Five thousand years ago, before the Solinian Dynasty stretched its influence across the soon to become City of Aros, there was a great being called The First Master. The First Master built a castle in the midst of an unpopulated but fertile land. That castle was named Arrodine.
No one knew why such a being decided to build a castle in a remote area as he did, hundreds of miles from any city or village. There was not even a single country that claimed the land within its borders. The only things present were a simple cabin, the eastern forest, and the far east mountain range, but history never attributed that as a reason.
The First Master was very powerful. He was so powerful, that even the Emperor of the Solinian Empire was barely a match for him, and the emperor could shake mountains and stop the flow of rivers with the wave of a hand. So what land or worldly possessions could possibly spark the interest of such a being? Let alone some far away and lonely place? No one would ever know.
But fortunately, for the Emperor, when he wanted to spread his influence across many lands, including the lands of The First Master, with just a few simple gifts, he had joined him as the Solinian Empire took over the nearby countries and began to expand. And though The First Master never involved himself in politics, nor did he help with military might, men and women flocked towards Arrodine, built a city nearby, and called it Aros. Soon other cities followed.
Since the First Master was not interested in ruling, the emperor gave authority to a powerful family whose family head then became king. The First Master allowed the king to rule from Arrodine over the many cities as a guest of his house. And under this powerful family, the City of Aros quickly became popular… That was until The First Master suddenly disappeared.
Some say The First Master left to go to a higher realm of existence; most say he just reached the end of his lifespan and died. But before he left, he bonded seven people to his castle under an oath of blood. These seven people became known as the Upper Functionaries whose purpose was to take care of the inner workings of Castle Arrodine. The Upper Functionaries brought in other servants in which they each lead over, creating seven divisions within the castle. Within Castle Arrodine, the Upper Functionaries became powerful beings that held many secrets, but they still had to follow the king to a certain extent.
Though that was the case, such power was enough that if a majority of the seven believed the king to be a danger to Arrodine and the legacy of The First Master, they could replace him with a new one. Such power had made the king and his descendants that ruled Aros, and the other cities built within their domain, uneasy, generating a political battle that lasted until this day. Even as Upper Functionaries and kings died and were replaced with new ones, new bonds, the court was still ensued with strife. And as the Upper Functionaries and the King’s factions butted heads, more and more enemies circled…
Dawn… Makron opened his eyes. He blinked, only to see the grey noon sky darken. Bam! A large boot slammed on his face. He flailed his arms and smashed his fist into the leg over and over, but the boot remained unmoved.
“Worm! You have failed me. Not only are my plants burnt, but here you are, dozing?!” Orno! Makron realized. He stopped hitting the leg and just tried to endure. At least he’s not wearing his spikes this time. He thought.
The King twisted his foot further into Makron’s face. Pain swelled in his nose and mouth; an unbearable pain, but still, Makron did not move. He did not even dare try and breathe as to not incur more of the King’s sadistic wrath.
After a minute, King Orno stepped off. Cloaked in mud and blood, Makron gasped and coughed. He rolled over slowly, blood seeping from a split lip, but he did not dare to stand; so he knelt, head bowed.
“Your majesty, I-”
“Do not speak without permission.” Another said, slow and calm. The voice was melodious, but it had a cold pressure to it. Enough so that Makron choked back the rest of what he was going to say. The chancellor is here, too? Makron felt angry and humiliated. His knees and hands seeped further into the wet earth. His muscles were sore and tight, and it was hard to breathe as his nose was clogged with blood and as his throat felt raw. He cursed and cursed, none of it, though, passed his cracked lips.
Makron felt defeated, but as he imagined the smile that the chancellor had on his face at the moment, an anger began to rage inside of him. He was the weakest of the Upper Functionaries, he knew, only recently taking up an vacant position five years ago. He had little sway outside of his division in Arrodine, and other than death, no one would care much what happened to him outside of the castle. He had scant political power, especially as things were right now in Arrodine.
Makron was sure that the chancellor had set him up. The chancellor was the only one with the power and status to sway the king to momentarily give a mission to an Upper Functionary, especially since it could bring him exposure. Makron steamed and fumed, but his face showed nothing; maybe pain, but never the fear or the anger. But then how would they even know the garden would get damaged?
“Your Highness,” said the chancellor. “It would seem only appropriate that he is dealt with quickly. It would serve as a warning to the others that try to shirk their duty.”
“It would not do for his punishment to be given so.. openly.” The king paused as if he were thinking something. But Makron knew the chancellor probably informed King Orno of this before. Now, they were just acting out a play for the men. Else, why would the king bring along normal city guards, whose mouths were well known to flap, on a simple journey to his garden? “Lock him in the cells. I will find how he is to die later.”
