moric’s breastplate dead center. At it broke through metal, it gave of an acidic smell of sorcery. Moric’s eyes widened in pain and terror. He screamed in anguish and crumpled to the floor. He turned to look up at Loric and started to speak. His lips moved but like his son, no sound came out.
Loric grabbed his Father’s hand and felt the last of life flow out. Every nerve screamed in pain and his mind in anguish. A sudden flush of memories of a proud father teaching him the things of war, science, sorcery and philosophy, his love of his late wife, his weeks of sullen sadness and anger after her death. The flood cause a break in his wall and tears welled up in his eyes, he sobbed uncontrollably.
As he let the hand go, every nerve resisted the truth. Blinking back his tears, he looked up at the heavens and let cry a lifetime of loss and losing. It was a cry called up from the depths of his soul and a cry for the past and a cry for the future.