Tag Archives: Young Adult

King, Chapter 18

Chapters 1-17 are here:

http://jm-harrison.com/8-king-chronicle-8-sample-chapter/

~Chapter 18~

Tyson watched as a man and a half-lizard, half-bird fell out of the rising transport. Then he wasn’t watching, but racing to where Gibson had fallen. He reached his brother, but his attention was pulled to the sky again when he saw that it wasn’t a man falling anymore, but a dragon.

“It’s all true,” Gibson breathed, watching while the dragon swooped down over the treetops practically over their heads. Tyson nodded and picked him up. “It’s all real.”

“We have to move, Gibbie. Get up, or all those real things are going to come down right on top of us.” Tyson looked up and his eyes widened. The dragon was struck, and falling again. Tyson pulled his brother along, stumbling for the Landing Port. The sounds of trees snapping like twigs reached them. Tyson tripped when he looked back. He pulled Gibson off the street and under the awning of a stone building. They both cringed when they saw the transport and the blasting ball of light that seared into the ground. An explosion rocked the air, pounding through them, and the windows behind them shattered from the repercussion.

They waited, holding their breath to see if the dragon would rise again, or if the Lord Chancellor would appear. The transport turned away and disappeared. The sound of its engines faded. Long moments later, the streets started to fill with people, their dazed faces looking to the sky. The sound of weeping filtered through the town.

“Where is he?” Gibson asked and Tyson shook his head, still watching over the trees the space where the dragon had disappeared. “Is he dead?”

Tyson shook his head again, leaning Gibson back against the building. “I’ll go find out. Will you be all right?”

“Yes. It stopped bleeding.”

Tyson left him and hurried to the woods. The destruction of trees amazed him, and he climbed over huge trunks to the place where the blast had struck. There was nothing but a ring of black and a few smoldering branches. He didn’t stay long, fearing a return of the transport and Maralt. When he got back to Gibson, one of their friends was with him.

“Did you see it?” Creg asked while he wrapped a makeshift bandage around Gibson’s shoulder. “I can’t believe it, Tyson. It’s real. The dragon is real.”

“He may not be so real anymore, Creg. He’s not there.”

“You mean…you think he’s dead? The Lord Chancellor?”

“I don’t know what happened to him. But, I don’t think Maralt would have left if Marc Talryn was still alive. Can you get Gibson back to the house?”

“Sure Tyson,” Creg said.

“What are you doing?” Gibson asked, his face pinched from worry and pain, and a growing fear.

“I’m going after him. Someone has to. If something’s happened to the Lord Chancellor, no one knows what Maralt is doing. I’m going to try and follow him, find out where he’s going. Gibson, he’s after Juleta. He’ll kill her if he finds her. I have to go.”

He didn’t wait for his brother’s approval, glancing at Creg with a nod before he turned for the Landing Port. He dreaded going back inside through all the stiffening bodies, but he did it anyway. He crept through and around the dead, trying to stay as far away as he could. He heard a noise from the Captain’s office, someone moving around, and for a moment, he thought the Captain might still be alive.

The Captain was just as dead as ever, but Jak Strattle was looking over the desk. He was a Guild pilot they’d lost track of. He used to fly escort runs to Altair, but lately, he hadn’t gone any place where trouble might find him. He jumped when Tyson came in. “Tyson! Are you all right? What happened here? I mean, I saw the dragon, but…”

“I need to take your ship, Jak.”

“My ship? No. I mean, why? We can’t leave. We have to—”

“I need to follow that transport, and I don’t have time to argue. We have to move now.”

Jak looked likely to argue, but he didn’t, finally agreeing with a hesitant nod. “A transport? What’s so important about it?”

“Maralt Adaeryn is on board. We have to find out where he’s going.”

Jak closed his eyes, but started for the bay where his old ship was docked. Tyson looked around the office before he followed, shivering at the sight of all the dead eyes that stared at him. It seemed to him that there was fear in all those faces, telling him to stay, telling him to get as far away from Maralt as he could.

 ***

“I’m all right,” Marc said when he didn’t feel that way. He groaned as he untangled himself from Ralion and pulled to his feet, but then had to sit. Ralion was beside him the next instant, looking him over with a worried face. He hurt just about everywhere, bruised and scraped up, but otherwise not so badly injured. He winced when he stood again, moving for the companel on Ralion’s desk. He meant to contact Beren, afraid that Maralt knew just where Juleta was and would get there before Dain. He touched the controls and pain shot up his arm. An arc of light crackled at his fingertips, gluing him in place. Ralion grabbed him and hauled him back, stumbling over a chair and down to the floor.

“Now what?” Ralion said as he sat up.

Marc didn’t bother trying to stand this time. He shook his head, sure that if he used the companel again to contact Beren that the same thing would happen. He didn’t know why he wasn’t supposed to interfere, or who was ensuring that he didn’t, but he had a bad feeling that it was the good guys. “I have to go back to Distalt,” he said, propping himself up against the desk. “He killed a lot of people there.”

“Marc, how are you ever going to keep Dynan from finding out about this?”

“That’s why I’m going to Distalt.”

“What about Dain? Lyle and Ames?”

He shook his head. “I don’t think there’s anything we can do to help them. Nothing I’ll be allowed to do anyway.” Suddenly he wasn’t so sure that sending Dain was the right thing to do, afraid he’d end up fighting him for Maralt.

“What are you going to tell the other one, Dain Ardin?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“He’ll be able to tell if something happens. Either of them. Dynan always knew when Dain was in trouble.”

“I don’t think…No. Not this time,”

Ralion shook his head. “That’s comforting.” He got up to sit in a chair. “So is the thought that you’d make us go along with this, like it or not. Reminds me of someone I never want to see again.”

“You could look at it another way. You wouldn’t be committing treason against the Crown Prince that way. Innocent by default.”

“Too late for that. If I’m going to break my trust with Dynan like this, I’d rather know about it than live with being used after the fact. You’re not Maralt. Don’t forget that. Not that Maralt would bother talking about it,” he said and shook his head. “Treason for the good of the state.”

“I doubt Dynan will look at it that way.”

Ralion shook his head. “No, he won’t,” he said. “You know, before I went into the service, I wanted to be a farmer.” He smiled at that distant memory. “Maybe I’ll have the chance to do that.”

Marc glanced at him and smiled despite the oppressive weight he felt settling through him. He couldn’t really imagine Ralion doing anything else, but admitted it was a novel idea. “I heard about the pigs, and well, I remember them, too. That’s one of those memories that has been right there, always.”

