The Raven: Ascension (Part 5)

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: October 11, 2016

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Submitted: October 11, 2016

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Chapter 5

Raven

The Fox and Hound Inn was a small, well kept establishment on the banks of the lazy River Frieden. The inn had much larger stables attached to it and a remarkably detailed sign portraying two men fighting swung just above the white wooden door. But the most important feature of this inn, to me at least, was that it truly sat right in the middle of nowhere. All you could see, for miles around, was an endless expanse of green fields, a couple of trees, the river and the pale cobbles of the road that followed it all the way to Northgate. Against the setting sun, the area looked like a scene from paradise.

 

I led my horse forwards. She was a well bred mare who’s hair was granite except for a splash of white on her back right thigh. Attached to her flanks were two leather bound trunks, filled with a mixture of spare clothes and weaponry. On my persons I only carried a carolingian sword, its hilt solid gold and encrusted with precious stones, and a zigzag pattern kris knife. It’s blade was made of extremely rare astral iron that had been recovered from a meteorite while the small pommel had words of some extinct language carved into the griffin bone it was made of. Though reasonably small, the knife was extremely tough and sharp and had several magical runes infused with the metal before magic had disappeared.

 

As I neared, a stable boy came sprinting out. He looked to be around sixteen and was dressed in ragged clothing. It looked like his eyes and ears were too large for his head.

 

“Raven Darkfire?” he asked, bowing.

 

I was dressed very richly in a pale blue doublet over a similarly coloured long sleeved shirt. A cape of turquoise silk was draped over one shoulder and a shimmering dolphin of shining silver thread had been sown into it. A pair of black trousers kept me from being indecent. They were cut off at the waist by a loose fitting belt of coal leather.

 

“Yes.” I answered.

 

“I’m here to look after your horse, my lord.”
 

“Very well.” I swung myself down from my mount and handed the boy the reigns. “See that she’s fed and watered. Leave the trunks, they stay on. Do not open them. If I find out that you have, I will flay you myself.”

 

“I won’t milord. I ain’t no thief. Just ask me mother.” blurted the boy, paling slightly.

 

I ignored him and pushed open the door to the inn. It took my eyes a couple of seconds to adjust to the changing light but I could still hear the low muttering of conversations. Before me stretched one room that seemed to make up the entirety of the downstairs. Sets of chairs and round, wooden tables were dotted around a semi-circular bar, behind which stood hundreds of exotic bottles and a massively obese bartender. A serving girl of about fourteen years carried drinks from table to table.

 

A few of the men sitting at the tables saw me as I entered and the talk gradually stopped. Their hair was waist length and each strand had a silvery-white colouring. Their bodies were covered in jagged armour with huge shoulder plates made of dull silver and grey steel. Curved blades attached to belts lay discarded next to wooden stools.

 

“You’re Lord Darkfire?” the bartender called. For pity’s sake, why did everyone know who I was?

 

“I am.” I answered, studying the man's chin hair and flabs while I did so.

 

“I was told to send you in there, my lord.” he said, pointing to a side door.

 

Interesting.

 

I moved towards the door and opened it. Inside was a rectangular oak table with four chairs on each side, of which three were occupied. The first was a tall, muscular man, identical to the ones outside. Scars crisscrossed his right cheek while the left was tattooed with characters that  I recognised as Immortas, the language of the Immortal Islands. The second person was also male, but he was a lot darker with chestnut skin a egg smooth head and pale blue eyes. He was dressed in the night black of a Wraith. Two swords were strapped to his back, the pommels sticking up over his head. Exotic incense clung to the third man, a great hunk of fat smothered in rich furs. A snow white beard sprouted from his chubby face and the hairs closest to his mouth and nose vibrated with each wheezing breath.

 

The Wraith shot up as soon as I entered, the Immortal Islander rose much slower and the fat man didn’t even bother.

 

“You are Kaspar?” I asked the Wraith.

 

“ Yes my lord” he said. “I am Erich Konis. It is an honour to serve you. I have heard much of your exploits.”

 

“So has everyone next door. How is it they all know my name and who I am?”

