DARKNESS DESCENDS
BY DROGO


The following story is about "The People's Rebellion", the first in a tragic chain of events that will rip apart the great Mynian Kingdom and leave it broken, and its people disenchanted with all they once knew. One young man fights against injustice, and another seeks to define it. They will find their own truths, and it might just destroy them.


CHAPTER II: THE STRANGER

 fist slams down, landing forcibly against the wooden table. Liquid from a nearby goblet sloshes over its brim, wetting the area around it. Interrupting the man who was just talking Sioned stands up to his full height, towering above those seated nearby, his brows furrow in anger. “I can not and will not agree to that,” Sioned says fiercely while looking at his fellow warden, who promptly takes his seat again while cresting his lips in a slight sneer. Turning to the king on his dais, Sioned adamantly states, “My people can not take such a tax. Yes, we grow, yes, we expand our lands and drain the marshes, but it is not done in a day I tell you! Their backs are bent to their work and any more taxes will leave their backs broken!” Sioned faces Eogden once again and raises an angry finger, “I know, Eogden, that your lands are rich and fertile, the hills are covered with grapes, and swift horses roam your plains. It is not so with my lands, our hills are filled with thorns and our plains are choked with swamps. If you wish more money to fatten your treasury, then tax your own people more, mine will not go hungry for your greed!”

There is a quick pause as the speaker takes a breath, as he seems to be about to continue his diatribe the king takes the opportunity and stands up. Sioned swallows his unsaid words as he waits on the king. “First, my cousin, I must rebuke you for calling it your realm, for all lands you are overseeing are held in my name. However, that slight is something easily forgiven.”

At these words, Sioned gives a nod of understanding, “My apologies, when it comes to the welfare of the people I view them as I would my own kin.”
 

“That is wise and good of all who are put in charge of others, and because I know that this is the way that you view them along with the lands under you, your breach of conduct is something easily mended. Now then, this matter of taxes, it is vexing every year that it is brought up in council. It does seem lately though to be even more vexing as it is brought up every year, whether taxes were raised the previous year or not,” King Ored states with a pointed look towards the table Eogden and his advisors sit at. Seeing that Eogden either disregarded his slight rebuke or did not notice it, Ored feels slight frustrated. At least all of the parties are calmed if not completely collected, he sits back on his throne, where from his raised platform he can look down on the three long tables arranged before him.

He pauses, allowing the tension in the room to lower a bit more, and as he does so he studies those who are privy to this inner council. To his left is the table of the Warden of Liben, with Sioned and two of his nobles sitting at it. Sioned is still worked up as he stares with barely constrained dislike towards Eogden. Several fores behind them in a single chair is the figure of Wyland, who is showing intense interest in the whole affair. Though his presence is against tradition Ored allowed it so he might see the way that the council works and prepare for his own day on the council as the warden of Liben. In the middle of the room is the table representing the province of Vermoth. It is thus placed due to the fact that it is the central and royally controlled province of the realm. Seated there is Lord Luroe as the ranking noble of the land covered in lace with perspiration running down his balding pate, along with the royal advisors, Lord Montvik, the royal treasurer, whose clothes have seen better days. Also Lord Turin, the royal Senchel, wearing his large chain of office and Lord Zavur, head of the Royal Lancers with his proud countenance sit there as well. Last is the table to the king’s right, and it is at this table that his gaze lingers over the longest. The table of the warden of Luquador is filled to bursting with various nobles, puffed up in their velvet and gold. Sitting between them is the warden himself; his bulk dominating the space, Eogden is easily the center of the table and the center of the differing nobles’ attention as well.

“Well”, says King Ored after the short pause, “It seems to me that we will not be getting anywhere on this matter today. That is, if we ever do.” His lips twitch at his own bit of mirth. “So, we will break off the council meeting early, in fact we will be done within several minutes. Then, we will get out of this drafty room, concentrate on the issues already presented over the past few days and come back early tomorrow ready to discuss this all calmly.” These last words are said with a pointed look towards Sioned. For the next minute or so he ties up a few matters with the royal advisors and then leaves the room.

