The Obsidean Blade

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Chapter 4

Chapter 4

The boat continued on to the capitol. The trip was completely uneventful.It tied up each night at the piers it had used for years.Loftus did not disembark at either place.On the third day it reached the capitol.

The Prince did not go immediately to the palace since Avock and Grail needed a place to deposit their weapons, he sought out a room for them first. It took some time since the city was filling up fast.They did eventually find a place at the Brass Ram away from the more desirable parts of town, near one of the gates in the wall.Since it was late by the time they found the room, Cirroc decided to spend the night there.

In the morning he went to the palace. Avock and Grail went with him.Their weapons were left back at the room.Only the Prince, as a member of the royal family was allowed to wear a blade, and that was limited to a small dagger

The guard at the gate of the castle recognized him and passed him through. As he entered the grounds, Cirroc found himself remembering.He had grown up here.This was where he and his brothers played their war games, and where they trained their horses.It was also where the guard drilled and where sentences were carried out.His worst memory of this place was of having to train his horse under a gallows with a body on it that had been that had left to rot.The stench was almost unbearable and no one missed it when it finally fell apart and could be removed.His best memory was when he had finally bested his arms instructor and the man proclaimed that he had graduated and needed no further instruction.That had been more than a year before hit father passed away.What Grail and Avock’s memories of this place were they kept to themselves.

He continued across the dusty courtyard. In all his reminiscing, he had heard his name called from one end of the yard to the other, and knew that the gate would be open.He passed into the inner court where the memories of his mother were the strongest.She liked to walk in these galleried gardens on sunny days whenever she could.Cirroc thought that he

could just see the image of her in the shade. Then it moved into the light and he realized that there was really someone there.The person smiled and waved at him, but did not speak.It would be improper to do that until he had presented himself to the king as the head of the family as well as the government.He was a bit resentful of his brother having someone here at court that looked so much like his mother until, just as he reached the door to the main hall, he realized that it had to be his little sister, Edain.She had grown so much in the year since he’d seen her last, that he did not recognize her.The same was not true for the porter who opened the door for him.

“Kier,” he greeted the elderly man. “How good it is to see you again.”

“And you too, sir,” Kier responded. “Your brother is having a small court for those who have come early.He thought that he would deal with the family members there and have done with that sooner rather than later.

“Very well,” the Prince acquiesced, “lead the way.”

“Before I do that, I must ask your guard if they have surrendered their weapons.” Avock and Grail said nothing.They merely lifted their cloaks to show their empty scabbards.Seeing that, Kier turned and led the group across the main hall to an anteroom.

Young Lord Bran, the chief herald was there. “Prince Cirroc,” he greeted his friend, “It’s good to see you again.The King is busy right now with your brother Conyer.If you would take a seat, he should only be a moment.”

“Hello Bran,” Cirroc returned the greeting. “No I don’t mind a bit.How have you been doing?Has your father found you a wife yet?”

“I think so,” Bran responded, “although all the arrangements have not been finalized yet.” That was all he had the chance to get out before a commotion in the other room told him that the king was finished with this brother and ready for the next one.

“He’s finished now,” Lord Bran reported, responding to the change in the noise level. Bran stepped immediately into the other room and announced, “His highness Prince Cirroc.”

Cirroc followed him in and approached his brother, King Conleach One look and anyone would know that they were related. Cirroc was a smaller somewhat lighter version of his brother.The king’s hair showed some traces of gray.It was definitely getting to be time for him to marry and produce heirs.The king was wearing a long green robe with guilt embroidery in the shape of symbols of the family and kingdom on it.It was not as fancy as his official court dress, but it would do for now.He was also wearing his personal crown instead of the state crown.Again, it would suffice for the day.

Cirroc approached the throne his brother sat on. He went down on one knee.“Sire,” he uttered.He placed his hands in his brothers and swore his oath of fealty.

“Thank-you the king said, as soon as he was finished.“I do appreciate getting that over with as soon as possible.He sat back and indicated that his brother should rise.“You will, of course, stay in your old room in the palace.”This did not surprise Prince Cirroc.He expected that not only would he stay in the palace, so would all of his brothers and sisters as well as spouses and children.None of the 7 brothers were married, but 6 of the 7 sisters were.Not all of them had children.Two other brothers and 2 of the sisters were there already.