“Dain almost didn’t forgive me for that.”

“Maybe he’ll join you, and you can be pig farmers together.”

“No.” He stood and held down his hand. “I’ll go tell Kyle. You want me to give him the whole story or just make it an order?”

“Tell him.” Marc stood, turning to look out the window. “I’ll be back when I can. If you hear anything from Beren…”

“I’ll let you know.”

Marc nodded, and thought himself to Distalt, using Gibson Ven as his conduit. Marc startled his parents badly, but they recovered quickly enough. “But we saw you fall,” Gibson said, half-rising from the chair he was in while his mother tended his wounds. “At least, we saw the dragon fall.”

“That was me, but I managed to get away before Maralt could blast a hole in me. Where’s your brother?” Marc looked at them when everyone froze for a moment, then he knew it, and groaned. “He went after him,” he answered his own question. Marc started shaking his head, but then realized he was upsetting the parents. “I’m sorry.” He thought Tyson was probably going to end up dead, and these people weren’t at all prepared to face that possibility. He didn’t guess any parent took that threat well, and thought of his own. “You weren’t supposed to get mixed up with this, not like this. I’ll do everything I can to get Tyson back here. He shouldn’t have gone.” He glanced at Gibson, and the boy almost shrank from him. Marc shook his head, not meaning to frighten them. “You need to get your things together and get ready to leave. Do you have any family?”

“Yes,” Randal said, and a glance to his wife. “We could—”

“Does Juleta know where?”

“Yes, she’s visited with us. My mother—”

“You can’t go there. I’ll let you know where in a minute. When I get back, you need to be ready. I’ll get a Medic over here as soon as I can.”

“He’s dead.”

“I’ll get one.” Marc nodded, and left them. He stood just outside on the Gurrell’s side porch, and he could see down the street. Ten people lay dead, scattered house to house and marked by the huddled groups that stood over the fallen. He activated his receiver, forgetting what had happened the last time until he heard Ralion’s voice. He remembered then, but nothing happened. “I guess I can talk to you without getting zapped.”

“That’s good.”

“I need a relief team in here. Maralt killed everyone he saw. Port is closed. They’re all dead. The City guard is dead and that kid we talked to took a ship and went after Maralt.”

Ralion swore. “Tyson, right? At least Dain knows who he is.”

“Except Dain doesn’t know he’s coming. Try putting me through on receiver. Maybe that’ll work.”

“Sure. I’ll try it,” Ralion said, then hesitated. “No, wait. How many times has our Com system been messed with? No. You wouldn’t want that kind of current coming in through your ear piece, Marc.”

“…Right. You have a point. Thanks. Get that team in here. And don’t go through Morlin. He’s busy dealing with Errien.”

“I’ll get them out to you.”

“Tell the Captain I’ll find him when he gets here. I need to move the servants. Dain told me there was a house on Altair. Where is that?”

Ralion explained that the Telaerin mansion on Altair was near a town called Nylin, but didn’t know when it had last been occupied. “I’ll get the local guard to send someone out. Check the place over.”

Marc agreed, and cut the channel. He looked down the street again. He didn’t want to be seen. He didn’t want to face these people, or the blame he felt for this atrocity. He was responsible for it, for every death that happened here.

He thought he knew what he was doing when he sent Juleta to Beren, but now he wasn’t so sure. Doubt was his master, and he should have expected it. That seemed to be the way it worked. One minute he was certain what he should do, usually before he did it, and when it was too late to change back, his certainty evaporated. The thing that told him which way to turn, left him, and when it did, he was cold and lost, the voices silent. He had yet to learn to wait patiently for them to return.

Those voices were different from the constant, insidious whispers that assailed him at every turn. He knew who directed them, the face of a demon swirling continuously in his mind. He still had a hard time believing that the others came from the Gods, but he listened to them anyway. Their intent at least was clear enough and matched his own.

“But Marc, they mean to take you. You can have everything you want and keep your life,” a whisper broke into full voice. A hole opened before him, its interior spinning with black and a man stepped out. As he did, the Gateway closed to a pinpoint, hovering at his back.

“You’d like me to believe that,” Marc said, glancing around to see if anyone would notice this apparition. The man before him watched with him. He was dark like Maralt, but different. Marc didn’t think he’d ever encountered this one before. It was hard to tell.

“I am Adiem, your father.”

Marc started at the name, but shook his head. “My father is in Rianamar at the Palace. I have no other.”

Adiem smiled easily and leaned back against the porch railing. “Yes, Meril is your father and Farina is your mother. That’s true. That part of you that is flesh and blood,” he said, and reached his hand up to touch a scrape at Marc’s temple. Adiem stopped when Marc reared back away from him, and he shook his head. “I am the first of our kind. You’re an Adept telepath, which means my seed is in you. I was created by the Gods, just as you were. I was part of their great and glorious plan for humanity. I followed along as expected, did as I was told, just as you are now, but I found out something I wasn’t supposed to. I discovered who the Gods are. I will tell you, they are no different from you or I. They were men once, long ago before they evolved into the beings that they are now. But certainly no better than you. They fear you, Marc. Why do you think they want to get rid of you?”

“They don’t want someone like you running around loose, is why. Neither do I.”

“Of course they don’t. They have power that they don’t wish to share. They won’t tolerate it in anyone but themselves. They want control and they’ll get it by any means. They distort the truth to ensure it. They destroyed our home, Marc, so that the knowledge would die.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“I didn’t expect you would. Not now, when they have such a hold on your mind. They tell you what to do and you do it, even when you doubt. I know. They did the same thing to me. I was cast aside though, exiled to a pit of darkness.”

“Yes, I’ve been there.”

“And you think that existence is what I deserve? Well, you won’t like it anymore than I. I’ll be seeing you there soon enough.”

“Only when I come to lock you away.”

“That’s what they would have you believe. You’re expected to give yourself to them, but they will reject you, and that small part that they haven’t ripped away will find only one home. It’s an unpleasant existence. Is it any wonder that we seek to escape it? No, you won’t like it either.”

“So you want me to think that you were put there unjustly?”

“I was, and there are so many others now, trapped as I am. You’ll set us free. It’s your fate to do so. In that moment, after you’ve taken your forefathers to yourself, the knowledge and power that the Gods possess will be yours. You’ll understand then. The truth will be revealed. When you see that I’ve spoken honestly of this, you’ll decide then. I only wanted to forewarn you of what you’ll be faced with. The others certainly won’t.”

