Battlemage: Book 8 - Origins and Dark Revelations
"Everything in this world had to start somewhere. Everything that there was had to have a beginning. What could be seen as one man's evil may be seen as another man's salvation. The greatest "threat" to every Battlemage over the centuries had to start somewhere and this is where that threat first had its start..." — History of their world.
4030 seasons previously before current times
"I can't believe I never considered him as a real threat. I always thought him a fool, not smart enough to slip on his hose before his boots, but now my being caught unprepared and having no plans for stopping his ambition for the crown is coming back to bite me in the ass!" thought Christian angrily, as he raced down the hallway headed for the Queen's bed chambers.
As he turned a corner going from one window to the next he realized that he could still hear the fighting below and two men appeared to be searching for something or someone. More than likely they were looking for him, but they could be looking for any left of the King's guards as well.
Moving behind a suit of armor he slipped into one of the mini cubbyholes he had prepared for just such an occasion by having all the armor in the castle moved forward several inches and having pendants hung from the ceiling behind them.
He thought when he had this done in secret it could be used to sneak around behind a foreign attacking army who had managed to enter into the castle and opened the main gates.
Christian never thought he would be using it to escape from the King's brother's men after he had his brother King Tomas killed to assume the throne.
He had to get to Melina at all cost to save her and the crown prince. There wasn't anything he could do for Tomas any longer.
As Christian raced along he realized that Tomas had always trusted him since they were young boys, and Tomas was the one to convince him to take the position of spy for the kingdom after his father the former King proposed it to him.
He had also made him responsible for gathering all the intelligence that came through the castle that might be of importance to the King.
Their home kingdom was on a large island named Pastial. It was unique in that it was a very large island that rivaled the size of most kingdoms on the mainland, taking several days to walk across, but it only sat about 600 yards off the coast of the closest mainland.
Scholars often surmised that it used to be part of the mainland that over many seasons had broken free and shifted further out into the ocean.
Many Kings from the mainland of Weshden had tried to annex them, but the steep cliffs of the shoreline combined with the fact that they could literally see them coming from the preverbal "mile away" insured that over countless seasons all had failed to conquer them.
They were also very prosperous in exporting wines, fruits and vegetables as their primary source of income.
To utilize Christian's skills, as a cover he was hidden in plain sight by the King's own father as the court jester. A position that very few even respected, let alone liked or wanted as a job in the castle, but it served its purpose as well.
Only the current King, King Tomas, and later the Queen, were truly aware of what his role was to be once the then crown Prince became the next King.
He was free to come and go as he pleased and often the King and sometimes the King and Queen together, would request a private audience in which he would update them on various things around the kingdom or with-in their very court.
To fill his role he trained outside the court in various forms of combat, poisons and their use, reading, writing, ciphering, tactics, and army management. He also was a master of various martial weapons, both common and uncommon ones.
Christian also realized it was a suitable cover for a spy, as his normally quick wit and sense of humor often served him well in this position.
Many times he would be requested by visiting dignitaries to visit their kingdom for a stay and to entertain them. The information gathered during those visits was invaluable in maintaining diplomatic relations.
Tonight the King's brother had made his move and Christian was watching as his friend paid for his mistaken assessment of the Prince with his life.
Christian was returning from his latest trip to the mainland to visit and gather information when something seemed off when he stepped back in the castle.
Several people whom he had never seen and didn't recognize seemed to be working the night of his return. Moreover he noticed that most of the regulars were given the night off.
In addition, he saw the royal Princes guards were out more in force than ever before. Usually they kept a low profile, but tonight they were everywhere he looked.
Something continued to feel wrong to him as he went to his room to put his things away and head to the kitchen for a late bite. It was only when he reached the kitchen that he truly learned what the Prince's plans for tonight it were, and by then it was far too late.
As it was very late, and well after the midnight hour, he was going to report to the King in the morning, but when one of the kitchen staff cleaning the dishes smacked his hand as he tried to ladle out some soup for a late dinner.
