This is part of one of the chapters in my upcoming book, The Temperament Scepter. It is still a work in progress. Hope you guys enjoy!
King without a Throne
The walls of the Argonian tunnels were jagged and black as coal. The path of steps winded deep into the mountain like a labyrinth filled with puzzles and dead ends. At the center of the mountain, a deep pit dropped infinitely into the depths of darkness, where the smell of smoldering coals rose from the lower tunnels. A place where the Forn forged tools and weapons for the army. In the western realms of the mountain, a cool breeze could be felt from the vented areas where the ocean breeze would cool the chambers. Most of the Forn have lived most of their lives in the tunnels. The paler their skin and the brighter their eyes, the longer they have inhabited the tunnels.
King Gruil Thaylor, son of Oir Thaylor was the only Forn who looked more human than the others. He would trek the tunnels of the Argonian Mountain Range once every other day to watch the operation. His thirst for gold, silver, and metals clouded his mind and heart, making him an empathetic ruler. He inherited the Thaylor curse of being blinded by the riches that rest within the stone walls of the mountain. Every Forn would glare at him with their yellowed eyes that had red slits burning with rage. Their intimidation never bothered him as long as his mighty sword remained in his possession.
His maroon robe wrapped around his body. It was embroidered in leopard skin down the seams of the buttons and around the collar. His brown beard rounded at the tip of his chin, while his dark hair dropped below his ears. The tip of his nose pointed over his mustache, while his hazel eyes pierced the darkness with its brightness.
“Lord Thaylor, production has slowed each week since your father’s…” His right hand, Aradorn cut his sentence short. “Forgive me, my lord.”
Aradorn was a slender man with gaunt limbs and pale skin. He was bald and kept his chin clean of hair. The middle of his nose had a large knot, while the end was rounded. His eyes were squinted with emerald irises. The green robes he wore were thinner than Thaylor’s but had many markings across the seams. Most of the markings were tree limbs branching upwards, while others were shapes of gemstones.
“No need for apologies, Aradorn. Finish what you were saying,” Thaylor answered, stepping down the stone steps to the hollowed out center of Mount Argon.
“My suggestion would be to give some of these men a holiday. Let them go home to their families and have their pigment return to them.”
“So your suggestion to increase production is to send a portion of the men on vacation? To let them rest and become fat; better yet lazy?” Thaylor asked with a spiteful tone.
“Well, not to become lazy, but…”
“Let me remind you, Aradorn, that rest will be had at death. These men work hard to protect their families and to keep the flow of wealth immense throughout our kingdom. If any of them would like to address their complaints, they can meet me at the block in my court. I’m sure their weary head will receive plenty of rest as my blade cuts through their throat!” His voice raised for all the Forn to hear.
“You speak as though these men’s lives do no matter to you. Are you so blind now that you have lost the will of your father?” Aradorn asked with a quiver.
Thaylor rubbed the handle of his father’s sword. “We are in an age where survival is no longer enough. We must have the upper hand in this world to keep what is rightfully ours.”
“These men are not slaves, but you treat them as such. I thought we banished those dark times long ago?” Aradorn scorned his king.
“I would suggest you bite your tongue, Aradorn.” Thaylor reached for the door behind him. “I need to meditate in my father’s shrine. Return to the castle, I must speak to the mountain alone.”
“Yes, my lord. I will not bother you of these petty matters anymore.”
“Good,” he answered, slamming the steel door behind him. He turned to the towering statue of his father, Oir. He reached for the torch at the side of the door and lit the stream of oil that wrapped around the room to the top of his father’s statue. The stone beard waved against his father’s chest. The resemblance was uncanny between Thaylor and his father.
He stepped forward across the black marble floors that looked like a fiery river from the flames in the oil. Thaylor stared at the sheathed sword in his father’s belt that he now possesses. His attention was drawn to the crown atop Oir’s head, which Thaylor has inherited as well. He knelt before the statue and pressed his forward onto the stone foot.
“It has been a decade since your final breath,” Thaylor said, looking up at the towering statue. “I do miss you dearly, my king. My rule has seen troubled times recently, and I only wish to find the strength you had during your reign.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I have lost my way and the mountain has blinded me of its blunders. I do not know how your heart was able to bear the burden of your peoples’ well-being.”
He stood to his feet, feeling the tears well up in his eyelids. His eyes burned and his head ached for a resolution.
