Dragonbound: Torn--Book 3

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Burning Cities

Lord Wilfred Aslin sat in his often-used study with fresh tea on the table and a sword across his lap. His finger lightly tapped the blade of his sword. The city was in disarray, panic and blood filled the streets. There wasn’t much for the Lord to do but watch his captive and listen to the cries of battle.

The man was tall with wide shoulders, though thin from lack of built muscle. That struck Aslin as odd, seeing as how the soldier was supposed to be a captain. He wore a uniform nearly identical to that of the King’s men, though the emblem on his tunic was tilted to a slight degree and the point of the griffin’s wing was too sharp and pointed in the wrong direction.

The “captain” sat in a chair in the corner where Arvin, the servant, stood. He was a round man with cat-like eyes that seemed to notice everything behind his round cheeks. At times, Aslin was jealous of the man, seeing as how he was blessed a gift of magic. Although not as strong as some, it was magic nonetheless.

The captain’s eyes glared through his hair which was stuck to his forehead where his helm once was. Aslin simply sipped his tea. The sounds of metal on metal screeched in the distant streets.

Gently, Aslin sat his cup down and it clinked on the saucer. Licking his lips, he twisted the ends of his mustache to regain their curled shape. The soldier flexed his empty hands, seeming a bit more scared once he remembered he was unarmed.

“You aren’t from here, are you?” Aslin hummed as he leaned back in his seat. The dim light of the lantern was useless compared to the fires that burned in the houses across the street. His mustache sent a strange shadow across his face as he watched the soldier. “You come into my home in an attempt to take my life. Your soldiers fight like foreigners and your uniforms are...incorrect. Tell me: Who are you?”

His eyes narrowed as he looked aside. “We fight for King Davin Holloway,” he said. “The country must be destroyed to rebuild a kingdom fit for him.” His words seemed rehearsed. “He will be back, and when he returns, the throne will await him. King Holloway was betrayed, and we are to make this his home again.”

Arvin rested a firm hand on the soldier’s armored shoulder. He visibly tensed and his breathing grew labored. A look of fear bled across his face as Arvin’s expression grew taught and focused.

He closed his eyes as he searched the soldier’s mind, sifting through thoughts and memories. Opening his eyes once again, he said, “He is not from here, but I could not gain access to any details.”

“Blast it,” Aslin scowled. He instantly thrust himself to his feet, the table shaking at his sudden movement. The light glinted across his hand-and-a-half sword as he walked around the table. The people in the city were dying, they were being murdered by impostors. They were obviously not working for Davin Holloway. And the fact that he knew how to shield his mind from a mental, magic attack? That was a clear indication that he could have been from one of the Trindals.

“Let us think, shall we?” Aslin said with a terrible growl. “Who would want us to start a civil war? Hm...?”

He slammed the blade into the wooden floor beside the soldier’s foot. He cringed, but kept his mouth shut. “You are weak, skinny; you are not a trained soldier. You are not even from Rishana!”

Aslin pulled out a blade as if from nowhere and sliced off the straps of the man’s armor. As it fell away, he cut the man’s shirt over his left shoulder to reveal a brand. It had healed wrong, but if it was taken better care of, it would have been a more obvious snake. An angry snake with an open mouth and pointed fangs.

Aslin let out a large, full laugh as he threw the man to the floor. “One of VinCar’s? Ha! A fool you are! She’ll toss you to the dirt the moment you become useless to her!”

“To die for the Queen is to die for honor!” the man roared as he moved to his feet. He stood several inches over the stout Aslin. “You shall learn,” he growled menacingly. His eyes locked with the Lord’s and they were in a battle of thought. He stabbed mentally at Aslin who simply began to laugh.

“You believe I haven’t learned to protect myself?” he boomed in laughter.

“H-how?” the soldier’s voice quivered.

Aslin had spent decades studying the art of magic. It wasn’t just being able to do extraordinary things through miraculous means. It had everything to do with the mind. The capacity a mind could hold was incredible and what one could do with a perfected mind was amazing. Though he had no magic in his body, he was still equipt with a powerful mind.

Aslin held his own with memories wrapped in memories. The moment the soldier was able to scratch through the first layer, he’d only find a second, different memory. Layer after layer, he stretched through endless lessons, pages of scribbles, the eyes of his late wife, the laughter of the children throughout the town. Even some layers consisted of nothing but complete and raw emotion--such emotion that it was like a gust of wind tearing at the soldier’s consciousness.

