A Harvest of Broken Stars

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Chapter 49: Stunning

Ada needed no directions to find her way towards the top of the ancient castle. The power pulsating from above made it as clearly visible as any lighthouse. On her way there, she had passed dozens of servants and a handful of perfumed men and women wearing silk and jewellery. She spotted a couple of guards as well, but nobody made any attempt at stopping her.

Before she reached the double doors, the ringing clang of steel against steel, and the grunting and screams of fighting men, greeted her.

I’m too late.

Ada turned the corner and entered the room. She stopped briefly to take in the scene. The throne room was stunning. Daylight entering through the huge windows behind the elevated throne reflected on the marble surfaces and golden statues. Multiple curtains created contrasting shadows, and the smell of lavender and incense hung heavy in the air.

The breathtaking scene was, however, marred by the sounds and images of a melee.

Among the combatants were two familiar figures, her companions from the fight against the undead in the graveyard the night they entered the city. To her left, Hobble was using his staff to keep two guards at bay and avoid getting skewered on their long halberds. Next to the throne, his silhouette dramatically outlined against the windows behind him, Gilmir was holding curved swords, eyeing his opponent at the bottom of the stairs. A handful of guards lay dead or severely wounded on the floor.

A broad-shouldered man in a red cloak sauntered towards the elf, a long sword in hand. His posture and deliberate movements radiated confidence, even superiority, as he approached his foe.

In the chaos, Ada’s attention was drawn to the robed man picking up a starglass from a display case on the plateau between the two flights of stairs. The familiar hum filled the room, revealing to Ada the immediate presence of other shards. The man bent to his knees next to a prone guard. With the trained hands of an expert healer, he quickly examined the guard’s wounds, breathing and pulse. Beats later, he nodded and started speaking in a low voice. The ceremonial litany of a cleric, Ada assumed.

Kneeling, the cleric reached inside his robe and produced a knife. Without hesitation, he pushed the blade down on the left side of the guard’s neck, in the soft area just above the collarbone. Still uttering his recital, he twisted the knife a few times, before he pulled it out and put it on the floor in front of him, next to the shard.

Ada watched, unable to comprehend what the cleric was trying to achieve. The answer struck her like the blow from a hammer when the robed man picked up the shard and inserted it fully into the wound he had made with his knife.

‘No!’ Ada screamed and ran towards the cleric and the prone guard.

Alerted by her scream, the cleric turned to look at her. As his gaze met her, thunder erupted inside Ada’s mind. There was no sound, but waves of thunder, nonetheless. Unable to focus or coordinate the most basic of movements, she lost control of her feet mid-stride and fell face first on the marble floor.

Stunned, she could only watch as the dead guard rose and picked up his halberd.

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