“The Gods tell me what I need. They don’t rule by fear. They don’t seek the subjugation of man, or their destruction.”

“They seek to contain and control what is normal and inherent in all men by denying knowledge. And when they can’t, when that knowledge breaks through the boundaries they’ve erected, force is met by counter-force. Chaos is the result. They’re the ones responsible for this atrocity today, and you with them, as I am. Yes, in equal measure. When you’ve taken us all, you’ll have the power to break the cycle, to allow knowledge and truth to come from the dark shadows. The bonds that enslave us all will vanish.” He straightened, looking around at the dead. Families and neighbors were slowly starting to move indoors, carrying the fallen with them. There were others starting to look around, looking for someone who could explain, who could give them a reason for why this had happened. “The fate of all mankind rests in the choices you make. All mankind, Marc. We’re all hoping that this time, you’ll be wise enough to make the right decision. I’ll see you again.”

He was gone the next instant, stepping back inside the black maw that opened to receive him. It closed around him, sealing him away, but not before Marc saw the grimace of pain and weariness that twisted his face.

Marc closed his eyes, wishing he could excise his words so easily.

 ***

Jak Strattle looked over the controls of his ship, wondering what kind of trouble he was getting into. He’d been peacefully sleeping one off on board and woke to this nightmare. Dragons and Maralt Adaeryn. That name sent a bolt of fear through him, and he double-checked to make sure that the transport couldn’t track him. He stayed back beyond its ability to scan, far back. He glanced at Tyson Ven. “Why don’t we just call Central Control?”

“If you think you can get through, and if you think Maralt won’t know it, go ahead. We don’t know where he’s going yet.”

“You’re going to tell me what this is all about and how you got mixed up in it before we do anything,” Jak said. What he really wanted to do was turn around.

As Tyson started relating what he knew, Jak was convinced they had to turn back, and then Tyson described seeing Dain Telaerin with the Lord Chancellor one moment and not the next. He didn’t want to listen to the part about the dragon, and he felt suddenly sick when he heard how many people had died. “Dain Telaerin is going after him?”

“Sounded that way. The Lord Chancellor said don’t let him get in your head, and Dain said he’d bring him back.” Tyson frowned then. “Maybe Juleta said something, anything that might tell us what she’s gotten into. Why would Maralt want to kill her anyway?”

“What if she did? How would we find out about it? And Maralt kills people because he likes to, because he wants to hurt Dynan and Dain Telaerin and Cobalt.”

“I have her access code. Can you get into that system?”

“No, I don’t…Her personal account?”

“Yes.”

Jak frowned, thinking if he could access his own personal account, then he could get into Juleta’s, too. He wasn’t the same class of people as she, but he didn’t think the files where segregated by how important you were. “Let me just try. What’s the code?”

Tyson gave it to him, leaning over the screen to see what would happen. A moment later, Juleta Gurrell’s personal account opened. “Yes,” Tyson said, smiling over this small success.

“Where is she?” Jak asked.

“She was at the Palace. A Palace messenger came before dawn this morning, and Lord and Lady Gurrell left very soon afterward. I heard them say that she’d been moved, but they didn’t say where.”

“That means the Palace has her hidden somewhere. Have you heard the talk that’s been going around? About Liselle Telaerin and Prince Dynan?”

“I don’t pay any attention to that sort of thing, Jak. Who cares?”

“A lot of people care, and they use what ever they can find.”

“Liselle came to the house with Juleta.”

Jak rolled his eyes, afraid again. Anything to do with Liselle meant trouble, just the same as Dain. He turned back to the screen and started reading, even though he felt guilty for the invasion. Juleta Gurrell had a death sentence on her head, and somehow Liselle had gotten her mixed up in something big enough to warrant Dain’s involvement. That made it the worst possible kind of trouble. Jak skipped to the end of her journal. Her last entry stopped him. “It says she’s afraid.”

“There isn’t anything there,” Tyson said, and sat back in his seat. “We have to get to her before Maralt does, or she’s dead.”

Jak nodded, trying to think past the pounding of his heart. “There aren’t many places the Palace can hide her. Their homes are the first likely choice. Have you heard anything about the Beach Manor?”

“No, but that’s a likely place.”

“Yes, and so is Beren.” Jak frowned over that. Beren was almost too obvious, because Dain and Dynan lived there as often as they could. That meant they knew people that they could trust. Jak supposed that was true of the Beach Manor, but the twins hadn’t gone there so often. That was a once a year excursion that the whole family went on, except that one time that Dain had gone by himself. Liselle Telaerin had been the cause then, too. “This is crazy. We’re crazy, you know that? To do this is just stupid, Tyson. We could end up getting killed. If Dain Telaerin has anything to do with it, we’re sure to find trouble.”

“We have to help, Jak. No one else knows that Maralt is coming. I saw the Lord Chancellor fall. If something happens to Dain, we’re dead without him. We have to help.”

“Dain is crazy. Always has been,” Jak muttered, then checked his coordinates against the transports. He couldn’t tell which way Maralt would turn; for the Beach Manor, or Beren. If Jak wanted to get there in front of him, and he definitely wanted to do that, he had to guess now. “We’re going to Beren. If Dain is involved with this, that’s where he’d go. That’s where he would send Juleta to keep her safe. I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s what I think.”

“What about the other places, on Arel and Altair.”

“They wouldn’t send Juleta to Altair. Not with Dynan there today. They haven’t used either of those homes in years anyway. It’s got to be Beren or the Beach. I think Beren.”

Tyson hesitated, then nodded. “Beren it is. Can you get us there?”

Jak nodded, really not liking the idea. “I can get us there. This ship, it isn’t much, but it’s faster than a regular transport. I’m going to head us off toward Arel so he doesn’t think we’re following him and then we’ll get in front of him. We’ll get there before he does.”

A few hours later, they arrived over the Beren Port, dropping down inside the landing bay. It was dark still, but it wouldn’t be for long. As Jak set the ship down, Tyson stood. “Warn the Captain. I’m going.”

“Be careful, Tyson. Your Ma will kill me if I don’t bring you back.”

Tyson nodded, and left the ship. Jak sat right where he was, listening to the outside sounds for a while. The birds were starting to wake up. He hated the dawn. Tried hard not to see it on most days. He muttered over it and meant to go talk to the Port Captain, but then he heard the sound of a transport engine coming in for a landing. Jak went to the ramp, looking up at the craft as it lowered just two bays over and knew it was Maralt. He stood transfixed an instant longer. Maralt looked down at him, his eyes narrowing and then the edge of the building took him from sight.