“I would beg a boon of you my brother,” Cirroc said. “I would ask that my personal guard be allowed to join the palace guard for the time that we are here.

“Denied,” the king said. “I will provide all the security that you need.”He got off the throne and moved around the room.Cirroc did not like that.That in effect cut him off from Avock and Grail.But he was no more than uncomfortable and he knew that his brothers and sisters would feel the same way.

After the King was finished with Cirroc, there were no more announcements of arrivals. The King waited a few minutes and then made his own announcement.“Well We seem to be finished here.You may go and get settled in your rooms.We will met again at dinner time.”He left the room and all the brothers and sisters and the few in-laws that were there quickly did the same.

Cirroc got a couple of servants from the castle to go with him and Pick up his things from the room he had shared with Avock and Grail. “My brother has ordered that I and my brothers and sisters stay in the palace,” he informed them.“You two are to stay here.I will see to it that the rent is paid for as long as I intend to stay here and you will probably accompany me back to Rodas.”

The servants that he brought with him packed up all his things and carried them back to the palace. He got his things settled in his room, he thought that he would soon have to share his room with Rudag, the brother who was closest to him in age.But Rudag had to come from a further distance as his city was a border city.So he would probably have the room to himself for tonight.When he was finished with that he went to the garden and renewed his acquaintance with his youngest sister Edain.She had been in the garden when he arrived.In fact she was still there, along with their oldest sister Cathleen.

Cirroc did what his parents had taught him and saluted the elder first with the words, “My Lady,” and a slight kiss on the hand.Edain whispered something to their sister.

“Cirroc,” Cathleen responded. “How good it is to see you again.”She had married when Cirroc was only 2.After that she had returned only for state occasions, when she was not in a family way, which she had been last year.

“And to see again, my dear sister,” Cirroc said.“How are your spouse and your children?”

“Very well, thank-you, although Dhaidh wishes to go to war.He cries to live the life that his father has glorified to him so many times.Olwen, the baby, just cries.”

Just then, Cirroc noticed a movement in the gallery under the particle. He thought it was probably one of the guards.They had a tendency to gravitate to areas where they saw members of the royal family gathering.He dismissed it the first time and continued asking “And how about your daughters?”“Sheila is actually taking some pleasure in learning to dance now,” her mother explained, “but Maureen is still to young for that.” These were all of her children that survived.

Cirroc turned to his sister Edain, “And how are you doing, baby sister? You’ve grown so much since the last time I saw you.”

“Oh,” she bubbled with her characteristic excitement. “Cirroc, you should have been here.The social season has been wonderful this year.I’ve been to every ball and most of the cotillions and all the nicest young men in the kingdom have been paying attention to me.”

Cirroc laughed thinking it was because she was a princess who had just come of marriageable age. The young men were changing the way they were treating her.Before she had been a child.Now she was a possible wife.He was smilling and shaking his head when he noticed another movement out of the corner of his eye.He paused and looked to see if it was a guard or another member of the family.By the uniform it was one of the guards.When he looked at the face, he got another surprise.It was Loftus.

Chapter 5

Cirroc did his best to hide his surprise from his sisters. But it did show.Cathleen asked, “What’s wrong, Cirroc?”

“Loftus,” Cirroc said. “When did he get back?”

“Yesterday,” Edain explained. “He came right to the palace and asked for his old job back.Conleach was happy to oblige.After all he already knows Loftus and feels he can trust him.Our brother, the King, is beginning to see plots by brothers around every turn.You haven’t been plotting against him by chance, have you?” she said in that light hearted fashion that was her’s.But Cirroc did not respond to her.He had some very serious questions about just how trustworthy Loftus was.

Cathleen noticed that the shadows were growing long. “I think it is time for us to go it,” she said.“I want to check on my children before it is time for us to prepare for dinner with the King.”She rose and they realized that they were dismissed.They went into the main hall and Cirroc went to his room on the right, while Edain went to hers on the left.

Cirroc’s room was not empty when he got there. His brother Rudag was there.He was, in fact, asleep on his bed.It was in keeping with his character.He always did like his naps.Cirroc always thought that was why he had such a weight problem.He took some time to clean up from the water pitcher that had been left in the room.Then he took the pitcher and basin to the guard robe and emptied it.He picked out something to wear to dinner and then he tugged on Rudag’s toes.“Time to get ready for dinner,” he said.

