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 VIII: THE CITY

ere comes the prince, thinks Noret. No not the prince, the thin man would call him a dolt for not knowing the difference between a king’s son and a warden’s son. But what did it matter; he couldn’t remember what they called a warden’s son anyway. The frustrating thing was that he was still alive and this time with something strapped onto an extra horse. Obviously he found the saddle, and that fool he had paid to kill him in the woods had not done so. He probably hadn’t even found that drunken bastard, he should have known not to put any faith in a drunk. The instructions were simple, follow him until he was out of the woods and then kill him.

Releasing a sigh, he continues ranting in his mind. Come on, how difficult was that? Now he would be the one in trouble, after all the thin man had told him to find a way to either kill Wyland or make sure he didn’t find what he was looking for, but death was preferable. The thin man who had given him the job had made sure he had understood the importance of the task. Thinking about that made him wince slightly at the remembered pain of the ways that he had been shown to get across his superior's wish. He’s a bastard too, though he pays well. That thought makes him look around furtively just to make sure he hadn’t accidentally said that out loud. One never knew; he might be watching him.
 

Concentrating back upon Wyland, Noret comes to a quick decision. “Uren, I’ll be back soon”, he calls over to his second in charge at the inner gate. Uren gives him a puzzled glance but at the sight of Noret’s scowl he just shrugs his shoulders, readjusts his ceremonial armor and goes back to dully gazing at the crowd. Once Wyland passes the stationed guards, Noret ducks into an alcove in the wall that houses a door to the guard room. Not bothering to unbuckle his armor he grabs his nearby cloak, throws it on, rushes to the door and slips unnoticed into the incoming crowd of people. Taking several steps forward to keep his target in sight he almost stops dead in his tracks as Wyland turns around and looks back at the gate. So as to keep blending in, Noret moves slowly forward with the people. When Wyland gives a small shake of his head and continues on his way, Noret lets out a large sigh of relief.

Wyland, eager to show his father and Surian the efforts of his days spent in the woods, tries to hurry through the crowded streets. A casual glance at the throngs of people making their way from one place to another easily shows the difference between the city dwellers and those from the nearby countryside that have come for the impending celebratory feast. “Great, even more people in an already packed place,” Wyland growls to himself as he pulls the reins of his horse sharply to avoid trampling a rotund merchant crashing through the crowd with his cart of wares. Giving the merchant an unnoticed frown, Wyland breathes a sigh and continues on his way towards the palace. What should have taken five minutes ended up taking twenty, what with all the people clogging the street. But, it was worth it when he came to the intricately worked gateway to the palace complex.

Even though he had been hurrying along, he had to stop and stare at the intricate carvings made into the stone itself that ran up one side of the enormous arch, over it and down the other side again. This was not the first time he had stopped here to admire the detailed carvings, and from the way it mesmerized him each time it would probably not be the last. Fantastical animals stood atop each other seemingly reaching to the heavens, a Cartashian bear forms the base animal, rearing up on its hind legs. Upon its shoulder a fearsome Voran tiger stands, readied to pounce on the litwil deer that lay in front of it, the deer’s rear hooves springing off the nose of the Voran tiger. Perched atop the deer’s horns is a majestic snowbyr eagle, it’s massive wings outspread for flight, its furthest pinion feathers touch one of the rays of the sun that sits above the gateway itself beaming down life to all who pass under its warm gaze. The same figures stand upon the other side giving the impression that one is surrounded by all of life as he enters into this place of sacred sovereignty.

Shaking his head as if to wake from a dream Wyland continues through the gateway, lest he attract more than just the stares from the ceremonial guard. Wyland can not help but laugh at himself as he proceeds through. Maybe Surian was right, perhaps he took things a little too seriously, after all it was just an arch. Once past the entrance he takes a quick glance back and notes that the carving on this side of the arch was made to look like a cavern mouth with some mythical dwarves with hammers and anvils etched into the stone near the cavern mouth. “That makes sense, coming into here is entering the real world, leaving is entering darkness. It has to be a statement on the power and importance of sovereignty”, he mumbles to himself.

Noticing that he is not moving again and that the people just flow around him and give him the look usually reserved for rustic tourists or an imbecile, he starts moving again. Now the guards are doing more than just looking, they are moving towards him. Two of them stay at their post, while the other two move forward to intercept what must appear to them to be a country bumpkin.

“Hey you, you’re blockin’ the road”, yells one of the silver breast plated guards while gesturing with his burnished spear. “Take yer look at the palace, then move back to whatever inn or alley you be stayin’ in.”