Jak stumbled back on board his ship, his hand automatically reaching for the ramp controls. He thought about Tyson, and thought him dead. He moved quickly then, powering up the engines and preparing the ship for liftoff. It didn’t take long, since he’d only just shut them down, but it seemed forever before the indicator lights changed over. The moment they did, he got the ship moving, popping up out of the bay with reckless heed to safety. His hands shook, but he managed to engage the engines and set a course. It didn’t matter where. Away was the general idea. The ship moved forward, and Jak left Beren behind.

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Filed under Epic Fantasy, Guardians of the Word

King, Chapter 17

Chapters 1-16 are here

http://jm-harrison.com/8-king-chronicle-8-sample-chapter/

~Chapter 17~

Maralt waited for a moment at the street corner before he continued back for the Port. He stopped again just around the corner and looked back, waiting a space of breaths. The servants had been warned, he thought, which meant that the Gurrells had been warned, too, and whisked away to safety. Or so they thought. He had only to discover where they’d been taken, and he thought he could do that. There was a transport pilot waiting for him who would have the codes he needed. Maralt frowned at that thought. If the Gurrells and even their servants had been warned to watch for him, then surely the Port Captain would have been notified too. Maralt hadn’t seen the Captain when he landed, hadn’t checked in with him, but with a transport sitting idle in Port, the man would have learned by now that a Palace Messenger had landed.

Maralt smiled a little at that particular obstacle. The Lord Chancellor would never learn that entrusting others with such knowledge would only lead to their deaths. Or maybe he had learned and didn’t care anymore. If that were the case, Maralt would be sure to provide Marc Talryn with plenty of dead bodies to bury. He planned to do that anyway. There were lessons to impart after all. Apparently, the Lord Chancellor needed the reminder.

He heard a door open and close behind him, the sound carrying from the street the Gurrells lived on. Maralt slipped off the walk, moving between a wall and a large bush. A young man walked by, probably not quite seventeen, but big for his age. He looked all around himself in a manner that left little doubt who he sought. Maralt eased out of hiding, and looking back, saw another young man, this one older than the first. Their resemblance made them brothers. That one didn’t turn the corner, but kept on down the same street. Both of them were heading toward the Landing Port.

Maralt smiled at the thought of children being sent against him, and followed the younger of the two. The boy didn’t hear him approach until he was right there. “Looking for me?”

He thrust the dagger he held straight into him, but the boy was quick, dodged aside at the last moment and so only got a shoulder wound. He fell anyway, screaming in pain. Maralt reached down, set his hand on the boy’s chest while he squirmed and tried to escape.

“They should have warned you,” Maralt said, reaching inside to extract his soul. He showed him who he was at the same time and the boy’s eyes widened. “But then, the people you serve can be like that. They don’t care about you, little boy. Neither do I.”

Maralt heard footsteps racing up behind him, let go of the boy before he could take him, and had his sword out to meet the attack. The boy’s brother threw himself forward, momentum carrying him beyond the deadly flash of Maralt’s blade. This one recovered quickly, and met the next attack with more skill than Maralt had anticipated. He pulled in a breath at the waste of time, and meant to enter their minds to kill them both, when he heard the shouts of men approaching, horse hooves clopping down the street. Quickly, Maralt used the hilt of his sword, smashing it into the jaw of the elder boy and dropped him to the ground. Doors opened. More people came out to see what the commotion was about, some of them armed men.

Maralt turned on the approaching Constable and his two deputies, advancing toward them without hesitating. That alone made them stop. The next instant the Constable felt a stabbing pain explode in his mind and couldn’t remain seated. While his deputies looked on in fear, the Constable clutched his head, and fell from the saddle. Before his body hit the stone street, he was dead. Others came out of their homes. Foolish men. Maralt took three souls and turned for a fourth and a fifth. The sixth man had the wisdom to turn and run. No one else came near him as he walked away, but when he looked back the street was filled with people, some of them weeping over the dead. Maralt looked for the two boys and saw only one, tended by some woman. His eyes narrowed, wondering what the other thought he could do. He shrugged and turned for Port.

He took the time to go the long way, and found a garrison of city guards lined up at the street they thought he would come down, tree-lined and bereft of leaves. Spring might never come and certainly wouldn’t for these defenseless fools. The entrances to Port were all guarded. Maralt found the one with the fewest men. Their deaths happened in silence, though one of them did manage a few steps inside to give warning, but his voice failed him as he died. Five more souls taken. Strength washed through him.

Six men guarded the transport. They died too without their even drawing their weapons. Maralt entered their minds and sucked the life out of them. Logue begged to take a few hearts, something Maralt indulged him with. There was more of a mess, but he didn’t have to worry about that. He boarded the transport, and was surprised to find the pilot still on board.

“Well that was foolish of them,” he said. “To leave you here like this. Were you watching?”

The pilot stared at him, shaking where he stood. The man recognized him. All the better. “Yes.”

“I’ll have your codes. All of them.” The pilot nodded without speaking and turned for his controls. Maralt watched over his shoulder. There were only three codes, and only one that he really wanted, that would get him into flight logs, and tracking. “Now power the engines. When you’re finished, you may get up and come back into the hold. Oh and don’t think to attempt communicating with anyone.” He reached inside the man, closing his fist around his heart. “Because I can kill you as quickly as you think it. Remember that.”

The pilot, his name was Meyer Orrell, choked on his answer, but he was nodding enough that Maralt let him go. Meyer, he learned, frequently flew the First Governor and his family when they traveled, and he’d met Prince Dynan that very first night he’d returned to Cobalt. He’d helped arrange the response of the Transport Guild during those tenuous days. Maralt smiled at the coincidence and how that chance meeting guaranteed that Guildsman Orrell wouldn’t survive the day.

Maralt moved back to the hold and stood by the ramp, watching the bay. A guard peered around the corner. Maralt killed him. The next man, the one who leaned down to pull back his fallen compatriot, ended up landing on him instead. The third man died at their feet and then there weren’t anymore. None that came into the bay. He heard them easily enough, shouting to the Captain. Thought to thought, Maralt traveled through them to the Captain’s office, killing as he went.

The Captain stood at his desk, entering an access code that gave him a direct line to the Palace. Maralt waited until he heard Marc’s voice responding. All the Lord Chancellor heard was a gasp from the Captain, and then a cry of pain.