 

“You assured me that you wouldn’t tell anyone.” Erich said to the Immortal Islander. “That no one would know who he was. You swore that your word was iron.”

 

The scars on the Islander’s face disappeared as it creased into a sneer;

 

“This one's word is indeed iron.” he said, his voice as soft as a snake's hiss “Ask anyone on Immos and they shall tell you the Llyrio Savage’s word is his bond. However, the same cannot be said of my men. I am not to blame if they overheard us.”

 

“Enough of this gentlemen, please.”

 

We all looked at the fat man. He outstretched a chubby hand, with more rings on it than I cared to count, towards me.

 

“Lord Darkfire is here now. That is all that matters. Please, be seated my lord.”

 

I sat in the one remaining chair, which was coincidently the closest to the door.

 

“Now then.” the pile of blubber went on “Allow me to introduce myself, seeing as both Erich and Llyrio have; I am Grand Duke Kaspar von Gutteren Marcus Niedhal of Brungas, Grand High Lord Minister of Architecture and brother to His Imperial Majesty Konig Ulrich the thirty seventh.”

So the Zaharek did have the ear of the king after all.

 

“I am pleased to meet you all.” I said.

 

“The pleasure is ours.” Llyrio said with a smile about as appealing as a sack full of adders.

 

“Before we start, gentlemen, I hope you do not object to me ordering a tankard of wine for us to share.”

 

“Llyrio Savage never refuses a drink.”

 

“I can imagine” Erich muttered. He gave me a mischievous look and I allowed myself to smile slightly.

 

“Tender” barked Kaspar, his voice like the rolling of the waves. “ A tankard of your finest if you please. Be smart about it now.”

 

“Yes my lord.” came the meek reply. Moments later the serving girl entered with a tray balanced neatly on her palm. From it she took a enormous silver jug that appeared to be bottomless and placed four chalices in front of each of us. I noticed that she never once looked any of us directly in the eye and seemed to be in a rush when she silently closed the rooms door.

 

Reaching over, I grabbed the tankard and filled each cup to the brim. Kaspar snatched his up worryingly fast and drained it so quickly that I had to fill it again. Llyrio swigged until his was half empty while Erich opted to have a few quick sips before pushing his chalice away. I left mine untouched.

 

“Let us begin” said Kaspar, wiping a single red bead off the corner of his mouth with the back of his sleeve. “Lord Darkfire, what exactly has the Zaharek told you?”

 

“I’m to somehow infiltrate the festival at Kranriver and assassinate a couple of treacherous Tivian nobles and a rebel Elmorian before they organise some sort of support for the Elmorian rebel movement.”

 

“But you don’t know who you’re killing?”

 

I felt myself smiling evilly.

 

“I take it that's what you’re here for, Lord Niedhal.” I said.

 

“Yes and no.”

Slowly and deliberately, Kaspar lent down, picked up some sort of pile from beside his chair and handed it to Erich who handed it to me. Half a dozen pieces of brown paper, kept in place by two lengths of white string.

 

“These are portraits of your targets.” the moving mountain of blubber explained. “Each comes with a brief description of them. The person we suspect to be the rebel leader is at the bottom.”

 

My targets were a varied bunch to say the least.

 

“Count Ellis von Torg of Elsridge.” I read aloud “Countess Kristine Sandberg of Myken. Baron Leopold Dallmeyer of Bad Dembach. Baron Marius von Zeinert of Klings. Sir Manfred Cast of Wolsdorf. Lady Roisia of House Lysander, Marquisa of Mont Saint Michelle. All very influential people I presume?”

 

“Indeed. Count von Torg is in fact Lord High Minister of Ordnance and Sir Manfred is a hero of the Great Dwarf war. Both are well respected figures in Tivian society. Why would they want to side with an Elmorian rebel and risk losing everything?”

 

“Elsridge and Klings are near the Tivian-Elmorian border, correct?” I asked.

 

“Correct.”

 

“Where are Myken, Bad Dembach and Wolsdorf?”

 

“Wolsdorf is a couple of miles east of Klings. Myken and Dembach are in Waarland, a few miles from the border.”

