The princes shadows, p.16
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       The Prince's Shadows, p.16

           Seoran Worg
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  “ENOUGH!” Prince Lex’s roars.

  All of them silent immediately.

  “You,” the prince refers to General Wazax, “Will give Lord Arga fifty of your best soldiers and the rest will go to north tomorrow. Understand?”

  “Yes, your highness,” he says meekly.

  Fifty is considerably less than what Lord Arga demands. He asks two hundred soldiers to stay with his band. He has only thirteen other Blesseds under him which are by his own admission too green to go to war. Only five of them truly finish their training and apprenticeship.

  Loud knock comes from the door. A servant enter, he says that a lone rider comes from the north.

  “Bring him here,” Prince Lex commands.

  He is a messenger from the war. The servant brings him in immediately, then he enters the room, his rough hemp is badly dusted and his face is weary.

  The messenger brings a bad news and good news. The prince bid him to tell the bad news first. The bad news is Princess Vianna perish in the last battle, two days past. Even with breakneck pace it takes to days ride from the border to this city. They do the funeral ritual there, they burn her body and bring back her ashes home. Bring back to where the Varr comes from, the mountain, the holy fire. They will scatter her ashes there where she belongs.

  I see Lady Anna is palling in her seat.

  “Excuse me,” she says thickly and runs to the door.

  Prince Lex just nods. And he tells the rider to continue. The only sign of sadness is a twitch in his mouth.

  The good news is, we win the war.

  Joy is spreading in the room. Their tensions lessen visibly, not the prince, though.

  After a while he says, “Continue.”

  So the rider tells his account of the war. Prince Wang’s army was badly defeated in the battle in Creek Village. With the empress’ husband wounded, the Varr’s army was divided into two, led by Ryn from the west and Malvin from the east. They made surprise attack from both directions. After that, the enemy’s army was retreats back to far north, across the Shan River, back to their home. Our lost villages and town was recaptured soon afterward. It was easy conquest because all of these places were already abandoned by then. This news brings smile to generals and clan’s leaders.

  I feel like a heavy burden lifted from my chest too. Malvin and Ryn, they are alive. Thanks Gods for the small mercy. I don’t know about my cousin however. I hope he is alive and uninjured.

  Prince Lex dismisses the messenger curtly and continues the meeting.

  With the news of victory, he decides that we will stay here, waiting the victorious army to come back home. I wish that day will come in a blink of eye, yet I afraid of the prince temper for I know deep down, he envy their victory.

  Chapter 13

  The heaven seems agree that today is a happy day. And the sky is sapphire blue with no cloud in sight. Tepid wind blow cooling my body, it hits the clan’s banners planted around soldier’s camp, that scattered in the field outside Naqari city gate.

  They will come soon.

  Their coming was heralded by the outrider few minutes pass. Now, all the soldiers and its leaders are lining up in the roadside beyond the wall, waiting for the victorious army led by Ryn to pass through.

  Malvin already past this city few days back, he came in the dead of the night with her mother ashes. He only stopped to check on Princess Larra, and rode on, after the dawn come, bringing most the royals back to the palace with him. Of course, his sister went with him.

  After know that Lady Anna is his sister, I can see the resemblance between the two of them. Aside of mark of the Varr, both have wide sensuous lips and sharp tapered jaw, though, it is not that sharp on Lady Anna face.

  I hear the thunder of footsteps and hoof beats before I can see the army. The thick cloud of dust soon follows. It is swirling around, in the road ahead, hiding the army from sight. They grow near in slow steady pace. I know that there are around two thousand foot soldiers that come from peasants. And hundreds mounted soldiers, which come from noble family.

  Most of the soldiers still left behind in the border along with Lord Isa Seth, the empress’ husband. It is reported that he is still recovering from his wound now.

  I spot Ryn in his dark silver tunic from afar, ridding a black stallion. I cannot make out his face clearly but I know it is him. Few feet near the edge of the camp field, they all dismount and leaving their horse behind. Then swiftly, coming forward to where the prince stands. The place where I am too.

