~:Chapter Two: Angry Glares:~

~:Chapter Two: Angry Glares:~

A Chapter by Greystone


 “Hail your superior, God-king Saluc!” cried Limerick, with an amazingly low bow, “On this, our twentieth day of council regarding this matter. May the hand of friendship be well lain for his person’s Dîarian guests, Queen Ceminara of the crimson city, and her heir, Prince Thodred, barer of the broken blade—“

“To bloody hell with your niceties, Limerick!” Snapped Shahira, (several people murmured in concern at the tone of this remark ;) “Go on with it-- Now!” Limerick’s expression was one out of outright shock and surprise.

“Yes, my lady,” he answered with due formality, “now, we are all aware of the foreign conquest attempts toward the effect of our slain citizens. We have been doing our best to ward off such attacks, but the fact is that these mysterious attackers are gaining ground by the day. Our best soldiers have fallen. Dîyar’s border guards have reported vibrations on the ground, but not the imprint of us two-legged folk. The best mages have found—“

“Those damned Mages!” Spat Saluc, “I refuse to acknowledge anything those blasphemous monsters THINK they’ve—“

“Father,” Abolished Shahira, “Now is not the time or the place—“

“--I will not subjugate my people to your vile tongue, Saluc!” She nodded at Limerick. “Continue, boy.” Limerick opened his mouth to continue the report, but Saluc replied:

“You will hold your tongue, Ceminara.”

“A great kingdom is not made by the bias of kings.” The Queen said smoothly.

“And a great ruler is not made by a coward’s wife!” snapped Saluc in return. Ceminara leapt out of her seat with the deftness of a cat, drawing a wand from her belt; Saluc drew his sword.

“My king had a level of valor and honour that is far beyond your ken. Therefore I command you: Silence!”  A murderous expression had crossed her beautiful, rapt face, her golden eyes flashing in the sunlight.

 “It is I who will be issuing the commands here—“

“Silence both of you!” Cried Thodred, “Have you forgotten why we are here? We are here to cease the murder of inncoents! Enough of the deformative exchanges, fools--Are you not royals? Does not the blood that prides your races flow through your untainted veins?! Enough of  your bruised prides! Pay attention!”

This silenced not only the rival king and queen, but the duration of the council as well. For a moment, Shahira knew, he had been the image of his father: Tall, powerful, and fierce as the lion.

“Now,” the prince said, countering the awed silence he himself had wrought; “The mages say it is no magical thing that causes the effects of Zahmir’s advance. They believe that priests should be sent toward the scenes for farther examination.”

“So much for you magic, Ceminara,” remarked Shahira, evenly returning the Queen’s angered gaze, “Your mages appear to have failed us in all entirety.”

“As much as I hate to anger you, Shea,” stated Wayna, in a voice so quiet that people strained to hear his deep voice, “But I’m afraid I must disagree. We have established that Zahmir’s efforts are not derived from mages, therefore excluding the possibility that Dîyar is responsible for these strange advances. As I have said from the beginning, this is improbable and said by those with wicked hearts—or ambitious minds. We now turn our heads to another cause, aside from magic,” here he paused, his dark hands grasping his tall dark staff, “Science.”

Junayd stood as soon as Wayna sat down. “Damn your science! The work of wizards bored with their own craft, if you ask me. Will someone please explain to me why we are we sitting here like crumpled old men?! Our nation lies under attack! Don’t sit here and speak kindly to barbaric nations! I will not lie in the shadows while the lightning strikes my home.”

“You will retain your respect, Prince Junayd,” Thodred snapped, “We are not here to exchange trite pleasantries with imbeciles who would dare give voice to the hypocritical insult ‘barbaric’; your father begged and pleaded with us on bended knee to help you, and here we are. Be careful what you wish for.”

“Then help us!” shouted Junayd, his red eyes glaring at no one in particular, “I implore you, call our troops to war! You are the Nesparian council, and you cannot sit here and wait for those rebellious hybrids to desecrate everything we hold dear!” He cast a desperate gaze over the scores of people attending the meeting, “Fight!”
Silence spread over after this passionate cry.

“What must we do?” Asked Saluc, and the second half of the council thus began.

***

“It is settled, then,” finished Junayd smugly, “We go to war.”

“Yes,” murmured the rather circumspect Wayna, “We do.”

“Stop your complaints!” A dark Dîarian soldier stood, gazed fiercely around the room, and shouted, “There is another matter we have to discuss here!” 

“Speak, Corbin,” said Ceminara, “I know you are not here to waste my time.”

“I have heard,” began the strong Corbin cautiously, “That the royal family is joined by two foreign men.”
“As is my right as king,” reminded Saluc, at which point the soldier exclaimed, 

 “But you are not joined in bondage legal or emotional to the woman who bore your heir!”
Zarobi rose, and, with a strange elegance beyond the reach of nature, fuming fury in the general direction of the council; began: “You ignorant cow! How dare you defile our family’s name?”

