Sin - By Firebrand, Chapter 9, Fantasy

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Sin - By Firebrand, Chapter 9, Fantasy

Post  Firebrand on Thu Apr 19, 2012 9:47 am

Chapter 9

“Lisana?” Sin asked several hours later. “Can I… ask you something?”

Lisana looked up, and smiled. To Sin, it looked a little forced. “Certainly.”

“Back there… I don’t know what you saw. I’m not going to ask. But I saw… me. But he wasn’t really me. It was sort of like a perfect version of me. He said that you don’t care about me anymore. That I was a bad choice for this journey. That I can’t even protect you.”

Lisana shook her head. “No. Sin, no.” She grabbed Dusty’s reins, for they had fallen out of Kelrick’s hands when he fell asleep some time ago. “Harrison didn’t pick you to be my champion and protector for nothing. There was a reason for everything he did. You’re my best friend. And if I’ve been paying you little attention, then that’s my fault.”

She sighed. “I guess… becoming a sorceress had me really excited. But now, after hearing what the sorcerers did to our home, I don’t think I want to be one anymore.”

“Lisana! Don’t say that! You were born to be a sorcerer! Erm, sorceress!”

“That’s like saying I was born to be a murderer.”

Now it was Sin’s turn to shake his head. “You know that’s not true. The Chancellor is a vile murdering bastard, and that’s the truth. There are probably other sorcerers like him. But that doesn’t mean that all sorcerers are evil! Harrison isn’t and this Arick Vonrist probably isn’t either.

“And even if most of the Council is evil, well, you could change that. You’re so powerful. I bet that in a couple years, you’ll be climbing the ladder to the top. Probably you’ll be able to rival the Chancellor’s following.”

“Sin, I told you, I don’t want to join the Council. I don’t even want to be a sorcerer. Sorceress. Whatever. I don’t want to become a pawn of the Chancellor.”

Sin fingered the pommel of his sword. “There’s got to be another side. There’s always another side! Not every sorcerer can be evil, or a pawn of evil! There has to be at least a few good sorcerers! You know, other than Harrison.”

“Harrison’s dead, Sin.”

The young man stopped dead. “No, he’s not. I… I’d know if he was dead. He’s Harrison, Lisana. He just can’t be dead.”

Lisana chewed her lip. “He was probably the last sorcerer that wasn’t a puppet. And if he’s not dead, then he’s gone. He won’t be any help to us.”

“I just can’t believe that there are no good sorcerers.” Sin thumped Kelrick’s leg, in an attempt to rouse him. “Kelrick, are all sorcerers evil?”

The Hellhound woke with a start. “What? Huh? Sorcerers? Well Sin, there’s good and evil to everything I guess. Good people, bad people. Same goes for demons. And sorcerers. Pretty much everything but cats. Cats are always evil.

“Though I’m hardly an expert, you know? Before I came to live in Harrisholt, I’d never even seen a human, except at a distance. Thalia too. We stuck with our kind, and humans didn’t bother us. It worked out well until… well, until you two were born. If you want opinions on sorcerers, you’re best off asking Anjaru. No promises he’ll talk, though.”

“Anjaru has had other masters?” Lisana asked, trying to turn around to look at her demon. “He’s never said anything about them.”

“He might have mentioned one of them once, offhand,” Sin replied. “When he was talking about sword conditioning. But he broke off really quickly.”

Kelrick glanced around. He noted that Anjaru was flying in the form of a falcon high above their heads. Still, he lowered his voice. “Look, you didn’t hear this from me, okay? But Anjaru has had two masters before you, Lisana, and almost had a third.”

“Really?”

“Yes. He hasn’t told me much about the first one, not even a name. But I’ve gathered this much. He wasn’t evil. He wasn’t necessarily good, either, but he didn’t mistreat Anjaru or any of his other demons. He taught Anjaru to use a sword, and expected him to protect him. However… Anjaru had a chance to save this sorcerer’s life, and he didn’t take it. The man died, and Anjaru was freed. He still feels guilty about that, even though it was two hundred years ago.