As the soldier struggled, Aslin grinned and then grew silent. Focusing all of his might onto the intruder’s mind, he exploded the opponent’s train of thought. The man’s consciousness blew into grand proportions. His thoughts whipped wildly about from the spinal cord of his brain like several snakes with their heads smashed in place.

As The soldier’s thoughts shot away from him into the mysteries of the unknown, the man fell to his knees. With a vacant stare and his mouth agape, he sat on his feet, his shoulders hunched. He was broken. All of his will, his emotion, his thoughts, his imagination, his intelligence: Gone.

He was a breathing carcass.

Even something as primitive as eating to keep him alive was gone.

Rolling his shoulders, Aslin yanked his sword from the wooden floor and sheathed it. His eyes moved to Arvin who watched in never-ending awe. He had only seen Aslin slay one other man in such a way, and it seemed it would always strike fear into him.

“Well,” Aslin said, “Hurry up, Arvin. We have plenty to do.” The heavyset man scrambled from around the chair and the vegetable of a man and lifted the bags which were packed and ready for transport.

“I feel,” Aslin began as he walked by the table, lifting his cup of tea once more, “that Walter should know of this right away.”

“Of course, Lord Aslin.”

“We should go straight to the City. Do not tarry, Arvin. All of Rishana depends on this--to hell with it! All of the world depends upon this discovery! Sterjia has a vendetta and is aiming for another Mage War.”

“Oh, no,” Arvin paused, looking to his Lord. “Do not say such a thing--”

“Ha! Say it? I’ve already done us the doom of thinking it,” Aslin roared. “Hurry, man! We cannot delay any longer.”

Soon, they were out the door with only a pack on each of their backs. Three of the captain’s soldiers were killed by Aslin before they could enter his home, their bodies still littering the porch.

Their horses still stood in the yard, their ears flat to their heads. Rounding them up, Aslin tied the third horse’s reigns to the one he sat upon. He kicked his heals into the horse and headed across town, dodging small battles. He had to reach Harlinna’s restaurant. If he allowed Natali to be harmed, it was very likely that Petre would blame him.

Reaching the building, he was happy to see it still stood without flame. As the horse slowed, he leapt off of it before it came to a full stop.

“Keep here!” Aslin ordered as he raced to the door. He moved to open it, slamming his shoulder into it only to find it was barricaded shut. He laughed with acceptance, then kicked it in.

The plump woman, Harlinna, stood nearby with a pot of boiling water, rags over her hands for protection. She nearly splashed Aslin, then gasped as she saw who it was. Aslin laughed again, saying, “Smart thought, Harlinna! You and your daughter are safe, I take it?”

“Safe?” she roared, slamming the pot on the table beside her. She huffed as she pulled thin strands of hair from her sweating face. “Safe! Ha! I laugh at the idea, for it is impossible to be safe so long as I live in this forsaken kingdom!”

“I shall take that as a yes,” he muttered. “Get your daughter, woman, I am to get you out of here.”

“I’ll not leave my life’s work,” she spat, lowering her chin toward her plump bosom. “I have worked, bled, and--”

“Yes, very good, Harlinna,” he grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her for the door, “But I think your life’s work’ll mean nothing if you’re dead.” She gasped as she shot him a glare. He thrust her toward the horses and said, “I’ll have your daughter pack what you might need. Arvin will protect you.”

She hesitantly moved to the horses, darting her gaze to Arvin as he sat upon his steed. He dipped his head. “M’Lady,” he said with a relaxed tone.

Aslin reached the stairs and called up them. “Natali! It is Lord Aslin, come with me. I have your mother--”

“A threat, Sir?” she roared as she stood atop the highest step, her fists on her broad hips. Her hair was like a waterfall of blonde waves, framing her round, reddened face. She glared at him in both shock and pure anger.

“What?” He shook his head, “No.” Then he laughed at the absurd thought. “I’d not take your mother, she is mad enough as it is. I say she’d do me in before I got her more than an inch from the front door!”

“Then what are you saying, Lord Aslin?”

“Pack your things and what your mother may need. We’re going to leave. I am to bring you and your mother to safety,” he said. She hesitated, her hands slowly moving from her hips. “Now, girl! Before we’re all roasted to perfection! The fires are inching closer with each wasted second.”

“Oh, fine,” she huffed in exasperation. Anxiety began to peak through her bright eyes as she rushed away.

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