The other advancing soldier gives his shorter fellow a look of annoyance and begins talking to Wyland, “I’m sorry but we don’t allow pack horses in here and besides…”

The shorter man interrupts the man saying,” We don’t allow filth in here at all, so go get yerself a wash and lose yerself.”

“Actually”, responds Wyland, “I was on my way to the royal stables to return these mounts from whence they came. I am Wyland ap’tel Nigor son of Warden Sioned and I have come here straightaway on a matter of importance and do not appreciate this delay! Now then do you not have some standing around to do next to the gate?”

“Ye, yes m’lord,” stutters the shorter guard as he quickly moves backward, all but tripping over himself in his haste to get back to his post.

The other guard murmurs his apologies and goes back to his post as well. Wyland continues towards the stables thinking about how the shorter guard was nothing but a bully when he thought he was more powerful than the person he spoke to, but once he realized he was outranked he ran away whimpering much as a posturing dog would. It was not like this back home, there everyone knew everyone and kindness was a general rule. Of course there were some exceptions, as there always were but things were just different there.

A sneer crosses Noret’s face at the thought of the spectacle he had just witnessed. Just one more self important, cocky, noble bastard, he thought to himself. Actually make that just one more self important, cocky, country noble bastard, so out of his element that he stops to stare at a stupid gate. Yes, how interesting, an arch in a wall so you can go through the wall. What a concept! Disgust at the stupidity of nobles keeps running through his mind as he continues to follow Wyland. The short guard that had just taken a tongue lashing and looking to take it out on someone gives Noret an evil eye. As he starts heading towards him Noret opens his cloak a bit, so the guard can see his armor. Seeing the shiny, embossed armor makes the guard go back to his post, but not before giving Noret a frown.

Upon reaching the stables, Wyland glances around the apparently empty building looking for the Master of Horse. “Hello? Jared?” Not hearing a reply, he heads towards some empty stalls, calling Jared’s name again. Suddenly something collides with his stomach and legs. Acting protectively Wyland steps back into a crouch and readies to draw his sword, but as his hand tightens upon the hilt, he sees what has happened. One of the stable boys was coming out of the stalls in response to his calls and ran right into him. The hapless victim was lying on the floor now, still looking somewhat dazed.

“I’m sorry about that, are you all right?”

The boy takes a moment and slowly gathers himself before responding. “I’m ‘kay. Sorry ta hit ya like that.”

“It is quite all right,” replies Wyland while giving the boy a hand up. Once the lad is up and on his feet he gives him a quick pat down to get some of the dirt off of his rough tunic and straw out of his dark hair. “Now then, where is your master, Jared?”

“He’s out with some of ta fancy nobles makin’ sure they don’t accident’ly kill their horses.”

“Ah, well then. I’m returning these horses to their home, any particular stalls I should put them in?” Following the boy’s pointed finger, Wyland leads the two horses into a pair of nearby stalls. Once both of the horses are in, the stable boy moves into the stall to help un-harness the horses, but Wyland waves him away. “They have done well by me, the least that I can do, is do well by them.” After finishing up he returns to where the stable boy is mucking out a stall. Hefting his trophy up onto a side rail with a loud thunk to get the stable boy’s attention he says, “I need a favor.”

The boy’s face screws up in suspicion. “What? You wanna know where to put ta brok’n saddle? Don’t be thinkin’ I no how to fix it.”

Laughing as he claps the stable urchin on the shoulder, “No, no don’t worry. All I wanted was for you to watch it for me while I go get my cousin.”

Staring at the saddle with even more suspicion now the boy asks, “Why what’s so great ‘bout ta bok’n saddle? ‘N why’d ya want to show it to yer cous’n? ‘Sides I’ve got better things to be doin’.”

Wyland watches the boy’s eyes go wide as he pulls a silver coin from his pouch. “I know that you are busy, but would this pay for the time that I would be keeping you away from those “better” things?”

“Ya ya yes m’lord,” the boy stutters as he ducks his head in respect. After catching the coin Wyland tosses he pulls the saddle off of the rail and promptly plops down right next to it. “No worries ‘bout me. I’ll be here long’s you be wantin’ m’lord.”

“Good, I will not be long.” With a last admonition to watch the saddle Wyland leaves the stables and heads up towards the palace. Making a quick explanation to the guards at the main entrance about his appearance, he makes his way to Surian’s chambers. Entering the lavish rooms he finds them empty. As he closes the door, a voice makes him feel as if he has been doing something that he shouldn’t have.

“Dirty again I see m’lord.”

Without even needing to turn around he knows who is talking to him, and he feels ten years old all over again. “Hello Gurna, have you seen Surian?”

