Chapter 2 “Lotus”
The man awoke suddenly, rising as if a catapult had just been sprung. Flaregraze, rose beside him and placed her hands on his left shoulder. She could see he was sweating profusely. The man steadied his breathing and glanced at Flaregraze.
“Sorry…I didn’t mean to wake you.”
Flaregraze kissed him passionately, “It’s all right Allen.”
“Be careful of what you call me around the others. We can’t be found out.”
Flaregraze let out a wimper of a giggle, “You’re so paranoid.”
“Elana!” he said sternly.
“Alright, alright… Allen Swiftstrike.” Flaregraze backed off and got out of the bed.
“I’m sorry. It’s bad enough that the Blade Guards and the Mage Guards are frivolously bickering. If they found out that their Commanders were sleeping together, we’d have both our soldiers at our necks.”
She began to put on her clothes, as Swiftstrike remained in bed still breathing sporadically.
“What was it about?” Flaregraze posed.
“You obviously awoke from a nightmare. You just about had a seizure in bed, and now you’re sweating like a pig.”
“I was there…” Swiftstrike moved to the side and remained seated at the edge of the bed.
“I still can’t believe Prince Aiden has fallen.”
Flaregraze sat beside him once more fully clad in her magical raiments.
“There’s nothing you could have done. Even as a Magic user, I was unable to save him in time. Sentius knew that his speed was unmatched. I guess that is how he planned it.”
“But Sentius? He just isn’t capable. He loved the Prince dearly.”
“We all have our secrets, love.” Flaregraze kissed him again, “Don’t worry about it too much. Before long, Garroltis will have chosen a new chamber maid to give him a new heir.”
Swiftstrike knew that he couldn’t just let it go. He had trained Aiden in his beginner sword mastery classes. It didn’t feel right to him. He pressed his hand against his forehead. In a brisk manner, Flaregraze made her way to the door and turned to Swiftstrike.
“Come on. The kingdom guards are gathering in the Crystalline Halls with Garroltis. Wait about 20 seconds after I leave, then come follow.”
“Right, sorry.” Swiftstrike began dressing. His silver armor adorned with a golden sword running down the chest. Broad and sharp plates rested on his shoulders. As Flaregraze made her exit, finally he took his crimson cloak and placed it over his silver armor looking at his reflection in the mirror.
“Commander of the Blade Guards, huh?” Swiftstrike sighed heavily, “…pathetic.”
In the Crystalline Hall, echoes of gossip traveled from ear to ear, as peoples of the court tried to make sense of the previous days events. Garroltis entered the hall as the noise seized. His eyes met no other as he made his way to the Crystalline Throne. As he sat the three kingdom guard units made their entrance and sat at the table surrounding the court. The table was also made of amaranthium, the most abundant alloy nested within the earth of Mt. Amaran. The Amaranths believe it is a blessing bestowed by the all-crystal itself, Amaranthine. A pudgy fat man entered the court laden with silk raiments. He sat at the head of the table and looked around the room at the Highborn.
“Arbiter Humber, please commence the assembly.”
“Yes, Mine King.” Humber mumbles through his guzzled and well fed face, “Will the Commanders of the Kingdom Guards please announce themselves.”
“Elana Flaregraze, of the Mage Guard.” Elana stood up and summoned a grimoire from thin air and cast a small flame burst in front of her, with a small grin, “Heh.”
“Balin Langriss, of the Arm Guard.” Balin, dressed in full plate and chain was a bulky mess. His gauntlets forged of amaranthium pikes. In a show before the courts, he clangs his two gauntlets together creating sparks. The crowd seemed please and smiled at the wonders of the kingdom guard commanders. Allen, still stricken with grief over the events they were now assembling over, remained motionless before the court.
Humber coughs through his hands, “Ahem.”
“I apologize…” Allen stands before the court, “Allen Swiftstrike, of the Blade Guard,” he continued to twirl his sword as a means to appease the people of the court.
Garroltis stood up from his throne, “Begin.”
