Eldnium, p.30
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       Eldnium, p.30

           Enoch Pyle, Jr

  They reached the castle gate.

  “Where’re the rest of you?” the attending guard asked of Landon’s escorts.


  “Commander Sharik?”

  “Torn to bits.”

  “We were attacked,” the second escort clarified. “We barely escaped. This boy killed the beast.”

  “Is this the boy the Queen has requested?” the guard at the gate asked.

  “We believe him to be, yes.”

  The guard pounded against the iron gate, and Landon watched as it slowly swung open. His escorts continued leading him on into the courtyard of the castle, and Landon found himself crossing a cobblestone area filled with villagers, many who stopped to watch Landon go by.

  But Landon kept his head low. Heresy (whatever that is) was a crime these people took seriously, and Landon didn’t want a lynch mob getting the jump on his conversation with the Queen.

  Oh, crap, Landon thought. What will I tell the Queen? The truth?

  And then they were at the door to what appeared to be the Queen’s castle. It opened, and the guards led Landon through a maze of hallways, the size of the interior making Landon feel like an ant on the floor of his cabin back at Sanctuary.

  They neared another pair of iron doors, and the guards led him through.

  These opened into a large chamber framed by columns of glass stone, and at the far end, the Queen stood at the foot of her throne, a band of seven guards at each side. She was pretty, Landon thought, even at her old age. Obviously well cared for, her skin was gently wrinkled but free from blemish, and her clothes woven of what appeared to be very fine linens, red and gold in color.

  “Where are the others?” she asked of Landon’s escorts, her voice echoing against the large room. “Where is your commander?”

  “Dead,” the first escort answered, still leading Landon closer to the Queen. “We were attacked in the forest; we are all who survived.”

  “Attacked by what?” the Queen asked.

  “A shadowprey. Killed our horse.”

  “And how did you escape?” she asked, brow furrowed, unbelieving.

  “This boy tore out of his bonds and killed the beast with a single dagger.”

  “Are these lies?” she asked the second escort.

  “No, my Queen. He speaks the truth.”

  She looked Landon over, paced around him, and then got right in his face, staring dead into his eyes. “How does a boy kill a shadowprey when even the bravest of knights have succumbed to its frightening speed?”

  Landon didn’t answer.

  “Where are you from, boy?” the Queen asked.

  And now Landon faced the moment he had been dreading. But he didn’t have an opportunity to respond, because a guard spoke first.

  “He told the commander he was an ambassador of the gods, from the realm of Boah.”

  “Bring me the peasant,” the Queen ordered to no one in particular.

  One of the guards set off to a side door, and panic rose into Landon’s throat.

  In a moment, the guard returned with an old man Landon recognized at once…Ah’ni, who looked frightened and sheepish…who looked like a traitor found out.

  “Is this the boy, peasant?” the Queen asked him.

  “Yes, Queen,” Ah’ni answered, his voice shaking.

  “Where did you find him?”

  “He approached mine on the beach. I led hims to the village, wheres I learned hims to be a traveler.”

  “And he told you he was a traveler?”

  “No. Not in such words. He told mine he was froms a world near the center of somethings called a ‘universe’.”

  The Queen came back to Landon. “Is this true?”

  “Yes,” Landon admitted.

  Gasps shot from under the breath of some of the guards, and Landon noticed them tightening their grips on their daggers and bows.

  The Queen continued. “So…is it true? Are you a traveler?”

  “I don’t know what that is,” Landon answered. “I don’t think so.”

  “If you come from the stars, then you are either a traveler or a god. Which are you?” she demanded, her eyes glowing with dominance.

  “I honestly don’t know,” Landon answered. His hands were beginning to tremble. His nerves beginning to break.

  A perturbed look came over the Queen’s face, and she began to open her mouth to speak again but was silenced as the large doors at the entrance to the throne room were blasted open with a gale wind force. In its frame stood a cloaked thing with glowing palms casting a faint blue light against its side.

  All of the guards took a step back, away from the Queen and away from Landon.

  Landon slipped his hand in his pocket and touched the eldnium stone, letting its warmth flow through his fingers and arm to his chest, where it radiated and fell over his entire body. The trembling in his hands subsided. He felt calmer. More collected.

  “Seeker,” the Queen demanded, “what is your business here?”

  The thing in the cloak came forward at a brisk pace, closing in on Landon and the Queen.

  “This boy belongs to me,” it croaked.

  “Your authority here fell with the death of my husband, the King. You’ll not cast orders in my presence.” She raised her hand. “Guards!”

  But the guards didn’t give much response. They were obviously torn between loyalty to the Queen and fear of this…Seeker.

  “Who are you?” Landon asked, a surge of bravery coming over him, his body solid and strong.

  “Quiet, hero,” the Seeker commanded, and every guard in the room quickly drew their bows and focused the points of their arrows on Landon.