“Come and get me, Marc.” Maralt forced the Captain to look at him, so that he could see who was going to kill him, and then what was going to take him after that, and the man screamed.

Maralt shifted back to Logue in the transport. Meyer was just coming back into the hold. “The engines are powered,” he whispered, blinking as he watched Logue transform.

“Good. I think I’ll keep you around for now. You may take us up. A nice, leisurely flight path over town, Meyer. Low and slow, please.”

“Yes, my Lord.”

Maralt nodded. “Good man.”

 ***

Ralion walked into the Lord Chancellor’s office a minute or so after Dain Ardin and Dynan lifted off in the XR-30, heading this time for Altair and the second Approachment. Reports from the Errien Region Guild Hall already had the number of petitioners at ten thousand and climbing. The XR-9 was called in to assist Central Control. They were having problems tracking all the ships coming in. Port was overwhelmed. They started landing ships in a nearby field outside of town. Dynan would arrive in three hours, at dawn Errien time. At that point, all transports would be diverted to the third Approachment, also on Altair. Dynan’s first appearance had opened a floodgate, and the people of Cobalt caught the next transport in droves.

Marc held up his hand, and stopped Ralion from speaking. “Master Ardaman, it won’t do much good to put those people on the fastest ship to Errien. They won’t be able to see him. There are too many to see him as it is. Send them to Niles, or Buchanan even.”

Dain looked up from his breakfast when Ralion started pacing, watching him a moment. “Maralt?” he asked. Ralion only glanced at him and nodded before he went back to pacing. “Put Ardaman on hold, Marc.”

“Dynan won’t be speaking outside the Hall. No, sir. Wait. Master Ardaman, yes, I need you to hold. I’ll get back to you in a moment. Yes. I want you to stay on. Thanks. What is it?”

“Maralt,” Dain said the same time Ralion did.

“Where?”

Ralion answered this time. “Distalt. I’ve got the Port Captain on.”

Marc rapped the top of his desk with his knuckles, increasing the force of each blow. He nodded to himself, then turned for the companel. “Master Ardaman, I’d like to consult with Commander Morlin about increasing security at the Hall. If you want Prince Dynan out in the open, sir, you’ll have to put up with a military presence. We wanted to avoid that, but I won’t risk the Crown Prince out of doors without his men to ensure that he stays alive. I’ll have Morlin contact you. Keep me informed.”

He cut the line, and reached for another control key to activate the call from Distalt. “Yes, Captain, go ahead.”

Dain started when a piercing scream burst through the room. The Captain was being murdered while they listened, and they all knew it. Maralt spoke through the dying man and Marc stood, bending down as he concentrated. Dain thought for a minute that he would vanish right then. Ralion reached to stop him, but Marc straightened the next instant, and his fist slammed down on the desktop. The Captain’s scream broke off, but the channel remained open. The sound of his body thudding to the floor followed and then it was silent. It was utterly still.

Marc straightened, still listening for any background noise that might filter through. He hesitated for a moment. “Dain, I need you to go to Beren. I’m going to Distalt.”

He hesitated for longer this time. Another decision to make, this one harder by the look of him. He didn’t like this, and Dain wasn’t so sure he wanted to hear it. When Marc made sure all the doors were closed, he knew he didn’t want to hear it.

“I’m not telling Dynan about this, and I have to ask the same of you both and Kyle Bairing. As far as Dynan is concerned, Juleta is in my quarters. I’ve got a guard stationed at a door under orders to act like he’s keeping a prisoner. No one else will be allowed access. Dynan can’t find out that Dain is going after Maralt. Everything the public gets is what Dynan hears.”

“Why?” Dain asked when he felt he should put a stop to it instead.

“You know what you’re asking us to do?” Ralion said and started shaking his head.

“I’m asking you to commit treason.”

“Why?” Dain asked again.

“He doesn’t want you to go after Maralt and won’t allow it.” Dain groaned, wishing for an excuse with less truth to it. “We’d be faced with ignoring his command if we ask about this. If he gets mad enough, he’ll interfere more than I can counter without removing him as an influence completely. I don’t want to do that. I don’t like it any more than you, but it has to happen this way. I don’t have a choice.”

“Remove him as an influence? In other words, we go along with you or you make us?” Dain said and stood to face him.

“I could do it that way, Dain, that’s true. I’d rather that you understand that it’s necessary to accomplish what I need to. When this is over, and I have Maralt, then I’ll tell him.” Marc held up his hand when Ralion started to protest. “There’s more to it. I want you to confirm with me any orders he gives you. I may have to ask that you fail to carry them out, which will likely involve lying to him. You know how little time we have to debate the ethics of what I’m asking, but you should both already know it’s my sole intention to see Dynan crowned and Loren by his side.”

He leaned over the companel then, listening when they all heard a man calling out to the Port Captain. Marc hit the companel controls, sending a signal to Distalt that would hopefully get the man’s attention.

“Have you taken into account,” Dain said while they waited, “what will happen if Dynan finds out what you’re doing before you decide to tell him?”

“Yes. He’ll never trust any of us again, but especially not me. That’s not such a problem, since I won’t be here. If we can pull this off, it won’t matter what he thinks of me. You don’t have that luxury.”

Dain nodded when he didn’t want to. “He’s been mad at me before.” He shrugged. “I’m used to it. I’m taking Avry.”

“You can’t tell anyone else, Dain. Not even Bronwyn.”

From the companel, the man’s voice cut off suddenly and they listened again. “Hello? Yes, who’s there?” a voice filled with fear came through the companel.

“This is Marc Talryn. Who is this?”

“I’m…my Lord. It was Maralt Adaeryn. He was here. They’re all dead. All of them.”

“I know it was Maralt. What is your name?”

“The entire City Guard. They’re…they’re all dead.”

Marc closed his eyes, concentrating again. “I understand. Is he gone?”

“No,” he answered in a harsh whisper. “He’s flying over the town, and, and he’s killing them all. He’s…”

“What’s your name?”

“I’m…my name is Tyson Ven, my Lord.”

Dain stared when the room seemed to split in two and they could see Tyson, standing by the desk looking around himself at all the dead men. They could see, looking through his eyes, the line of bodies leading to the Captain. Then Tyson turned to them, blinking as he became aware that he wasn’t alone anymore. Marc stood next to him, but turned back for an instant. “Don’t let him get in your head, Dain.”

“No kidding. I’ll bring him back for you.”