After the king’s departure the other gathered nobles begin readying themselves to depart as well, the first to leave are a few of the many fops that surround Eogden. Sioned stands and gestures to his own people and loudly says, “Well it is a good day to be outdoors, so I for one plan on taking advantage of it and getting out of this stuffy room and away from some stuffy people.” Seeing that his son is about to get up to join him, he directs a quick look to Wyland and motions him stay seated with a slight downward nod.

“That is well, father, I will see you later surely. For now I was going to talk with the Lord of the Eastwatch,” he says while gesturing to one of the nobles at his father’s table. Noting his father’s approving nod he continues, “I had heard some things about the marshes and wanted to talk to him about them.” The noble in question seems a bit surprised by Wyland’s remark but starts heading over to where Wyland is sitting.

“All right son, meet me tonight, I’m curious as to what you’ve heard as well,” and with that statement Sioned leaves with his other noble talking about the chance for a hunt soon.

During the whole of this conversation Wyland is looking about him and watching the interaction of the various people still present. Just the other day in fact his father had told him, “Watch everything about you, my boy. Politics is a dangerous beast and sadly I am not much of a match against it. I will need your sharp eyes and quick mind to be my weapons.” So, he was applying his father’s words in an effort to prepare himself for his future wardenship of Liben.

At that moment Lord Rurien reached him and asked, “What questions did you have, perhaps I can be of some help.”

Wyland takes a casual step to his left as he sets his brow into a line of thought as if to remember the details of his question. Just as he had steps, the royal advisors that were still left go over to where Eogden’s group is and they all began speaking to one another, apparently making social pleasantries. His step has placed Rurien in front of him and gives him a perfect view of where the other nobles are.

“Well,” begins Wyland, “I had heard tales that there have been some sightings of wild men further in the depths of the moors, and I was wondering if they were real and if so, who you might think that they are?”

“Hmmm, I’ve heard some rumors also, though I didn’t know them so well spread. My guess would be,” Rurien trails off as a large amount of laughter comes from the other group of nobles. Rurien turns to give them a small grimace while Wyland sees that Eogden stands in the middle of the nobles making some sort of jest and appearing to take joy in his fellow’s response. Rurien clears his throat and continues, “As I was saying, my guess would be that there are either a few hermits that may prefer the solitude of the swamps, or at worst there might be a few brigands. If it is the latter, then they will be quickly pushed out.”

“I hope that it is nothing more than a hermit, or some wandering priest of Urik, the Creator knows that they pop up everywhere.” During their conversation Wyland closely watches how those around Eogden interact with him. Eogden makes another joke, laughing so hard that his greasy jowls flap with the effort. He slaps one nearby noble on the back in his mirth, and seems to pat another on the arm. That last movement seems slightly contrived to Wyland, and makes him even more suspicious when a look passes between Eogden and the receiver of the arm slap, Lord Montvik, the royal treasurer.

Quickly wrapping up his conversation with Lord Rurien, Wyland goes in search of Surian to see what he knows of the situation, so he might give his father a bigger picture of what might be going on.

He finds Surian where he expects to, in the main weapons yard practicing with one of the head instructors. “Practicing I see,” calls out Wyland. Surian starts at the interruption and momentarily lowers his sword arm. That moment is all that master Purander needs to penetrate the prince’s defense and land a solid blow against his ribs with the wooden practice sword. Surian backs away from the master and bows in respect before turning on Wyland.

“Hope that was funny, cause I sure am going to feel that tomorrow,” he says as he gently rubs his ribs. “Don’t make me give you a solid thumping to make up for it,” jokes Surian.

Wyland answers in a rather distracted way. “Maybe, maybe. Listen, can we go somewhere - I want to talk to you about something.”

“Sure, no problem,” responds Surian, picking up on Wyland’s serious tone. “I know just the place.”

Both keep silent as Surian leads Wyland through different alleys and byways around the palace, until they are in a small garden surrounded by walls, with only the narrow alley they came into as an entrance. Surian grabs a seat on a nearby rock as he watches Wyland pacing around, apparently gathering his thoughts. Respecting his silence he doesn’t say anything, though his annoyance at Wyland’s pacing is rather apparent upon his face.

