By dabeagle - Chapter 7
"Out of my way," he growled, using air to bounce a guard off the ceiling, the floor and then out a window. He could only hope that the Quantums did not figure out that the way home wasn't blocked now, since King Corvan's army had retaken the Keep. Soon Malodur's magic would fade and the gateways would unlock, allowing them access to their homes if they thought to check. He sighed heavily as he labored through the corridor, trying to concentrate on searching for Malodur and Orund. He allowed himself a grim smile as he thought of grabbing the both of them and ending this bitter conflict with one fell swoop, all that would remain would be some brigands and the remains of his army to absorb. Orund would die a slow death if he had any say in it, the bastard had dared silence William, and he felt as though his rage could not have been more if he had killed the boy.
He stepped though an archway and felt the unmistakable feel of Malodur's spell, a portal spell. He was opening a damn portal! He broke into a run, feeling for the gateway they were using, straining to feel if he were drawing closer or not to the casting he could feel. The gateway was nearby and he stepped into the shadows of a room with a brightly lit center where the gateway shivered for the soldiers passing through, Orund's head disappearing from view in the throng.
"No!" Asmodean thundered as he cast. A Fire Ring roared from his palm, twisting into a circle of fire with tendrils of flame reaching from its fiery core and engulfing the guards walking into the gateway, burning through their armor and leaving molten drops of metal on the floor. Soldiers burst into flame and the gateway winked out, cutting one guard in half.
Malodur turned to face the threat, already knowing who it was. He cast viciously, rock flying from the wall and at Asmodean, who rolled across the floor to dodge them. The stones smashed into the wall where Asmodean had stood, shattering into thousands of shards. Asmodean cast a solid spike of air that whistled past a diving Malodur, slicing cleanly through the Keep walls. Malodur was on his feet and running as Asmodean cast again, toppling a column into Malodur's path. He skidded to a stop and rippled the floor at Asmodean who floated above the damaging floor.
Asmodean cast wind again, a solid lump of it settling in Malodur's mouth, slowly forcing its way to the back of his mouth. Malodur cast in desperation, rock shards flying quickly at Asmodean, who blocked with a shield of air, and continued to force the block of air into Malodur's throat. Malodur cast Golem, and before Asmodean's eyes a stone man formed of the broken rock and toppled column.
The creature lumbered towards him stupidly, swinging wildly and knocking him from his perch in the air. Asmodean landed roughly, side aching from the stone floor, and fixed Malodur with a stern gaze.
"This is for Lady Corvan," Asmodean growled as the block of air wrapped around Malodur's tongue and clipped it neatly from its natural position. It was ejected from the mouth only to have a small fire cauterize the wound as Asmodean wanted to save the High Lord's wizard. Losing Orund had been unfortunate, but having Malodur may prove useful.
The Golem howled in pain as Malodur lost consciousness from shock and its body began to tremble, shards falling from it as it tried to continue its last thought of killing Asmodean. Each step put it in more disrepair until, just a few feet from its goal, the rock crumbled to the ground, lifeless once more.
Asmodean bound Malodur with air and dragged him to the window to observe the prince's handiwork. He watched as an impressive Ripple knocked the guard shack to the ground in a puff of dust. Asmodean began casting lighting down on the remaining soldiers and battlements where opposition still clustered. The main gates flew outward and King Corvan's army was through the front gates, engaging the enemy.
King Corvan's army poured through the open Keep gates, taking prisoner those that surrendered and slaughtering those foolish enough to fight. Lighting fell sporadically on the battlements and ahead of the invading army, decimating the remaining Orundians, and then fell silent. The banner men thundered through with the sigil of House Corvan on their waving banners, and a huge knight astride a black and white spattered horse surged through the broken gates.
He dismounted where a knot of guards met him, a lone Orundian Guardsman dragged between them. The knight drew his sword and used the tip to elevate the guard's head so that the captive gazed fearfully into the eyes of the huge warrior. The knight reached forward and grabbed the guard by his tunic, lifting him off his feet and holding him nose to nose.
"Where are my wife and children?" he snarled.
"Please, milord," the guard gibbered.
"Where, gods pound you!" he roared.
