Alec cursed as the branch whipped across his face he stumbled as he ran, momentarily distracted by the brief sting of pain, his hands chained by heavy manacles, moved forward to regain his balance and prevent him falling, he continued running, he knew that if he stopped he would die, the Dahl hunting party chasing him would kill him and take his body back as a warning to the other slaves.
A loud howling caused him to freeze a feeling of cold washed over him, they had a Drak-ma-har chasing him, he knew that outrunning it was impossible as was any chance of killing it, he needed somewhere to hide, he turned and continued running, crashing through the bushes and undergrowth, he burst suddenly into a clearing in which three tall figures garbed in scarlet robes stood.
For a moment neither alec nor the magicians moved, then Alec sensing something behind dove forward, the pursuing Drak-ma-har diving through the spot he had just been stood, one of the magicians made a dismissive gesture with one hand a bundle of vines bursting from the trees to ensnare the enraged creature.
The other two magicians moved forward grasping Alec under his arms and with a curt nod to the other magician disappeared.
Bat-Handu swallowed nervously as he glanced around the entrance hall to the palace of Val-von he was awaiting an audience with the high priest of the Dahl. He looked at the two guards flanking him, he knew he had failed, knew that the high priest would be displeased, and knew that he was about to be punished.
The grand doors opened as a small eunuch scurried out gesturing for Bat-Handu and his escort to follow him as he led them back through the grand doors and into the Grand Cavern of the Palace, it was an immense room the ceiling so high that a fully grown golden dragon, could stand on it's hind legs and still have head room, the ceiling itself was held up by a series of solid crystal pillars so large that Bat-Handu would only be able to encompass an 8th of the pillars circumfrence if he had his arms outstretched.
At the far end of the hall at the end of a golden carpet was a dais with five golden thrones placed upon it, on the centre throne sat the high priest of Til-anat, as they approached he raised his hand signalling them to stop.
"Honourable Bat-Handu you were dispatched along with your older brother to track, capture and execute the escaped slave Alecitus" he paused "Am I correct in assuming that by the absence of his body that you failed? Tell me . . . how did a mancled human slave manage to escape from you, an elite ranger and hunter" the high priests voice had steadily began to rise in volume and pitch "TELL ME HOW!" the high priest screamed at him spittle flying from his mouth.
Bat-Handu prostrated himself before the high priest, as a heir apparent to a noble house he was afforded some protection from the punishments of the priesthood, no sane person would risk such an insult to his father, but the high priest was rapidly making it clear he was no longer sane.
"Me and my trackers followed his trail for three days accompanied by one of my trained Drak-ma-har we found it bound by vines in a clearing" he paused "one of my trackers is mage touched and he could sense the presence of Kair magic."
The high priest looked down at him in disbelief before waving his hand dismissivly
"We do not wish to hear your excuses, you failed in your task and as such you must be punished" he paused before raising his voice magically enhancing it so that it could be heard throughout the dahl empire "Hear my words and obey for mine are the words and will of Til-anat" he looked down at Bat-Handu "the house of handu is hearby proclaimed guilty of treason and consipiring with an escaped slave to the detriment of the empire, the house is hearby stripped of all it's titles and priveliges and is no longer to be considered a part of this great empire"
Bat-handu stared at the high priest in disbelief his mouth hanging open, no great house had ever been exiled from the empire, he knew that even now the lords of the other noble houses would be planning on how to claim his lands, deep in thought he failed to see the high priest signal to one of the guards, he felt the crack of the guards halberd across the back of his neck and then darkness swallowed him.