Arbiter Humber commenced, “Does anyone wish to begin?”
“I, Balin Langriss, wish to present a question.”
“The floor is yours, Langriss.” Humber dropped into his chair as if he were already out of breath.
“I would like to question Allen Swiftstrike. For he was responsible for Sentius Blackthorn.”
“What are you implying?” Elana reluctantly broke character. Allen glanced at her and shook his head.
“Balin Langriss, what is it you wish to question? I have nothing to hide.”
“Were you aware of Sentius’ plot to remove Mine Prince from his seat?”
“Sentius was like a block of ice. He wasn’t very social but he was one of my best Blades. Everyday he was out by the elder stones, training his sword mastery. He shared nothing with no one and had conflicts with no one.”
“I must insist-” Balin began another question but was quickly cut-off.
“But there is one thing I cannot understand. If there is one thing Sentius was, it wasn’t a murderer. He loved Prince Aiden. After the age of 5, Aiden graduated from my beginner class and Sentius took Aiden as his personal disciple. He wished that Aiden would choose Agility, like he had, so that he could pass on his sword, Falkstream.”
Falkstream, forged of amaranthium and phoenix heart-string was hailed as one of the swiftest swords among the Blades. It was bestowed to Sentius by the forefather, and previous king Bragg Elderborn for being the fastest among the agile Amaranths.
“Then why would he strike him down in cold blood, on the hour of his rising?” Balin was adamant in getting a straight answer, “Did he not choose Agility, as Sentius planned?”
“This I do not know, Langriss.” Allen looked down, as Elana sighed.
“I don’t think we’ll get anywhere questioning each other. We all have our secrets,” Elana glared at Garroltis, but he was too busy drinking wine and not affording them any attention,
“Perhaps Sentius grew jealous of Aiden’s potential. I heard that he mastered the first sword stance at the age of 6. Sentius only mastered it after his 8th rising.”
“No, Sentius wasn’t a jealous man.” Allen looked confused and continued to doubt any certainty.
“How could you know this?” Balin argued.
“He was always faster than me. His blade mastery unrivaled. But when I became Blade Master and Commander of the Blades before him, he showed nothing but compassion and pride.”
Arbiter Humber interjected, “That is one interpretation. Perhaps he was reluctant to show any prejudice against you, Swiftstrike. You do of course, as Blade Master, wield Lotus.”
“What of it?”
“Although Falkstream is hailed as one of the swiftest swords among the Blades. As the commander, you possess Lotus, the fastest of them all. The only sword edge sharp enough and quick enough to cut through the wind. Perhaps, being the fastest, was not enough for him.”
“Lotus or not, he could sully me any day on the battlefield. He had nothing to be ashamed of. Falkstream was a fit weapon for him.”
Arbiter Humber again interjected, “However, still interpretation.”
“Enough.” Garroltis finally pleaded.
“Mine King” Humber bowed.
“I’m finished hearing of this discussion. Balin, I would like you to gather 3 of your Armsmen. Have them meet me in my chambers.” Garroltis began to make his way out of the hall and ignored the murmurs of the courts.
“Mine King” Balin responds with a bow. “Halem, Grift, Rook.”
Three men clad as similarly as Balin with strong gauntlets rose and followed Garroltis out of the hall.
“This assembly has been adjourned.” Arbiter Humber announced to the people.
Garroltis planted himself in his chair and waited for the three armsmen to arrive. Before long, Friede had emerged from the shadows yet again.
“How long will you keep this charade up, Mine King.”
“I want to make sure Aiden has ended.”
“He fell from Mt. Amaran, Mine King, you said yourself…with a wound to the heart.”
“I know what I asked of Sentius. But I also know there was no resolve in his stroke.” Garroltis began fiddling with his fingers.
“So you think Sentius purposely missed?”
“Silence, we will discuss this later.”
The three armsmen entered the chambers.
Garroltis looked them in the eyes, and of all the Kingdom Guard, the aspects of Power were the most difficult guards to intimidate.
