Bang Bang Bang Bang.
Barko coughed. Even with the heat runes inlaid in the tile edging around the room, the air seemed cold and dry. He shifted himself up; his head swarmed, only coming to a focus as the banging at his door, like a dull roar pounding at his very core, grew louder and louder.
Swinging his legs over the bed, and scratching at his tousled hair, he slowly climbed out of the bed ; the warm, slender arm that had been draped over his chest slid to a drop on his black satin sheets. He heard a slight groan, but paid no heed, grabbing the white silk robe on the nearby stand and wrapping it around his naked form as he languidly stammered towards the door.
“Who, on the First Master’s honor, is it?” Barko roared, and the banging stopped.
Just when his hand had reached for the knob, he stilled, but shook his head. Arrodine is a safe place. Nothing to worry about, he told himself. Lately, Barko could not help but think about the how safe he truly was. Arrodine was truly supposed to be the safest place in the entire east, but with the political atmosphere of Aros, the other cities, and even between Arrodine and the empire growing to unprecedented intensifying levels, doubts about that notion began to plague his mind. But the doubt was fleeting. As Barko opened the door, a dull light, cascading from the light crystal torches outside, spilled into the dark room.
“Barko Raisewater, you have been summoned to the Room of Council.” A servant, standing straight in front of his door spoke. The man’s voice was like a gentle rasp; two things Barko never thought he would hear together; the contrast was chilling. But at the moment that was not what ran through his mind. A summons?
Barko’s mouth twitched. I must still be asleep.
“What is it?” Barko asked, thinking he must have heard the man wrong, but the servant just repeated himself with the exact line.
“Barko Raisewater, you have been summoned to the Room of Council.”
Barko’s mouth drew into a fine line. He rubbed the rheum from his eyes, and looked the man at his door up and down. I don’t recognize him. How did he even manage to get here? The man wore a clean red tunic with black trousers. Two red lines draped the sides of the black pants, ending at collar of his black boots, the outsole of which were caked in mud.
Barko’s eyes narrowed. “Who are you?” He sneered. Outwardly, he was grumpy, but inwardly his heart began to speed, and his belly felt a bit queasy. It was not possible for someone to just enter and travel the halls of Arrodine without them knowing about it, and it was their job to know. Though the castle catered to a few guests at times, those that actually stayed the night, and was a part of the castle, were that of the royal home, the many functionaries, and a few guests that could be counted with the fingers on his hands. Even the Chancellor did not stay within Arrodine most of the time, having his own mansion within Aros.
Barko quickly calmed himself, his mind focusing on all the main factors. The seal soldiers would have acted if his presence was the result of a forceful intrusion. But then again there was that man in blue. Barko had first thought the man in the blue hooded robe was Markon, or some lackey of number two to challenge the chancellor’s authority. After all, the leader of his faction, the king, was under house arrest at some undisclosed location under false pretenses. But now doubts began to surface now that it seemed Arrodine was susceptible to an outside intrusion, and that those intruders could roam the halls uncontested by the castle’s defenses, including the seal soldiers. No wait. That’s not it. Someone must have let him in. But who? The only thing that gave Barko some solace was the servant did not aim to kill him. If he had, he would have been easily wounded, or even dead.
The servant looked at Barko with a deadpan look. “My name is irrelevant. You have been summon-”
“Yes.” Barko bellowed, ” Your name is irrelevant,” and he shut the door in the man’s face.
With the door shut, Barko was left in darkness. It took a moment for his eyes adjusted. Taking a deep breath to calm himself, he was already thinking of the implications of what the servant meant by a ‘summons’.
Who would dare ‘summon’ me? Only the First Master could give such orders. Could it be the king? No. I would have heard something if he were back in play. So who? And those clothes… He must be from the deeper parts of the empire. At least, he’s not from Aros.
Barko went and slipped on some pants and a pair of boots. He put it over his bare chest, and straightened himself out.
“Honey.” A soft voice whispered.
Barko looked over at the bed, and gave a soft sigh. “Go back to sleep.”
“Who was it?” The woman asked.
The curtains had been drawn open, leaving the light of the blood moon to wash over them, a clear glass balcony window the only barrier in between. Red light illuminated the woman’s smooth caramel colored skin, making it look like burnish copper in the night.
He walked over, gingerly, and cupped her cheek, brushing the dark locks from her eyes with a swift movement of his hand.
“My life and my breath, don’t you trust me?” He whispered.
The woman stirred, bringing herself up a bit, letting her back press against the headboard of their bed. “My honor and my shield, I do. With my life.”
Barko smiled. “Then whatever it is, trust that I will settle it.”
And with a kiss upon her forehead, Barko headed out. As he pulled the door to a close, he took a glance back at the woman peering at him in the night.
As the moon shone through, her dark eyes seemed sharp and mystical. The scene was breathtaking. Whatever this ‘summons’ is, it cannot affect her!