He was told it was special for the king only and the Prince said no one else was to eat any. The servant was supposed to pour it out after serving the King, but the King was always a big eater and he might want seconds, so he saved the pot just for him until morning.
When asked by Christian if the Prince had any, or even the Queen, the dishwasher scoffed and said that only the King was to eat any and that the Prince brought in a special cook to prepare this meal for him.
Having his hackles raised by the Prince's insistence that no one eat the dish but the King, Christian then decided to check out the pot.
Casually knocking over some dishes it distracted the man who severely swore at him as he lunged for the dishes trying to save some of them from either being split as they hit the floor or needing re-washed. He really did not want to be forced to re-wash the wooden utensils
While the man was distracted Christian quickly brought the ladle to his nose and could just barely, but clearly, smell the distinct smell of bitter "almonds" intermixed with the heavy spices and peppers used for the dish.
Dropping the ladle to the floor and racing out the door, leaving the heavily swearing man behind him, Christian sprinted for the Kings room, but he realized it was probably already too late.
Once he reached the second floor in the hallway fighting had already broken out at this late hour. It wouldn't be long before it spread to the first floor where most of the late night staff was.
He ventured on down the hallway and came across several bodies of the Kings guard in various grotesque poses. Several men's throats were cut from behind, some had been attacked and stabbed and left where they fell.
As he peered around the corner he could see that the few guards that had survived the surprise attack were surrounded by more than twice their number of the Prince's guards. He knew they would not last long and there wasn't anything he could do to help them by getting himself killed as well by drawing attention to himself. Right now his first priority was the King's safety.
Climbing out a window to get around the battle, he used the trellis that was only allowed to be placed between the second to fifth floors for decoration and climbed up to the fourth floor where the King's room was. As he passed the third floor and peered around the corner of the window he could see fighting there as well.
Thankfully, the fighting had not reached the King's room yet but the guards, on hearing the fighting on the lower floors, had gone to investigate. There would be little climbing by them out the windows with their heavy armor anyway, and few expected anyone to use it to travel between floors.
As Christian entered the window to the King's wing of the castle, he quietly went across the hallway towards the double doors. He noticed the food tray still outside the large double doors waiting for the servant to return it to the kitchen.
Quickly Christian lifted it and smelled the dish. As the dish had cooled, the smell of bitter almonds was unmistakable.
Seeing as more than half of it was eaten, and already fearing what he would find, Christian opened the door and crossed the floor to the bed where the King lay.
Christian found that his worst fears were realized as he saw the King lying on his back with his eyes wide open. His skin was a bright "pink" color, but it was rapidly changing to the blue that he could see in his fingertips. Before long, the whole body would turn that color.
Grief wracked him as he cursed himself for letting his closest friend, the one he was charged with protecting had die. Swearing at Elliston, Christian stopped long enough to close the eyes of his friend, say a quick prayer, and race across the hall to climb out the window where once again he was climbing for the trellis.
He had just made it as he heard the Princes guards coming up the hall. Obviously, the Kings former guards were all dead, as the Princes guards didn't appear hurried, they must be coming to inspect their work on the King.
"See that wasn't too hard. We just did like they said and laced their food with a light dose as well. They were too weak to stop us. Com'on, let's see if that fool is dead yet," Christian heard a voice say.
Hearing the door open, he heard a light cheer from the room, before he heard the men as they exited.
"Well on to the Queen's room to join the other men. Her guard didn't eat anything prepared by us from the kitchen, but it doesn't matter. We just have to secure her and kill the brat before M'lord joins us. Once the brat is gone M'lord will be the King as the only royal left," said the same voice as before, sounding almost mocking, as they then hurried up the hall.
On hearing that Christian started climbing again, he had to get to Melina first!
Being outside the castle as he was had it advantages and disadvantages. One being he had to climb in and out of windows or go across wide-open hallways to reach his destination, each time taking a chance on being discovered as he worked his way around the castle.
