Black rim, p.1

Black Rim, page 1

 part  #3 of  Six Realms Saga Series

 

Black Rim
 

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Black Rim


  Black Rim

  by B.A.Fleming

  Copyright

  © 2017

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

  Disclaimer

  The information provided in this book is designed to provide insights on the subjects discussed. This book should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For diagnosis or treatment of any medical problem, consult your own physician. The publisher and author are not responsible for any specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision and are not liable for any damages or negative consequences from any treatment, action, application or preparation, to any person reading or following the information in this book.

  About the author

  Ben Fleming was born in Sydney, Australia in 1968. He has previously published a selection of poetry in 1994, a selection of short stories, and a travelers’ love story in 2015. Writing is his part time passion as he balances, as we all do, passion with creativity, and life in general.

  Black Rim is the second book of the Six Realms Saga. Following book.1. Lonsearth.

  Chapter 1

  Thais watched as the two brown cloaked figures rode into view along the valley. The township of Catheridge had doubled in size this past summer and now buildings extended almost to the castle gates. In between the shadows cast by the structures and the late afternoon light, their dark colors could have easily been mistaken for black, although the gold tunic of a Tharkomad rider was clear to see.

  The guards opened the doors as the riders approached. Thais turned without a second look. The dinner to celebrate Casperi’s engagement to Princess Lapse had already commenced and she felt a mixture of excitement and sadness.

  Before she had descended the inner steps the soldier had jumped off his horse, as the other, short, bearded man, was being helped from the saddle by two of the squires. They stood briefly, as the smaller man rearranged himself and then a tired looking attendant led them up the stairs and in through the castle doors.

  A range of nobles had arrived at the castle during the proceeding days and now the squires took turns between serving the nobles that had previously arrived, and their other customarily assigned responsibilities.

  Norman, head of the royal guard, watched the two new arrivals thoughtfully. Catheridge advisor Merlane had indicated a few hours before that all invited guests had now arrived for the day. King Daikin and Lord Trajunus would come the following afternoon for the formal proceedings.

  Thais continued through the corridors. The silken yet simple blue formal dress was unusual for her, although she had managed to reach an agreement with her tutors to dress in a toned-down manner, more befitting of her own lack of interest in a lady’s attire. She had been ready for hours but did not feel in as social a mood as many of the others that attended the court. The place of her birth had become a lonelier place since her return.

  With Casperi now ensconced in the trappings of a noble, requiring frequent travel to the capital and Bhagshau, and the dreary routine of stability in the castle, she had been worn down.

  Her days had not been without invitation, with merchants and would-be suitors received on a regular basis to the castle to express their desires. The town had thrived with the increased business. She also knew that several of those admirers now sat in the dining hall, anticipating her entrance.

  Thais ran through the hallways towards her rooms, but as she turned a corner, a young squire caught sight of her. She had two small braids on the left side of her hair and three on the right, and they danced against her skin as she ran. She liked the feeling, as it reminded her of running in the rain when she was a child.

  “Your highness,” he pleaded. “You need to come quickly. Come with me, quickly”

  “She turned to follow him as he led her to the dining room. As she rounded the last corner she saw the doors wide open and servants running in and out.

  The guards stationed inside the door were receiving instructions from the priest Nolan. People lay about, on the floor, or slumped on the table. Captain Chazel and Merlane both lay back in their chairs, eyes wide open, obviously dead.

  She saw her brother and raced to his side, sticking her fingers down his throat to make him vomit. The priest and two guards came up to her.

  “Do this,” she screamed at them and a guard begun working on others nearby.

  “Get some water,” yelled the priest to two squires.

  “Yes,” added Thais. “After they vomit give them water. As much as they want.”

  “They’ve been poisoned?” questioned the priest, as both moved from guest to guest, checking them.

  “It seems this way,” Thais answered.

  “I arrived moments before you, and was assessing who was here. It seems Prince Dalchant, and several of his entourage are dead.”

  “Let’s save who we can for now father, then we can work out who is left.”

  Many of the nobles and merchants sat, staring into nothingness, or trying to stand, swaying, then either falling back to their seats, or falling over. Attendants were busy fussing over them, as other guests remained silent or unconscious.

  Thais called a squire over and asked him to hep continue the setup of beds in the smaller dining room next door. Princess Lapse had already been taken away, vomiting and semi-conscious, as were Soze, Aryz Coun, Prince Halsten and Princess Vivi, Lady Isabella and Princess Malena. Princess Anna and Dwane supervised their care in the second room. Anna also organized for a chambermaid to sit with each of the royal guests. The priest, had been in shock at first, finally started taking command of the situation, and was put in charge of monitoring the ill in the main dining hall.

  Of all those that dined, only Curran remained relatively unharmed. He had little interest in wine and had only taken a sip as part of a toast. He now monitored Casperi and Nathe, who were both conscious, but unable to stand. Prince Hacon looked close to death, as several Vasa maids attended to him.