Rudag made some unintelligible noises and rolled slowly out of his bed. He went through his toilet as Cirroc dressed.Slowly at first, then faster as he realized that time was marching on.“Why didn’t you wake me earlier?” he complained.Cirroc did not respond.They’d had this argument before.Rudag would settle down for his nap and Cirroc would wake him in plenty of time.Then he would get angry with Cirroc for waking him too soon.So Cirroc got into the habit of waiting until he was nearly ready to leave and then woke his brother.He

left before Rudag had quite finished his toilet.

So it was that he was moving alone down the stair case to the main hall. He looked down, and at the bottom of the stair, he witnessed a brief meeting between Loftus and no less a person than the Gran Visir, Lord Kierbhallen.That in itself was not so surprising.But Cirroc did see a small bag of what looked to be gold coins change hands from that worthy to Loftus.He was not close enough to hear any of the conversation.Still it was strange that the Gran Visir should give any of the household guards any money.That was the job of the Lord Chancellor among other things.

He hid until the area was cleared and then continued down the stairs. At the bottom of the steps he discovered that the area was not so deserted as he thought it was.Loftus had remained in the area and notices Cirroc when he reached the last step.He stiffened, and Loftus started to watch him closely.He turned away just as Rudag arrived and before Loftus could see just how worried he was about his family.He went into supper with his brother.

The next day the official court began. The King had given his brothers and sisters permission to don their coronets and to sit in chairs on either side of and below his throne.The king was wearing the official state crown today along with a doublet and robe of cloth of gold, silk hose and golden slippers.Dressed in their court finery, the brothers and sisters made a wonderful and impressive show.They wore the crowns that they were entitled to by their birth, lining the aisle by which the peers of the realm had to approach the king.

The nobles arrived all morning. They too were dressed in their court finest and wearing their coronets.The clothing was cloth of gold and cloth of silver, or embroidered with gold and silver thread.The nobles were young and old, tall and short, fat and thin.All of them wore coronets of varying degrees, according to their positions in the kingdom.One by one, each family approached the King.The wife and children would stand back while the head of the house would step forward, go down on one knee, and swear loyalty to the king.The King would say his part and then the rest of the family would salute the king and move off so

another family could take their place. Slowly, positions along the wall filled up. Most of them were families that were preforming their annual duty.But there were a few with new heads of the family that needed to be confirmed in the titles of their father.The changes of positions were expected.Some of the oldest nobles had died, and their sons simply moved into their father’s positions.There were some heads of households that had come of age during the past year.They were not confirmed in their father’s titles.But there were one or two who still required regents.Most of them would be confirmed in the next few years.When there were unmarried daughters involved, they would glance at the unmarried princes and bat their eyelashes.

A break was called for luncheon and everyone adjourned to the main dining hall for 2 hours. The luncheon was formal only because of the court both before and following it.The meal was served and there was some conversation, but no entertainment.The meal included fowl, pork, some mutton, and beef.There were also platters of bread, some vegetables, but no fruit.Wine was also served. When the meal was over, there was another hour break to clean up and change for the afternoon session.

In the afternoon, things went pretty much as they had in the morning. This time the King wore a green doublet and cloak with the family crest embroidered over and over again in gold and with collar sleeves hems, and garment hems of fur.The brothers, sisters, and in-laws changed accordingly.None of them wanted to be thought of as grander than the King, or to appear to be competing with him in honor.

Chapter 6

The day after the official court was free so that people had a chance to rest up from it. Some of the lords and ladies that had come stayed in the castle.Other’s stayed in great houses in the city.Most of Cirroc’s sisters took the opportunity to shop in the bazaar of the capitol again.For some strange reason, there were not enough guards to accompany them.“Brothers,” the King said.“We find the staff at the castle a little short at this time.Therefore we ask that you don appropriate wear and accompany your sisters. There is nothing of any consequence that will happen here.”Cirroc did as his brother asked.

He accompanied his sister Aine, who was just older then he was. Her new husband, Lord Cullane was also there, but there were no children as yet.Cirroc did not attend too closely, he thought it prudent to give them as much time alone as he could.