But each time he did this he was able to reach different parts of the castle more quickly than the Prince's guards, who had to go through the entire castle to reach the same destination, as he quickly tried to head for Melina's room.
He had his usually guilty thoughts as he thought of her.
Christian thought back to the first moment that his friend, King Tomas, had met her when she came to visit when their betrothal was first announced. The King's father insisted that Christian be there for the meeting as well.
As always, when he remembered that time, he wished that he had never laid eyes on her.
Melina was the oldest daughter of the Duke of the mainland kingdom of Weshden. The Duke had decided to form an alliance with Tomas's father's kingdom since they could never conquer it.
From the moment he first saw her, Melina had taken his breath away. She was almost a head shorter than himself and the then Crown Prince, but her most striking quality was her hair.
Her black hair was so dark that it looked as if it just absorbed any passing light it also was somehow able to be brushed until it had a glossy darkness about it.
Melina's eyes were a deep brown and yet managed to convey a warmth about them. Just by looking into those eyes you knew you could trust her with your very life and she would never betray that trust.
She had a small heart shaped mouth and high cheekbones. Her skin was very pale and light, in contrast to the ruddy appearance of both the Crown Prince and Christian.
Melina was a very beautiful girl and all were struck in wonder by her appearance.
At the time of her first visit to their kingdom, they were all fourteen, and she had appeared before them as one who was quiet, demure, and painfully shy.
That was until the introduction ceremony was over and she was invited by the Crown Prince to take a walk in the garden. Once there her smile lit up the area and she laughed and joked with the Prince about everything under the sun, and it seemed nothing was off limits to her humor.
The Prince did not seem to fault her for it, as he appeared to be very taken with her. And as they grew to know each other it was apparent to all that she returned his feelings as well
On the Princes Eighteenth birthday, the King fell ill and passed away inside a week. After the set mourning period was over the Crown Prince was crowned King and his and Melina's wedding was planned for the week after.
Through the seasons together, they both appeared to love each other. Even though they had been married for almost ten seasons, it was only recently that the Queen conceived and gave birth to a son. They were so happy it was unbelievable.
There were of course rumors that the King was stepping out on the Queen and she was somehow preventing herself from getting pregnant, or she had a lover who was able to give her a child because the King just was not getting the job done, and so she took it upon herself to find someone to insure the crown continuation.
If that were true Christian would have gladly volunteered to be the one for her if that was what the Queen was actually doing, but he knew they loved each other too much for that to happen. Moreover, he honestly loved them both to much to hurt either one of them.
He was, after all, in a position to know that neither one of them had ever stepped out on the other, and that they were both very concerned by their lack of conception for a child as the seasons went on.
The child was born and he clearly had his mothers jet black hair and dark, but warm, brown eyes. One could clearly see his father's features in his face. It was obvious to all who looked, that they could see both parents in him
His mother named him "Charles" after her maternal grandfather whom she loved so much. Therefore, he was a welcomed addition to the d'Portan household as the new crown prince Charles Phillip d'Portan.
"That bastard Elliston must have made his move because I was away and the Crown Princes conformation is coming up. He doesn't want him acknowledge publically before then. How could I have missed this and been so stupid. That lack of preparation just cost my friend his life. I just hope I'm in time to save Melina and young Charles," thought Christian as he climbed as if his life depended on it.
As he reached the far side of the fourth floor he again could hear the fierce fighting going on in the hallways.
Ignoring that noise he climbed in the window and quickly started across the hallway. Just as he reached the door, a cry rang out for him to stop. Looking back over his shoulder he saw one of the Elliston's guards trying to get to him but being stopped by one of Melina's guards.
He quickly opened the door without knocking realizing that it was only a matter of time before the guard was over run. If he had been a step slower it would have cost him his life.
A knife whistled through the air where his head would have been had he not dropped close to the floor because of the lack of light.
"Damn it Melina it's me!" said Christian as he realized how close he came to dying just then.