“Now, the second master, I have heard about. His name was Heath. Apparently, Heath was bad. Vile. Corrupt. He treated Anjaru like an animal. Worse. He simply wanted access to Anjaru’s power over wind. He didn’t care that the power came in a living, breathing vessel. And so, when Heath ordered Anjaru to use his power to massacre innocent demons… he turned on Heath, and killed him. Mercilessly.”

Lisana gasped. “But… he had to. Otherwise…”

“I know. I’ve said as much. But Anjaru… he can’t accept that. He hates to kill things. He hates eating meat! He only does it because he has to. This, according to my friend in the falcon feathers, was pointless slaughter, even though that bastard had it coming. And a century later, Anjaru just won’t come to terms with the fact that he did what he had to do.”

“What about the third time?” Sin asked, trying to change the subject ever so slightly.

“Well, that was about seventy years ago. One of Heath’s apprentices tracked him down, and locked him in a Sealing Circle. Anjaru fought back, but was almost killed trying. Then, a sorcerer, who was actually Harrison’s grandfather, believe it or not, and the Demon King, Artos himself, came to his rescue. They killed the man, broke the Circle, and set Anjaru free.

“Now, you didn’t hear any of this from me, right?”

Lisana nodded. “Right. I just… I never knew that Anjaru had to go through that… Now I really don’t want to be a sorcerer.”

“Are you kidding?” Kelrick hissed. “Lisana, it’s because of that you have to become a sorcerer. I’ve never heard of anyone treating their demons like you do, except Harrison maybe, but even he kept a strictly master and servant relationship with his. You treat Thalia, Anjaru and I like equals. And that’s something no other sorcerer has ever done.”

“Well, that’s an exaggeration.”

“No, it’s not.” Kelrick looked deadly serious. “Trust me. If there were any sorcerer of any power who did what you do, word would get around to the demons. And we have heard nothing of the sort.” He glanced up at a sign by the road. “Oh. Theoholt is close by. Are we going to stop there?”

Sin remembered Harrison telling him about Theo, an old man whose brother was a noble in the Capitol. He was a proud man, and his farming village was run on a strict regimen.

Orrin shook his head. “I don’t think so. Damin and I think it best to simply keep pushing north.”

“To the Capitol?” Sin asked. “It will be another few days before we get there. What if we need supplies?”

Damin lowered his head. “We’ll have to scavenge. Those two demons were in the Chancellor’s employ. They were specifically sent after us. It’s not safe to be seen by anyone until we reach Castle Town. And maybe not even then.”

Kelrick snapped to attention. “What do you mean?”

“Well, obviously the Chancellor is after one of us,” Damin explained. “It could be me. There is certainly evidence to support this. Liath, being the principle one. I injured her and made a fool of her in the battle. That, or he wants to capture you and your comrades, Kelrick.”

The Hellhound nodded gravely. “I see. And if we go to Castle Town to meet Arick Vonrist, we may be walking into a trap.”

Orrin sighed. “Exactly. But Lisana, you and your companions must take that risk, if there is ever to be change in the world. Julia and I, however… we must go on. We will continue on, for it is said that in the Far Reaches, in the western Mountains, humans and demons do not necessarily live separate lives. We can be together, without prejudice.”

The earth demon shifted Grey’s weight on his shoulders. “And frankly, it just isn’t safe for an Unbonded demon like myself to be seen in Castle Town.” Orrin looked down. “I’m sorry. We won’t be much help to you once you reach the city walls.”

Sin tried to think of something comforting to say, but came up at a loss. An uneasy silence fell over the group, and nothing was said for a long while. As night fell in, the hush was broken by a pair of traveling performers in their wagon at the roadside.

“Hello there, travelers!” a muscular man in a blue tabard called. “Warm yourself by our fire for a spell?”

A woman, perhaps his wife, waved from the fire pit. “We have a stew that just hit a boil. Won’t you join us?” The firelight played off her scarlet costume. Perhaps they had done a show right there, on the roadside, earlier that day, and had not changed.

Sin opened his mouth to accept the invitation, but Damin cut him off. “We would love to, but we must continue on our way. We have a destination we must reach.”

“Oh, come on now, travelers,” the man in blue said with a laugh. “Night has just set in, and the Forest can be a dangerous place, even on the road. What harm could a few hours rest bring?”