“Show me the way, father!” he begged, but silence would be the only answer. The door rumbled behind him as stone and steel rubbed against each other. “What?” His shock was heard throughout the room as he turned to see one of his messengers at the door.
“My lord, a messenger from Alabass awaits your prompt appearance in the courtyard,” the man’s voice cracked in fear.
“I’ll be there in a moment. Thank you,” he answered, looking back towards the statue.
The door moaned shut as the noises echoed off all the walls. Thaylor wiped his eye and smiled at his father.
“Let’s hope the news you have sent is good for once.”
He left the shrine and closed the door behind him. The tunnels to the surface were long and narrow. Every step felt like a dagger digging into Thaylor’s heels, until he finally reached the exit. The air was fresh and a light breeze caressed his cheeks. He felt refreshed and ready to hear the messenger in his courtyard.
“Father, let this day be a blessing for my people and myself,” he said, looking up towards the sky.
He reached the courtyard, where a man remained hidden within the hood of his white cloak. The man remained seated at the stone bench, where the pedals of the roses behind him blackened. An eerie presence passed over Thaylor as he walked towards the man. His peace transpired into depression. He was suffocating from an evil lingering in the air, one that sat near his dead roses. One that cowered inside the white hood.
“What business do you bring to my court, messenger?” The annoyance in his voice shook the ground.
“Now, is that anyway to greet a guest?” the sinister voice hissed from the vacant opening of the hood.
“Joy was with me before I walked into this damned courtyard. It seems your presence kills more than just my queen’s bushes. It has glowered the very spirits that beckoned me to your call.” Thaylor walked passed him, standing tall at the wooden arch. “Now, on with your message so I can enjoy the rest of my day!” His beard flailed in the air as a gust of wind collided with his face.
“He-he, he said you would be ill tempered like your ancestors,” the messenger responded with a slight cackle.
“You do not refer to my ancestors without consulting the meaning of this meeting!” His thunderous roar could be heard across the valley.
“As you wish, King Thaylor, son of Oir. I have come with a message from my Lord Sargon. You may have heard his name before?”
“Sargon? A name like that would never reach my doors.”
“Do you not think his name is worthy of your time? Are you that ignorant with arrogance and stupidity that you do not realize a divine being when you hear and see it?” The messenger’s agitation echoed within a chuckle.
“Divine, you say? The only divine beings of this world are the dead. The ones’ whose names are scrolled in history and never forgotten. A man could never claim himself divine.”
“Oh, but you do not know Sargon then. He is divine and his reign will come crashing down on your walls soon enough, King.”
“Ha! Are you threating my reign as king? I would choose your words wisely, peasant!” He reached for his sword and clenched the handle as hate filled his heart.
“My life has just as much worth as these flowers. You cannot kill me, and you will not kill Sargon. Like I said, I am a mere messenger that has been sent to speak to all the tarnished kings of Eliptica,” the slither of his voice is ghostly in Thaylor’s ears.
“Tarnished, you say? Well, I think our meeting is over, swine. Guards take this filth and send him back to where he came from!” He demanded.
“I would not nod off my warning so quickly. Your reign will be surrendered or taken from you. Lord Sargon means to overthrow all kings. He just was courteous enough to warn all of you first.”
“You are more evil than the enchantment you have casted upon my garden. I tell you now your head will be the only message your king receives!” He ripped his father’s sword from his belt and let the sun beat its rays against its steel face. His blade cut into the neck of the hood, but no one was inside of the material. It was whisked off into the wind. “What sorcery is this?” he asked, looking back at the entrance of his courtyard.
“You fail to learn that you can’t kill what is already dead, Thaylor. You can only remain haunted by it until your own demise!” the messenger’s bone chilling laughter echoed a heavy gust of wind, tossing Thaylor on his back.
Thaylor looked around him in fright as he was helped back to his feet by his guards. A chill ran up his spine when he felt the wind run up his back like cold fingertips.
“Guards, report to your posts and sound the bell. War will be at our walls soon enough.”
Thaylor turned his attention to Aradorn, who appeared at the entrance of the courtyard.
“My lord, are you okay?” Aradorn’s concern was unnoticed by the king.
“Aradorn, let the council know I am on my way.”
“Yes, my lord. At once!” Aradorn ran back up Mount Argon to report to the five that counsel the king before a battle.