“I have, he’s up with his father.”

Hope fills Wyland’s eyes at the thought of Surian and his father up and about. “Is King Ored all right then?” Understanding Gurna’s downward look Wyland continues, “I see, I will go up to the king’s chambers then. Slowly turning away he heads down the hall towards a nearby staircase. As he does so, he calls out behind him, “Do not worry I will be washing up soon enough.” Imagine Gurna rolling her eyes or shaking her head brings a momentary smile back to his lips as he heads up the stairwell.

It seems that with every step he climbs the very air gets heavier, filled with the concern of the king’s health. It rolls downwards from the king’s room like the pungent aroma of death. Dark thoughts rumble through Wylands head as he fears the worst. He knows Surian is not yet ready to command a kingdom, and Warden Eogden and his hanger-on’s can not be trusted. Reaching the last few steps before getting to the floor of the king’s chambers he takes a deep breath and readies himself for whatever he might find.

Nodding his head towards the two ceremonial guards posted at the door he makes his way into the suite of rooms. The first room is as empty as a tomb, no breeze from the windows dare disturb a curtain. Passing into another sitting room the sounds of crying can now be picked up along with hushed tones. These noises make Wyland's stomach clench, it is as if his earlier fears are being validated. He takes a pause like he did on the steps and takes in another deep breath, forcing himself to go forward. Walking into the bedchambers he barely registers anyone in the room except for the man laying beneath sweat soaked sheets. It is the king, but not the same one he had seen but a few days earlier at the ceremony, so regal and filled with dignity. Nor was it the same king that had been on the hunt, the picture of health and full of vigor. The person before him was just a man, his skin gone pale and damp from sweat. Blood stained bandages wrapped around his side, eyes glossed and uncomprehending. To see a man so changed, and not just any man but his uncle, the king, brings a tear to his eyes.

Turning away from the sight he notices Surian for the first time, looking worn and ragged. The hushed tones must have come from Surian and Wyland’s father, Sioned, and there was Surian’s mother, Rialla, with tears still staining her cheek. Placing a hand upon Rialla he murmurs something he hopes is comforting, but doesn’t even know what he says as the words leave his mouth. Sitting down next to his father Wyland quietly asks, “What do the healers say?”

“Well,” Sioned responds, “he will live, most likely, is what they are telling us. They got the spear out, but there was damage and they’re not sure if any of the splintered wood from the haft is still in there. All I …”

A fierce look enters Surian’s eyes as he interrupts Sioned. “He will be fine! The highpriest has even said that it is not The Creator's time for taking him yet. It is just a test. All a test.”

A look of concern on Sioned’s face must match his own as Wyland quietly agrees with Surian. He can see that his cousin is being so strong that he might just snap. To get all of their minds off of it he tells them all about his last few days in the woods. Surian even musters up a quip about how Wyland still smells. Intrigued Sioned and Surian get up with Wyland to go see the saddle. Bidding farewell to Rialla they make their way through the palace and back towards the stables.

Upon reaching the stables they are greeted by Jared, the horse master, who had only recently returned. “Jared, good to see that you are back. I hope that you had a good time,” Wyland says with a smile as he only imagines what type of whiney nobles he had to put up with.

“The whole lot were bloody fools m’lords. What do ya expect from a noble though.” Remembering who he was talking to Jared ducks his head briefly and quickly says, ”Beggin’ your pardon m’lords, I didn’t mean it as it sounded.”

Sioned starts roaring laughter at Jared’s attempts at recover. “Of course you did and I’ve got to agree. I can’t stand most nobles myself, they think that since they’re born with money they don’t have to develop manners.”

“Or brains,” adds Surian. He is already looking better for being away from the reminders of his father’s wounds and fever.

“Anyway, master Jared, we are here to see your stable boy.” Catching the curious look that crosses his features Wyland continues, “He was supposed to be watching something for me and I just wanted to check on it.”

“Well, he was sleepin’ when I got here m’lord so don’t know how well he watched it with his eyes shut.”

“Where is he now, Master Jared?” Wylands asks with a tinge of fear in his voice. Following Jared’s remarks Wyland along with his father and cousin head towards a corner stable where the boy is in the process of mucking out a stall. “I came back with my cousin, like I said. I was hoping you could get the saddle from wherever you might have put it.”

“Gave it to ta guard m’lord. Like he said you said to.”

“What guard?”

“Ta one wit’ ta shiny armor that came in right afta ya. He said he’d take it. I told ‘im I’s supposed to be watchin’ out fer it and he said that he told ‘im to get it. So I gave it to ‘im.”

 

Story written by Drogo View Profile