Damin lowered his eyes. “For us, perhaps little. But for you, it could mean a great deal of harm. It is best that you forget you ever saw us.”

Thalia, who had awoken a short time ago, blinked her lucid green eyes. Her nostrils flared, and she put on her best haughty air. “Come now, gentlemen. My fiancé will not wait forever. Let’s go. Look lively there, valet.”

The man laughed. “Ah, I see. Yes, no good to keep a lady waiting. Well, carry on then.”

Once they had gotten out of earshot, Kelrick nodded in approval. “Good thinking Thalia.”

The Ice Maiden preened. “Well. I always have been a good actress.”

The travelers continued on their way, and did not rest that night.

***

The Chancellor seethed with anger. “How dare you fail me!”

Dunyi cowered before his master. “Dunyi is sorry. Terribly, terribly sorry. Gyhehe…hehe…he.”

“This is not laughing matter, you fool! We were close! So very close! And you failed!” the Chancellor roared. “Jaedayan! Come forward!”

A figure shaped like a young man stepped forward. He bowed before the Chancellor. “I live to serve.”

“Not for long, if you continue to perform in this fashion,” the Chancellor hissed. “Jaedayan of the Mist, whose form do you wear?”

Jaedayan bowed. “I wear the guise of the boy called Sin. He was successfully able to defeat my illusion, but only after I was accosted by this… thing.”

He held forth an arrow, holding it carefully by its wooden shaft, as far from the iron tip as he could get. The Chancellor snapped his fingers at Liath, who sat gnawing a bone in the corner of his work chamber. The wolf demon slunk forward.

“Liath, smell this arrow. Can you track it back?”

The demon took a deep whiff. “Oh yes. I recognize this smell. The Forester and I have had several encounters in the past.”

“Find him, and bring him before me,” the Chancellor ordered. “Now, all of you are dismissed. Make sure you do not fail me again.”

He stood, and stormed out of the room. Talreya gracefully pushed herself off the pillar she was leaning against. “Well. You certainly gave those two an earful.”

“Quiet, Talreya. I have much to think about. Did you bring the three that I asked?”

“Yes, master. They await you in the parlor.”

Talreya led the Chancellor through his mansion, pausing before a solid oak door. She shook out her shoulders. “The others have powerful demon familiars. Perhaps I should accompany you. Just in case…”

“You don’t think I can handle those three on my own?”

“Of course you can, my lord,” Talreya purred, running a hand through the Chancellor’s hair, smoothing it down. “I just want to know what’s going on. Is that too much to ask?”

“For a mere servant, yes, it is.”

The Chancellor reached out to open the door, but Talreya seized his wrist. “I am no mere servant, my lord. I am the Demon Queen.” The silver circlet on her brow glinted in the lamplight. “And if it struck me as amusing, I could consume your mind with darkness, driving you mad and killing you in the most agonizing way possible. I think I deserve admittance to your little club.”

“It’s more of a cabal than a club but… well, you make a good point. Just try to be inconspicuous.”

Talreya smiled sweetly, and changed into an emerald green serpent that twined around his arm. She slithered up to his shoulder and licked his cheek.

The Chancellor sighed, and entered his parlor. The three people within rose as he closed the door, and lowered their heads in acknowledgement. The Chancellor gave the same sort-of bow, and sat opposite the three.

With a snap of his fingers, a fire ignited in the hearth, shedding orange and red light on the cabal before him. Two men and one woman glared back at him. None of them considered the others their friends, merely allies in a bad situation.

Ludwig slouched in his chair, His demon Agrost, in the form of a hunting hound, lounged at his feet. He was a young man, with dark piercing eyes and a sharp, cold intellect beyond his years. The Chancellor respected him for his prowess, but also feared him a little.

Fredrick was older than the Chancellor by several years, and posed no threat politically. He commanded very few demons, though was skilled at Human Magic. He had committed his life to studying ancient magical texts, and was also an accomplished historian. The Chancellor had invited him for this knowledge. His accompanying demon was an owl that blinked sleepily from its master’s shoulder. It was probably just a messenger demon, for Fredrick had never had a demon of any note under his command.