“You are to go to Branton, at the foot of Mt. Amaran. From there, you will search for traces of Falkstream, and my son’s body.”
“What of the body, if found?”
“Make sure it has ended.” Garroltis’ fist clenched.
The three armsmen quickly turned and walked off into the halls. Garroltis stood up and began pacing back and forth in front of a brazier that was lit dimly among the black night. Friede stood beside him.
“Mine King…I fear Allen Swiftstrike may get a little too curious for his own good.”
“I do not fear that cockroach.”
“He is after all, the commander of the Blade Guards. If he gains any clout-”
“Be silent. I will deal with him when the time comes.”
“As you must, Mine King.”
“But for now, I want you to bring me Balin Langriss. I have a present for him.”
Allen was in his quarters packing a satchel with trinkets and a few supplies. Elana walked into the room and put her hands on her waist.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m following them.”
“Allen, there’s nothing you can do…” Elana walked to the window and stared into the black night.
“His son chose Agility. And he sends Arm Guards? Something’s not right.”
“I would warn you, but I think you already know what happened to the curious cat.”
“I’m curiosity, not the cat.” Allen winked.
“What do you hope to find by following them?” Elana sat on the bed.
“Closure? Aiden? Who knows…?” Allen looked down as he froze from packing for a brief second.
“You believe he survived that fall?”
“I’ve survived greater obstacles, Elana, a fall such as that for those who choose agility is child’s play.” Allen hinted at a bit of sarcasm.
“A fall such as that to a mage, is no play at all.”
“Very funny. Look, we Amaranth are blessed by the crystal with great gifts. I’m not going to doubt he survived.”
“Allen, he only just received his blessing…and you believe he was keen enough to have learned how to utilize his agility in a matter of seconds in order to survive?”
“You weren’t there when I witnessed a 7 year old out match a bull.”
Elana fell silent and chose to stare at her boots as they swung back and forth hanging off the foot of the bed.
“You fleet footed men… I suppose there’s no stopping any of you from moving at the least.”
“You know, your jokes are getting tiresome.” Allen kissed Elana on the lips sensually.
“I do like it when you get sarcastic.”
“I have to go.” Allen quickly jumped up and headed for the door.
“And then you ruin the mood just like that.” a spark emits from Elana’s fingers as she snaps them together.
“Listen, I don’t want to sound cliché but…I’ll be back before you know it.”
“Yes, yes…and I’m beautiful, and all that.” Elana flicked her hair.
Allen sighed as he exited the room. As Elana laid her head back onto the bed, the air in the room became still. She began to think of the moment Garroltis exhibited magic powers to lay waste to Sentius. At the time, she was only concerned about what the council would think. But as a mage herself she could not fathom how it happened and did not dare question an Elderborn. She thought perhaps, Elderborn were granted the right over more than one aspect, but she couldn’t be too sure.
His eyes were weak. He could not make sense of what was happening around him. He could hear water rushing beside him. His vision completely blurred, and blackened.
“Laddy.” a silent voice emerged from his conscience. “Boy!” another voice screamed out to him, very faint still.
“Is he broken mother?” voices kept creeping up on him and he could not make any sense of it. The blurred vision, and muffled sound around him began to clear.
“Blink if you can hear me boy!” an old man suddenly appeared clear as day in front of him.
“He blinked!” a girl’s voice shouted.
He sat up and rubbed his eyes and then held his head.
“Where…am I?” he asked.
“You’re in Branton boy. You must’ve gotten lost in the woods and fainted here.”
“Why does my body hurt so much…”
“Now, now, we must get you home. Questions later.” the old man picked him up and began walking downstream.
As they entered a humble little hut the air was crisp and warm. He felt welcomed but at the same time very much at home. The old man laid him in a make-shift bed of haystacks and put a blanket on him.
“You rest in here, I’ll go warm up some stew. Do you like boar?”
“Um…I don’t know.”
“Ah, everybody likes boar. I’ll be right back.”
He rested on the bed, he couldn’t move half his body, and the pain was definitely there. He heard the old man chattering in the distance with the other voices he heard.