Marc looked down at the crystal ball that still hung around his neck that Dynan had given to him, juxtaposed to the orb. He pulled the smaller chain off and handed it over across the divide. “Take this with you,” he said, and was gone.

“I guess I don’t like this job so much after all,” Ralion said as Dain turned to go, pulling the chain with the crystal over his head. “Be careful.”

It was Ralion talking to him again. His guard, his equal and his friend. Dain smiled. “I’ll be all right. I always am.”

 ***

Marc caught Tyson as he swayed. “I won’t hurt you,” he said quickly, seeing the terror in his face and eyes. It took a moment, but Tyson’s breath slowed and he nodded. “Tell me what happened,” Marc said and pulled him toward the door. He stopped outside the Port entrance, staring at the number of dead guards littering the street. Tyson spoke in a broken voice while Marc looked over the number of people exterminated, not all of them guards. Farther down the road, a woman lay still, slumped against a lamppost.  He heard the hum of a transport. Tyson instinctively shrank back inside and pulled Marc in with him.

Marc shook his head, shrugging off the hands that reached for him and stepped back outside. He looked at Tyson once, and smiled a little. “Stay here.”

Marc turned at the sound of footsteps running, and the next instant a young man staggered around the near street corner. He used the lamppost as a means to hurl himself around. His shoulder was bleeding.

“Gibson. God, Gibson.”

A transport rose above the trees, and turned in pursuit.

“Gibson,” Marc said, traveling to stand in front of him the next instant.

A beam of energy sliced down and struck his upraised hand. It blazed around them, encompassing the shield in blinding light before it dissipated. It wasn’t a laser beam, but a thing generated by malice. Beside him, Gibson gasped for breath, trembling while Marc held him up by his good arm. He concentrated and a light formed in his hand, arcing to the transport where it struck.

Maralt was already changing course, pulling the transport into a sharp turn and climb, but instead of retreating, the ship swung about so that the hatch showed. It hissed open a second later and Maralt stood, holding the pilot while the craft hovered, a hostage to ensure escape.

“When I say go,” Marc said to Gibson, “run for cover. Don’t look back. Go!”

At the same time, Marc reached for the pilot, transporting himself on board through his mind. Maralt yanked the man back, using him as a shield to protect himself from being taken. Marc saw Logue, piloting the craft, able to separate from Maralt and function. The transport rose straight up. A hole opened behind Maralt, the dark gateway that sought to pull Marc in. A devil’s spawn stood before it, grinning.

“One more for the pit,” he said, “but I don’t suspect you care what happens to this man. Meyer, you should know that the Lord Chancellor will do nothing to save you from the Gates. You see, he knows that once you’re out of the way, he can reach me.”

Meyer screamed, but Maralt held him still, showing the pilot where he was going. Marc took an involuntary step toward them, and Maralt whipped back around. The pilot screamed again, from pain this time.

“So eager to see him die, My Lord Chancellor? You want me that badly? Poor Meyer. It’s time to meet your maker.”

Maralt shoved the pilot into the vortex. While Marc watched in horror, unable to help him, Meyer was dragged down, screaming for help until his voice was swallowed by a cacophony of wails. Marc turned on Maralt. He took a step toward him. A blurred shadow caught on the periphery of vision barreled from the maw straight at him. Maralt smiled and stepped back.

From the dark, a head emerged, snake-like but more angular and horned. It was dirty brown, had arms and powerful legs, and wings. That’s all Marc saw before the thing hit him and they were falling. The air opened up around him, and the transport streaked away.

He knew if he looked down, he wouldn’t be able to transform, and with the snake-thing in his face, snapping its teeth at him, it was pretty hard to concentrate. He blasted it with a fireball from his fingertips, wrenching out of its grasp at the same time. Twisting as he fell, Marc looked down when he meant to look up. He choked on a curse and started thinking. He closed his eyes and tried to stop thinking about how fast that glimpse of the ground rushing up had been. He asked for wings first and got them, instantly followed by the body of the dragon. He had time to get his wings unfolded, but not a chance of slowing down before he would hit that barn, or the woods next to it. Instead of trying to slow, he spread his wings, filling them with air and threw his head back. The arc of descent widened just enough so that he raked the treetops instead of crashing into them. The moment he started up, he beat the air with all his strength.

Through the flow of air he suddenly heard the erupting crack of an electrical charge, looked up and it hit him. The trees he’d just managed to miss caught him, but at the wrong angle. Limbs and whole trunks snapped under the weight of his passage. A mammoth tree stopped him, the force of hitting it all but knocking him unconscious. He hit the ground next, amidst the falling branches. His body shrank in on itself until he was himself again, sprawled at an odd angle over a large and knotted tree limb.

Marc groaned as pain swept through him. He blinked as his vision cleared, and he heard the transport. He saw the nose of the craft rising above the line of trees. Maralt looked down at him from the pilot’s chair, back inside Logue’s body. Marc knew what was coming, looking around for cover, but there wasn’t any that would stop what amounted to a bomb. Maralt smiled, his hand raised, the charge forming outside the ship.

“Ralion,” Marc whispered. He could hardly move his arm to reach for him. The crackling started and he knew he didn’t have much time. He saw Ralion looking at him in momentary confusion until he realized Marc was in trouble. A burning light barreled down. Ralion grabbed his hand and yanked.

~*~

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King, Chapter 16

King Chapter 1-15 are here

http://jm-harrison.com/8-king-chronicle-8-sample-chapter/

~Chapter 16~

Marc started awake, reaching for whoever shook him before sight returned and he saw Dain and Dain Ardin standing over him. “Dynan is gone. And he’s blocking us, so we don’t know where he is.”

Marc leaned back in his pillows, the chain of the orb clinking as it moved, and rubbed his eyes. “He’s riding a horse.”

“He’s what?”

“That’s the impression I got before he started blocking. Leave him alone.”

“His guards sent us in here to get you up, so you’ll have to tell them to leave him alone,” Dain said after the two shared a look that told Marc no one was going to be left alone. “They aren’t real happy about it either. He snuck out without them.”

Marc grumbled about it, but got up. A few minutes later and they were all walking out to the barn in the cold before dawn with Kenon and Jon for company. Two guards from the Palace had stationed themselves at the barn doors, but the stables were empty, so they went to the riding ring through an enclosed corridor off the far left side of the building. They heard Dynan before opening the door.

The stallion he rode was a large, jet-black horse, with a long mane that matched his flowing gait. It reminded Marc of another horse that Dynan had acquired from Cadal and he wondered if she’d been brought down from the XR-9 yet.