The woman, Astrid, looked only to be about thirty or so, but was in reality close to her sixtieth birthday. She had cast a preservation spell on herself so powerful that it had stopped her aging process completely, or so the Chancellor had heard. Some members of the Council had begun to think she was immortal, like a demon. She certainly looked inhuman enough.

Her eyes held a fierce light, and she was one of the greatest commanders in what was left of King Gustav’s army. Her demon familiar, a demon of darkness and air, the raven-like Reyaf, puffed out his feathers and glared at Talreya.

“Well?” Ludwig snapped. “Are we just going to sit around scowling at each other, or are you going to tell us why you brought us here in darkest night under the deepest secrecy?” Almost as an afterthought, he added, “Your lordship.”

The Chancellor gave a smile that was most certainly not genuine. “I have called you here to discuss our future. For, my comrades, we live in a changing time. Soon, King Gustav will trouble the Council no longer.”

Astrid’s nostrils flared. “Excuse me? Are you proposing that we murder His Majesty?”

Inwardly, the Chancellor groaned. This devotion to the king was a facade, obviously. Astrid made little effort to hide her contempt for King Gustav’s weak policy as of late. But… she was a commander of his diminishing army. Perhaps she wasn’t entirely on his side here…

“Of course not,” the Chancellor said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “That would be treason. No, I merely am saying that Gustav’s illness grows worse every day. It is a labor for him to even rise from sleep. It won’t be long before he passes on to the Light.”

‘This is your doing,” Fredrick murmured, speaking for the first time. Talreya hissed in indignation.

The Chancellor held up a hand, stilling her. “Well, this is a tall accusation, my friend.”

Fredrick raised an eyebrow. “Well, friend. You may think I’m something of a doddering fool who rejects the company of people. But I assure you, I did not attain the rank of Adept for nothing.”

He sighed. “You used magic to curse King Gustav. That is why no medicine has been able to cure his condition, nor have any magical healers had any success. I do not know if you have bought them off, or simply wove a spell so intricate that it is nearly impossible to break.”

The Chancellor was a bit taken aback. He had never heard Fredrick speak so long an utterance. Ludwig cracked his neck. “Wow. I’m impressed. Figure that out all on your own?” The sarcasm dripped from his words. “I mean, come on Fredrick. I’d figured out that the king’s illness was magical in origin months ago. It wasn’t hard to deduce. And just the way our companion here has been operating proves he’s behind it. If you were trying to impress us, you’ve failed.”

Astrid clung to her act. “If you knew about the curse, why didn’t you try to break it?”

“Well, for everything else the Chancellor is, he’s a competent spell weaver. I don’t think I could make heads of tails of this curse. It’s a good one.”

The blonde woman nodded slowly. “All right. Well, Chancellor, what plans do you have for our future?”

“As I have already stated, great change is coming. Gustav will die soon. The prince has fled with his Royalists. In all likelihood, they will attack the Capitol almost as soon as the old man bites it. The princess won’t get her shot the throne until she is of age and married, which is a year away at best. And when she does, her husband will be king, and we’re going to have a new problem, manipulating someone we know nothing about.” His sophisticated mannerism started to slip as he went, and he made no effort to recover it. Most of the Council knew he was common-born, so he made no attempt to hide it anymore.

“I already hold the most sway in Gustav’s favor. And today, I have taken the necessary steps to secure that power for the future.” He procured a signed and sealed document from his cloak. He passed it to Fredrick, and Astrid and Ludwig leaned over to read it.

“Regent?” the Arch Mage said slowly. “Why?”

Astrid scowled, and her raven hopped from foot to foot. “I see you put in a provision that you maintain your hold over the Council. Sly bastard.”

Ludwig smirked. “So you called us here to gloat?”

“No, no!” The Chancellor smiled in a way he hoped was welcoming. “Quite the opposite. You see, I think that you three are the best choices for a new part of the hierarchy I will introduce within the Council and the upper echelons of lords. The Triumvirate. With your help, we will divide the Council into three factions. By keeping them at each other’s throats, we can secure the most power for ourselves, and when the dust from the transition settles, we will be on top. Are you following me?”

“I don’t follow anybody,” Ludwig snapped. “I work for myself.”