“Yes,” muttered Saluc, who seemed inexplicably nervous, “Yes, how d-dare you!”

Shahira joined Zarobi in standing. “Soldier Corbin, you are quite correct,” she declared, with a tone that almost dared anyone to challenge her (the feeble resistance of her parents subsided at once ;) “I was borne of one half human…and one half sea-maid. Dîarians killed her the day I turned four.” She paused, her gaze scanning the crowd, as though to see how they would take it.

“Being my father’s first child,” the princess continued, “I was declared Saluc’s heir. This information, naturally, would make Nadir, Wayna, and Junayd my step-brothers.” Corbin, his mission succeeded, sat down again.

“Now,” said Nadir, the seer, to whom nothing that had happened was a surprise, “Is there anything else?”

“So,” Ceminara said, her eyes narrowing in either interest in suspicion, “You are not human?” Shahira hesitated, and glanced at her mother, who nodded in reply to some unspoken inquiry. She raised her palms, which were blue, to the crowd.

“Thus, you would have the most to gain if you were working for Zahmir,” Ceminara pressed, “the fact being said that he would never surrender Nespiare’s capital to a line of mortal blood, it would throw you in suspicion. Were I Saluc,” she said in a condescending tone, glancing at the king (who was steadily turning red); “I would make an inquiry to this effect.” Thodred’s mind reeled with the suggestion his mother had just made, the crowd murmured in blatant disbelief.

 ‘The woman has crossed a line,’ Shahira thought angrily, and then said, “How dare you! I will not be insulted due to your snide suspicion, the very same prospect that has ruined your country even more than your husband managed to do with his fat arrogance. His lack of generosity shamed Zahmir himself. Of the two of us, who has the most to gain from this?”

 The council settled in their chairs, glad someone had said voiced the common objection to this meeting, but Shahira went on: “The mermaid’s daughter does not want land, for certain. What of the misplaced w***e of a queen that rules our rival kingdom? She, too, has the excuse of Zahmir’s favour!”

Shahira pointed at Ceminara’s arm, which, Thodred suddenly realized, bore three long scratch marks. Marks just like his father’s…

“Do not speak to me of being human, werepanther!”

***

 An excited murmur came from the ensemble. Saluc raised a hand for silence, and his command was obeyed.
“Silence, you fool!” He called unnecessarily, “Ceminara, you know my feelings on the beasts known as Morambath. There had better be an explanation for why you failed to mention this.”

“I was informed,” Ceminara observed coldly, “That my personal life was not to be put on public display for a foreign power. Neither, while our attention remains of the subject, was I of the opinion that one who begs for my presence should subjugate me to such total disrespect.” Saluc gritted his teeth.

Wayna, who was suddenly wide-awake an interested at the proceedings which turned towards his best subject, said, “Forgive me, your majesty—am I to understand you can turn into a leopard at will?” She shook her head.

“A panther,” corrected Ceminara, who had grown strangely quiet.

“You will inform us of this,” Saluc snarled, but Zarobi stood and, with a dangerously quiet smile, she said, “We would hear if you are dangerous to us, your highness.”

“It began on a dark and stormy night,” intoned Ceminara quietly, her dark voice illustrating her story, “Thunder beat like the drums of hell, and the force of the lightning was so great in force the entire castle was shaken by its every strike. Ghosts of ghosts floated through the archaic hallways of my forefathers.”

She paused, as though to incite silence, although it was not necessary—there was not a single person whose attention was not focused entirely on the barbarian queen. “I was to be married in the day, and it is this—not the storm—which so terrified me. As though to justify my fears, a horrible, anguished scream pierced the night with ardor. Rising at once, I sprinted towards the sound, until I slipped and fell on some strange liquid.”

 She paused, and Thodred saw that her eyes had a strange haze; “A cloud that had been blocking the moon moved, and I saw it….Blood. A corpse sat next to me in the moonlight, with one small difference. The person next to me was dead….I was alive, and there was a giant panther with Korari’s dark orange eyes staring down at me.” Again, the pause, as though hoping that part would be sufficient.

Shahira, breathless with fear and caught in the story as anyone else, was not satisfied. “Go on, Ceminara,” she murmured, “Please.” Ceminara smiled sadly, as though she had had a feeling someone would ask, and went on:

“Horror can be the extinguisher of passion,” she said, “and my own scream drove the poor creature crazy. Those of the Morambath have hearing far beyond that of human men, and he leapt to silence me. He scratched me, just deeply enough…”

She shuddered, fear visible on her high, beautiful face, “I felt the venom spread into my blood,” she whispered, her voice barely audible now, “It was beyond imagining…Suddenly my senses were sharper. My hearing could pick up not only the storm, but the creak and groan of the castle’s stone walls as well. I smelled life and death and happiness and sadness for instantly—instantly!—I knew them all.