“I don’t believe it,” Dain said, moving to watch from the railing that circuited the ring. Stands wrapped around the line of the oval building on either side of the doors. For spectators, Marc guessed. He didn’t exactly see the appeal, or understand Dain’s comment.

“It’s Galarin.” Dain Ardin smiled. “Can’t be any other.”

Dain nodded. “Looks like they remember each other.”

That Dynan knew the animal well was apparent in the way the two moved together. The horse pranced, sidestepping down the length of the ring, and then followed the curve of the fence. Dynan anticipated his steps. They could just barely hear him talking and Galarin responded each time. The horse wasn’t wearing a saddle and when Marc looked closer, he realized there wasn’t a bit on the bridle either.

“They remember, all right,” Dain Ardin said, and turned to Marc. “You know that parade we’re all in Coronation Day? That’s what he’s riding.”

Marc started at that. “He’s in a carriage. The big gilded one out back.”

“Not anymore.”

“Count on it,” Dain said.

Dynan turned at the sound of their voices and Galarin turned with him, spinning around without pausing. Dynan smiled. “What do you think?” he asked, and his voice echoed through the empty ring.

“I can’t believe he’s still here,” Dain said, climbing up to sit on the fence rail.

Dain Ardin reached for him. “Careful. I’m sure he remembers us, too.”

Galarin dropped his head, and Dynan swore, grabbing for a fist-full of mane as the horse burst into a gallop, charging at them. Dain jumped down and backed all the way to the wall. Dain Ardin urged the rest of them to do the same. “And don’t stand in front of the door either,” he said. “Just in case he decides to jump.”

Marc turned, opened his mouth to get clarification on that last possibility, but he didn’t have time before the horse was there, lurching to a halt. Dynan held on, even as Galarin reared up and pawed the air. The noise it made startled them all, a trumpeting neigh that echoed through the building loudly.

Kenon and Jon stepped toward the fence, ready to go over, but Dain Ardin pulled them back. “Don’t even think about it. He won’t hurt Dynan, but he will sure hurt you if you go in there.”

“He’s a little possessive,” Dain explained, watching while Dynan regained some measure of control. Galarin’s hooves struck the ground and he snorted at them.

“All right. That’s enough, you big show off,” Dynan said as the horse settled. He was laughing though, and slid down the animal’s neck. “He remembers all right. There he was, right in his usual stall, like he was waiting for me.”

“Maybe he has been,” Dain Ardin said, and eased back to the fence.

Dynan pulled the bit-less bridle off. “Walk,” he said and patted Galarin’s neck. The horse snorted in response and trotted off. “That’s not a walk.”

Another snort preceded a slow gallop. “Neither is that,” Marc said.

“They don’t let him run enough.” Dynan climbed over the fence, pausing to look back as his horse bucked and pranced around the ring. “At least one thing went right today.”

“Dynan,” Marc said. “It’s tomorrow, and you’ve got about two hours before you’re due on board ship.”

“And your point is?”

“I thought that would be obvious.”

Dynan turned from him, walked to the sliding gate door and opened it. He whistled, and stood back. Galarin turned at the sound, galloped over, leapt the fence and disappeared down the corridor. Dynan turned to follow, but Kenon purposely stood in his way, obviously disgruntled.

“I just wanted to see if I could still do it,” he said to the guard and smiled.

“And that’s the last time you ever will.” Kenon raised an eyebrow at him, but he stepped aside and gestured Dynan on with the sweep of his arm. The others followed him out and their voices dwindled.

Marc stayed by the fence, looking out over the ring, so abruptly silent. A hollow shell that held only the sound of his breath. Thoughts of what was happening intruded, filling the void. Maralt was out of hiding. A wake of death and grief would follow in his path. Marc had to decide what to do, how and when to do it. Every action would precipitate another. He could feel the boundaries shifting, chaos gaining another foothold.

The list of options to pursue shrank. The timing was already determined. It was happening now. Marc didn’t think it would stop until the day Dynan was crowned. The thought of that day sent a shiver of dread up his spine. Too many things would culminate that day. Some of them, he didn’t think he would be around to witness. He didn’t think he would see what happened to Dain and Dain Ardin. He knew he wouldn’t see Dynan’s crowning. He wouldn’t see his marriage either, or the Rising of Malari.

Marc frowned as he stood by the fence a moment longer, pondering that particular thought. If the Rising was set to happen in five days, he should be able to see the planet in the night sky. He left the silent ring, and made his way back to the barn. He found the others getting Galarin settled into his stall. There was another man there with them, older, who they all knew. Marc searched memory for his name, smiling when he realized who this was. Judging by the number of questions Dynan was asking, it was apparent that Wilbrin Wright was responsible for bringing Galarin home. He had also taken care of bringing Gilraen off the XR-9. Another discussion took place, about breeding the two that Marc didn’t stay around for.

He left them to the reunion, moving outside, looking first east then west.

Out here where the Palace lights didn’t encroach, a myriad of stars spread above him. He found Arel first, then Altair, easily the brightest points of light in the western sky. By now, Malari should dwarf those lesser planets, but it wasn’t there.

Dain came out and noticed him searching the sky. “Marc?”

“Where is it?”

Dain looked up. “Where is what?”

“Malari.”

“It’s probably set already. Why?”

Marc shook his head and kept looking. A hole opened in the sky above the topmost peak of the Tarameik Mountains. A round disk that obliterated light, entwined with filaments. Marc looked down at the orb around his neck. Beside him, Dain swore.

 ***

Lyle Dowd glanced at Ames Lithford, wondering how they’d gotten involved with this mess. Lyle had spent the last seven years avoiding danger at every turn only to be neck deep in it now. Ames shook his head as the transfer turned down the lane. Lyle owned the house at its end.

It was a two-story stone building, styled after other larger mansions that dotted the landscape in and around Beren, though it wasn’t quite so large as most. It had been weeks since he last set foot in the place, not since that night at Beren. He had no servants, so the house was dark. The furnishings were covered with a fair amount of dust. Juleta Gurrell looked around herself, pulling her cloak closer to combat the noticeable chill. Ames moved to the hearth and started to build a fire.

“I’ll bring our things in,” Lyle said.

When he finished hauling in their supplies, Ames had the room lit and warm, while Juleta busied herself cleaning. She seemed to be taking it all well enough, though at times she’d stop abruptly, then shake herself free of whatever specter haunted her thoughts.