Die? Makron’s body grew cold. He knew that he was most likely to be heavily punished, but he had hope. Hope that the two would not go that far. He figured this was some convoluted plan, contrived to provide reason for the rest of the upper levels, the functionaries, to group up and cast him out of his position. But now? This was more than that. Makron had dedicated most of his life to Castle Arrodine. That should have meant something; his status should have meant something; his loyalty. Apparently it wasn’t. None of it was.
Even with such a reason as having his little garden harmed, it would not have been enough to get rid of him. The King’s servant? Yes. But The First Master’s own? Definitely not. Even if he was outside the castle grounds, and outside The First Master’s small sphere of influence on the laws, they could not touch him with his ring- his identifier, on. My ring! Makron did not have his ring. He woke up, only to find it missing. He had thought it fell and rolled somewhere so he used his father’s old ring. When they ordered him outside, he had completely forgot about it.
Makron was furious. It was not until now that he realized that he did not lose his ring, but most likely they stole it, and were now using that chance to get rid of him after sending him outside. But how did they get my ring without my notice. After all, this was all too strange. Makron could not puzzle just how they got his ring, but now was not the time to think of such things.
Makron pushed himself from the ground. He stood up, back straight- a slight nausea hitting him as he came to his full height. If he were to die, he would do so on his feet, in the orchard, and not in some cell. He watched the king walk and hop onto his horse, the man’s back turned to him. Mud dripped off Makron’s clothes and back; from his hair and off his hands.
The king was no longer paying him any mind, but the chancellor, in his golden and white robes kept notice. He just stared at Makron, his face pale.
It was then that Makron realized how many people were actually there. So, not some simple excursion to his garden. Then what is he planning? They can’t possibly be all here for me. More than a three dozen soldiers sat on their horses; many servants, and tens of city guards were also present. But at that moment, two of which, who were apparently heading for him, all halted in shock. Many people of Aros may not know what the Upper Functionaries looked like, but they knew what their rings looked like. It was ingrained into them, the blood diamond amidst a black background on a silver band. They knew what it meant. And apparently, everyone saw Makron’s father’s old ring. They don’t know it isn’t mine.
Makron had put that on when he could not find his. He at first thought he lost his own when he fell asleep, and so just out of convenience found his father’s old one to put on, but now he realized that it could save him. The rings were forged with a metal and carved with runes that were impossible to make a forgery. He could plant the idea that somehow the king’s faction stole the wrong ring.
If he were without his ring, even if he yelled that he was an Upper Functionary of Arrodine, even if everyone knew knew he spoke the truth, it would not matter. In Castle Arrodine, the First Master’s rules reign supreme, but outside, without representation, without a ring, any being was subject to the king’s whim and the court’s laws.
When the King got on his saddle and glanced at Makron, his eyes narrowed. He seemed furious. It was only a second, but Makron caught the king glance at the chancellor questioningly.
It was then that Makron knew for sure that it was the chancellor who somehow got his ring.
I must remind them who they’re dealing with. Makron did not think he could use his father’s ring, else he would not have taken Orno’s beating so lightly and groveled on the ground. He would have stood his ground. Makron was not some ordinary servant. He was one of the few who became bonded to Arrodine. He was not a servant to any king, but to the castle itself. It became tradition for the king to rule from Arrodine, but he was still just a guest of the castle’s mannor. He could punish some of the servants and order all of them in First Master’s absence, but he could not lose the respect of all the higher functionaries. Else, if they deemed King Orno a threat to the legacy of the First Master, then the King would have a huge problem on his hands. He could be marked as an enemy of the First Master. There were four times in the past two thousand years where history has marked kings as an enemy and all of them were quickly deposed and replaced within the year.
At that moment, though, Makron had not been thinking of the intricacies of his defiance. He was just thinking of seeing the king and his men die. For twenty years he rebelled against his father to not become a servant of Arrodine, and then he finally capitulated and was bonded and served for the later thirty of his life. As he thought, he hated it. He only did it because he was dirt broke poor at the time, and obviously trying to be free and follow his dreams failed him. Now, even with a life filled with bowing and scraping, he was forced into a situation where the chancellor and the King could quickly remove him so they could probably open a bond for another, one probably under their thumb, and gain more of a foothold in Arrodine.
King Orno glared at Makron. The coldness in his eyes became sharper and sharper with each passing moment. Soon Makron’s actions would spread. That the king attacked a represented Upper Functionary, knowingly. Now the Kings’ already soiled reputation was going to take another hit. It would be useless to think he could order everyone to keep their mouths shut and it stays that way; and he could not kill everyone that came with him, there were too many. So the King just glared at Makron as if a glare could make Makron sick and die.
