Chapter 17: The King's Decree
Kladspir walked down the hallway, holding the end of the mystical thread that was connected to Flagprim’s magically shackled hands. He could not wait to see the king and to put this elf in his rightful place: down in the dungeon!
The elf was walking a little too slow for his taste, so he tugged on the thread, causing Flagprim to stumble forward in order to keep up.
Kladspir came to a stop in front of the wall at the end of the main corridor. “Time to pay your dues.”
Flagprim was doing his best to please Kladspir, but his patience was running thin when Kladspir purposely made him stumble. This magical shackle would work on any normal elf. But Flagprim was no normal elf!
He could easily transform into a polar bear and just the increase in size alone would break these pointless shackles. Which he would do, if worse came to worst. For now, however, he remained peaceable. He was quite sure the king would try and get into his mind. Until Kladspir had relinquished the information on the boat, Flagprim had not known that the king possessed magical abilities. It did explain how he was able to come to power though.
As Kladspir led him to the wall, steps away from a portal that would take him to the king’s hall, Flagprim thought about Doldran’s rise to power.
Just ten years ago, Cradof had been ruled by a queen named Emiralda. She was a strict but caring queen, always doing the best for her people. A year later, she supposedly died in her sleep. This had been a huge upset, as she was young and had no descendants or brothers, so there was no one to take her place as ruler.
Then, two cousins of hers were discovered in a family will, and they were brought to Cradof for the people to choose whom they wanted. One was a woman, named Saesera, and the other was a man by name of Doldran.
Saesera was the popular one from the start, so when election day came, it was a shock that Doldran won. ‘But now it makes sense,’ thought Flagprim, ‘Because the king could have magically influenced people.’
The wall before him blinked away and a semi-clear veil appeared, revealing a grand hall beyond.
“Time to pay your dues,” said Kladspir with a sneer.
They entered into the Great Hall, standing atop a polished-diamond floor. Though the floor below was distorted, you could see through the rock, and there was a spell enchanting the diamond that prevented from seeing through if you looked up from the floor below. It would appear, instead, that the ceiling was marble.
The walls and roof were made of obsidian, the same color and rock that the trees creating the portal in the Realm of Doom had been.
The hall was a short rectangle, about sixty feet long and forty feet wide. Two obsidian fixtures were on the two walls on either side, black candles sitting erectly in the holders, violet flames perfectly still and unwavering as they cast an otherworldly glow in the hall. A grand, obsidian chandelier hung from the ceiling with identical black candles glowing dimly.
The floor was empty; no other people were in the room and nothing was placed upon the diamond. No wind blew and nothing stirred the air. It was like the inside of a darkly exquisite tomb.
When Kladspir spoke, his voice echoed hollowly back at him, “Through those doors,” he gestured to the floor-to-ceiling, wide double-doors placed in the wall, “your fate shall be decided. Do you have any last words?” He sneered evilly at the complacent elf.
Flagprim seemed to go deep in thought, then responded, “I only wish I were younger.”
“What?” Kladspir asked, bewildered.
“Though,” Flagprim continued, speaking to himself, “they do say you get better with age. I guess I’ll just see and find out.”
“Wha-” Kladspir began, but was cut off when Flagprim jumped forward onto his hands, past the staring man, and used his momentum to spin on his palms and slam his extended leg into the side of Kladspir’s head. Then the elf dropped his legs and came to a calm stand.
Kladspir collapsed limply to the diamond floor, causing a slightly metallic thud that reverberated in the enclosure.
Flagprim started to turn to head back out the way they had come (not noticing that the portal they had used was gone) when a deafening crash, followed by a great gust of wind knocked him forward the last ten feet into the wall he had intended to walk to. The wind continued to rush into the room, and Flagprim looked to see that the double doors had burst open, an inky black room hidden in darkness beyond. The candles remained lit and unmoving, resolutely violet amidst the rush of air.
