Monday, December 1, 2014

The Mark of the King: Chapter Thirteen

Oh December. The month of holiday cheer, and as always, lots and lots of stressing on my part. 
Let's not think about that right now.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, or for those of you who don't celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you had a wonderful week!! Mine was rather pleasant, but it included homemade pumpkin pie, so there's really no reason for it to have been bad.
In the meantime, I typed up Chapter Thirteen. I'm in the process of typing and editing Fourteen at the moment, but with the upcoming holidays and midterms, I cannot guarantee how soon I will be able to post it. Be sure that I shall try my very hardest as it is the last chapter of Part I!!!! You have no idea how excited I am about that. AANNNNDDD then comes the stressing because I am very slowly working my way through Part II and I haven't written much of it so posting will be even worse... 
But I am not going to dwell on that right now. Let's just be happy that you can now read Chapter Thirteen!!!

Chapter Thirteen

Flynn waited patiently in the shadows of the long corridor for his target. Reaching a hand to his back, he pulled out a hidden dagger concealed in his belt. He twisted it mindlessly, inspecting the way the flawless blade reflected and bent what little torchlight reached it.
            Down the hall, Lord Ulric’s door creaked open, and the round man stepped out. Flynn froze. From the shaded alcove, Flynn watched Ulric like a hawk, waiting for the opportune moment to swoop upon his prey and strike. He noted that the lord neglected to lock his chamber door, but that didn’t matter. Flynn knew that the item he required was not inside the room.
            As Lord Ulric ambled down the hall, his bright yellow robes flapping behind him, Flynn followed, crouching low and walking in the lord’s footsteps to avoid detection. He quickened his pace, closing the distance between himself and the lord. When he was close enough, he wrapped one arm around the shorter man’s neck, and held him tightly. Lord Ulric struggled, clutching at Flynn’s elbow and forearm desperately. But his struggles were short-lived. Flynn raised his dagger, and struck the lord in the temple with its blunt metal end. Lord Ulric uttered a slight moan, before his body went limp. Flynn released him, and he fell to the floor.
            Patting and rifling through the lord’s thick robes, Flynn spied what he searched for. A corner of a folded piece of faded leather protruded from a pocket sewn inside his cloak. Hastily, he snatched it up and opened it. Once he scrutinized its contents, he smiled in cruel satisfaction. Then his ears caught the faint sound of approaching footsteps. He shoved the piece of leather into his jacket, leapt up, and sprinted away.

            Skandar worked in the Keeper’s Chambers, rolling, binding, and organizing scrolls for Sir Reuben. The Keeper himself had been summoned away from his chambers minutes before by John. Grateful for the silence, Skandar opted to stay behind.
            “This is the first time I’ve been alone in a while,” he mumbled aloud, and tied a thin leather strap around a scroll. Setting it on the top of the pile to his left, he reached for another piece of open parchment.  The afternoon light outside faded as the sun set, and the room grew darker. Skandar rose, and tossed another log into the hearth. The light restored, he returned to his job, only to discover that he had finished the task of binding the Keeper’s scrolls. Skandar gathered an armful of the scrolls and began to place them on the empty shelves in orderly rows.
            The door opened, and Sir Reuben and another man entered. The man accompanying the Keeper was short, round, and dressed in thick layers of yellow robes. He tottered unsteadily as he walked, and cradled his head in his quivering hands.  
            “Calm down, Ulric,” assured Sir Reuben, albeit sternly.
            Skandar placed the remaining scrolls on the table. “Do you wish me to leave, Sir?”
            Sir Reuben waived a hand at Skandar, “That will not be necessary, but what you are about to hear you repeat to no one, understood?”
            “Understood.”
            “Now tell me,” Sir Reuben turned to Lord Ulric, who stood, quaking, until the Keeper directed him to a chair. “What happened?”
            “I was attacked. In the hall outside my chambers,” fumbled Lord Ulric. When he turned his head, Skandar detected a large knot visible on his temple.
            “By whom?” pressed Sir Reuben. “Did you see the man?”
            Lord Ulric Squinted as he tried to recall the unpleasant memory. He mopped his bare brow with a rag. “No. It was rather dark in the hall. I neither heard nor saw the scoundrel.”
            But I have an idea who would do something like that, Skandar remarked silently.
            The Keeper sighed deeply and tugged at the collar of his scarlet jacket. He was silent for several moments, and stared at the floor. “Did he take it?” he glanced up.
            Take what?
            “Yes.”
            Whatever is was, it was important for some reason.
            “I am glad you were not seriously injured, my friend. But we must recover the item as soon as possible. I need not remind you that if it were to fall into the wrong hands, we condemn hundreds of people to death.

