Rising Vengeance

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Chapter 13: What to Do

Guinira thought back to that confrontation with Taren, over two months ago now. She had been taken to Alquendiro after that, and there she was now. Taren had planned it somehow, and planned it well. Even more than just capturing her, he had made known that the one thing that he would accept as a ransom was something only she could give. She thought to herself. ‘Xari might join Armanda with him, but would Marrdin yield Rista for my sake? No, he won’t.’ Only she could save herself. “It is not strictly what one might call saving, is it?” she said out loud to no one, though her guard looked at her curiously. She did not care if the woman or anyone else heard her ranting to the air or the stone walls or anything else in the bedroom prison that Taren had placed her in. Nor was she even really a prisoner. Taren was treating her well. Better than many people, especially other prisoners, she suspected at least. She was not confined to her rooms, though she was guarded ceaselessly by Drogodan Tai-Aren Coda, like the woman who stood a little to the left of the door. Not members of the Spear, she had managed to learn through observation. They did not bear the silver spear broach that Taren’s elite guard wore. They did not refuse to speak with her, but they avoided direct questions as to what was happening throughout Taren’s now larger empire. Another question that they avoided was where exactly she was. Only one ever answered her, though hers was more a riddle than anything else. “Look out of the window, and you will see.” Well, she had looked. She had stared until she could feel her eyeballs rolling backwards in her head. But, she could not spend all of her time staring, searching for she knew not what. Taren had had her present, though hidden, when both Gelida and Daliana had come to bow to him and join their respective countries with the Drog Empire. Taren had also told her that he controlled Ra-Diavere and the whole coast of the country. Ranny was wavering. She did not have the will to stand against him for much longer. She would bow to him soon. Guinira also gathered from Taren that he did not think that Ranny particularly wanted to oppose him. She just wanted to ensure a peaceful transition for her people, and maybe by her people. The Caladrim were proud, and if they felt like their Morschcoda was merely handing them over, things would not end well. Taren might have to send in the Brotherhood to maintain order, and that would certainly lose him the country. Taren had also, with the help of Galeth Tendornin and the Dragon Riders, established complete control over Meclarya. Daken still ruled the country in name, but Galeth had been hopeful that Daken would bow before the end of the third month. That was approaching quickly. And yet, despite everything she could think of, despite everything she was permitted to do, and perhaps because of all the meals Taren requested her presence at, Guinira kept returning to one thing in her mind. How had Taren known who she really was? Guinira was not an uncommon name. It was certainly not as rare a name as Taren. In Drogoda, then name Taren had been used only twice in recorded history. The Morschcoda who led Drogoda in El Bendro Dakoia had been a Taren, and now his descendant was one also. “Why did I keep my first name? I thought it was safe enough to hide behind. Taren must know now, but did he when he guessed?”

At that moment, Taren walked in. “I didn’t know when I guessed, but I no longer doubted that I was right.”

She was not surprised to see him. Nor was she surprised when the guard bowed and slipped out through the door that he had left open. “How long have you suspected that I am Xari’s daughter?”

“For far longer than you might imagine. I suspected you were hiding your true family name since I heard the one that you claim now.” When she indicated that this did not help her, he elaborated. “When your fame as a Flame Weaver started to spread outside of Armanda, about one hundred years ago. That is when I first guessed you were not who you said you were.”

“I don’t understand.”

He sat, indicating her to do the same. She remained standing. He spoke anyway. “Estaleth was an Armandan Great House before I was born. They owned most of the land in between the Miadonga River and the River Estal. They were the Morschcodal House of Armanda before Gundara ascended to power, but they died out shortly after I was born. What was left of their property was all but destroyed and left to rot after both rivers flooded about three hundred years ago. Nobody wanted the land, in case it flooded again, so it remained their land, though they were all dead. And now, your people believe that the land they owned is haunted. Only rebels, traitors, and sheep herders go there anymore.”

“How do you know any of this? We Armandans are not secretive, but we are hardly open about our past. Not to outsiders, and especially not to Drogs.”

An amused half smile pulled the right corner of Taren’s lip upwards. “I was the Drog Ambassador to Armanda before the Drog Civil War. So what is ancient history for you is only a lifetime ago for me. I was ambassador when the first Morschcoda of House Gundara sat on the Throne of Fire in Dishmo Kornara. I was close with Nemira Gundara, who would have been the second Gundaran Morschcoda. She died young, however. And so, in nine generations of Gundaran Morschcoda, only your mother has sat on the Throne of Fire for more than fifty years. That is how I knew you were not an Estaleth.”

“So you had me watched. You needed to know if I was the missing daughter heir to the Throne of Fire.”

“My arm is long, even in Armanda, and especially with those who remember I was once one of them, if not by birth. Spies were easy enough to place around you: servants, friends, fellow Flame Weavers ... lovers. I was actually impressed with your mental strength when we met, formally, for the first time. Your secrets were hard to pry from you. Even my mental probe of you the night before you ascended Eliish Del Anaria failed to reveal your true parentage.”

“But you still suspected me. And why were you considered one of us?”

“I did suspect you, yes.”