Un-banking the lantern that held the candlestone caused the whole room to be illuminated. Once his eyes adjusted to light in the room Christian could see two guards in the room with Melina and they stood over her as she huddled against the bed cradling her child.
It was times like this he was glad that the Queen and Prince's rooms were separate from the Kings to try to limit the chances of the entire royal family being wiped out, as was obviously the intention now.
"Christian what is going on? My guards heard a noise, and when they went to investigate, they were attacked. Two of them came to protect me as my door doesn't have a way to bar it," said Melina. Christian looked at her and his heart broke once again as he realized his failure in protecting her.
"Elliston wants the crown and he is killing everyone who stands in his way. I just came from Tomas's room. I'm sorry Melina, but Tomas is dead," said Christian as he looked away from Melina's face.
As he was telling her, he saw her look of shock then the tears start to spill from her eyes. It broke his heart to hear her start bawling once he finished telling her that her husband was now dead.
"Melina I know this isn't the time for this and I know you're grieving, but we have to leave. They are coming for you next and I have no idea what his plans for you are," said Christian as he tried to approach her.
"Stand where you are fool! I know Her Highness always suffered you because you were able to entertain her and His Highness, and I let you disrespect her by addressing her by her given name once, but you will respect her as due her station!" growled one of the guards as he stepped in front of her.
As Christian looked at him, he realized it was the idiot Captain of the guard.
To be honest he was a good and loyal man, but now was not the time to stand on ceremony when he was trying to save their lives.
"Mellor now is not the time for this. Knowing Christian, if he just came from Tomas's room with the fighting going on in the halls, he did so at great peril to himself just to talk to me. We should respect that. The King always gave him his full trust as have I", sadly smiled Melina as she lightly pushed the Captain out of her line of vision.
"Melina we all have to..." started Christian.
"No Christian, it will be just you and Charles here. There is no way we can both leave because I'm too well known to hide, and by now Elliston has the harbor as well as all ships watched. You must take Charles and leave by yourselves," said Melina with tears still freely flowing from her eyes.
"Melina no!" said Christian
"YOUR MAJESTY!" said Mellor, "To trust this knave alone with the Crown Prince..."
"Both of you stop!" said Melina shocking them both into silence.
"Mellor, the King and I have trusted him with our lives for longer than you know, and what you didn't know was that Christian worked for the king secretly. He was knighted by the previous King in secret and has always worked to protect us from dangers outside the kingdom. He was sworn to never tell a soul, but I'm the one breaking his vow to save my son," said Melina firmly.
At the Captain's obvious look of shock Melina continued.
"It is a standing tradition for the King to have one close ally who would die if need be for him, but who was entrusted to watch other kingdoms for threats," said Melina
"You mean he is a spy and an assassin don't you your highness," said Mellor. The way he said it was with obvious distaste.
"Yes, he was our spy, and if need be was our assassin, as you so aptly put it. I also was well aware of what he did and needed to do. Charles was to have had one such as him as loyal to himself as well. That was the way of the Kings of this kingdom, but now I fear that time may never come and he may die here," said Melina.
Turning and looking Christian in the eyes, she started to speak again. Christian noted that while she was appearing strong she still had unshed tears floating in her eyes, but this time she was holding them in for the sake of her child.
"Christian, I've always known you loved me", started Melina.
At that declaration, both of the two guards harshly took in air and glared at him. The shock on his face was very evident to all. He thought he hid it better than that.
"But you've always held it in check. You never did anything about it. You never acted on it once, and you remained loyal to your friend, my husband, until the very end when it would have been so easy to have done otherwise," said Melina with a sad smile.
"What, what are you talking about Your Highness?" asked Christian trying to play it off. This was not a discussion for others to hear.