"What's this? William? William! You speak, how is this possible!" the huge knight watched in awe as William ran across the courtyard, forcing his father's men aside to reach the King, and was promptly engulfed into an embrace that would have crushed many.
"I can hardly wait to tell you how, father!" William enthused.
"And what of your mother and brother?" the King asked.
"Roland is well, but Mother..." William trailed off. His father nodded sadly, unshed tears suddenly standing in his eyes.
"I feared as much, I feared you all lost," he trailed into silence before pulling William close once more, "In this life we must remember what we are given, and cherish the memory of what we have lost."
Roland and I descended from the battlements, through the cold passageways towards the courtyard. As we descended I was reminded again about Roland and his thought process, he was in for a few surprises, I thought grimly. I was not about to be made his lapdog, or his humble servant or whatever. We stepped out of the Keep and into the bright sunshine. Horses stamped their hooves into the packed dirt, snorting in the fading day. A path cleared for the crown prince and I spotted Kody under the eaves and changed course to join him. He smiled wanly as I approached and wrapped his arms about me loosely. I breathed in his scent and held him close, glad that the carnage was over for the time being.
There was more whooping as Roland and his father were reunited, Roland settling into his role as Crown Prince very quickly as he dispatched three soldiers to the dungeon to retrieve his mother and make a proper pyre for that very evening.
There was a shuffling of feet as the soldiers made way for King Corvan and his sons. He was standing in front of us, towering actually, and he was a terrifying sight. His armor had bloodstains on it, the coat of arms almost completely covered. He must have been six foot ten, long tangled blond hair with grayish white streaks running through it, beard to match.
"You two, you will follow us," he intoned and swept by us. I was scared of him; to be sure, he was huge. But I also saw where Roland got his attitude from, that imperious tone that demanded acquiescence. Also he was bigger than me. We followed the King and his sons, Kody and I staying shoulder to shoulder as we entered the Keep once more.
We passed through the entrance to the main passageway, which we had never been in before, and it led into a great room that could easily have had a football game played in it. The King strode quickly to the far end of the chamber and was seated upon a huge chair of wood, the chair being almost as imposing as the king himself. The dais the chair was on had three chairs fanning out on either side of the central chair, presumably for the King but curiously there was no matching chair for the Queen. Roland and William took places to either side of their father's chair, standing while Kody and I looked and felt stupid standing alone before them. William leaned close to his father's ear, who nodded in response, and William straightened before walking down to us.
"Kody, please stand to the right of Roland, Aaron, please stand to my left. When we are seated you should each stand behind our chairs," and with those simple instructions he turned and went back to his previous position. Kody looked at me and I looked back at him, shrugging, and walked unsteadily towards William, whose eyes shone with pride at me and a deep sadness, which I surmised was for his mother. Kody quietly took his place behind Roland while I slid in behind William.
Viewing the hall from this vantage point allowed us to see that banner men had appeared silently to stand at the doorways, another fellow stood stock still at a right angle to us and the room began to fill with some of the soldiers that had ridden in with the King, I stopped count at thirty-two. They strode to the front of the room, clasped a fist over their heart as they bowed to the King, and then turned smartly to stand in diagonal rows. William and Roland sat, and Kody and I moved behind them respectively. Once there were several rows in place, the man who was curiously half turned to us faced us, with Asmodean framed in the doorway behind him.
"Asmodean, Royal Wizard, with prisoner," called out the small man, now obviously revealed as a crier. Asmodean strode, occasionally twitching his hand that tugged on an invisible rope as he dragged and jerked a figure across the stone floor. He stopped in front of the king, jerking the prone figure so that he landed roughly in front of him and bowed low to the King.
"Your Majesty, it is indeed good to see you in fine health after so long," he intoned.
"It has been too long, arise my friend and inform me of events," the King said in a friendlier voice than I would have thought possible from him.
"My lord," Asmodean began as he straightened, "we were betrayed by Orundians inside the Keep's walls. They opened the gates in the dark of night to allow passage to those that would see the kingdom fail. Orund was too cowardly himself to lead the charge, allowing a small force to enter with a wizard sent from the High Lord," Asmodean sniffed and kicked the prostrate form in front of him, "and took the Keep. I was unprepared for such treachery, I am sorry to say, and was only able to hold the day in place, hoping for someone to unlock the spell.