  Daak appeared at the doorway of the dining room, an unknown dwarf standing next to him. The Tharkomad soldier signaled Thais as he walked towards her. He looked around, noticing his own prince to be dead, along with the Tharkomad swordmaster.

  “We have arrived at an unseemly time, my dear,” commented the dwarf, as he lifted the Caitawalaan swordmaster, Laird, into a more comfortable position.

  “Princess Thais, I would like to present to you Scrapgryke, Dwarven warrior from Har-Koln,” offered Daak hurriedly, distracted by the scene around him. Thais had not seen him since he offered to stay with his sister after an Ice Gol attack the winter before. She had received word that he had been interned as a soldier in the rebuilding of the garrison of the western duchy.

  Thais looked at the dwarf, and then the scene around her.

  “We can talk later, my lady,” he bowed as he glanced up to her and continued helping squires.

  Canute stared at the dwarf through half closed eyes, swaying as he sat, using his elbows to hold himself up off the table. He eventually collapsed to the ground as two squires and the swordsman Edgar, ran to break his fall, one being squashed momentarily, before rolling away.

  The Queen laid next to him at the table, her head resting on folded arms, several of her ladies in waiting feeding her small amounts of water.

  Queen Cassiopeia vomited away from her son, as her ladies held her from falling before being helped by Dwane and several squires to carry the Queen to her room.

  Tostig, Cedric, Thargus and Commander Vuvic, and various merchants and their adult children now all lay slumped in a similar position to how the Queen had been. Thannon had stumbled across the room af
ter his partner, Malena had been removed. He now propped himself up against the walls of the dining room with Lentulus, aside several other merchants’ sons. They had briefly managed to make their way from the table, although both had collapsed and had been helped to the seated positions they now found themselves in, head in crossed arms, helped by concerned chambermaids to sip water.

  Casperi collapsed towards the floor as his sister approached again. She caught him with her magic before he landed and she hurried forward, as did Nolan, who was nearby. She looked at the priest and he turned to the Princess.

  “He will be fine, my lady,” the priest reassured her, as he bent down to lay the Lord Casperi on the slate stone floor. Norman arrived with a squad of guards and Thais directed him to the most important people to commence carrying out of the dining room. He turned to Nolan as the chaos started to lessen.

  “I will organize my men,” said Norman, as Nolan nodded.

  “I wish Grimol was here to help us now,” said Thais.

  “Good idea, my lady,” he looked up. He had heard many stories of their adventures and the name Grimol had appeared on several occasions. “Shall I send for her?”

  “Let me think a few moments,” she stopped and considered. “I don’t wish to cause concern without warrant.” A few moments later she stood up and left the room. Nolan, Daak and the dwarven warrior behind her.

  They disappeared into a dark room in the back wing. The personal effects of the Tharkomad swordmaster were removed. He had been one of the first to be pronounced dead.

  A few minutes later she called Norman aside with several men, and soon after the men we left to guard the door and corridor. No one except the Princess and Daak were to enter.

  Thais then made her way up the stairs that she had run up a thousand times. This night her heavy legs seemed to struggle to make each footstep. As if in slow motion she finally opened the door to the outside with the help of one of her handmaids, who waited at the entrance. She stood upon the parapet, looking out across the night skies and said nothing but spoke in her mind.

  “Can you hear me, my teacher?”

  Thais waited, the wind howled across the landscape in the distance. He had spoken to her twice since her return, but never visited.

  “I can sense anguish in your thoughts, my novice,” he replied.

  “I am in need of your assistance, Eren, as I must locate the witch, Grimol. Poison has affected my home.”

  *****

  Dralan entered the throne room of Kogu Castle. Emperor Koguryo sat with his green tea, considering an idea as the sun seeped through the large, stained glass windows and swept colors across the floor. He bowed on one knee before his Emperor as the man continued to sip at his tea and observe the colors.

  “You have changed,” the Emperor finally said, as Dralan looked up from his half stance.

  “What do you mean, father?” he asked, surprised as he rose.

  “There is something different about you, which is unknown to yourself.”

  “Can you explain it to me, father?”

  “No. You will come to realize this in time. These are changes that you must know yourself,” he now looked at the young man. “I wish for you to lead my army. You are ready,” Koguryo added casually. “No more wakening of statues. They were for a purpose, and now that opportunity has been wasted with your outburst.”

  Dralan stood, hands resting on the sword that he had moved around the belt to the front. He bowed his head slightly and then looked up again.

  “My generals know the art that is war, but you have the power to lead them. You have done well in your endeavors in the upper valley Dralan, even if some consequences were out of your control. You now have the strength to take the valley for your own.”

  Dralan considered this, shuffling slightly in his stance. As the statue, he had felt some level of detachment between he and his father, but now, standing in front of him, he knew the power of the man that had held the kingdom for his own for over thirty summers.

  “Prepare to leave the sunrise after seven nights,” mentioned the Emperor as he glanced to his son and then signaled one of his servants to bring some food.