  As Ryn draws closer, few generals are trailing behind him, his face is bleaker and colder than usual. There is a hard look in his face that wasn’t there before. No, it is there but less obvious so, hidden under his solemn face. It seems the war had changed him and everyone.

  I am searching his eyes, trying to find something in his bleak eye, trying to find my gentle and kind friend. And for a heartbeat our gaze locked. His eyes seem softened a little but it hardened unfathomable again. He turns his face and look straight ahead, marching to the waiting prince.

  On the dusty ground, Ryn kneels before Prince Lex and Princess Larra.

  “Well done,” the prince says, “It’s a great feat. In the name of the empress and all Varrian, I do thank you,” his voice is loud and clear. I see an awkward smile in Prince Lex face.

  He lifts Ryn up and gives a bear hug. I see the princess, who is not fully recovered yet, want to join but with all eyes are on them, I know her dignity won’t allow it so she refrains herself. She still calls herself a lady after all.

  The prince let go of him.

  Ryn steps back and says in calm clear voice, “The glory isn’t mine, your highness. We wouldn’t win this war without these people. They help us in our desperate time, when we were trapped by the enemy.”

  He steps back more, and shows who these people are. There are around fifty of them and all wear rough hemp tunic, standing right behind the Blesseds. Then, they bravely step forward and kneeling before Prince Lex. Some of them, twenty at most, wear collar in their neck.

  “Who are they?” the prince’s eyes narrowed dangerously.

  “They were the lost soul, your highness. But with your pardon, they want to be your people once again,” Ryn says solemnly.

  “My pardon you say?” I can hear Prince Lex’s voice is rising.

  “Yes, your highness. They came to help when we were in the brink of defeat. Please, your highness. It’s neither glory nor wealth, they seek. Let them back to the city. It’s all they want.”

  “My pardon?” asks the prince incredulously, “It seems you don’t need mine. It’s yours you give them,” he adds in cold voice. “Arrest them,” he commands the generals.

  The generals seem hesitate to follow Prince Lex orders. They are standing rooted in their feet.

  “Your highness. I’ve promised. Please spare them.”

  “You promised. Then you keep it. AREST THEM!”

  General Wazax is first to takes an action. He and his soldiers are circling around Ryn and the rebels.

  Princess Larra tries to stops the fight but pulled back by Lord Zeff and two other cousins, she is still weak besides.

  It is hundreds against fifty.

  Then, the others follow, Lord Kigan and his band are the first from the Blessed who join the fight. But surprisingly, Lord Arga stays in his place and refuses to join the fight.

  “Your Highness, please stop this,” I say to the enraged prince. I take hold of his arm. And it is anger him more so I take my hand of him.

  “Not, you too,” he says in chilling voice.

  Swords have been drawn. Ryn’s and the lost soul are surrounded by hundreds soldiers. Some of them were once their comrade. Even if they all gifted, it is uneven match. Air dome is made. But wave and waves of heat, icy and wind are thrown here and there, penetrates the doom. I see few more of the Blesseds and the soldiers which come from the north join the fight. But they are on Ryn side, while the others seem hesitant and watch from si

  It is chaotic, cloak of dust is flying and burned smell fills the air. One of the lost souls is tumbling down with an arrow in his chest, and one more and then the other.

  What should I do? I cannot choose a side.

  Ryn is very angry by then. He lets out waves of heat and makes everything in its patch catching fire, blue fire. The prince’s soldiers are running in disarray, passing me, hiding in safety, only the Blesseds remain.

  I still rooted in my place, in the edge of the melee, noting my torn and blackened clothes but oddly I feel nothing, no pain or what so ever.

  I feel soft tug in my arm breaks my trance.

  “My lady,” says Lord Arga. He pulls and drags me behind a cart.

  The prince joins the fight then. He walks toward the fight with twirling wind surrounding him. He makes a flicking motion and soon snake made of metal coiled around Ryn’s body. Ryn doubles over, and falls to the ground. The fight around them have ceased by then. Ryn tries to fight the coil. He face is rigid with pain.

  I feel a strong wave of sharp icy wind. The wave transverses and freezes everything in its path. I see a slice of ice in the wooden cart in front of me. The soldiers, who still in the field, step back further in unison, some of them are yelping in pain.