            “Skandar?” Sir Reuben tapped his shoulder. The young man sat in the Keeper’s chair, staring vacantly into the wall ahead. Skandar slowly refocused, and looked lazily at Sir Reuben.
            “In a fight, lad, you’d be dead.”
            “That’s not very comforting, Sir.”
            “It wasn’t meant to be.” Not even the barest hint of amusement appeared on Sir Reuben’s serious face.
            “That’s not very comforting either,” Skandar mumbled. “Sir? About what you said to that lord earlier. Tell me the truth.”
            Sighing deeply, Sir Reuben occupied the vacant seat on the other side of the table. To Skandar, it felt odd, their positions switched.
            “You must know by now that your being here in the Capitol is no accident, especially not now. I cannot explain everything. It is far too dangerous.”
            More lies. If it concerns me, why must he hide the truth?
            “Skandar, what do you see when you are angry?”
            The question surprised him. It was so out of the ordinary that for a moment, he couldn’t answer it. His mind was still processing the question itself. Skandar thought hard, although the reason behind the question eluded him.
            “Everything changes,” he stated reluctantly. I am not even sure of what happens. How can I explain it to him? And how does he know?
            “Changes? How?”
            “The world dulls. It becomes as gray and lifeless as the walls of this very room. It only lasts for a short time; often times I barely notice it.”
            “Do you feel anything?”
            Skandar looked into the smoldering ashes in the hearth. He sank down into his chair. He didn’t understand why he reacted in this manner. From embarrassment? Confusion? Stubbornness, he titled it. Reluctance. Whatever Sir Reuben asked, he had good reason, Skandar understood. And one way or another, Sir Reuben managed to get the answer he sought.
            “Anger,” he finally admitted quietly. “Hatred. All the rage and fury I have harvested throughout my life since the day my mother died… it is overwhelming.”
            “That is to be expected. After my punishment for aiding your parents, I felt many similar emotions. I hated the king. I hated Joran. I hated almost everyone I came in contact with. I blamed them for what happened. These emotions were only intensified after Garren’s departure. I lost nearly every friend I had. And I hated everyone for it.”
            “Hated? You don’t hate them now?”
            Sir Reuben shook his head. “I learned that hatred only wounds the wearer. When a log is placed in the fire, it burns for a while, but the fire eventually consumes it and everything around it, leaving nothing more than a pile of charred ash. The thing the log once was is now unrecognizable and useless. The same is true with hate. It burns inside you for a time, using you as its fuel, and for a moment you feel alive. But it destroys you, leaving you a twisted, deformed human being.”
            Sir Reuben was right, Skandar knew. He pondered the Keeper’s words, mulling them over and over.
            How can I let it go? When all my life it is what has been driving me? Giving me a will to fight and live? Hate is the reason I must find my father. Hate is the reason I must find Bródúil. Hate is the reason that with it, I will finally be able to enact revenge on those who ripped apart my family. No. Even if it kills me in the end, I will not let it go. And I don’t care who is hurt in the process. I don’t care.
            “Father?” John and Muriel opened the door and stood on the threshold of the room. A cool draft blew in from the hall. Sir Reuben twisted in his chair and beckoned them inside.
            “Skandar and I were finishing last minute business. I apologize for making you wait,” Sir Reuben stood and pushed his chair against the table. Walking to several hooks in the wall near the door, he removed his cloak from one, and Skandar’s from another. He tossed Skandar his before fastening his cloak around his shoulders. Skandar snapped out of his thoughts just in time to catch his cloak before it hit his face.
            “Oh, and by the way, Skandar?”
            “Yes Sir?” Skandar hooked his cloak beneath his neck and pulled the hood over his head.
            “Tomorrow evening there will be another celebration. You are to come as a part of my family and as my personal guest.”
            “You mean I will be permitted?”
            “Yes. Remain close to me and do not wander off. I must do something to keep you out of the ceiling.”
            “What? I-I,” Skandar stammered, too late to make up some excuse.
            Sir Reuben smiled smugly. “And Skandar?”
            “Hmm?”
            Sir Reuben raised a critical eyebrow in recognition of Skandar’s mistake.
            “Yes Sir?” corrected Skandar.