Seeing the frustration rising on his cousin’s face Wyland stops pacing and hunkers down in front of him. “Allright, what do you know of Lord Montvik?”

“Well, he comes from a long line of distinguished nobles; the family name is the only real power that they have right now. I mean that is why he has the position he does now, he is not a man of any special intelligence. His family has some holdings in the Eastern reaches of the province of Vermoth, near Goiar’s Gap. Over time, their lands have diminished, currently besides some farmland they really only have the land that the ancestral home sits on. His father wasted much of their money in that botched attempt to put together a trading fleet. That’s the gist of it, why do you ask?”

Wyland takes a minute or two to digest what he had just heard and only responds when Surian raises a questioning eyebrow. “I saw, or thought I saw, Eogden pass something to him after the council meetings today. I did not know if there was already some sort of connection between the two.”

Surian responds quickly, “No, none that I am aware of. Do you think that there’s some sort of conspiracy?” Surian’s eyes light up at the mention of a conspiracy. “I think that we should follow Lord Montvik and see what’s going on.”

“No, absolutely not,” responds Wyland. “When my father said to watch what was going on I doubt he meant to spy on a distinguished nobleman.” Seeing Surian’s mounting excitement, he says again, “No Surian, I mean it.”

“I don’t know how you talk me into things like this,” says Wyland glumly while he peers at Surian from across his mug. He takes a furtive look around the dingy room that they are in, noting the unsavory figures occupying the other rickety tables near their own. The candle stubs lighting the place are few and far between making the room dim and the small hearth on the nearby wall makes the air about them thick and smoky. Keeping his voice low, though it doesn’t seem necessary with all of boisterous conversations around them, he continues, “Both of our father’s would kill me if anything happened to you here.”

“Don’t worry”, replies Surian flashing his cousin his most rakish grin. “I‘ve been here before.”

“Why am I not surprised? How is it that you even knew when he was leaving in the first place, and where did you get these ridiculous clothes for us,” asks Wyland while examining his threadbare cloak.

“Let’s just say that the maids know everything, as for the clothes I have to have something to wear when I go out into the city you know. Besides when…”

“Shh... someone just entered, look natural.” Surian turns to take a look at the door and Wyland gives him a sharp kick under the table and whispers fiercely, “I said look natural, not stare at the person. Surian gives him a quick frown but stays silent and starts drinking from his mug of ale. Wyland watches the thin man who just entered. He takes a quick look around at the various crowded tables, and sits down next to Lord Montvik. Montvik gives the man a wide eyed look and attempts to nonchalantly look around him, though with his excessive neck movements, it is anything but unnoticeable.

“Without attracting attention to yourself get a look behind you and tell me if the man with Montvik looks familiar.”

“Not a problem,” Surian responds confidently. He quickly drains his mug, causing some errant liquid to splash down his neck, and raises it in the air while turning behind him. “More ale,” he cries in a voice to cut through some of the crowded taverns noise. A serving woman gives him a nod and easy smile then heads on over to their table. While she is heading towards them she passes the table of Lord Montvik and Surian gets a good look at Montvik's guest while appearing to watch the coming woman. “See not a problem,” laughs Surian.

The young woman comes over to the table with a pitcher of ale; she refills their mugs and gives Surian a wink as she all but presses her bosom into his face while leaning over to fill the mugs. “Anything else you might be wantin’,” she asks him in a smoky voice.

“Not now luv, maybe later.” He gives her his best roguish grin.

“That is quite enough thank you, mayhaps we will be wanting something else later,” Wyland tells her. She gives him a somewhat puzzled look at his proper speech, but hurries away as another patron shouts for more ale. Wyland shakes his head, “I do not believe that I have ever heard you talk that way before. “

“Well one must be how one must be at times; anyway you would have done the same thing if you weren’t so worried right now. Now then, I think that I have seen that man before. I would swear that he works for Eogden in some capacity or another. I am not to sure though.”