But there was something strange that did happen. He ran into Avock there.While his sister and brother-in-law were busy at one stall, he went to another and signaled the man to join him.“Where’s Grail?” Cirroc asked, keeping his voice low.

“Fricking meeting at the guild,” Avock answered, keeping his voice low so as not to offend the ladies and others who were nearby.

“What sort of meeting,” Cirroc asked.

“Fucking guild is voting whether or not to let the farting King become the royal patron. I figure offering some blinking sacrifices wouldn’t hurt to get it passed.Grail is doing the speechifying for me.We figure it means steady jobs for both of us.”

“So you’re in favor of it,” Cirroc said. Avock nodded.“Why do you think you’re going to have a problem?”

“Loftus is talking against it,” Avock said. “He says that people can make more money if they can sell their services to the highest bidder.I don’t fucking like it, and I heard that beggar Jeshu was the farting assassin who brought it up.He said what Grail and me say, that it will mean more jobs for the rest of us.They thought that they decided it the first time with a fight.

I heard that was when he lost his leg. There weren’t no official meeting that time and that was how come Grail and me didn’t know about it.”

It took Cirroc a moment to take it in. That was by far the longest speech he’d ever heard Avock give.It also took him a moment to process the information.“Now I am more curious as to why you and Grail did not recognize Jeshu?”

“Lived most of the time in the fricking country,” Avock said, “Joined the guild in Lien. Came to the palace a week before the fight.All the assassins that work there, takes time to get to know each other.”

“Yes,” Cirroc agreed. “I don’t think I ever at any time knew all the guards that worked for my father.Do you know who the fight was with?”

“No bodies farting talking about that,” he said.

“So whoever won the fight is still here, and is powerful enough that people are afraid of him,” the prince mused. Avock said nothing.“All right,” Cirroc said after a few minutes.“Go back about your business in the guild.”Avock bowed slightly and turned on his heel and left.Cirroc rejoined his sister and her husband.

Chapter 7

Back at the palace, Cirroc considered what Avock had said. If the king became the patron of the assassins guild, that would make his position more secure.He would be unassailable, which was fine with Cirroc.He thought for a moment, that it might also make the princes unstoppable, but that did not bother him.After all, wasn’t that the way kings were supposed to be.

He thought about it more and realized that he had some questions that he wanted to ask Avock or Grail. Where had Jeshu come from when he came into the city?Why had the King gone to him with the suggestion and not to one of the guards that he knew better?The only way he would know that would be if he could ask his brother about that himself.Accordingly, he went in search of Lord Bran.

Finding him in the seneschal’s office, Cirroc asked Bran, “Do you know what my brother is going to be doing today? Will he have a few minutes to talk to me?”

Lord Bran conferred for a moment with Lord Gwen, the seneschal. “He might,” Bran responded.“I will talk to him and see if he will see you today.”“I’ll wait in my mother’s garden for you,” Cirroc said.

An hour later Bran found him there. “He will see you now for a few minutes,” he informed the prince.“I’ll take you to him.”Bran led him to the King’s personal chambers.He had not been there since his father died.Still, when he looked around, he found that it had not changed much.Bran informed the King that his brother was there.

“Brother,” the king said. “Come in, what is going on in your city?”

“ I am investigating a murder, your highness,” Cirroc said. “It is the murder of a man I think you knew.He was Jeshu the beggar, but I learned that he was Jeshu the assassin before that.”

The King drew in a sharp breath, “So that is what became of him,” he said. I wondered about

that, he worked here at the palace for a time, you know. He came here from the country.I

thought that I could trust him because some of the guards here had become untrustworthy.

“How did you know that they had become untrustworthy? “ Cirroc continued to question his brother.

“Instructions were not followed,” Conleach confided in Cirroc. “People would be in places they had no right or reason to be in, sometimes when they were supposed to be in other places.

Cirroc contemplated that and mentally filed it for possible future consideration. “I heard that you were trying to become the royal patron of the assassin’s guild.Why did you have Jeshu bring that up to the guild?”

“First, I asked Jeshu to do it because I believed that someone from the country would be more likely to pass mu wishes on to the guild, he said. “I believe my reasons for that would be obvious to you.”He did not explain anything more about that.

“Well if nothing else, it would give the government a stability that it would not have had before.” Cirroc said.“I’ve learned that he was crippled by a dual with another assassin.Do you know who that was?