  Dralan turned to depart. His father observed each step as he left the room.

  *****

  Aggelos stretched is left leg as flaccid skin hung from the fat rolls. Temar Bolyl was in his debt once again, and owning the head of the Empires’ most corrupt smuggler was a thought that made him smile.

  He took in the view of the fields to the east of Agrippa as he watched the sunrise along the river, dark storm clouds rolled in above the orange globe.

  The bargain had been sealed with the inclusion of the nefferent dwarf. Two traitors for the price of one. He licked his lips with the hint of expectation, having already been paid for their capture, now rolling around an arrangement of options and opportunities to use his new found wealth of talent. They were considered safe for now, but they would need to be moved.

  Arzon had followed her orders and delivered them to Amadghor as promised. Her life had been saved by her part in the release of her brother. She knew the consequences, and felt that Temar would be better equipped to deal with the wrath of Aggelos, if it came to that.

  The relative safety of Amadghor was considered a staging point for the various illegal activities of the western lands. The outlaw City of Gold had neither allegiance to the Moreans or the Imuhagh, as many within its streets would happily sell their prisoners for far less than their true value.

  Now under the watchful eye of Khaddam, the slave trader, they would remain isolated until the fat Morean merchant’s next sentinels arrived.

  There were also other, more pressing matters on his mind. His spies within the royal court of Corone had recently sent message that their plans were now in place. As several of his peers jockeyed for power, Aggelos had approached the situation in a more cogent manner, building relationships with key stakeholders who wished to remain hidden from the more extravagant merchants of the court. The death of his brothers’ guard at the hands of Trajunus had incised several in court, and this allowed Aggelos the privilege of slipping past unnoticed on numerous occasions.

  His breakfast arrived and he watched as his most trusted servant butter the bread and cut off a mouthful for himself. The servant then poured a mouthful of the fresh orange juice and swallowed that as well. A few minutes later, the young man offered the same food to his master who gorged it at twice the speed of the former.

  Another man arrived, well dressed in the garb of the royal court. He nodded his head towards Aggelos, who indicated for all others to leave the room.

  Two guards pulled the doors closed behind them as they left. The man sat next to Aggelos as he patted him on the thigh in a gesture of open affection.

  “It is time to act,” smiled Aggelos almost in a whisper.

  “It will be done,” assured the other.

  Chapter 2

  Casperi woke in his own bed. Two servants laid asleep on the floor nearby a bucket of water; a glass, and a vase sat on the bed stand. The sun shone in through the open window. His head ached, as if he had been on the bakers’ cheap ale all night. The young Lord had continued to grow in thickness and strength throughout the summer and this routine had possibly lessened the impact of the night before. He had shaped into a strong young warrior, his face now showing the same edges as the portraits of his mother, that adorned several main corridors of the castle.

  Priest Nolan appeared near the door. Age was finally wearing on him as his tired, pale sagging skin showed even through his preferred thick brown robes.

  “My Lord, I see that you are awake,” he observed, as the servants stirred.

  “What happened, Nolan?”

  “Poison, I believe, my Lord.”

  Casperi was lead around the castle to the various rooms. Nathe slept in his own bed, his wife and a servant both taking shifts to keep an eye on him and Aryz Coun, who had been assigned straw bedding on a blanket in the corner of the
room.

  Several of his royal guests had also been placed in rooms together, depending on the level of care required. The Salararius had either been cared for by Anna in the small dining room, or laid out on straw bunks in the garrison quarters, that had been commandeered by Captain Norman for the night.

  Thais lay asleep on a hallway sofa, obviously exhausted, Lapse in her bed. Nolan showed Casperi the guests who struggled for life. His sister had tried some magic on them to little avail. The arms room cum makeshift morgue contained the bodies of Dalchant, his swordmaster, captain Chazel, Merlane, and several other merchants and nobles. Casperi finally arrived in the dining hall to find a handful of his guests sitting around the tables, all looking like he felt.

  He was offered café by one of the servants as he sat. Still a rare commodity within the kingdom, the liquid had quickly spread as a favored morning beverage by those that could acquire it.

  “Any news on who did this to us?” asked Casperi of Nolan.

  “We believe it to be the wine, sire. The culprit is still unknown, although we have begun to search.”

  “If it wasn’t enough with those statues coming to life in Bhagshau this past month, and now this. The King already has enough on his hands cleaning up the mess down there,” sighed Casperi. Nolan nodded, sitting opposite him. He stared across the room to the empty table where his old friend, Merlane, and he had met for breakfast each morning these past twenty summers.

  Thais walked into the room, and they both turned to look to her.

  “Lapse has just woken up,” she commented, deeply hugging her brother. “Are you okay?” she looked at both of the men who had had a significant impact on her life. The number of people that she knew and trusted had thinned in the past cycle.

  A squire ran into the room towards the three. He quickly bowed towards the Princess, who stood next to her brother with her hand resting upon his shoulder.

 
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