Things are hotting up in Demon. Who knew our boys would be facing a real demon army? Or will they?
This week I chose the prompt "I'm pretty sure the South isn't going to rise again" because as soon as I saw it I knew I had to :) I'm getting quite good at writing the chapter around the prompt rather than trying to fit the prompt in.
My heart pounds as I allow myself to be escorted through the castle by the guards who wait outside Castien’s chamber door. Part of my discomfiture comes from my loved one’s anger. I hope that anger will never be directed at me, but I have no illusions.
We pass through more populated parts of the castle and meet with the ordinary folk who work here. They shrink back, making the sign against evil. I cannot pretend it doesn’t hurt, but I must not let fear get in the way of the mission I have been given.
They await me. They are as before. Some stiff and unforgiving, others more encouraging, but all waiting in keen anticipation.
It’s hard to gather my thoughts and I wonder whether my father goes through this when asked to speak on such important matters. If he does, he hides it well, and that is what I must strive for.
“Thank you for attending so quickly,” the king says with a warmer smile than I have yet seen on any face save Castien’s. “I would like you to explain to the members of the council the business that has brought you here; that I discussed with your father at our recent meeting.
A few rumbles make it clear the council neither knew or approved of such a meeting. I ignore them.
“Many years ago,” I begin, gathering my thoughts, “after the war between our people.”
“After we drove you into the swamp, you mean,” one of the Councillors says. He’s a severe man with a long nose and greasy black hair.
There is little point entering into an argument so I nod to him in what I hope is a noncommittal but gracious gesture. I am not my father so I am unsure whether I succeeded. At least I didn’t seem to have offended anyone.
“After my people moved westward there was a time of unrest. We returned to our ancestral home in the forests beyond the swamp––”
“What ancestral home?” the same Councillor snaps. “Even before you were driven out like dogs your territory never extended as far as the swamp, let alone beyond it.”
“I seems you know little of our history,” I say, trying hard to maintain a respectful tone with a man who is rapidly raising my stress level. “May I continue?” I ask the king who nods and cuts off further comment from the man.
“Generations were born and raised and a disturbing trend arose. Some of our most learned men and women turned to the study of dark arts. A vein of magillium runs through––”
“Magillium? A myth. You waste our time with swamp stories?”
“Silence,” the king roars and the uproar that had threatened, subsides.
“I can assure you magillium is no myth. The vein is small but access to is was strictly forbidden. Events around the discovery of the material is what forced us out of our home in the first place. The stories tell of an event similar to that which occurred in the recent past. Although the cave where the entrance to the magillium temple could be found was well guarded, a small, dedicated group penetrated our defences and began to work with the magillium.
“When their crime was uncovered, the magi, unrepentant, refused to give up the secrets of their dark rituals, and were imprisoned.
“Some six months ago, in the dead of night, a strange light appeared in the sky over the Cave of the Temple. Almost all were drawn out of our homes to gaze in wonder at the marvellous sight. As we watched, the light drew together and began to form the shape of a man, his body translucent and filled with stars.
“By this time my father had some idea what was happening and send his guards throughout the city to draw our people together in places of safety. But before all were gathered the star figure began to rain devastation upon us. Buildings were reduced to rubble, rivers boiled, the lake at the center of our city froze to its bed.
“The star man dissolved into the dawn, and has not been seen again, but during that one night of devastation over a hundred people lost their lives and hundreds more lost their homes. Almost no family was untouched.
“When the clean–up began it was discovered that the imprisoned magi had vanished, and the entrance to the cave had been sealed by a massive cave–in that is unlikely ever to be cleared.”
“We are sorry for your loss,” one of the kinder men says sincerely. “Of course we will send aid.”
“Aid is not what I am seeking,” I say quickly, seeing an argument brewing. “In fact, perhaps your king might take up the story from here.”
The king nods sombrely.”
“Four months ago I received news of renewed activity in the South. I believe the magi Tian speaks of have crossed the border and we are about to face renewed hostilities from the southern territories.”
“Nonsense. The territory is thoroughly subdued. It was decimated in the war.”
“He’s right,” a rather portly gentleman breaks in for the first time. “It is very sparsely populated and they have no resources for war, even of a guerrilla nature. I’m pretty sure the South isn’t going to rise again.”
“They might if they had a demon army at their back.”
A general outcry ensues. “You dare come here to threaten us?” the unfriendly man roars.
“Whatever ransom you seek we will not give,” another severe–looking man spits.
I am thoroughly confused until I realize they are talking about me and my people. To them, we are the demons.
“No, wait. You don’t understand. I’m not talking about us. I’m talking about real demons. Creatures that were once human, raised from the dead by the power of magillium wielded by the rogue magi. I don’t come to threaten but to propose an alliance.”
Now go check out the rest of the amazing flashers.