"The spell repeated the day again and again, each day I was removed of my powers, each day the princes were forced into labor, and each day the Queen was murdered. I bring you, My King, the wizard who made this attack possible," he intoned, spitting on the bound figure, still out cold.
"He shall die with the day," the King decreed.
"My lord, I would suggest he be interrogated first, perhaps for several days, as Orund escaped and we must know how to track him. He is weakened without magic and if he can be located quickly, my lord,..." Asmodean trailed off.
"Yes, well said, let it be so." The king nodded his great head. Asmodean stepped aside with another bow and jerked the cord; presumably air, to drag his prisoner with him. The crier's voice rang out again.
"Lord Azriel, Captain of the securing force," rang the man's voice.
Another tall man, wide in his armor, strode towards the King. He stopped and clasped a fist to his forehead, then his heart before bowing.
"Rise, Captain. What is the status of the Keep?" the king questioned.
"My Lord, the Keep is wholly in our hands. Guards have been stationed at the portals and the remaining Orundians have surrendered to us. We are scheduling interrogation at your command, Sire," he reported succinctly.
"Proceed, let them know our policies for being absorbed into the army and that information is rewarded quickly, as is misinformation," the King replied. The Captain bowed again and left the room. The King rose and addressed the room.
"Advisors, Generals, we have retaken the Keep, we have the High Lord's Wizard in hand and my sons returned to me. This evening will mark the death of the Queen, in the courtyard. Soon we will move to make our final strike to unite the warring states of Demetral and Orund to re-form the state of Corvan," he stated, which was greeted with murmurs in the crowd.
"Generals, have your men ready to strike camp at a moment's notice," the King said before turning and stepping behind his chair and through the tapestry which obviously concealed a passage. William stood, and I noted Roland doing the same from the corner of my eye and we followed them through the tapestry, although it really wasn't covering a passageway, it was a passage itself. We never moved the tapestry, simply walked into it and found ourselves in a chamber, covered in gold with candles mutely lighting the room. Shields covered the flame so it actually gave a soft, indirect light that gave the room a mellow appearance. The King stood still as Roland and William removed his breastplate and the remaining armor, gently setting it all in a rolling cart where a plain man waited for all the armor to be assembled. Presumably he was a smith and would tend to the armor, and hopefully clean it of all that blood.
The room was large, though not so nearly as large as the hall we had just been in, and was round with columns set along the wall every few feet. The columns gleamed Silver, and unless I missed my mark they were gateways. A large chair and desk stood at one end and to the left of the desk was a large fireplace, fire now blazing with warmth. Small chairs and couches were strewn about the room, and they looked most uncomfortable. The ceiling was about ten feet from the ground and was flat, as opposed to domed, as I would have expected of a round room.
Relieved of his armor, King Corvan settled into the large chair in front of the desk and regarded Kody and myself. Naturally, I hadn't realized this and fell victim to a poke in the ribs from Kody. A small chime sounded and then Asmodean stepped though the wall between two silver columns and approached the desk where the King sat.
"Asmodean, William said you would want to explain these two boys, and I assume that includes telling me why William can now speak?" the King rumbled. Boys? I hope he meant that as opposed to girls!
"My lord, they represent many things, they are our future," Asmodean said, fixing us with speculative as well as appreciative looks. "Because of this one," he pointed at me, "William speaks, and because of this one," he pointed at Kody, "Roland lives.
"My Lord," he said, facing the king, "We have with us right now the only known Quantum Wizards in the land. And their hearts are fettered, indeed, tangled completely with those of your sons."
The king seemed to mull this over as he eyed us, and I was feeling very uncomfortable. Once again I had the feeling of being weighed and measured, bit-by-bit. I wasn't a powerfully built person, and Kody wasn't exactly imposing either. Kody glanced at me, I felt his Blue eyes glowing and I faced him with my Green eyes glowing like lanterns.
"Notice, my lord, that as they grow nervous as men do in front of my lord, their eyes betray their Quantum abilities," Asmodean continued.
"How did these two events come to pass, William's voice and Roland's life?"
"Roland was poisoned soon after my spell was broken for the second time, my lord. Wizard Kody performed healing, and due to the nature of his heart and feelings for Roland and what little Roland allowed to show, the poison was cleansed from Roland's body, and death cheated.
