Noise. That was one thing they didn’t have much of back in the wilderness of Fadirland and right now it was music to his ears. Merchants battled to make the loudest pitch, horses snorted and whinnied, children screamed and cackled; it was bliss. Noise meant civilisation, a change of clothes, a hot shower instead of the filth he had spent the past month living in – if you could call such an existence living. Truly’s company urged their horses through the bustling crowds towards the stables where Welkand kept his horses. Truly had decided that he liked horses; his steed was gentle yet firm and could run like a bat out of hell.
The company dismounted, collected their saddlebags and began the long walk to Konungr House where Velus would be waiting to receive his artefact – or rather Makovir will be waiting to receive this relic. I sincerely hope that whatever is in that tower is worth the trouble we went through to get this spear. He could feel the spear hidden under his cloak where Welkand’s southern friend couldn’t get to it easily. Truly still didn’t trust Welkand and nothing the man could do would convince him otherwise. Some men aren’t meant to be trusted.
As Truly entered Konungr House he was greeted by the familiar butler he knew only as Black and the Head of the Household, Mrs Hedley. Black’s passive face was, for once, a welcome sight; he might have hugged him had he not been afraid of burning the small man.
“Master Villieldr will receive you in the lounge,” Black said in his monotone voice.
“Thank you, Black,” Truly turned to Ellin. “Would you take my things up to my room?”
Ellin nodded respectfully, gave a small curtsey and took Truly’s bag. It was strange to see her being so respectful for once, he almost laughed. Black led Truly and Welkand through to the lounge and once again, the last remaining Southerner, Long-Eye, was left outside. Velus beamed as Truly entered and looked close to wetting himself with excitement – ever the incontinent puppy. Makovir lurked behind him, eyes casting about for the artefact he so desired.
“Truly, how good it is to see you again,” Velus grinned. “How were things out in the wilderness?”
“Dirty, dangerous and really quite horrible,” Truly said.
It came out as a joke though it was anything but. Truly had hated every second he had spent out in the uncivilised land…well, almost every second.
“And the artefact?” Makovir pressed.
Desperate aren’t we? I think I must keep an eye on you, Master Bál. Truly reached behind his back and produced the broken spear with a flourish.
“The Spear of King Cannel,” he announced.
“By the Gods,” Velus breathed.
His eyes were wide as he studied the spear in awe. Truly knew that he was thinking about what he would do as King, how he would be remembered. King Velus, first King of new Fadirland. Such childish dreams. I wonder when he will finally grow up and realise that we’re all meant to be disappointed with our lot in life? One day it will happen and what a terrible day that will be. Makovir strode over and snatched the broken spear from Truly’s hand, turned back to Velus.
“The first part of the key to the White Tower,” he said admiringly. He turned sharply and fixed his piercing gaze on Welkand. “Where is the second piece? The Ring of Sigurd?”
The thin man looked flustered at being addressed in such a manner, but he should have been used to it after a month in Ellin’s company.
“The ring is hidden somewhere in the University of Magi,” Welkand replied. “Rumour has it the ring is actually the ring of office passed down from Grand Master to Grand Master. I think that getting the ring may be difficult. The only way to get the ring would be…”
“To become Grand Master,” Makovir cut in.
He had a greedy smile on his face that Truly didn’t like. A new Grand Master was only elected following the death of the previous Grand Master and a candidate needed the majority of votes from the Masters. Grand Master Tal was still in good health and Truly knew full well that Makovir was not above murder if it meant getting what he wanted.
“It is doable,” Makovir announced. “What of the third object?”
Welkand glanced furtively at Truly.
“We found inscriptions in Cannel’s tomb referring to the final item,” he confessed. “It seems that the final item is not an item, but a person. A Bearer was chosen by the first Oracle who could use the spear and the ring to open the tower. Upon this person’s death a new Bearer was chosen and so on and so forth. I do not know the whereabouts of the current Bearer, however I do know who does,” he gave a leering grin. “The Oracle herself.”