“Hugo, we must return him!”
“The boy is broken Yura! Let him rest now.” the old man defended.
“Look at his raiments. He is at the least one of the Highborn! What if we are caught and accused of kidnapping?” Yura explained.
“Highborn or not, he’s still battered and beaten and needs to rest!” Hugo took a bowl of soup and entered the room. “What do you call yourself?”
“Excuse me?” he asked.
“Well, I can’t keep calling you boy.”
“I’m sorry…my name is…” he tried hard to remember but he could not grasp a name from his mind, “I don’t…know.”
“Hit your head hard then? Well…” Hugo put the bowl on the bed side table and gave him a spoon, “…you are quite an important person to be wearing such garments.”
“It’s late. We’ll worry about who you are in the morning. Eat up, and get some rest. I’m Hugo, and this is my home.”
Throughout the night, dreams of his life began to flash before him. He could not make sense of any of the images that were being shown to him. He shuffled and moved all through the night. It was difficult for him to make anything intelligible out of what he saw during his dreams. They were all so faint and blurry. The next morning Hugo walked into the room with some fried eggs and a share of bread. The boy awoke and rubbed his eyes until he could clearly make out Hugo.
“Good morning, boy.” Hugo sat beside his bed and placed the food down on his lap, “eat up, you’ll need the energy.”
“Thanks.” he picked up his ladel and began munching on the eggs as he ripped up the bread to eat it.
“This was nestled into the ground beside you. Now, we’re no fighters and I don’t know who you are. But with those clothes and crests, you must be from the peak.”
“The peak?” the boy was confused.
“The summit boy, where Castle Amaran rests.”
A sharp pain entered the boys head as he dropped the food onto the ground grasping his temple.
“I knew it.” Hugo held onto the boy to comfort him, “It looks like your body is reacting, but you still have yet to remember.”
Hugo picked up the sword and lay it next to the boy.
“Now, there’s something etched onto the blade and being normal folk, I’d be damned if I tried to decipher them.” The boy grabbed the sword as if he knew it by heart. He gave it a once over and then felt the etchings with his fingers.
“They’re glyphs. Ancient Amaranth glyphs…”
“Fa…alk….str…” the boy took his time feeling the glyphs as emotions poured into him from the sword itself, “Falkstream.”
Hugo rose from the chair quickly and gasped for air.
His wife and daughter entered the room upon hearing the name of the sword.
“Dear, what is the sword of Blackthorn doing in our house?!”
“Quiet!” Hugo shooed them away, “Boy…I don’t know who you are but you are holding the sword given to the Blackthorns by Bragg Elderborn, the forefather.”
“I am?” the boy looked confused.
The daughter came back and shuffled Hugo’s shoulders, “Daddy!”
“What is it, Rena?”
“There are three large men outside looking for the head of the house.”
Hugo leaned back and took a glance out the front door to see three large men clad with plate armor and gauntlets with sharp embellishments.
“Damn…” Hugo froze for a moment and then walked towards the door turning to the boy, “You stay here.”
Hugo walked out to in front of the house to meet the armsmen. The sun was just setting as Allen sneaked behind the armsmen in the brush just outside of Hugo’s home.
“What do you want?”
Grift stepped forward, with an eagle etched into his gauntlet, “We are looking for a small boy. He should be wearing expensive clothing. Have you seen him around here?”
“What are three big men like you doing looking for a small boy?” Hugo remained steadfast.
“Are you questioning a kingdom Guard?” Halem stepped forward, his gauntlet etched with a falcon. Hugo started to shiver in the presence of the three armsmen. There very energy was unnerving and intimidating.
“Don’t you think this is a little much for an injured little boy?” Hugo stopped. He caught himself and clenched his fists, “…shit.”
Rook, with gauntlets etched with a raven, stepped forward, “Step aside old man.”
The boy could see the commotion just barely around the opening of the door of his room. He began to sweat and shiver as if he was anticipating the gravity of what was happening.
“There is no boy here, I have only a daughter!” Hugo tried to convince them once more.