            Sir Reuben lowered his voice. “Be ready to flee at a moment’s notice. Pack your belongings and have them close at hand in your room. Sleep in your clothes.”
            Immediately after Skandar returned to the Keeper’s dwelling, he ran to his room and there discovered a satchel laid on the bed. He smiled at Lady Morgaine’s foresight. I’ll thank her later.
            Rummaging through his meager belongings, he threw every article of clothing he owned chaotically into the bag until it held no more. Skandar frowned at the bulges in the coarse material and then emptied the bag of its contents, dumping them out onto the bed.  A coin purse fell out of the bottom of the bag, landing atop the pile of his clothes with a satisfying clink. Hastily, Skandar snatched up the satchel and peered into its depths. Is there any more? But the sack revealed no other treasures other than the one he just discovered.
            Skandar carefully folded every shirt and every trouser, placing them neatly inside the satchel so they covered the coin purse. When finished, he found he had a small amount of space left at the top. He gazed curiously at the vacant space before deciding its purpose.
            Making his way out of his room and to the kitchen, Skandar discovered several small packages wrapped in parchment on the table.
            “The Lady intended those for you,” informed one of the girls. “They aren’t much; just bits of dried meat and cheese. The bread she said she’ll supply later on. She didn’t say what they’re for, though.”
            Skandar gave the girl a small nod in thanks, and tucked the packages under his arms.
            “Now get on with you, unless you wish for burned food at supper!”
             Back inside his room, Skandar packed the dried food in the satchel. He surveyed his handiwork a final time until satisfied, he tied the open top off with a long cord and placed it on the floor beside his bed. No sooner had he completed his work when John knocked on his door, announcing the time for supper.
            Meanwhile, the maid with whom Skandar exchanged words earlier beckoned the other girl into the kitchen. “Can you begin washing the dishes? I have an errand to run.”
            “Another?” moaned the second young woman. “That’s the second one this week!”
            The first girl dusted brown flour off her skirt and laughed. “I won’t be gone but a moment. Here,” she slipped a hand into a pocket hidden inside the waist seam of her skirt. Pulling it out, she dropped two large coins into her friend’s cupped hands.
            The second girl gaped at the money. Sir Reuben and Lady Morgaine paid well and fairly, but those coins were worth more than they made in a week. “Where did you-?”
            “That,” the first girl put a finger to her lips, “is no concern of yours. Now that should cover any difficulties, I think. I must be off, but I’ll be back before they notice,” she nodded toward the door separating the kitchen from the rest of the house.
            She unhooked her new shawl from a peg mounted on the wall beside her friend’s worn wrap. Draping it around her shoulders, she opened the back door and stepped out into the night, walking only a short way before stopping at a post. On it were two chalk marks. One hers, the other belonged to the man she was to meet. Quickly, she rubbed them off and continued through the streets.
            When she reached her destination, a tavern, it was a simple matter to locate the man she was to meet. He sat alone, the other visitors too afraid to step near him.
            “You’d better not be wasting my time,” he said dryly. He leaned against the back of his chair and, in an annoyed manner, flipped a loose piece of black hair out of his face.
            Composing herself, the girl whispered, “He’s going to run.”
            “That’s not new,” Flynn stood and towered over the girl. “I need relevant information. Now tell me,” he stepped nearer, and she drew back in fear. “When?” he growled.
            The girl shrugged. “Soon, I think.”
            “You think.”
            Her lower lip quivered. She cast a frightened glance around the room, knowing if she were in trouble, the other people inside the tavern would not risk the wrath of Flynn by standing up against him. His cruel and ruthless reputation preceded him. But she needed the money.
            “I can find out,” she offered.
            “You’d better,” Flynn stepped back and dropped a single coin on the table. “If you want your pretty face to stay that way.”
            “Yes, Sir.” The girl dropped her head and pulled her shawl tighter around her. She snatched up the coin and darted away.  




THE PLOT THICKENS.
Can you tell that I am feeling very over-dramatic right now? That's what school does to you, I guess. Fries your brain like nothing else.
Anyway, feel free to let me know what you think!
God bless!!
~Abbie