"Christian, stop. His Majesty and I were well aware of it. It wasn't hard when the only women you were willing to be with were ones that shared a traits or a passing resemblance to myself," said Melina, still with her sad smile
"But that no longer matters. What matters now is that my son, the true King, is too young to have that same bond of trust, and garner that same love with anyone else yet. I need you to assume that role as his guardian and raise him in the stead of his parents who cannot. I need you to turn all of the love you had for me into that same love for my son and use it to protect him.
"If lord willing I survive the night, I will try to save his place here. But if I fail and fall as did my husband, I need to know he's safe so he can grow and have a real chance at life", said Melina as a few tears escaped down her face.
"Melina come with me I can save you both," said Christian growing urgent as he changed tactics.
"No, Elliston never really took notice of you. He thought you were beneath him and ignored you, and as such you were both a protection and our salvation for our son. Likewise, he couldn't be bothered to visit his nephew the Crown Prince.
"But again in my case I'm too well known by all in the kingdom. Moreover, as I've said before, few would not know me no matter where I turned, so escape for me isn't an option anymore. Not when there is no any other way off the island for me that is not guarded. Ensuring the welfare of my child is paramount to me. Please take him and run", pleaded Melina.
As she spoke, she slid between the two guards, kissed her child, handed the small sleeping bundle to Christian, and once he accepted the Prince, she leaned over the child and lightly kissed Christian's lips and hugged him tightly as well.
The warring looks of grief and anguish were on his face, but suddenly they cleared and he took on a solemn look.
It was only then that he realized she was saying her final goodbye to both of them forever no matter how she was trying to act brave. He realized no matter what she said, that she didn't really expect to live through the rest of the night.
"Melina you don't have to do this, I could figure something out," whispered Christian trying desperately to think of something. He did not want her to die.
"No, I do this thing for my husband and son and there is no other way. I could not run from the responsibility my husband left for me or from my son's birthright without trying to save them both. And I need to ensure you have enough time to escape with Charles while everything is centered on me", smiled Melina sadly.
As Christian opened his mouth to speak one last time, it was only then he realized the fighting was getting closer to her room.
Melina looked deep into his eyes, set her lips and sadly shook her head no at his silent plea, and slid backwards to stand behind her guards once again. Once there she then looked down at the floor in silence.
Turning without another word, and without looking back, he sprinted for the door. Stopping once he reached it, he firmly secured the small bundle with-in his shirt, and slowly opened the door trying to peer around the corner where the fighting was.
Looking both ways to ensure that the men fighting weren't paying attention to him, and no others were waiting to attack as he left, he crossed the hall, climbed out the window, and swung over to the trellis to start climbing. He breathed as sigh of relief as he failed to hear anyone sound the alarm at his departure.
He started his decent, climbing around on various trellises; he headed toward the back of the castle with the second floor as his destination. The plan, once he arrived there, was that he could reach a close building and use that to go over a nearby wall.
Once he reached the wall, he realized that all the guards who were supposed to be posted on those walls were missing.
Not sure if this was supposed to be good luck or bad luck he climbed over and down the walls and disappeared off into the night.
"Your Majesty again I have to ask was that really the wisest thing to do?" asked Mellor in concern for the umpteenth time. "Will the Prince really be safe in his hands?"
Before she could answer yet again, the double doors swung in and loudly smacked the walls.
"Ahhh, lovely Melina how are you this evening. I trust everything is well with you?" asked the man snidely with a sickly sweet smile on his face as he strode in between his guards who spilled in the door in front of him and took up flanking positions inside the door.
The man stopped just inside the door but well with-in reach of his men. The man was about Melina's height but had thinning sandy blonde hair. He was slight, but stood up straight, and almost gave off an effeminate air about him as he put his arms behind his back.
Melina was still standing between, and slightly behind, the two guards who came in to protect her, but they were badly out numbered by almost 10 to 1.
"Elliston I see you managed to ooze your way to my room after having killed my husband, your brother, and your Sovereign Lord!" said Melina with more than a touch of hostility.