“No,” the King said, “It must have happened at the guild.”

“Have you heard any rumors about who might have done it?” Cirroc asked.

“I don’t believe that will help you’re investigation,” the King said, beginning to sound angry. Cirroc recognized that as a dismissal.

“Forgive me,” Cirroc said, “and thank-you for the answers you have already given me.”

He headed back towards his own quarters. In the meantime, the King went into his inner chamber where he had been meeting with the Gran Visir.“Just my baby brother,” Conleach said.“He is investigating some sort of a murder that happened in his city, some beggar by the name of Jeshu.”

“Well we are nearly finished here,” the Visir informed the King. “There is just the report that the vote in the Assassins guild seems to be going our way.”

“Very good,” said the King. “Keep me informed about that.You can go now.We will see you again at dinner.”

“Aye, sir,” he said as he bowed and left.

The gran Visir immediately went in search of Loftus. “We have a problem<’ he told the guard.“The vote in the Assassins Guild is going against us.” He said through clenched teeth.“And Prince Cirroc has traced the death of that beggar to the capitol, and I believe, to the palace.We are going to have to stop him.”

“Are you ready to take on the King?” Loftus asked.

“We are prepared to move during the hunt.”

“Lord Ysbathen is with you?” Loftus asked.

“Yes, now that you removed the threat to his inheritance. But Prince Cirroc must be taken care of first.”

“Hmm,” was all Loftus said by way of acceptance.

That night, Cirroc was coming down to dinner. He was wearing the usual court clothing for an informal court dinner with the King.The only weapon he had was his dagger.He came around the turn in the stair, and came on Loftus.The Gran Visir was in front of them.Loftus cleared his throat, and the Gran Visir turned, nodded, and then turned back and went on into the dining room.

Loftus turned, drew his sword, and attacked Cirroc. The Prince drew his dagger and wished he had Avock and Grail beside him.He parried with his dagger because it was the only thing he had.He also called out loudly, “Help, help.”He did his best to defend against Loftus second attack and was glad he’d chosen to wear a doublet with wide sleeves.That provided him with some protection against Loftus’s blade as he wrapped the long trailing sleeves around his arm.But it would be little better then nothing if he did not get help fast.As Loftus continued his attack and Cirroc was able to counter his moves, Cirroc called out again, “Help, help.”

Loftus continued his attack. Now it became obvious by his moves that he was attempting to dislodge Cirroc form the step above him.Cirroc became determined not to be dislodged.Cirroc defended repeatedly.Loftus attacked from the right.If it had not been for the narrowness of the passage, the fight would have been over in a second.Loftus changed his attack to head on and Cirroc had to change his defense the same way.The Prince wondered if he would be able to keep it up long enough.He called out again as Loftus switched to the left side, which did not have a dagger.He succeeded in wounding Cirroc.

Cirroc knew that he could not afford to let his guard down. Loftus was the man who had killed his weapons master.Now he was relying not only on the things he had learned from that master, but also some of the techniques he had picked up from Grail and Avock.He parried and parried again and hoped that he knew a few tricks that Loftus would not expect.

People were gathering and their footsteps distracted both warriors a little. Cirroc took a chance and did something that Avock had done.He pulled his blade back a little and used his guarding hand to strike against the flat of Loftus’s sword.As more people arrived, Loftus was taken completely by surprise.Cirroc slipped his blade between Loftus’ ribs.Cirroc was so surprised at the success of this, that he almost fell on Loftus’ sword as he dropped it.

As they crashed to the floor together, Cirroc asked Loftus, “Why?”

“Isn’t if obvious,” Loftus said. “I took …” he was gasping now.“a commission…I was to …help the…Gran Visir… become King.”

At that moment there was a disturbance. The Gran Visir, Lord Kierbhallen himself, was in the crowd that heard this.He turned and tried to flee and was stopped by Conleach’s own sword.

“What did he promise you?” Cirroc asked.

“Land…” the pauses from Loftus were getting longer now. “…and a title. It…would…have …been…land…for…my…people.”Loftus breathed his last.Moments later the Gran Visir was also dead.

“How did this start?” the King asked.

“Believe it or not,” Cirroc said, “When Loftus killed a beggar in my city.” Conleach quickly had the healers there to deal with Cirroc’s wounds.

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