For himself, Lyle tried not to think of what specter might come through his door, and concentrated on getting his home ready for company and the danger they brought with them.

 ***

“You have to find her and get rid of her,” Alvuen said, turning to face Maralt. She didn’t see him as Logue any more at all. It was fascinating to her, how he could control another man to that degree so easily. It didn’t occur to her at all that she saw Maralt due to her own subversion. “Juleta Gurrell has to die.”

“I think I was aware of that,” he said, looking at her. She felt a shiver of anticipation crawl up her back. “I wasn’t aware, however, of your little plot with Liselle. Next time – if there is a next time – I don’t expect that I should have to cover for your mistakes. I’ll find Juleta for you. Liselle will be next.”

“Why Liselle? She’s helped us.”

“She’s a witness, Alvuen. She knows that Juleta got the vial from you. Therefore, she dies, too.”

“There mustn’t be any connection to Alexia in this,” Alvuen said.

“Their murders will be blamed on me. They don’t have any connection between Alexia and myself, not one they can prove, and they won’t get it.”

“Bajain has escaped then.”

“Yes. He’s safely on his way back to Yomir. Once Juleta and Liselle are taken care of, your Queen will have what she wants.” Maralt smiled then, a secret smile that meant he was thinking of something else. “I’ll be gone for several days I imagine. Do you think you can manage here alone?”

“Of course I can.”

“No more tricks, Alvuen. I don’t like surprises. I’ll contact you when I can, through the Rianamar Guild Hall. Study that code I gave you. We’ll be able to communicate openly with that. Send one of your women to the Guild Hall.”

“And just how am I supposed to convince a Guild Communications tech to allow me access to the comterm?”

Maralt smiled again. “I’m sure you’ll think of something.”

“Where will you go to find Juleta?”

“To her home first.” He shook his head. “I doubt that she’s there. That would be too easy. But from there I’ll find her hiding place.” Alvuen nodded, and another shiver surged through her when Maralt took her hand. He reached inside her, and she melted into his arms. “Time to say goodbye, my Lady.”

Lord Joong Gurrell glanced up when the Palace Messenger was announced, and a chill raced through him. The previous day’s activities with Liselle had raised his suspicions and now he feared the explanation. When he saw the Lord Chancellor’s seal, his anxiety increased. When he read, he understood that fear better. His only child was in terrible danger.

Joong Gurrell didn’t stop to consider how it had happened. That didn’t matter. The times were dangerous and that was reason enough. He called his servant to him and explained. He didn’t elaborate farther than the instructions asked of him, following the Lord Chancellor’s advice to the letter.

Before dawn, an hour later, he and his wife were packed and on a transport to Beren.

***

Maralt didn’t take a transport to the Gurrells. Instead he went to the next Port town, an hour outside of Rianamar by horseback. A transport or a transfer could be tracked too easily. He knew that Marc would have recalled all Palace Messengers, but he was trying to do so quietly, which meant that not everyone would get the word. The Lord Chancellor wasn’t going to announce that Palace Messengers couldn’t be trusted. Just one of them. He wouldn’t announce that either. He kept trying to hide. He didn’t want to alarm people more than they already were. That wouldn’t work for long.

Maralt used the Palace Messenger badge to obtain a transport when he reached Gildor, appearing as Logue, who remained relatively unknown. Another mistake on the Lord Chancellor’s part for not putting Logue’s image out on every possible channel through the Information Bureau. He wasn’t questioned, and was soon on board, bound for Distalt where the Gurrells made their home. He arrived only a few minutes later.

The manor home stood just off the street, surrounded by a high stone wall. In recent years, many of Cobalt’s prominent residences had been encased in such embattlements. Little did they know that there weren’t any walls high enough that could keep him out. He walked to the gate, showed the porter the Palace badge, and was let through, again outwardly appearing as Logue.

A servant answered the door, but only opened it a crack. “Lord Gurrell is not here.”

“I have an urgent message for him from the Palace.”

The servant shook his head. “I’m sorry, but he isn’t here.”

“Where is he then?”

“They didn’t leave word of their destination, only that they would be gone for several days.”

“I trust that means Lady Gurrell and Juleta.”

“Yes.”

Maralt nodded to all that, thanked the man for his help and after a brief pause to consider whether he would let the servant live or not, turned and left the property.

 ***

Randal Ven closed the door as the messenger turned and breathed in relief as he leaned against it. The man had a crazed, unwelcome sort of feel to him, staring at him with abnormal intensity. Randal shook off the skin-crawling sensation and moved back to the kitchen where he found his wife busy with luncheon bread. “Who was it,” she asked, slicing into soft crust.

“A Palace Messenger.”

Her eyes flicked to his. “The one we were warned about?”

Randal nodded. “Call the boys in. I’m going to send them to the Port Captain. They’ll be all right, Mother. If we follow Lord Gurrell’s instructions, we’ll all be all right.”

She shook her head as though she didn’t believe it. Randal wasn’t so sure he believed it either, but he had to warn the Lord Chancellor. The instructions were very clear. If anyone came to the Gurrells asking after them, especially someone with a Palace badge, word was to be sent to the Lord Chancellor immediately, but with extreme caution. Randal didn’t want to involve his children, but thought they had a better chance of reaching the Port Captain than anyone else. The oldest was about to join the service, and probably had a better idea of what was really going on than Randal wanted to know. That had been the safest way to live during Kamien’s reign. The less you knew, the less likely they were to come after you. Tyson didn’t agree with that philosophy, causing Randal more than a few bad moments. This was one of them.

“Call the boys,” he said again.

Tyson came first, carrying his cloak and sword. He took after his mother in looks, hard around the eyes and mouth, with a set jaw. He had her blue grey eyes and black hair. “I saw him from upstairs.”

Gibson came in from the barn. Scarcely two years younger, he was nearly as tall as Tyson, but not quite as big across the shoulder. Not yet. He looked like him too, but wore his hair longer. He wasn’t going into the military yet, unlike his brother. As soon as he realized what was happening, he ran off and retrieved the same equipment.

“The Lord Chancellor states very clearly—”

“I read it, Pop. Gibson and I are going to tell the Port Captain exactly what we’re supposed to. We’re not going to go looking for the messenger, but he may be looking for us. We can hope he’s half way back to Port by now. They’ll be able to trace him easily enough from there.”

“If that’s what you intend, then why the weapons?”

“Everyone wears a sword now. It would seem strange and attract attention if I didn’t. We’ll be back.” Tyson nodded to his brother and they left by the side door.

~*~

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