"He wasn't fit for the crown anyway! He was too soft! The land needs someone with an iron fist, like in our grandfather's time to insure we stay the independent power we always were! We were just ripe to be taken over at any time," said Elliston with a wild look in his eye.
As if on command, he took a few quick short breaths and seemed to calm down. Once he did, the sickly sweet smile was back on his face.
"But that's not why I am here. I'm here to offer you the chance to become my bride. You could still rule by my side. You don't have to die tonight. I have always admired you from the moment I saw you with Tomas. You were always too good for my brother. He never appreciated you the way you should have been appreciated.
Look how long it took you to be with child by him. I'm sure we could consummate our new relationship tonight and you'd be pregnant before the sun rose in the morn. All you need to do as a sign of your loyalty to me is hand over his brat and we can put all this nastiness behind us", Elliston almost seemed to sneer at her as he said this.
"What makes you believe I would let someone as slimy as you ever touch me? How could you ever believe that I would trust someone who could so easily kill his own brother? The same brother who was raised along side of you, and born of the same mother. You have to know you are doing a pretty poor job of selling yourself to me," said Melina with an equal sneer of her own.
"Look you wench. I'm giving you a chance to live. All you have to do is reach out your hand and take it, and drop your sense of foolish pride. To do so is simple, all you need do to insure your own life and safety is to hand over his son and I'll take care of the rest. You need not even be involved", said Elliston trying to be soothing, but it came off as a slight cackle.
"I've known you've always wanted everything that your brother had. You made sure to make enough slights and comments over the seasons about how you could run the kingdom better than a man whose boots you were never fit to lick! Now after killing him and taking his kingdom you want his wife too?! And to ensure it all, all you would have me do is to make sure that his only heir dies by your hand? Pathetic.
If you would kill your own brother for the sake of a kingdom that was rightfully his, and try to kill his son also, what would it take before you decided eventually to get rid of me? I have less worth to you than either of them. Therefore, you have to know that it will never come to pass. Even if I was so inclined to, which is completely unthinkable, I would never be able to trust a being so evil as you.
I can tell you now, you might as well stop looking. You will never find my son. Even if you tried to force me to tell you by keeping me alive I would only live long enough to find a way to kill you as you killed my husband," said Melina with a fierce look.
Suddenly Mellor felt her reach behind him and free the dagger from his belt.
She raised it in a ready stance using both of her hands together as she stood between both of her guards and made ready to charge Elliston along with them.
As both Mellor and the other guard looked down at the Queen they saw her eyes set. They both already knew that they were going to die tonight, and their Queen was resolved to share the same fate as them.
It would be disloyal to their true King, and his heir, to try and talk her into saving her own life by living as the usurpers Queen. Doing so would only provide him some form of legitimacy to the throne for a short while. Which is what he was after more than likely, and their Queen must have realized this as well.
Therefore, in knowing this, all the men could hope to do was at least try to take a couple with them before they died. The two guards suddenly cried out a war cry and charged for the men, the Queen screamed and charged forward right beside them.
As they did, several of Elliston men in the front dropped to one knee and several guards standing behind them raised hidden crossbows.
The air was then filled with the hum of crossbows discharging.
The men hadn't used then before because crossbows weren't the most accurate weapon to be using when shooting with-in the close combat ranks of their own men, but shooting at wide open targets like these three was different where there wasn't any danger of hitting each other.
Shortly it was all over and the multiple shots by the men had filled the three of them with various crossbow bolts. The ones that missed their mark had struck harmlessly against the stonewalls of the Queen's room.
"What a waste. She was far too beautiful for her own good anyway. Well the land is full of beautiful woman and I'm sure there will be plenty willing to compete to be my queen. All I need to do is ask", Elliston sneered while stepping forward from behind his men as he savagely kicked the corpse of Melina.
Her sightless eyes were staring at the ceiling as several bolts were stuck with-in her body.
With having done that, Elliston turned and left the room for the servants to clean. As the new King of the land, he had much to do before the Sun came fully up over his new kingdom.