  I should do something.

  A new whirlwind is swirling around Prince Lex and Ryn. Cloud of dust is flying haphazardly, making a hazy world. It is hurting my eyes, and I feel tears are gathering in my eyes. In the midst of the dusty air, I see Ryn leaps to the prince and grabs Prince Lex’s neck in deadly grip. And the golden snakes are nowhere to be seen.

  “Release them!” he roars.

  Finally, Prince Larra succeeds eluding Lord Zeff hold. She is running and sneaking behind Ryn’s back.

  What is she going to do?

  “Ryn, your back!” I shout without thought.

  In reflect, he casts a sharp wind in her direction and make her arm bleed profusely. But the princess seems takes no notice of it.

  Horror strike Ryn face, seeing the bleeding princess.

  “Please, Brother,” she pleaded ignoring her wound.

  With strangled voice, he commands the soldiers to cease the fight, which they already did.

  Ryn releases the prince abruptly.

  “Kill me if you wish. But let them live,” he says bleakly, and then falls down to his knees.

  The prince nodded his acquiescence.

  The lost soul slowly gathered. They cast a sad glance to their forlorn leader, who kneeling on the ground. Some of them are heavily wounded but they stand in their own feet and walk away. They go, leaving their deaths, lying cold on the dusty field.

  Still with weak and pained voice, Princess Larra commands few of her trusted the Blesseds to escort the lost soul out the city. She looks pale. Blood is dripping from her wounded arm. But she stands, defying her brother. And for the life of me, I can’t find pity for her.

  I should be like her.

  “I won’t go, Brother,” she shouts at her brother. She crouches beside Ryn.

  “Go, princess,” he says softly.

  “Let’s go inside, Ryn,” she tries to drag him with her weak body.

  But he shakes his head, still slumped there.

  “You go by your own feet, or dragged, it’s your choice, Larra,” Prince Lex marches, leaving the field without looking back. “Zeff, see to it,” he adds to his cousin.

  With head held high, Princess Larra stands up and follows her brother.

  I should be like her.

  Near the gate, the prince says to Lord Kigan, “Shackle and throw him to the prison.”

  For once, I am not following the prince. I stand rooted on my feet. I see the soldiers are carrying the deaths in litters. There were five of them, all rebels. I see their sightless eyes and ragged bodies.

  It should be a happy day. Oh Gods, why?

  Gingerly I touch my cheek and I feel the wetness there. The tears fall down without my consent. They were just rebel, this empire’s enemy.

  I glance up to the bright sky above, willing my tears to stop but it won’t. Those rough, battle hardened face and sightless eyes. I don’t know when I can forget it.

  Ryn still slumps there in the center of dusty field. I walk to where he is. But I see one female blessed is coming too, bringing an iron shackle with her. The shackle is especially made for the Blessed. It has black diamond on it, to block the energy flow.

  She has apologetic look as put the shackle in his wrist. But Ryn still deeps in his own sorrow. His head is bowing low, and he looks defeated.

  I see wary look in the soldiers’ eyes when they escort Ryn to his prison. And Ryn, he walks in silent, like in a trance.

  It should be a happy day. Should be…


  I am staring morosely at food on the table. I am not in the mood to go outside now. I beg Prince Lex pardon for today so I can stay in my room. Even after two days, the prince’ anger not yet abates. He forbids everyone to visit Ryn in his prison. His relationship with his sister strained too. Lord Zeff and I caught in the middle. The princess demands Ryn to be set free but the prince refuses stubbornly.

  I should have known that Princess Larra would never hurt Ryn. Yesterday, she cornered me and said in her haughty voice that I should keep my mouth shut and said nothing on Ryn behalf. Even I know this too by now. It will enrage Prince Lex more, for I know his jealousy. I nodded in agreement and beg forgiveness for her wounded arm. But of course she already walked away, after she had finished with me without even looking back.

  And when I asked Lord Zeff about Ryn, he said nothing just gave me pat in the back and said not to worry and mind the prince rage.

  What wrong with all these people? Why shouldn’t I worry? He is my friend.