Rook took the old man by his shirt collar and lifted him up to the sky, “No one said anything about an injured boy. For lying to a kingdom guard, I sentence you to ending.”
Rook picked up his other arm, and wound it up behind his head. The etched raven lit up as he thrusted his arm towards the old man. In a blinding flash of light the gauntlet was stopped. As everyone recovered from the blinding light, the boy held Falkstream in his hands and had parried Rooks punch. Allen rose from the brush and grew speechless.
“Aiden!” he thought to himself.
Grift stepped forward, “Mine Prince, we have been waiting.”
Hugo was taken aback, “…Prince?”
Aiden quickly turned away Rooks hand and spun elegantly and slashed at his body. The sword carved into Rooks abdomen an inch through. Aiden struggled to remove the sword from his body.
Rook turned to his companions, “We have found Falkstream.” Rook grabbed the sword and punched Aiden away, sending him flying into the house. Hugo was astonished as was his whole family.
“What the hell is going on?! First you address him as Prince, and then you’re assaulting him!”
Grift jumped up and slammed his gauntlet into Hugo’s ribcage, “Silence.”
Hugo gasped for air, and coughed up some blood. His midsection was just crushed by an immense force.
“Damnit, this is no investigation! It’s a clean up crew!” Allen removed his cloak and his sashes, and anything with an identifying crest. He placed the cloak back on and over his head, covering his face.
“Lotus, I call upon you now. There’s work to be done.” the sword began to emanate with a glowing aura, “Windstream!”
Allen slashed at the air as waves of energy cut through the air and shot at the three armsmen. Halem turned quickly and parried the waves with his gauntlet.
“Gentlemen, we have company.”
Rook turned towards the masked man, “You will end as well.”
Within moments, and in a blinding light Allen was behind them as their bodies began gushing blood. The three men could not move and fell to the ground. Allen whipped his sword into the air to clean it from the blood and stood up and sheathed Lotus.
“I am a Blade Master, and Commander of the Blade Guard…know your place!”
The three armsmen lay dead on the ground. In an instant, Allen had cut them down. Hugo’s wife came running and tended to Hugo, and turned to look at the cloaked man,
“I don’t know who you are, but thank you!”
Allen walked into the hut and picked up Aiden’s beaten body, “…one punch and you’re down for the count, eh? You’ve a lot of work ahead of you, Mine Prince.”
Fearing for his and Aiden’s safety Allen was reluctant to reveal himself.
“Just call me Lotus, for now.”
Aiden fainted from the shock of everything that had just transpired. Allen stopped beside Hugo, “I am eternally indebted to you old man. It is no longer safe for you and your family here. I will send a carriage to your house. When it arrives, tell the driver ‘vocare ad regnum.’ He will take you somewhere safe.”
The wife held Hugo in her arms and nodded at Allen in confirmation. The daughter clinging by the door, scared to come out any further spoke.
“Where are you taking him?”
Allen turned swiftly, “Away from here.”
“Is he really a prince?”
Allen stopped for a moment, then continued to walk off into the distance.
Back at the castle, Garroltis paced around in front of a window staring out into the dawn. Friede emerged from the shadows once more.
“Mine King…it appears Halem, Grift and Rook have ended.”
“I can recognize Lotus’ windstream from a mile away, blindfolded.”
“Looks like the cockroach has now turned into a pesky rat.”
Garroltis picked up his sword, Baragus, which signified his placement on the throne. It was as tall and wide as Garroltis himself.
“We shall dispose of this pesky rat.”
Garroltis turned and looked to the other side of the room, “How are things working for you Balin?”
“I’ll need some more time adjusting to the speed, but I feel powerful!”
“Good. Take the rest of your men, and test out your new found dominion over Agility and end Allen Swiftstrike once and for all. And if you happen upon my son, end him as well.”
Balin bowed down to Garroltis on one knee, “Mine King.”
Garroltis unsheathed Baragus and pointed it out into the sky, “The end is coming, Swiftstrike.”