  Landon tightened his grip on the eldnium.

  “A hero?” the Queen interjected. “Don’t be ridiculous. Our hero came and went fifteen years ago.”

  “This is not your hero,” the Seeker responded. “He’s come in defiance of the gods. He is to be killed. Immediately.”

  A strange feeling overcame Landon. The threat of imminent death should have frightened him, but he felt…fearless. Strong. And he spoke to both the Seeker and the Queen a deadly promise. “I am a hero, and I’m here only to save a friend. I’m not here to interfere with your world, but if you choose to interfere with mine, I will have no choice but to kill you all…” He looked to the Queen. “Each and every one of you.” Even as the words left his lips, he wondered what fueled them.

  “You dare threaten me?” the Queen asked, anger contorting her face, fear trembling beneath her lips.

  “I have been threatened by you and your people since the sun rose over the treetops,” Landon said, “and I have had quite enough of it. I’ve saved two of your guards from harm, and I’ve helped one of your villagers catch and gut yesterday’s take in fish. If I was here to harm you, why would I do these things? Why behave this way?”

  Landon caught in the corner of his eye the shadow of Ah’ni slipping unnoticed through a small side door.

  “You see?” the Seeker said to the Queen. “Do you see why I must act immediately? This is no ordinary boy. He is a deceiver. How do you even know that it wasn’t he who killed your men, saving two for the purpose of deceiving you?”

  The Queen looked at Landon and then at the two guards who had escorted him from the dark woods. “Are you certain that this boy saved you?”

  The guards gave each other a glance, as if trying to decide whether a lie would be better than the truth. The second guard said, “Yes, your majesty. I’m certain. I do not believe—”

  “Enough.” The Queen turned back to the Seeker and said, “I’ll not have my command called out as liars. We will deal with this boy in our own fashion. I demand you leave immediately.”

  “I can’t do that, Queen.” The Seeker’s palms began pulsing with light. An attack was imminent.

  Landon adjusted his grip on the eldnium.

  “You will, or I will order my guards to strike you down.” The Queen’s voice was hesitant…as if she didn
t know if such a thing was actually possible.

  “This is the last time I ask politely, Queen. Give me this dangerous hero, or I will take him from among your bleeding and rotting corpses.”

  “Guards,” she said, defiance rattling her words. “Fire.”

  Each guard let loose an arrow at the Queen’s command, and they sailed through the air quickly, targeting the Seeker. But the Seeker merely raised his glowing palm and the arrows turned to sand, falling harmlessly at his feet.

  “This was your choice,” the Seeker warned, and with a grand motion, he brought both hands into the air, palms raging with blue light, and slammed them together, creating a blast of pressure that blew the Queen and all of her guards into chunks of bloody meat, not unlike the horse mess left by the shadowprey.

  Landon was surprised to find himself unharmed. A smell like rotting copper instantly flooded his nose. He stifled a gag.

  “Ah ha,” the Seeker exclaimed. “A hero you truly are.” And the Seeker shot a pulse from its palm that blasted into Landon’s chest and sent him soaring through the air and smashing through a glass pillar, shattering it and bringing it crumbling to the floor.

  Still, though tossed about and slightly stunned, Landon remained unharmed.

  Eldnium, he thought.

  He stood up and shouted back to the Seeker, “Is that all you’ve got?”

  The Seeker sent another blast, but Landon was ready for this one and leaned into it with his weight. The blast shattered against his skin, which seemed to be as strong as eldnium itself.

  “What is this?” the Seeker called as Landon walked toward him, unafraid. “What are you?” A panic filled the Seeker’s voice.

  “I don’t know. But I know why I’m here.”

  And Landon charged the Seeker, grabbing hold of it and falling to the floor, where they grappled for a few moments before the Seeker tossed Landon through the air. Landon came down and left a massive crater in the floor, broken glass stone pointing upward like jagged teeth.

  The Seeker brought from his robe a longsword, something even the guards seemed not to carry. “This,” it said, “was forged in the Apex itself. Come any closer, and I’ll use it to slice you into pieces.”

  Landon knew a threat when he heard one, and this was a threat. A threat from someone sent to kill. And Landon realized that the Seeker was afraid.

  “Bring it on,” Landon said.

  And the Seeker did, swinging the sword with all its might, where it shattered against Landon’s chest. Landon grabbed the Seeker and again used the weight given to him by the eldnium to pull the Seeker to the ground. This time, however, the Seeker fell onto one of the shards of glass stone and wailed. It burst into streams of smoke before recombining into a single, smoky mass and launching itself through one of the throne room windows with a terrible shriek.

  Landon rolled onto his back, staring at the ceiling, gasping for breath. He pulled the eldnium stone from his pocket and said, “Definitely worth more in my pocket.”

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