About Me

My photo
Corrandion, Corridane
I am JT, Ringer, nutjob, and archer, in that order. I like animated films, epic films, book films, movie music, folk music, and the occasional random other thing. I make friends by accident and like it that way...

Search This Blog

24 September 2013

Price of a Throne: Chapter 9

Chapter 9

Valun and his companions had been dragged along for some three hundred yards since their abduction, when suddenly the sound of galloping horses became apparent from some distance to their left, the direction of the camp. The bandits pulled their prisoners up short as one shouted in disgust.
    “Those blasted horses got free! I said we should have killed them!”
    “Well then do it now, if you that’s what you want. These boys can’t stop us.”
    “It’s too late for that. They would go mad and we’d lose our price!”
    “We’ll never get there if  you object to everything. Catch those animals then. We’ll take them into the city and sell them too.”
    While this argument was going on, the horses had reunited with the boys who had brought them so far from home. Each of the animals approached their own riders and quickly began to look into the boys’ wallets for the prizes which were generally kept near at hand. Conan’s horse came up more slowly than the others, but seemed no less excited at their reunion.
    However, the bandits, having come to an agreement, then moved in to capture the animals and take them along. But the horses, sensing the hostility, fought back together, rearing up and neighing loudly as the bandits tried to move close enough to grab their heads. The animals’ exuberant display of ferocity forced their would-be captors to back away. thus allowing the proud steeds room to canter away and quickly disappear from view.
    “There. Now we’ve lost them all, and we’ll never see them again in a state fit to sell. Now we must be getting on!” The man who seemed to be the chief of the bandits abruptly grabbed at the rope that held the boys together and started down the road at a brisk trot.
    Even as they were hurried down the road, the boys found the levity within themselves to celebrate this small victory, which prompted their captors to deal even more harshly with them, pulling sharply on the ropes and menacing them with weapons if they so much as smiled at each other.
    The country road they were traveling by was  lightly used, as it led straight to the small fishing village the boys had previously left. However, it was also the path to the largest river port, which made it a very agreeable place for bandits like the men who had captured the Corridanes to sustain themselves in their operations. The ground was rugged for miles around, offering countless dells or bends in the path where one could hide and wait to spring on travelers. Such had these men done, waiting until the boys had passed far beyond their position before overtaking and capturing them in the manner already described.
    About two hours later, the bandits agreed that it was time to halt for a short time, purely as a safety measure to protect the investment which they considered their prisoners to be. The villains took the opportunity to drill the boys on all they needed to know to survive their future.
    “First, whoever you are, whoever you thought you might be, no one cares. and they do not want to hear your objections.”
    “In fact, you would do best to keep your mouth shut unless you are spoken to. It will go better for you if our friends have no problems.”
    “You will not see your friends again. You will be a servant for the rest of your lives.”
    “Well then,” said Richard, wrestling futilely with his bonds “You had better tell me your names so that I can kill you when I get free.”
    “Ah, but getting free isn’t for you. Come along, the rest is over.” So saying, the leader of the gang grabbed the rope which held the four companions together and jerked them upright. “It is some miles yet to our next stop, and we want you looking fresh, so behave yourselves.”
    There was nothing more that could be done or said to improve the boys’ prospects, so they got into line quietly, forgoing any attempt to anger their captors further.
    They walked the rest of that day, until it grew too dark to see. When this time came, their captors stopped a short way off the road and set about making camp, while one kept watch over the prisoners. When the camp was established and the fire blazing, the boys were brought close enough to feel the warmth, yet not close enough to enjoy it as the men did. They were given small portions of rations in a manner that suggested the gesture was nothing more than an afterthought to keep them going the next day, and when this was done, the bandits did nothing more to or for their prisoners, but simply sat around the fire talking among themselves until they had all drifted off to sleep.
    The following morning they were roused early, even though they had been driven hard the previous day and could now barely bring themselves to stand up, let alone make forced march as was being demanded of them. However, after rising as slowly as they dared, they soon staggered into line because there was nothing else they could do to stop the torment. This time the bandits walked behind, menacing them with cords of rope which they had produced out of their kits the previous day. There was no talk among the prisoners, and hardly more among their captives, as the whole party was driven by the will of the chief to reach the nearest city as quickly as they could.
    As it turned out, the nearest city was not so terribly far away if one traveled hard as the bandits had that day. By noon they had caught sight of the vast lake upon the shores of which Taronga was built, and less than an hour later they were inside, after the bandits had bribed the watchman of a lesser gate to allow them passage with their illicit merchandise in tow.
    Taronga, the city they had now come to, was a bustling hub of all sorts of trade, both legal and illegal. However, the legitimate merchants decidedly outweighed their counterparts, and so the black market went little noticed by anyone, especially the government in Varaskel, which was some hundred miles away to the North. As the boys and their captors walked through the streets they were jostled heedlessly by the mob of people enjoying the city’s prosperity. The crowds were especially large on this particular day because it happened to be the first day of the national fair, for which reason sellers and buyers came from all over the country to ply their trades or purchase themselves the best that could be had. It was not uncommon to meet a man from outside the country’s borders, so great was the fame of the Taronga fair.