"William was mortally wounded while attempting to reunite Roland and myself, and due to Wizard Aaron and William's mutual feeling, much more than the wound was healed, I daresay William has not a scar anywhere on his body, my King."
I decided I would like to see that for myself.
"What of a successor?" King Corvan asked Asmodean, apparently still deep in thought.
"Marriages are made on many levels, as my lord is well versed with, and a simple marriage of power and producing an heir should be a matter of joining two states. I understand King Alliante has made the idea of a power marriage between the Princess Marissa and Crown Prince Roland an item of speculation. He has no sons and is trying to find a fair future for his daughter," Asmodean reasoned.
"This is true, what you say, and may well assist the kingdom, for they must be happy as much as possible," he turned to Roland, "All that has been said is true, my son? This man has given you his heart, and you have given yours?"
Roland faced his father steadfastly, and nodded as he never broke eye contact and made no hesitation, "We have, Father," he replied.
"William, this is true for you as well, my child?" William did not hesitate in agreeing.
Then I shall not stand in the way of my children's hearts," King Corvan said with a finality that seems almost magically binding. William streaked across the room to me, eyes wide and smile plastered on his face, the likes of which could only make me smile in return, and hugged me tightly to him. Naturally I hugged him back, and saw from the corner of my eye that Kody was in similar straits. Roland enthusiastic? Who would have thought it could happen?
The funeral was stately under the circumstances, the King made a short and heartfelt goodbye to his wife. Roland and William wept openly as their father recited memories and bade his wife goodbye, until the next life. The funeral pyre lit the night sky; wood popping and sending sparks high into the dark night like millions of fireflies, or faeries perhaps. William dried his tears and came to me as I stood at the edge of his chair.
"The mourning has been done, Aaron, and the celebration must begin," he said softly.
"Celebration?" I asked. How could they think of celebrating?
"My mother lived a happy life, she fought with my father for more funds to help the people as opposed to military campaigns. She was loved by the people because she loved them as well, so tonight we will celebrate the way she chose to live her life. Come! Dance with me," he said with a grin as he took my hand.
"Are you crazy?" I hissed as I pulled my hand away, "All these people seeing us dance together?"
"What of them, Aaron? I don't know why you feel as if we should hide, like someone wouldn't approve of us," William said with a bit of anger. I think his feelings were hurt that I pulled my hand away.
"William, where I come from you can get killed for showing you are attracted to... other men," I replied.
"Your world is strange, and it is not my world, Wizard Aaron, this is my world and I need you here in it, with me," he said with a desperate edge in his voice, as he stared at me intently. I felt embarrassed at his blatant statement, but dizzyingly good too at his having said it.
"I can't dance," I mumbled.
"You what?" he asked.
"I can't dance," I hissed.
"They don't have dancing where you come from?" he asked.
"Of course they did. I said I can't dance!" I muttered loudly.
"Aaron," he said seriously with an impish grin on his face, "you must dance with me," and with that he seized my hand and dragged me in front of the crowd. Music was playing, but I felt as though I were on display, a fish out of water. The crowd cheered at the sight of William who held me at arm's length and forced me to move. I felt ungainly and am sure it was obvious I didn't know what I was doing, but the crowd chanted faster as the music increased in tempo and William spun me and lifted me and generally tossed me about without ever breaking his grip on me in this odd dance. I noticed Roland and Kody as well, although Kody seemed to have gotten the swing of it and was just about tossing Roland all over the Keep, once again without breaking contact. I wonder if that was the whole point? I turned the tables on William and lifted him high into the air and he gave out a whoop of joy as I began to swing him about and try to do all the things I remember him doing to me, whereas he had scared the hell out of me, he seemed to be enjoying every minute. He was so weird.
The music came to an abrupt halt and the surrounding crowd thundered their applause as William led me away from the dance floor, as it were, and over to a pitched tent where he handed me a glass cup, I guess a goblet, and raised his glass to me.
"To us!" he said with a smile and we drank. And we had another drink, and yet another until the world seemed to swim before me and I was vaguely aware of William taking my hand.
"Where we going, Will? Don't you want something to drink?" I asked.