 

“So it’s likely that these five have somehow been persuaded by this…. Lady Lysander? That its in their best social  interest to aid her rebel movement.”

 

“In return they get power and titles they could only dream of in Tivia.” chipped in Erich. I nodded gravely.

 

“This is all very interesting.” Llyrio said with a forced yawn “But what exactly does this have to do with me and my men?”

 

Erich straightened. It was quite clear that he didn’t have a particularly high opinion of our mercenary captain.

 

“As you all know, my brother is holding a month long festival at Kranriver castle.” began Kaspar. “Though I’ve been invited I will unfortunately be unable to attend as I have to oversee the building of a string of fortresses along the border with Vinland. However, imagine my joy when I came across a prince of the Immortal Isles currently touring the continent with his personal bodyguards and he accepts my invitation to the festival.”

 

“Won’t it look suspicious if we turn up with your invitation?”

 

“Not really. Ulrich knows that I’m not one for large gatherings. On my brothers eighteenth birthday I hid away in the palace library and spent the night reading. Nowadays I normally give my invitations to those who would enjoy such events.”

 

“So we’re to act as bodyguards then?”

 

Llyrios voice was full of scorn.

 

“It is merely a facade I assure you. Though royal events are protected by the Imperial Guard almost all those who attend bring their own force of a dozen or so knights to protect themselves on the road. Most will joust in the tourney. Besides, I’m sure the infamous Llyrio Savage and his men would hate it to be known that they missed a whole month of eating, drinking and fighting.”

 

It must be said that Kaspar had a way with words. A wicked grin spread across Llyrio’s face like a cancer.

 

“You are right to assume so. But it would be better if it was a month of eating, drinking, fighting AND whoring.”

 

“I’m sure something can be arranged.”

 

“Good. But it has just occurred to me that there is a small flaw in your plan Darkfire.”

 

“Is it the fact that I don’t look anything like an Immortal Islander?” I asked.

 

“Yes. It will look somewhat suspicious to say the least if a black haired “prince” turns up with a company of white haired warriors when everyone knows that Immortal Islanders have either white or blonde hair. And as brilliant as your lapdog here claims your precious order is, I highly doubt that even you can find a way to make this work.”

 

“I disagree.”

 

All eyes turned to Erich. Sometime while me and Llyrio were talking he had lined up two glass vials on the table before him. One contained a ruby red liquid and the other a green one.

 

“What the fuck are they?”

 

“These, my lords, are alternation potions.” He picked up the red vial. “What this one will do, once Lord Darkfire has drank it of course, is it will change his hair from the pure black it is now to a ravishing shade of blonde. And it will remain so until he drinks this delicious looking green potion, whereupon it will change back.”

 

It was interesting to watch Llyrio digest this new information. When he was thinking, his head bobbed up and down like a dogs.

 

“It could work.” The islander conceded “The nobility normally have blonde hair anyway. Yes, I do believe it could work.”

 

“Of course it will work.”

 

“Then that’s settled.” I declared. “Is there anything else?”

 

“If I may provide some additional information my lord…..”

 

Kaspar paused as he pulled something else from beside him. Something also made of several pieces of paper but each was much larger than the profiles and rolled into cylindrical shape.

 

“Kranriver Palace is, essentially, two parts. The first is the keep and inner wall of an ancient fortress made of plain old granite and makes up the east wing of the palace . The second is much newer and larger and incorporates the rest of the castle. That section was built by Maximilian the fourth, also known as the Cowardly. It seems his constant paranoia about being murdered influenced his design choices. His architectural plans were found in the Grand Library of Tavok and they show that dear old Max had a network of secret tunnels built into the walls. They run across the entire complex, including the keep, and have several exits and entrances. They should allow you to move around the castle unseen if you so wish. Most of the rooms have an entrance but if you’re put in one that does not I’m sure that you can find a way to enter one that does.”

 

“This information should come in very handy.” I said, taking the plans from Kaspar. “Anything else?”

 

No one said anything.

 

“Good. I don’t know about you but I’m starving. Hey barkeep. Cook us some food and be quick about it.”

 


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