21 September 2013

Price of a Throne, Chapter 8

Chapter 8

    Kalveston was tired. He had been traveling, and fighting, for months now, working to subdue those who persisted in the false belief that he was not destined to lead them into a golden age. The forging of the empire was moving more slowly than he could bring himself to believe. Every day he issued new challenges, insults, and even prodded his men forward, yet still the rebels refused to come out to fight, die, and bow before his power, at which time more of them would die anyway, for one can never have enough examples of one’s greatness.
    Not so long ago, a month perhaps, it had come to his attention that a northern mercenary was leading his enemies and that it was through this man’s influence that the rebels had adopted the coward’s tactics of hitting, running, and hiding. However, they had had such success with this behavior that Kalveston had condescended to offer the man a captain’s post in the imperial forces. The reply sent back had been...less than satisfactory. In response, Kalveston had placed a bounty on the man’s head, and let it be known that he who handed over the wanted one would receive even more than the original offer. Yet even such profitable terms still had not produced his enemy. Obviously, as Kalveston discerned, the man inspired stronger loyalty than he had thought any other man capable of.
    As he thought over these facts from a seat placed just outside his tent, and as he watched his men prepare for another sortie into the hill country in which the rebels had taken refuge, his chief scout approached and saluted.
    “Master, there is no sign of the rebels. They have moved on.”
    “Are you sure of it this time? Have you stabbed every bush, every tree, every hole in the ground? The last time you said that, we moved on, and they struck our rear as we marched, from the place you had described as deserted.”
    “Yes, lord”
    “I swear, if you were not the only real tracker I had, I would have hung you out for the carrion birds that day. It is your misfortune that anyone who knows anything of tracking seems to have joined the rebels. If such a mistake happens again I will make my threat good and order your closest companions to carry out the sentence. I will not wait for them, either.”
    At being forced to stand and listen to such vindictiveness directed at himself, the scout had grown pale and begun to tremble. Kalveston saw this and snapped at him again.
    “Weakness! I may execute you for that, if I do not find a better reason soon. Those who follow me are superior to others. They do not show weakness like the rebel dogs you have failed to find. Get yourself and your men away, and do not bring them back until the campfires are lit.”
    The scout immediately hurried off, and Kalveston settled into his observations again. How long had it been? A year? Two? He could not remember and did not care. All that mattered was that all the land be united under one banner. It was amazing that he, previously the conquering general for the man who called himself king, who had destroyed a host of rebels and a fleet of invaders in a matter of weeks, should be obstructed so by the farmers and hunters who made up the riffraff opposed to him. He had shown them already what came of refusing him. He could not count the number of burned towns he had left in his wake throughout the conflict, yet they still persisted in their resistance. He pondered this in his mind as he stalked through the camp, looking for anyone he could punish to alleviate his own confusion.
    It was hours later and after dark when the scouts found their way back to the camp and came before him to report the results of the expedition. It was apparent that they had not even paused to acquire food and drink, as they were trembling from exhaustion as they waited until the emperor should see fit to notice their presence.
    Kalveston continued to eat his meal at a leisurely pace while watching the assembled group slowly turn pale, possibly from imagining what he was thinking of doing to them. Finally, he finished his drink and thrust everything at his attendant, who was standing nearby. The man promptly left to do his duty, while the emperor looked up to face his frightened scouts.
    “Well? Was anybody left? Did you find anything? A broken blade? A bag, a scrap of food, perhaps?”
    The scout seemed to be trying to restrain himself from marching off as he answered carefully “Well... We did not find any of those by themselves. What we found was a dead man.”
    “What is it that has you so frightened, then?”
    Shaking visibly, the man replied “He was not yet cold.”
    Kalveston answered without flinching, as if  the news he had been given was positively mundane and uninteresting. “Well, you heard my words and it seems that you failed in your one mission. Did you bring the body back with you?”
    “No, Master. We did not think that you would require it.”
    “Wrong again. I wanted to see if the man was that elusive captain who defied me so foolishly.” Turning to the man who had come before him earlier, he added “I do not go back on my word. You are a dead man. You others, take him back to where you found the body and tie him tightly to the nearest tree. Then leave him and rejoin the ranks.”
    As soon as the unfortunate men had left, Kalveston sent for his captains and gave them new orders. “My scouts have stumbled upon signs that the rebels were nearby this day. They have gotten farther away since then, but my men should be able to catch up and kill them all. Is that not true?”
    Dutifully, the captains chorused “Yes, they can.”
    “I knew it, but I wish to be sure of it, so there shall be no rests tomorrow. Everyone will march until we find the rebels or to dark, whichever of the two comes first. Those who fall behind shall be left to fend for themselves. To some, that is worse than death, so I expect that every man will be in ranks when we halt. If not, it shall be on your heads. Weapons only. Packs are to be carried by the animals; that is what they exist for. Men in my ranks know that catching the enemy is more important than their own survival. Has there been news from the empire?”
    “Nothing of consequence, lord. In Naibern life goes on, and in the territories they are learning how to live.”