“Of course, I took that into consideration when deciding on your position. You see, Ludwig, you are to be the next Spymaster. You and whoever falls into your faction will comprise the kingdom’s intelligence. You will use demons to gather information on the doings of the Royalists and rival lords. Ludwig, you report only to me, but I cannot order you. You work solely for yourself, and of course, anyone in your charge.”

Ludwig settled back in his chair, a smile breaking across his face. “All right. I can see the merits of this plan.”

“Fredrick,” the Chancellor said slowly. “You are by far the most knowledgeable of all the men and women on the Council. Therefore, I confer onto you the rank of Arch Mage. You will control the strictly magical aspect of the Council. Workings and the like are now your sole jurisdiction. Again, you report to me, but there is no higher power than you.”

The bespectacled man nodded slowly, and his owl gave a soft hoot.

“Now, Astrid. You have perhaps the most important role in this, for using my status as Regent, I can make you Army General.”

Astrid gasped, but then scowled. “That is a foolish title. The army is weak. Demons do all the fighting now, and you control all the demons.”

The Chancellor laughed. “Why, Astrid, I never presumed to offend you. I get ahead of myself. For you see, as soon as Gustav dies and I become Regent in truth, I will give to you control over all demons that are not personally mine. You will have full access to the Demon Pens.”

Astrid’s eyes lit up. “I see. Well… consider my lot thrown in with you.”

“And mine!” Ludwig added.

Fredrick was silent for a moment, before sighing. “I too, join you. It seems this is for the best.”

Ludwig rose to leave. The Chancellor held up a hand. “Now, hang on. There is one more matter I wish to discuss. In confidence.”

Ludwig flopped back into his armchair, and Agrost sneezed. “Is this about that mighty rogue sorcerer you told the Council about today?”

“Yes. However… I do not truly know how powerful this sorceress is. For she is untrained, and coming to the Capitol to study under Arick Vonrist.”

“Arick Vonrist is dead,” Astrid protested.

“True, but she does not know this. She has been on the road for some time, and news travels slowly to Harrisholt.”

The owl on Fredrick’s shoulder gave a startled hoot. Ludwig leaned forward. “Did you say Harrisholt? This little wench is from Harrisholt? I thought we wiped that place off the map.”

“So did I, until two days ago. Do you recall those reports of the disturbance in Hollyvale? The giant fireball in the sky some twenty miles to the south? That was her doing.”

“So she has a little power,” Astrid said with a shrug. “I don’t see the reason for fuss.”

“It’s not her that I’m worried about,” the Chancellor confessed. “It’s her demons. Or should I say Artos’s demons. Kelrick, Thalia and Anjaru travel with this girl.”

Fredrick’s eyebrows rose with interest. “I see now your concern. Perhaps she will seek vengeance on you, eh? You fear her. Her demons, rather.”

“No! Well, only a tiny bit.”

Astrid crossed her legs, the silk of her gray dress making a faint shh sound. “So… just send your pet assassins after her.”

“I cannot. Kutayara and Shiradre are occupied elsewhere in the kingdom. I sent Dunyi and Jaedayan after her and her companions, but they were… thwarted.”

“You mean soundly thrashed and sent back to Castle Town with their tails between their legs.”

“Well… yes. But from their reports, it was not the girl, her demons, or protectors. Rather, it was a mysterious character Liath identified as the Forester. She has gone to apprehend this man just moments ago. However, we also have one other source of information.”

He waved his hand at a small door to the parlor. It opened with a bang, and a man in tattered clothes fell in. The two burly servants who escorted him bowed to the Chancellor, and departed, exactly as choreographed. The man staggered to his feet.

Ludwig took in the torn clothes, matted hair, and unshaven face. “This is our source of information? How do we know he’s not lying?”

“He is under geas Ludwig,” the Chancellor snapped. “Do you think that I would neglect to put a truth spell on him before an interrogation?”

Ludwig shrugged. “He looks kind of familiar.”

“Might I present Aldrick the thief, self-proclaimed Scourge of the South?”

Astrid smirked. “This man was the Scourge of the South? Frankly, I thought it would be someone… taller.”