A great, ominous voice boomed from the unseen depths, violent and commanding, “ENOUGH! I WILL HAVE NO MORE OF THIS NONSENSE! ENTER THIS ROOM OR YOU WON’T LIVE TO SEE THE SUN AGAIN!”
The voice and wind ceased, and Kladspir’s prone form disappeared in a crack of violet-red lightning.
Flagprim slowly got up, now unsure if he was ready to face his doom. The unlit room lingered portentously, silently, as if waiting to spring and attack at any moment. The elf squared his shoulders, blond hair falling straight down his back, and walked with faked confidence through the gaping maw and into oblivion.
He could see absolutely nothing, and a sense of vulnerability came over him as he realized whoever-whatever-was in here could see him.
With a flash that startled him, the room lit up as the black nothing that had been surrounding him melted away to reveal the land of Zersevbein spread out below him. A great wave of vertigo came over Flagprim as he stared down at the ground so many miles below. It was as if they were in a little glass box suspended high above the castle of Cradof, for he could see its dusty gray smudge below him.
‘But, how is that possible?’ he thought to himself. ‘The room before this looked down on the floor below, and yet this…chamber…is many miles above the castle!’ He could even see the tiny lumps of the Mountains of Death through a misty haze in the distance.
Before he had time to work this out, the king’s voice boomed at him, “APPROACH!”
Flagprim now noticed the only fixture in this room: a sharply angled and linear obsidian throne, a dark form shrouded in billowing violet-black vapors sitting on it.
The suspended - or was it just merely seated atop an invisible floor? - throne glinted brightly in the morning sun as Flagprim walked towards it.
“STOP!” the black cloud that was King Doldran commanded, halting Flagprim within ten feet of the throne.
Kladspir was nowhere to be seen.
“YOU KNOW WHY YOU ARE HERE, ELF,” the king spat.
Flagprim remained silent.
Doldran continued, “THANKS TO MY PAWN, I KNOW YOU ARE A SERVANT OF YOUR QUEEN SENT TO CORRUPT MY SIRE. I ALSO KNOW I CANNOT LET YOU GO RUNNING BACK TO YOUR QUEEN TO BABBLE ABOUT ME. I DO NOT HAVE THE SPARE TIME TO KILL ALL OF THE ELVEN ARMY WHEN YOU COME MARCHING AT MY WALLS. THEREFORE, IT SUITS ME TO KILL YOU MYSELF AND SPARE SOME TIME UNTIL THEY COME LOOKING FOR YOU.
“DO YOU HAVE ANY LAST WORDS?”
The cloud seemed to glare at him as Flagprim answered, “You’re not going to win. I hope you know that. It’s written in the-”
He was cut off as the floor below him fell away and he was hurtled towards the far away ground.
Draden awoke at the same time the sun began to rise. Already, his heart was beating faster in the excitement he anticipated. This royal treatment they were receiving was delightfully deceiving, and it was hard to remember their original reason for coming.
‘It would be so easy to just give in to all of this. To forget the hardships of the past months and just live in this perfect environment. Would it really be so wrong to relax and live in peace? …Even if it would mean countless people would suffer for my selfish pleasure. I could never do that.’
He got up from his bed of clothes and picked them up, unsure of where to put them.
Before he could decide, the same gray-cloaked man from before entered with another tray of food and, eyeing the garments, took them from Draden and exited the room.
Loran still lay asleep in bed, and he didn’t want to eat without her, so instead he grabbed the blue shirt and black pants he had examined earlier and walked into the bathroom, drawing the crimson cloth across the doorway.
He placed the clothes on a cream-colored marble stand next to the shower, then stripped out of his night robe and stepped into the shower, closing the crystal door behind him with a click. He turned the left knob and water sprayed out, splashing onto his face and trickling down his skin. He rotated the right knob a little when the liquid grew too hot.