16 September 2013

Price of a Throne Chapter 7

Chapter 7

    Torlan’s brother Railon was a wanderer. He had now been traveling in countries east of Gairadane for several years, after spending some time in the North, and even a year traveling in the South, in the places which had recently fallen under the banner of Kalveston, the warlord ruler of the vast new empire which he was still forging with the blood of his countrymen.
    Railon had drawn blade with Kalveston’s enemies many times over the course of his time in the South, yet he had never crossed swords with the man himself, for the Naibern was the superior swordsman, and Railon had not wished to die in the midst of turmoil he cared but little for. His skill with men and head for tactics had, however, apparently come to the attention of the emperor, who had once sent the red-haired, dark-skinned captain a white flag and an offer of respect and high pay in the Naibern ranks. Railon’s response had incited the emperor to place a price on his head, as he had nearly attacked the messenger and sent back a reply laced with insults and which concluded “Were I less of a man I would have waited for the chance to kill you in the dark as a spy would. I will not join you for power over half the world, and I will always give aid to the destruction of your plans and your life, until you are dead.”
    But at the moment, the threat of the southern emperor and his hunters was far from Railon’s mind, as he waited with stoic patience for the morning opening of the gates  of Jaltair, the capital of Qufaud, a country which bordered his homeland.
    There were several others waiting alongside him, and he had spoken to some of them to speed the time along. However, he had discovered that, in addition to the more ordinary petitions which people might bring before their rulers many times in a month, several of them had come to demand asylum and protection from bands of rogues who were evidently coming up from the south and causing general havoc and hardship among the people.
     When he heard these complaints, Railon said to himself “That fiend Kalveston has not stopped. Perhaps he is searching for me, but it is more likely that he simply wants to bring the whole world under his banner. It seems my course has been set for me.” To those he spoke to, he added “I know who is ordering this. I am a great captain and I have fought him before. I will go to your Taljun and ask him to let me lead soldiers against this threat.”
    Accordingly, as soon as the gates were opened, Railon joined the crowd of people who were making for the palace, ignoring the curious looks sent his way by those who took notice of his bright hair and straight sword. “A galjan is here. What would he want of the Taljun?”
    “Who can say? Even galjani can not get everything for themselves.”
    “True. Let us go and attend the Taljun’s audience so we may discover what this one wants.”
    Railon overheard this exchange, as the two men were standing only feet behind him in the line which had developed as they drew near the Taljun’s palace. In passable Qafaudi, he answered “This galjan wants the freedom of all people from warlords too big for their helmets. That is all.”
    Soon afterwards, the opening of the Taljun’s audience was announced to the public, and those who had reason began to file forward through the intricately worked wooden gates that closed off the palace from the people. The people were sent in one by one, while those left behind waited in the wide courtyard, which was paved with stone and dotted with wide-spreading trees to offer shade to the ruler and others, until it was indicated that they should enter.
    Several people entered and departed before Railon was called in. Some were visibly happy, and others appeared less pleased with the answer they had received from their ruler. It was not long before Railon himself was called to come forward for an audience, and he moved quickly, as the familiar epithet of “galjan” resounded throughout the meticulously maintained courtyard.
    On entering the Taljun’s audience hall, Railon observed that the same level of care had been taken in the room itself, which was cleared of everyone except the ruler, some advisers standing close to his side, and of course Railon himself.
    The Taljun, an elderly man sporting a long beard which nearly covered his chest, spoke almost as soon as Railon had set foot inside. “Are you the only galjan waiting outside? I do not grant galjani meetings freely. My men say you have the look of a great warrior.”
    Giving the ruler the sweeping bow which was customary to him in such meetings, Railon replied “Yes, I am the only one, and I thank you for allowing me in to you. Whether I am a great warrior is really a matter of whose side you are on.”
    The Taljun guffawed loudly at this tactical retreat of an answer. “That is a wise choice, and I wish my own men could be ready with such a one as that. But now, tell me, what really brings you here, so far from your home?”
    “May I drink? I have had a long time coming here. I came to warn you that there is darkness brewing on your horizon. I have been there and seen it myself. Your people on the southern border are being harassed by bandits ignoring all opposition. Therefore I ask that you give me men to patrol your borders, and if you will not let me lead them, then order your wisest captain out to do it himself. The one who leads our enemies will not stop until he dies.”
    An attendant then entered with a drink and passed it to Railon as the Taljun exclaimed “Then we must move even more swiftly than he does. I can not have my people attacked like this while I sit here.” Turning to the several advisers who stood nearby, he added “My men shall follow this man. See that they start before the sun has set a second time, and that my greatest general goes with them. Do as I have said.” As he waved airily in the direction of the viziers, two of them hurried off to do his bidding.
    Passing the goblet back to the attendant who stood waiting for it, Railon said “Many thanks for your swift action. May your wisdom increase with the length of your beard. I crave leave to go now so that I may prepare myself.” The request being instantly granted, Railon was sent on his way, with a warning that a runner would be sent to find him when the soldiers were ready to start.