“I mentioned that I was close to Nemira Gundara. That is one way of saying it. Another way is to say that we fell in love, and we married. I suspected you because by law and marriage, I am your uncle. There are seven generations of Armandan Gundaras between us, but we are kin, you and I. I knew you were no Estaleth, that House had died out too long before you claimed the name, and since you ran away, no Armandan has named a daughter Guinira. And, though you may hate to hear this, you are the image of your mother when she was your age ... And of your grandmother, and your great-grandmother, and every other female member of House Gundara that I have ever known.” He settled back into his chair, crossing his right leg over his left knee and placing his hands behind his head. “I didn’t know, but I no longer had any doubt.”

Guinira crossed her arms and sat down in another of the room’s chairs. “Just how long is your arm?”

“I’ve been busy since winning the Drog Civil War. I engineered Galeth Tendornin’s rise to the position of Chief Rider. I ensured Daliana would be named the old Morschcoda’s heir so the line of Marcarry would continue. I found a way to ensure Atalin Danalath would be chosen as Lord of the Half-Elvin. With Erygan’s help, I forced seven generations of Gundaras to retire the Throne of Fire within three hundred years of the first sitting by the oldest of your line. And I came to certain arrangements with El Darnen, so that I, as the only means to control the Serpent, would quickly gain power among Morschcoda who were several hundred years my seniors.” He paused, and then added “I also took up drinking, becoming one of the largest single clients of the Brewer’s Guild, and used them and other merchants to place spies throughout the various Guilds across Anaria. That is how long my arm is.”

“Why do you tell me all of this?”

“I don’t lie. I only interpret, or allow others to interpret as they will. You asked for the truth, and so I gave it.”

Guinira was skeptical of the frank answer. It matched what she knew of him, though, so she knew it was the truth. But now she was wondering something else. “To what do I owe the pleasure of this conversation, Uncle?” She used the term uncle as sarcastically and full of contempt as she could manage, and far more than she believed was safe, but she felt that she had a right to be angry with him. Taren obviously agreed, for he lowered his head, as though he accepted the derision as his due.

“I have invited Xari to Alquendiro. She doesn’t know you’re here. I’m planning to make a treaty with her. She enters the Drog Empire of her own free will, and she regains everything that she has lost since you became Queen.”

“What has she lost?”

“Her country, her power, and her credibility, to name a few things in an ever-lengthening list.”

“And how are you going to win her loyalty? If I might ask.”

“You may ask, and I will answer; by presenting you as her runaway daughter. She will believe me, as I have proof that I have not shared with you. That will break any hold you have on her.”

“And what happens when I tell her all of the things you have told me. You forced seven generations of Gundaran Morschcoda off of the Fire Throne. How you engineered El Darnen. How you placed Daliana on the Throne of Leaves, or made Galeth Tendornin Chief Rider of the Dragon Riders. What happens then, he who would be king of the world?”

“You haven’t considered the fact that it is entirely possible that most of the other Morschcoda already know or suspect much of what I just told you. That includes your mother. Detailed parts of the story are known to some of the Morschcoda, pieces to all of them, and the full story only to the one man who helped me to accomplish it.” With that, he turned and left the room.

All that night and the next day, Guinira considered how, if possible, she could escape before her mother arrived and saw her, the one-time Queen of Anaria. It was a daunting prospect. She was guarded ceaselessly by three Tai-Aren Coda, one of whom was inside of the room with her at all times. Without a weapon, there was no way she could even get out of her room, and she was deep within the palace, in the heart of Alquendiro, in the center of Taren’s power. Even if she could escape, only two of the countries that she had once ruled still remained to her. Rista was far to the north, and Armanda was near to the south. If she escaped, Taren would expect her to go south, to her own people. Yet, she could not enter her lands alone and claim that her guards had been killed by Taren’s soldiers; her armies had been given free passage across the Drog Empire. If she went north, to Rista, she could claim that her guards had been slain, but to escape Taren, she would have to enter into Erygan’s lands, and she suspected that she was as great a prize to him as she was to Taren. But to go north, she would have to cross Drogoda’s entire length. She was not confident she could run fast enough for long enough to outrun a Mordak. Rare was the Morschledu who could win a race against one of those majestic creatures, even with a healthy head start. She did not doubt that such a feat was beyond Marrdin Redernin himself, even with the head start of the Mordak running to Armanda before coming north, which would give him several hundred leagues. Continuing to search for a way, she looked out the window. As she started to turn away, something caught her eye. The fountain she had seen earlier was no longer there. She had to work hard to not to scream with sudden understanding. ‘The Mirror of the Deeps is being used to distort whatever I see so that I think I am where I am not.’ It was a good thing she had not said that out loud. Other things began to come back to her, things that she now understood. Slight movements she had observed Taren making, things she had never see him do before. He was probably an illusion too. Or more likely a person wrapped in the Mirror of the Deeps. She also now understood why her Tai-Aren Coda guards had always avoided direct questions about where she was. The oaths they took prevented them from lying, so the only one she had asked had always said look out the window and you will see. Well, now she saw. Taren and Taren alone could sustain an illusion of that size for that long. The concentration required was probably murdering him as she sat there. “He must be tiring” she mouthed out of the window. She had no reason to fear. Not even one of the Eagle Eyed could read her lips, not with her this high up, or more likely, looking at a blank wall just far enough away that if she reached out, she would not be able to touch it. She turned around, facing the door. Obviously the one guard had wanted her to find this. She had been able to tell Guinira that the answer could be found out of the window, so she had obviously believed Guinira could find it. It had taken a while, but it had been done. With that in mind, Guinira settled down to wait for the changing of the guard, and smiled.

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