And the door closed, the scene coming to an end.
The servant silently stood off to the side, his blood red tunic seemingly glowing in the dim crystal light. It was then that Barko could see the man even more clearly. He had a red earring the shape of a teardrop in his ear, and dark hair draped down his forehead.
Barko cursed under his breath. The way the servant waited for him, it was if he expected him to come; as if no matter what he had said, or how he had acted, he would have ‘obeyed’ the summons.
Barko looked around, his eyes quickly catching sight of the seal soldiers. Damn things. What use are you? He quickly thought about the woman he just left in his room. Should I send her and Emily to Aros? Or maybe Port Groiner. No. In the end, Arrodine is the safest place for them.
And he brisked towards the Room of Council, not a sight of any of the servants under him anywhere to be seen; a mental note, he quickly took down.
Makron traveled through the forest. Night had come, and the red light of the moon barely pierced the forest’s canopy.
The former servant of Arrodine was exhausted and in pain, the never ending tug of the castle pulsing at the back of his head like a ceaseless yammer. Tremors began to swarm his heart. It was if that tether, that bond, was there to rail at his conscious, making him have doubts of what he had done. Makron winced, and stopped. His thoughts were a mess. And it was not long before those thoughts turned into voices. “You cannot abandon the First Master. He was good to you. And yet, you do this?”
Although it seemed he could travel deeper in the eastern forest with the pull of Arrodine not being as strong as it was everywhere else, the pull was still strong nonetheless. And the farther away he reached from the castle, the more prominent the differences in which its might manifested. “How could you do this? And for what? They bullied you? Going against the king is different from going against your master! Go back!” Whispers echoed in his mind.
Makron shut his eyes. He grabbed his head, even beat his fist against it hoping the sounds would dim. But it did not.
Gritting his teeth, he moved on, his feet aching him with every step.
Makron’s boots were tattered. The soles of his feet bled, and his legs felt like lead. He had traveled far, and moved on as fast and hard as he could. He knew that if he lagged, whoever sent the two would come after him again. That was just the way powerful people were. They hated to fail, blindingly so when they thought the situation was manageable. And with one of those goons that attacked him escaping, that ‘master’ as they called him, was sure to have been able to gauge his abilities. Makron knew the probability that the next one sent after him would be stronger, and much more powerful than what he could contend with. And he did not like those odds.
I need to go farther. Out of the range of Arrodine, and anyone willing to travel so deep in this forest.
Never once did he try and take the loom shuttle that was left behind the one he killed. The device took too much spiritual energy. It wasn’t for someone who focused on their physical attributes like himself. But that did not mean Makron did not get away with a few things. He had searched and found a small satchel among the man’s things. What it had were money and passes. Only, the passes were such to get into some cities deep within the borders of the empire, the complete opposite of where he was going. And out in the wilderness, what use did money have to him?
But then, I don’t plan to stay out here for long.
The roads began to wane. In fact, any official road ended a few miles back, a small and circular brick platform signalling its end. The way Makron followed were some of the trails left by those ‘brave souls’ who wished for adventure.
The forest was thick and close. More and more exotic plants began to pop up all around him. Some of pink and blues. Others of green and reds and yellows. “So this is where the king comes to collect and build his garden.” He mumbled.
“Disgusting filth! Go back, you vile traitor! Traitor!!” The voices in Makron’s head roared.
Makron shook his head.
He stilled. The voices went quiet. His heart raced.
He slowly leaned low, shrouding himself in the underbrush all around him.
He looked around.
He squated there, immobile, not even breathing.
Suddenly a dark shadow came from the right. It was large, and silent, moving through the thick underbrush and tall grass with swift and careful precision. If it were not for that snap earlier, Makron would have walked right into it. The beast was large and dark. It traveled gingerly on four legs, and prowled forward like a large cat on the hunt. As it’s might paws passed, small yellow lights glowed around it’s print, the glow sparking up like shimmering particles, only to fade quickly.
Markon’s pupil’s shrunk.
That’s… Anyone who tread on the path to using spiritual energy knew what that meant.
The beast was leaving behind a residual spiritual imprint. It meant it’s body was bursting with spiritual power. Such a powerful body would crush Makron easily.
Makron’s heart sped, but he still dared not to move, not even swallow or wipe the beading sweat on his forehead.
He only wondered how the beast had not noticed him yet. Spiritual Beasts were creatures with extraordinary senses. It should have picked up on his trail quite easily. And that sound. I can’t hear anything from the beast, but I still heard something then. How is that? Did it make a mistake?
Makron’s thoughts churned, but, in the end, there was nothing he could do. If the creature spotted him, he could only wait for death. This is why no one in their right mind comes here!
He waited until the creature passed, and even then, waited for another few minutes before he as quickly and as carefully as he possibly could, moved on through the night.
As soon as he thought he was clear, the voices began again.