"No, let's join Roland and Kody," he murmured in my ear.
He led me away from the crowd and back into the keep, down a stone flight of stairs and into a small chamber where Kody and Roland were deeply engaged in discerning, by touch, what was in each other's mouth. Will pulled me to him and we played that game for a bit as well.
I awoke in a large bed, no idea how I had gotten there, and my head hurt. I groaned as I rolled to one side, sun streaming through the window.
"Good morning, love," whispered past my ear and tickled it with warm tongue. I giggled.
"Stop, silly, my head hurts," I half giggled, half moaned.
"That will teach you to drink so much mead," he retorted, pulling me closer. I was suddenly aware of my lack of clothing, and of his.
"William, did...did we?" I seemed unable to finish the question.
"Did we what?" he asked with an innocent smile.
"I don't remember much of last night, after we started to, ah, kiss," I replied, and I felt my cheeks reddening.
"I remember all sorts of things," William said with a devilish grin.
"Do you remember me helping you to your room 'cause you were too drunk to do it yourself?" came Asmodean's voice as he strode into the room.
"I was not too drunk!" William said indignantly.
"I suppose you were just too tired then, eh? That's why all four of you were fast asleep on the stone floor of the pantry? You think you're the only kids that ever went there to join lips and hips?" Asmodean snorted, " I think not."
"You both had best get dressed, we have a war meeting after breakfast, which is on the table. We strike tonight to finish Orund," and with that he swept from the room.
William groaned and climbed from the bed, and I inhaled sharply at seeing his backside, the morning light coming in to paint his back in light and shadows.
"What?" he asked as he turned to face me and I was met with the rest of his nude form and once again I goggled a bit, and felt that rosy glow returning to my face.
"You...you don't have any clothes on, I have never seen you..." I trailed off.
"Well," he said placing a hand on his hip, "You are the only one getting to see it now, any comments?" he said with a grin and did a small pirouette.
"Fantastic," I exhaled. He laughed and beckoned me.
"Come on, your turn," I shook my head and drew the covers about me tightly. "Why not?" he asked, "It's only fair!"
"You might not like what you see," I replied, looking away from him.
"I love what I see, and if you don't even things up I am going to steal those sheets from you, love," he said, grinning more broadly with each word. I stared at him and then with a whoop he was on me, pulling and tugging at the sheets while I wrestled to stay hidden under them. I rolled and twisted under him, and then he cheated as he began to tickle me, and oh how I squirmed. He stopped tickling as he gave the sheets a tremendous tug and I was suddenly laid bare before him.
"Marvelous," he said as he descended on me, kissing me softly while lying atop me. "You know, I love you, even if you looked like the cook, I still love you," he said softly.
"If he looked the like the cook you wouldn't be in bed with him, now could you two hurry up!" Asmodean roared as he reentered the room. "Gods, can't you even be joined before you accost each other? Have some decency! Nothing is worse than royals in love, I am sure of it!" Asmodean grumbled as he exited the room again.
"Did Asmodean wake you guys up too?" Kody asked excitedly. Kody is what we call a morning person, and if it weren't for the fact I love him dearly I would shoot him for being one. I looked at him with one eye open above my porridge. Or gruel, or whatever it was I was eating. I was afraid to ask, if you want to know. It was gray; have you ever seen gray food? Me either.
"Aaron, why aren't you smiling?" Kody said, moving over to sit next to me while Roland and William were deep in discussion, "I felt so wonderful to wake up in his arms, even if we did pass out before doing more than kissing!" Kody enthused.
"Kode, morning, why are you so hyper?" I grumbled.
"'Cause I'm in love, Aaron! 'Cause the guy I love held me in his arms all night long. You'd like mornings a lot more if you looked at it like that," he grinned.
"Kody, I don't even know if anything happened last night, I think I remember kissing but after that...I wanted the first time to be special, not some drunken fling I can't remember." I replied.
"Aaron, you guys passed out before we did, I remember you guys snoring across the room. You two drank a lot more than we did, I'm surprised you don't have a headache!" he chirped.
"I do, quit being so noisy," I grumbled.
"It is time, Wizards, follow me," Asmodean intoned from the end of the dining room, "The battle for unification begins today."
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