“What are you waiting for?! His actions are a sign of rebellion.” One of the king’s men suddenly roared. “Kill him!”
With the sudden outburst, the chancellor had recovered from his shock. His face was expressionless, but Makron could note a hidden smile. It was at that moment Makron hated the man even more.
Two of the city guards crept towards Makron, their steel swords unsheathed. A dense aura exuded from their bodies. That surprised Makron. The guards had summoned spiritual energy to power themselves. Do they know? Makron wondered. Not all guards knew how to use spiritual energy. It would not have been rare for the King’s own personal soldiers to have it, but for ‘seemingly random’ guards chosen, that was near impossible odds. Especially since many guards who were capable of it kept it a secret, even from the king. And to use it, here, and now? Or could it be that they are all… Markon did not want to think along those lines. He did not even have the luxury at the moment.
The twists and turns in this conspiracy was getting more complicated. Makron stepped back. He was ready to fight, but as the guards approached, the odds of him getting away alive was getting smaller and smaller. It was then that, a clear voice broke through the air.
“Your majesty, I beg leniency on this mere servant.”
Makron was flabbergasted. The one who had spoken was actually the chancellor! The King had said nothing, but the city guards actually stopped. In fact, the chancellor did not order them to do anything, but they acted in his favor. That alone spoke volumes.
The king turned to his chancellor. “Speak.”
“Your majesty, given that this servant is swaying, it appears he may have had a head injury. Otherwise, a person of his station would not so easily disregard tradition and show such defiance…”
King Orno quickly caught on to what the chancellor was implying. How could he not realize that the chancellor was giving him an out in this sticky situation? If word got out that he killed an Upper Functionary… King Orno cleared his throat, “Yes. Yes. That man is just confused and injured. Take him to the castle and have someone look at his head.” Though this was said, the damage had already been already done. Such an explanation would barely placate the doubts the people would have, but for now, it was better for the royal family and the rest of the nobility that Makron did not die at that moment. When Makron looked at his ‘savior’, that same non-smile smile on the chancellor’s face was still there. King Orno’s weak position became even weaker. And while the King said he was ‘to be looked at’, Makron knew he was not going to see the light of day again. It was just going to take them longer and with another method before they could kill him, and as long as his death was not as public, it would be fine.
As the guards sheathed their swords, Makron relaxed his guard. He would die if he fought, but if he was taken to the castle, he might still have a chance. Especially now since he had at least gained a week before they would be able to take action. The city guards grabbed his arms with Makron letting them, and took him away.
But as his feet dragged in the grass, he could not help but think. If only I was that bastard! If only I had power.
Suddenly, the wind picked up. The plants around them swayed, and so did the grass. The horses grew restless, and some of the men were trying their best to keep the animals calm. A wind wrapped around Makron, and a breeze blew against his ear. “The contract has been formed.”
All of a sudden Makron felt himself rising, but as he looked down, he saw himself. His same self, held up by two of the king’s goons.
He rose in the air and flew towards the clouds. He was aghast and frightened, but as he looked below it seemed that others took no notice. They battled the wind and their animals; scrambled about to get some order again.
Makron drew farther and farther away. It would take only a moment before those down below would become just ants. And within the beginnings of that moment, Makron’s mind raced. He thought this was divine intervention. That God had bestowed a divine gift, like the ones in legends, a calling, a rise to a higher plane of existence.
As the more Makron thought, the more he became happy. He was not crazy, he knew. Even though he did hit his head. With a big smile on his face, he flew. Away from servitude; away from struggle. Possibly a new life awaited him. A life of being revered, honored, and obeyed; that was going to be his life. He was going to become one of the risen, and adventure, find a woman, live the life he was supposed to live. But then he slowed down to a stopped. His vision blurred. And then… he dropped. He went down with speed. The land got closer and closer. He could see the tops of their head and even as Makron shook, and flew down at an increasing pace, he suddenly realized, that he was heading straight for the chancellor!
But then the King’s horse neighed and clamored forth. Makron watched as the horse pulled the king in front of the chancellor, and then Markon slammed right into him.
Boom! A loud sound echoed in Makron’s ears. The King screamed. The horse jumped, and the king fell off his horse. All Makron remembered was him lying on the floor, the harsh grass prickling and the mud, cold. He could not move; did not move. But even as the darkness swarmed him, he could not help but think, Damn! My chance at a new life… My chance… Damn.