Just as Surian finishes those words the thin man gets up and drops some coin on the table. Lord Montvik also gets up and together the two of them make their way through the scattered tables and exit the building.

“Come on, let’s go.” Wyland gets up and motions to Surian. Surian starts to follow after, but stops and grabs his mug dashing it down, then continues following Wyland. They both get out the door and Wyland stops abruptly looking both ways down the roughly paved street. “Great thanks to you, we lost them!” Wyland states with his face screwed up in frustration.

“First off, my worried cousin, one must never leave a full mug of ale and secondly I see them, you were just looking in the wrong direction. They are down by the docks, I can see the moon shining off that thin mans bald head. Now come on, follow my lead.”

That being said Surian ducks down as he rushes some distance over to some stacked crates overlooking the down sloping hill to the dockyard. Wyland joins him and together they peer through the gaps in the stacked crates. While trying to get a better viewpoint, his foot knocks free a piece of rock which skitters down the path causing the two men below them to stop their conversation and look up. The thin man’s face is calculating, but Lord Montvik has an expression of fear plastered across his. Surian gives his cousin a sharp look of reproof. After several minutes of quiet the two men go back to their conversation and Wyland heaves a relieved sigh.

Not long after the sudden stop in their conversation, the two men begin talking again, Surian scans the nearby area for a closer hiding place so that he might listen in a bit better. He taps Wyland on the shoulder and gives him a wink before he rises and once again dashes to a close stack of barrels, from there he moves ever closer, this time creeping his way close to the ground, until he is behind another stack of crates with some nets strewn over the top of it. He can now pick up their voices quite well.

“I thought that it was understood sir that you would be well rewarded. There is no option of backing out now. None at all.” As his words progressed so too did the threatening tone he used with them.

“My family still has some honor left, and I don’t think that this is what we originally discussed when...”

A sarcastic laugh interrupts the speaker, “Honor, surely you’re joking. Honor is easily bought, especially when the owner of said honor is as deeply in debt as you are. So, don’t be giving me any of that spineless talk. Things change and you will change along with them. Now then, are you prepared to…”

A sound interrupts the man as Surian’s hand slips on the wet stones and he lands on his elbow. Though he stops himself from hitting the crates he knows he has made some noise anyway. He stays as quiet as possible, not even daring to breathe. Nothing happens and it seems that the men will go back to talking like they did previously.

Suddenly the crates around him are shattering and several splinters get caught in his cheek. Where the crates shattered there is a gleaming blade of steel. That sight is enough to make him get up and start running back towards Wyland. He takes a brief look behind him to see the unknown man struggling to get his sword unwrapped from the netting as Lord Montvik stands there frozen in place. As he reaches where Wyland is hiding he hears footsteps behind him. The two young men race ahead towards the tavern with the thin man closing behind them.

“This way!” shouts Surian as they close in on the tavern.

“We’ll be trapped.”

“Trust me,” responds Surian as he throws open the door and rushes in. He immediately runs into a heavy body and thrusts it aside. “The guard is comin’,” he yells as loudly as he can knowing how these people would react to that. He is not disappointed and soon the call is taken up and people are scrambling all over the place. He grabs Wyland’s arm and they force their way into the back, to the kitchen, and out the back door, leaving a shocked cook behind them.

Wyland's hand grabs a hold of Surian's shoulder and he bids him to slow so they are not as noticeable. They start walking casually as soon as they are out of sight of the building and make their way out of the dock district towards the palace grounds. “Well, that was fun, we really need to go out more, cousin,” smirks Surian, as he wipes some blood from his cheek.

“Oh anytime, did I ever mention that I hate cities?” laughs Wyland.

Surian simply rolls his eyes as they continue towards their destination. “By the way, don’t bother trying to see your father tonight. Everyone turned in early tonight for the boar hunt tomorrow and it will be a late night of feasting that night.”

“Great, now my little cousin is telling me it is my bedtime,” scoffs Wyland.

“Well, someone has to look out for you.”

They spend the rest of their return trip amiably talking and laughing about their little adventure until they make their separate ways to their chambers to think about the night's events.

 

Story written by Drogo View Profile