  Tonight, I plan to go to the underground prison. I am set about it. I must go there and see Ryn with my own eyes. If everything was right between him and my sister, we would be a family after all.

  I hope he not badly wounded. I wonder if they treat his wound down there. I don’t think did. So ask for the servant for some balm and ointment. I hope it will help.

  In the dark moonless sky, as quite as possible I go out from my room and walk cautiously through the winding stair and out to the yard. I wear a dark cloak long to my ankle. It is hot day but my body is cold and my heart is beating fast.

  The cell is in the underground, dug below the Giant Wall. Even chained in iron adorned with black diamond, which is specially made for the Blessed, the prison’s entry is heavily guarded. I see two young men and two young women with silvery gold collar in their neck among the guards. They are a Blessed.

  I hide in the corner, waiting for the right opportunity. My heartbeat is racing madly now, I will it to calm down with no success. After a moment standing in the dark, I decide to brave the guard.

  With new resolve, I come out from my hiding place but I hastily duck in again. I see another cloaked shadow come out from the underground prison. She gathers the Blesseds, talking to them which I cannot hear from where I stand. Then they start to walk toward my direction.

  Did they see me?

  My heartbeat is galloping faster. The girl walks ahead leading the party and the others are following behind in respectful distance. She is around one or two inches shorter than me, her big billowy cloak drowns her slender form. And most of her face was hidden under her hood.

  I see a glimpse of her when she draws near. The girl has full lips, dainty pointing nose and small stubborn chin. She is Princess Larra. Her beauty is unrivalled even among the royals. I saw many lustful glace thrown at her, when she was unaware, unlike what they do to an unimportant lady. No one dare to offend her or openly ogling her of course. Her temper is as precarious as her brother after all.

  What is she doing down there?

  After the princess out of my sight, I draw a long hearty breath and walks to the underground door. And as expected one of the guard stops me. I see him steal a glance to m
y breast.

  I should get used to it.

  It is funny, once I noticed these things; it is hard to go back to being ignorance. It is like a blind has finally lifted from your eyes.

  I steel myself and put a haughty face. In sharp voice, I tell them that the prince commands me to check the prisoner. Luckily, they believe my lie.

  Through the narrow passage I go. It is damp and dark. The guard told me that his cell is in the end of the passage. I raise my torch to see more clearly but no one there.

  Where did he go? It cannot be… No…

  I don’t want to think that possibility. The prince must not kill him. He wouldn’t. I know it.

  I startled by a soft touch on my shoulder, then I feel a palm is sneaking around me and covering my mouth.

  Ryn… I am glad you are alive, I want to say it but I can’t.

  He put one of his fingers to his lip to say ‘silent’.

  I nod.

  “How?” I ask in whisper after he lifted his palm from my mouth.

  His face is bruised and his hair is in disarray, tied haphazardly in simple knot. His silver clothes gone in its place he wears brown rough hemp, a peasant clothes.

  He didn’t answer my question, “You look thinner, my lady,” he says instead.

  I hug him tightly. I feel his wince a little.

  Immediately, I let go of him, “Did I hurt you?” I ask.

  He shakes his head and cupping my cheek.

  “I’m sorry. I want to say it for long time,” he says. I know what he meant. It is my sister, a ghost between us.

  “It’s not your fault,” I say.

  He looks behind him.

  I see flicker of shadows in the wall. And then, I see other figures in the dark aisle behind him. They are lady May’s people, the ones I saved from the execution. I also see the other Blesseds and soldiers who changed side.

  “It’s time for me to go,” he says, then bows to me.

  “Please don’t go,” I plead.

  He looks at me oddly, “I must,” he says finally.

  “Prince Lex will forgive you. Just wai–”

  “It’s not his to forgive. People died because they trusted me,” he cuts me, his eyes is hardened. “I let them die…”

  “You will too if you go. Please stay.” Tears run down my eyes now.

  “The prince may let me life. Even embrace me as a brother again. But the empress?” Gently, he erases my tears. “It’s late now. It’s my fate, since the beginning I suppose. I just too foolish to understand. A fool for hoping,” he smiles, a bitter smile.

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