Chapter 7: Tour of the Fortress of Kaal Bek
While Hannibal and Selina slept, Hannibal’s team toured the fortress with Nicodemus and Joshua: from the tallest tower to the deepest recesses in the dungeons that hadn’t seen prisoners in thousands of years. They saw the kitchen and recreation areas where people could play games or work on their military prowess. At one point, Nicodemus led them to the dining hall: an enormous room almost a hundred fifty feet long by sixty feet wide. A great high cathedral ceiling, complete with flying buttresses, soared more than fifty feet above them. Giant crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling all over the room. The room looked like a giant cafeteria with lines of tables and chairs. On one side of the room sat an exit to the kitchen. Tables near the kitchen were set aside for the food to be set on in buffet fashion.
“This is the great banquet hall of Shadizar Kahn, the last king of Arionath,” Nicodemus said as everyone looked around in wonder. “Great affairs of state were once performed here. Come. Let me show you his throne room.” They left the dining hall and moments later, entered an enormous room almost twice the size of the dining hall. Its cathedral ceiling rose ninety feet and in the very top of the dome hung a massive crystal twenty feet across and thirty feet in length, lighting the entire room. It protruded straight down into the oval-shaped room that spanned nearly three hundred feet in length, and a hundred and twenty feet in width. Frescoes of the history of Arionath up until the fall of Amacia tiled the walls. A floor of smooth polished pink granite added to the grandeur of the chamber. At the far end of the room stood a dais that rose nearly six feet above the rest of the floor and reaching thirty feet from the far wall. On the dais sat the ancient throne of Arionath: a chair carved from a single piece of the purest jade ever found, and large enough to accommodate someone twelve feet in height. The jade throne glowed softly in the light. Either side of the throne stood two ceremonial torches made out of ivory, sitting on two massive golden stands. The torches themselves spanned a foot in diameter and four feet in length. They sat in golden stands that elevated them seven feet above the floor. Behind the throne hung an enormous tapestry with the symbol of Arionath emblazoned on it: a massive draken that looked almost exactly like Argus. It showed the draken reared up with its wings billowed, holding two massive swords in its front claws. The tapestry also depicted the throne room in detail below the draken.
Nicodemus and Joshua stood back as everyone spread out to look at the magnificent throne room. Everyone gazed with wonder except for Nathanael and Harry because they had seen great halls before in the Temple of Tiamat and even on Kaitia. Still, they were fascinated by the room. “Welcome to the throne room,” Nicodemus said. Pointing to the throne, he said, “That is the Jade Throne of Shadizar Kahn and behind the throne is the great symbol of Arionath.”
“That looks like Argus,” Arabella said with amazement as she looked around at the splendor of the throne room. Sam, Jonathan, and Thomas agreed.
“Drakens were once numerous in these parts and a special group of them were guardians of this country, like Argus. He’s the last of that line. In fact, he is the last draken on the planet that we know of. When he’s gone, there will be no more of them, and Arionath will be without a guardian for the first time since its founding,” Nicodemus informed. With many more words, he explained the history of Arionath. By time he finished, it was late in the evening. Nicodemus led them out of the throne room and took them back to the royal wing, where Hannibal and Selina were staying. “I hope you enjoyed the tour. Breakfast is at eight in the morning. We have it in the banquet hall. I hope to see you all there in the morning. Now take your rest. You richly deserve it,” he said.
Speaking for everyone in the team, Nathanael said, “Thank you, Nicodemus, Joshua. Your hospitality is greatly appreciated. Good night.”
Nicodemus smiled and nodded. “Good night, my friends,” he replied. “Sleep well and without fear. These borders are well-protected.” With that, Nicodemus and Joshua walked away and everyone split up, going to their respective quarters. Nathanael and Harry shared quarters next to the King’s Chambers, where Hannibal and Selina slept. Morrison and Arabella shared quarters just the other side of the King’s Chambers. Thomas and Jonathan took quarters across from Morrison and Arabella. Ned, Sam, and Cracko shared quarters just across the hall from the King’s Chambers. Their quarters were nearly as large as the King’s Chambers, but not nearly as ornate. Thus, everyone retired to his or her respective rooms, each of which had its own bath. Complete wardrobes had been provided for the entire team. They cleaned up and made use of the new clothes before going to bed.
Late in the evening about twenty minutes before Nicodemus ended the tour, Bruce and four other men stood outside of the King’s Chambers with Hannibal and Selina’s wardrobe. He knocked on the door several times. When they didn’t respond, Bruce opened the door quietly and looked in. The lights came up as he stepped into the room cautiously, telling those with him to wait. As the lights came up, he looked to the right of the door and found the controls for the light, immediately dimming them to the point where they could just barely see what to do. He looked over toward the bed and saw Hannibal and Selina sound asleep under the blankets. “Come on. And be quiet. They’re asleep,” he told the others quietly. Bruce’s colleagues quietly entered the room and flitted around like ghosts, hanging clothes in the wardrobes and putting clothes away in the dressers. Bruce put some of Hannibal’s clothes in the dresser where he’d already stashed his belongings. As he did so, he immediately noticed the binoculars, the Artifact, the Relic, and several other strange items on top of the dresser. It drew his attention for just a moment, and then he finished his work. In minutes, they put the clothes away and quietly slipped out of the room, with Bruce putting the lights back on automatic as he turned them out. Quietly, he closed the door and they disappeared into the keep just before Nicodemus arrived with Nathanael and the rest of the team.