There was a puffy looking ball on a shelf in the shower, next to it a glass bottle with a clear magenta liquid inside it. He grabbed the pouf and then the bottle, tilting it so some of the fluid dribbled onto the curly strands of white in his hand. It had a calming, sultry smell, and he kneaded it with his hands, creating a foamy pink lather. He rubbed the pouf across his skin, washing away the buildup of grime he had accumulated during the journey. As the dirt was washed off, soft, smooth skin was left behind; it felt as if his body had molted.
There were two more bottles on the shelf, one with golden liquid, and the other with creamy yellow contents. He recognized these as shampoo and conditioner, so he grabbed the first and poured some into his hand. A calming aroma tantalized his senses as he washed his matted hair, softening it with similar-smelling conditioner afterward.
He stepped out of the shower feeling like a new person and dried off with a fluffy indigo towel that enveloped him in its generously soft billows.
The glass on the mirror was fogged up with steam from his shower, so he rubbed it with his hand to reveal a greatly matured face since the last time he had seen it. The travels had hardened his features and made his features more of a man’s.
He hadn’t shaved in a couple days, so his face was coated in a thin layer of light stubble. A knife lay on the edge of the basin, so he wet his face with water and used the blade to scrape off the hair.
Now, he looked fresh and dignified. His hair lay in a natural position on his head that was neat and looked quite good, if he did say so himself.
He picked up the clothes from the marble stand. They were a soft cloth; not as soft as silk, but they were more rational for everyday wear. He slipped into them, then exited from the bathroom to find Loran sitting up in bed, arms stretched above her head as she yawned.
“Isn’t this wonderful?” she exclaimed as she rubbed the sheets around her.
He smiled. “Yes, it is. But we can’t forget what we came here for, and that-”
“-The king is evil? Yes, I know.” Her face turned flat. “But isn’t this wonderful?” She started laughing, and he joined in.
“Well, let’s eat; I’m starving! …Even after that huge feast last night. And wait ’til you take a shower, there’s-”
He was cut off when she got out of bed and stepped over to him, where she wrapped her arms around him and planted her lips on his.
He was so shocked he let his arms hang limply at his side. Before he could do anything, it was over, and Loran was walking to the shower.
“You go ahead and eat. I’ll get cleaned up.”
She walked in and closed the curtain behind her. A few moments later, when she came out to grab clothes she had forgotten, he was still standing in the same spot, a dreamy look on his face.
The breakfast was perfect, leaving him feeling content and energized. Knowing that Kladspir would come for them sometime that day, he retrieved the diary from the cabinet, deciding to share his discovery with Loran.
She was sitting at the edge of the bed, legs crossed, so he sat down next to her and opened the book in his lap.
“What’s that?” Loran questioned, hands clasped between her thighs.
“I found it yesterday,” he answered. “I think it might be important. And if not, it’s still interesting.” He explained to her the brief first entry, then turned the page to reveal a hastily drawn second passage. They read:
’Before I tell you our current situation, I must explain to you the events that have brought us here.
Josha is a powerful magic-user, and to practice such abilities in my town is, to say the least, frowned upon. And, well, one thing led to another, and soon people found out about his power. I was with him that night they came.
I very much believe he was going to ask for my hand in marriage, but it was cut short by shouts from outside. Those barbaric people were throwing torches on the roof! That’s when I was whisked away on this adventure, seeking refuge in the city of Cradof. I am beginning to regret coming, and wonder if I could somehow twist my words and be accepted back in Dasteir. If only….
But, I fear this will never happen, for this morning as we awoke, we saw smoke in the distance, not too far away. They are pursuing us, and if I continue to run with him, I throw away all chance of redemption.
However… I do trust Josha, and for now, I will remain faithfully by his side. I am just afraid that our time in this world is coming to an end. How far is Cradof? I do not think we shall ever see it.′
Draden closed the journal, brought out of the world it had created. Loran’s hand was over her mouth.
“How tragic!” she exclaimed in dismay. “Come on, let’s read the next entry!”
Before they could continue, however, a knock came at the door and the gray-cloaked man entered.
He bowed toward the ground, announcing regally, “Kladspir is here to see you.”