 My husband was not expected to bare the gift. Far into his adolescence, his parents had given up hope that he would bare the talent. That the ability had somehow been lost…” If there was ever a total and complete silence at a council chamber, this would leave them all behind. Every person had pictured what Ceminara painted with her dark, powerful foreign words, and every person felt her fear as their own. Every person could picture the story she had told.

“We were married the next morning,” she finished, “and neither of us would ever be the same.”

***

The announcer raised his flag.

“Go!”

Shahira jumped at Thodred, her sword pointed at the weak spot in his armour. Thodred thrust his sword to parry with force, pushing his feet hard on the ground and flipping lithely over the stumbling princess, fire flinging itself from his feet by magic.

Shahira’s eyes flashed gold and water sprung to clash with fire, creating a large cloud of steam that blinded both of them.

Shahira heard Thodred’s feet crunch against the gravel, and then he heard her knock an arrow. He jumped out of the way, and then flung a hunting knife into the ground in the opposite direction. As predicted, she heard the knife land and aimed the arrow toward the now useless weapon. He shot a ring of dark red power at her weapon, which transformed into a cobra.

Realizing this, she let out a scream; Thodred did another flip and sent out fire that cleared away the steam, swearing as her weapon slithered away.

Thodred blew, imbuing the gust of air with ancient glyphs, and sent Shahira spinning in a miniature tornado from which there was no escape. As it let her down, she grew dizzy and fell. When she looked up, she looked directly into Thodred’s pointed blade.

“Yield?” asked Thodred with a smile, offering her his hand.

A moment of silence ensued.

“Yield,” muttered Shahira, and the crowd burst into a cheer.

***

“I can’t believe he housed this many people!” Thodred said to Shahira in surprise, “Suppose something goes wrong?”

The princess chuckled. “Don’t be such a killjoy!” She replied, “I’m sure it will all be fine.” She moved down the table toward the younger nobles.

“I don’t understand how one man can have this many feasts this quickly,” griped Thodred, turning his conversation to his mother. Ceminara kept her attention carefully focused on her plate, attacking a piece of steak with due decorum.

“He is worried for the morale of his people, Thodred,” she murmured so that others might not hear; “so would you be, if these were our people, shaken to the bone by the rumours the soldiers spread and the tension that spreads through the air like poison through the blood. They know something is wrong.”

“Saluc needs to do something to ensure his castle will be a good stronghold in case of Azarian advance, keeping his people safe.”

“His people, if they are ill content, will make Lamina a waiting target, my son,” she replied sagely.

“And if they are too content they’ll find something to scream about, draining his resources further,” snapped Thodred in return, wondering why Ceminara was not her usual intimidating self, “Why doesn’t he just tell his people the truth and have done with it?” 

“I do not know,” confessed the Queen, “What I do know is, Saluc will do what is best for Nespaire.”
As though he were part of the conversation, Saluc rose at the other end of the table and banged his fork against an amontillado-filled goblet.

“A dark hour has dawned,” he declared, in a rich, velvety voice, “an hour in which our homes are not safe, nor are our families, indeed; our very way of life has become questionable.”

An empty pause ensued.

“And I am here to say,” He continued, “That I will not stand for it.” A myriad of thoughts spread through the crowd, so powerful that Wayna could taste them on his tongue.   

“Ladies and gentleman,” the regal king proclaimed, “We go to war!”  Cheers erupted from the Nesparians as Thodred turned to his mother and said,

 “They handled that well.” Ceminara smiled.

“They’re hopeful,” she began, and an arrow sprang through the window and went straight into Junayd’s heart.

***

The only good thing about such an unneeded attack was that it killed quickly. Fire streamed through the window as the women (the only ones who were taught water-magic in the Nesparians’ case) attempted to extinguish the roaring flames.

“RETREAT!” Cried Melandar to the crowds, “Salvage what you can—it’s soul fire! It will not cease burning for a month at least! Take what you need and GET OUT!”

The crowds immediately abandoned their feast; and the panic caused bumps and bruises as they avoided the waves of arrows—and the heathen flames.

Ceminara emerged with her pack and Thodred’s, and the immediately went about finding their soldiers and helping whoever they met along the way. Saluc had the same idea, leading large groups of people into the stables and helping them pack until he couldn’t get inside anymore.

“Where are we going?” He shouted to Ceminara, who pulled on the reigns of her black stallion.

“We go to Storm haven!” She shouted back, “We’ll be safe in Dîyar!”  The party galloped forward. Thodred saw a familiar dark-haired figure facing the castle.

“Princess Shahira!” He called, “Shahira, we have to go!” She tore her eyes away from the burning castle and the anguished screams.

Without a word, she rode after him.
 



© 2008 Greystone


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Added on December 15, 2008
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Author

Greystone
Greystone

Fort Atkinson, WI



About
I've been writing for about five years. Mostly, I focus on fantasy, although to be honest I've dabbled horribly in Romance, Science Fiction, and modern-day roleplays. I enjoy drawing, painting, wood c.. more..

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