Several emotions passed over Makovir’s face. Annoyance, despair, anger. Ah yes, Makovir isn’t on good terms with the Oracle is he? His plans could all be ruined…I rather hope I didn’t risk my life for a pointless endeavour. Makovir forced a smile.
“Thank you for your help, Mister Welkand, you may go.”
He turned back to Velus and presented him with the spear. Welkand opened his mouth to ask for more gold, but Truly shook his head and the thin man closed his mouth and backed out of the lounge. Velus waved the spear away and popped a grape in his mouth.
“Truly, we have a new house guest,” Velus beamed. “Apparently you know each other.”
I hope this guest is on the very short list of people I like; I can’t abide meeting old enemies. A door opened to Truly’s right and a dumpy women stepped through. Truly recognised her. Bett’s hair was greyer than he remembered and she had a nasty looking burn across her left eye – though nothing compared with my burns. A huge grin split across her face and she rushed towards him.
It was too late. Bett’s arms wrapped around Truly’s waist before he could get out of the way. The scream was unearthly, demonic to Truly’s ears. The stench of burning flesh clogged his nostrils and he staggered away from the burning woman.
“No…” he whispered. “What have I done? No! Do something!”
There was nothing he could do, nothing he could say to make it stop. Bett’s skin scorched before his eyes as she screamed and screamed. He felt the tears streaming down his face, felt his stomach churning. He wanted to be sick. The flames began to die down, but it was already too late for Bett. What have I done? Why has this happened?
“No,” he sobbed. “No!”
He clutched fistfuls of hair hands and stared helplessly at the smouldering corpse. That used to be a woman, the kindest woman I ever knew. What did she do to deserve this? Why must everything good burn? Velus and Makovir stood staring slack jawed at the corpse.
“By the Gods, Truly,” Makovir whispered. “What have you done?”
Truly could bear it no longer; he ran out of the lounge, past Ellin, out of Konungr House. He ran past the docks, past the empty palaces, past the Imperial Guard House to the derelict King’s District. No one with any sense ever came here, it was said to be haunted by terrifying spirits. Truly didn’t care, he hadn’t come here to hunt for ghosts. He took a knife from his belt and held it up so that he could see his reflection in the bright metal. Mangled flesh greeted him in the reflection, wasted around the eyes and cheekbones and heavily scarred. What happened to the Truly I knew? Where did he go? The man, the…thing I see today doesn’t deserve life.
He turned the knife and placed it to his neck. Footsteps crunched in the rubble behind him. Is that Makovir, come to watch me and gloat as I slit my own throat?
“Truly, what’s happened?”
Truly whirled around sharply, nicking his skin with the blade of the knife and drawing blood. Ellin’s eyes widened as they fixed on the blade at his throat.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“I can’t do this anymore,” Truly croaked, tears welling in his eyes. “I killed her, Ellin. I couldn’t stop it happening, no one would help her…”
He began sobbing hard, the blade wavering against his throat. He grit his teeth and tried to continue.
“I don’t deserve to keep living,” he croaked. “I am dangerous. I can’t touch anyone without hurting them.”
“Well I’m not letting you kill yourself,” Ellin said firmly.
She lunged for the knife whilst Truly was in mid sob. He tried to lurch back but tripped on a piece of rubble and crashed to the ground; the knife clattered away. Ellin teetered on her tiptoes and managed to rock back onto her feet. A lucky escape. I don’t think I could cope with two killings in a day; I can’t even cope with one. Ellin stood over him, hands on her hips. Her eyes looked wet.
“If you really think that there’s nothing worth living for then go ahead, see if I care,” she sniffed. “But just remember what you told me, if you die Makovir wins.”
She turned on her heel and stalked off through the rubble. Truly waited until she was gone and then slowly put a hand to his throat. It was wet with blood, but the shallow cut was nothing serious. She knew how to get to me. If there’s one thing I hate it’s losing. Very well then, Ellin, I will stay my hand, for now, but there must be some retribution at some point.
© Jessica Wiles, 2013