Aldrick’s face went red with anger. He opened him mouth to give a retort that was probably rude. The Chancellor clicked his tongue, and a bolt of dark energy was flicked from Talreya’s tail, slamming into the thief. Not enough to seriously hurt him, but certainly enough to startle him.

The Chancellor stood and walked serenely over to the man. “Now, Aldrick, would you be so kind as to tell us what you told Liath when she captured you?”

Aldrick pushed himself up. “All right. I guess I don’t have a choice, huh?”

“You certainly have a choice. You can tell us what we want to know, or you can starve in the castle dungeons.”

Aldrick gulped. “Easy choice. Okay. Here’s all I know. I saw four really powerful demons traveling together. One was an air demon, one was a fire demon, and one was an ice demon. The other… well, I don’t know for sure, but he was big and strong. They attacked our cabin, and drove us off. One of my men was captured and killed by them.”

“What about the girl?” Astrid snapped.

“I don’t know anything about a girl.”

“Liar!” Ludwig cried.

“You fool, he’s under a geas. He couldn’t lie if he tried.” Fredrick sighed. “Obviously, the girl sent her demons ahead to do the work, and rendezvoused with them later.”

Aldrick nodded. “I guess. No, there weren’t any humans in that group. We thought they were human at first, though. Their human-like forms were real convincing. I guess we should have known when the avian was on the roof. No one could scale the walls without a ladder.”

“Thank you, Aldrick.” The Chancellor clapped his hands, and the two servants returned. They hauled the thief to his feet, and dragged him through the door they had entered from. For the first time, Aldrick started to struggle.

“Hey! You said you’d give me food! That I’d get freed! What are you doing? You’re the liar here!”

The Chancellor smirked. “True, I did say that you would get food. Expect one extra crust of bread tonight. And I said nothing of freeing you. I said that I would consider putting you on probation.”

The door slammed on Aldrick’s muffled protests. The Chancellor turned to his new allies. “Well. We now know the general area they are traveling in, and the only thing on this route that a sorcereress might be interested in is the Capitol. She is coming here. To what end… we cannot say.”

“Do you think its vengeance?” Ludwig said.

“I do not think so. Harrisholt was attacked while they were on the road. No, I think she started out thinking that she would come here to be trained. By whom, and for what? There is too little that we know. This is why the Council has been put on alert.”

Astrid glanced at Reyaf. “I can send a troop to intercept them. Take them into custody. Or kill them.”

“No,” Fredrick said sharply. “They have done nothing wrong. We have no justification.”

The Chancellor inclined his head. “Exactly. I only sent Dunyi and Jaedayan on reconnaissance. I knew they would fail to apprehend them, but their failure would be easy to cover up. However, after I sent them out, I remembered a report I read two weeks ago. Have you heard about Wide Crossing? The bridge there?”

Astrid pursed her lips. “A feral demon has taken up residence under the bridge, and is attacking unsuspecting passerby. It has severely damaged commerce in the region. Only the most protected caravans can get through.”

“And,” the Chancellor said, “I have seen that this is no guarded caravan. They barely escaped Dunyi’s spell. I think that we would do well to wait for them to get to Wide Crossing, for it is the best way for them to proceed. I am sure that they will go that way. If this feral demon, who we have reason to suppose is very powerful, deals with them, one less problem for us. I believe the best course of action right now is inaction.”

Fredrick nodded slowly, and reluctantly smiled. “I see the wisdom of your plan, though I am saddened that there is no way for this situation to be dealt with in a fashion where no lives must be lost.”

The Chancellor sighed. “And I do as well, my friend. You are dismissed. We are finished here. Remember, soon, his majesty will be dead, I will be the new Regent, and we will bring great changes to this kingdom. Until then, farewell. It would not do for us, who have so little contact before this, to be seen socializing. We may use demons to communicate, but only under dire circumstances. I bid you all good night.”

The three members of the cabal rose, and exited the parlor. As the door shut behind them, the Chancellor turned to the portrait of a young man just above the fireplace.

“Soon, Will, I’ll have everything we dreamt about. Soon, I’ll be king.”



A/N: And now, you have all the information nessecary to figure out the Chancellor's real name.

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