The Star Children Part 1: Serendipity

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Fantasy Realm


The Emperor and Maddox prepare to retrieve Commodore

Chapter 9 (v.1) - Chapter Nine: The King of Shadows

Submitted: September 11, 2019

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Submitted: September 11, 2019

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Chapter Nine: King of Shadows

 

The Walled City, Linnea

 

Emperor Lin stood before a roaring crowd, his demeanor as calm as ever.  The citizens of the Walled City jeered and howled; they only stopped throwing trash once the Emperor himself appeared.  They are such simple minded folk, Lin thought to himself, raising a hand and watching as the mob silenced instantly.  All they’ve done is get themselves hyped up for a spectacle.

 

“I wish I didn’t have to grant you all welcome,” he began, opening his arms in greeting.  The crowd muttered amongst themselves and bowed their heads, a sign of respect. The least they can do is that, but they care none the slightest about what’s to happen.  To be fair, neither do I.

 

“It is a day of mourning,” Lin continued.  “For this young Rebel…” He gestured to the bound and gagged man kneeling on the podium alongside him.  “...Will die today.”

 

The crowd continued twittering excitedly, but kept the tone down and as minimally somber as possible.  This was, after all, an execution of an enemy of the state.

 

We got lucky, Lin continued to think, moving gracefully to the side as the executioner approached with his block and axe.  This boy’s fairy power granted him a silver tongue of persuasion.  What he did not know-

 

THUNK

 

Was that all my high ranking officials are guarded safe by me.  Trying to persuade General to commit suicide? Look how it turned out for him.

 

 He snickered, watching guards rush forth to retrieve the head and body before the cheering crowd could get a hold of them and do Light knew what.  Disgusting, crawling creatures they were. Ready to follow his every command and he hadn’t even had to brainwash the vast majority of them. They just followed along to his every whimsy, not even questioning why he did what he did or what he could possibly be lying about.

 

They don’t need to know that I am the King of Shadows.  Nor what really happened with Paethos on the day my father perished.  When Everest and Adreale Leval attacked us. They just need to know that magic is to be feared and brought to me at all costs.  But that Maddox is a trusted ally who proved his worth when he struck down his own sister, the wife of the great High Mage.

 

 The cheers of the crowd became muffled as Lin slid into his carriage.  The driver knew to take them straight back to the castle, away from the execution grounds.

 

And of course, “them” being Lin and Maddox.

 

“You missed it,” Lin said, grinning wryly at his friend.  “That boy’s energy was delicious.”

 

“I’m glad you enjoyed yourself,” Maddox shrugged.  “It wasn’t easy getting him to go to General instead of the dungeons.  He was very much interested in those. I think he might be from the Hidden Cove sect.  Rumor has it a powerful magic man made his way there and joined up with the rebels.”

 

Lin frowned.  “Why am I just now hearing about this?  Do you think it could be Everest? Is he still hanging in there?”

 

“By a thread.  Relax.” Maddox waved him off.  “With the Star Children scattered plue the damage you did to him ten years ago, he’s basically harmless.”

 

“Ten years is a long time though,” Lin said.  “It took us ten years to find the Sylph. It’s ten years they’ve all had to connive and plot to seal me away again.”

 

“They know they risk exposure by interacting with one another.  I never told you exactly how we captured Lalia Leval.” The carriage ran over a rock and jostled the two men.  Maddox’s gaze intensified as he recounted the memory. “Two of them got too close to one another. Lian sensed it and through her trees, was able to give us a rough estimate of location.  We got there quicker than Lalia at least could escape. Lian is the real key to finding these creatures. It’s their own familiarity that will be their downfall.”

 

“Well then I’ll have to do something special for my beloved wife,” Lin chirped, clapping his hands together, eyes bright yet dark and soulless like the void.  “Keep her happy and you’ll keep me happy.”

 

Maddox snickered.  “Does she know you plan to kill her when the time is right?”

 

Lin shrugged.  “She’s hoping she can change my mind through ‘feelings’ and ‘love’ and whatnot but she at least wants to see the rest of Paethos go before her.  Ah, and speaking of Paethos, how goes getting rid of the ghost of your sister?”

 

A grimace bloomed on Maddox’s fair face and he brushed a black auburn lock out of his face.  “Not too good. I think she’s haunting Lian now. She never liked that Everest had children with other women.  But, Lian was before they were together, you know? She was just his apprentice back then. I was a little older than Lian was when they brought her home to the island.  She cried a lot having just lost her fairy mother to I believe your father when he started attempting to absorb fairy energy.”

 

Lin nodded in understanding.  “Rough childhood I know. She complains about it all the time.  The girl is half Linnean after all perhaps I can find a way to spare her in the end.  She is a nice play thing. But if it doesn’t work out then no big loss.”

 

The carriage pulled to a stop and the driver quickly opened the door to allow the two passengers to exit.  They hadn’t stopped at the castle yet. No, they were needed down by the docks. A special area of the docks.

 

The Dragon Paddocks.

 

The enormous creatures were chained and tethered, some unfortunate souls trying to feed them large slabs of meat for midday meal.  They always lost at least one person per meal. But what did his subjects care? They knew their duty and stuck with it. The losses did not matter.

 

He and Maddox, however, were not interested in the scaled beasts, but in their tamer, their leader.

 

“Have a report, Major?” Maddox called out to a crowd of armored riders loitering around the lounging area of the stable.  Away from meal time. 

 

One woman, dressed in violet garb, broke away from the crowd and rushed over to them, her armor clanking as she ran.  Her skin was tanned, yet peppered with even darker freckles. Her hair was dark and styled in a short bob. Her eyes one moment were blue, but then they changed to black, and then to green.

 

Silly fairy girl showing off, thought Lin as Major bowed deeply.  Has no idea what I plan to do with her later on down the road. 

 

“Sirs, I, regrettably have nothing to report.  No sign of the Phoenix on either the Black Plateau to Ferris’s south nor in the Siana Desert to its north.  Commodore is busy ruling out the middle as best as he can.” She stopped and looked down at the ground, blushing.  “That leaves the vast Kaihul Desert, Lamiya, and Naia as geographic and metropolitan centers.”

 

Lin nodded sagefully.  “Closer and closer we move.  Did the dragons pick up any scent?”
 

“Nothing at all.”

 

“Wonderful!  Then they were never there to begin with.”  Lin was genuinely happy. The Children were most likely getting complacent in their hiding spots.  Content and careless. Excellent.

 

Major looked nervously at her two superiors.  “Um…” she started, turning red again. “When will…  when will Commodore be back?” She wrung her hands together as she spoke.

 

Maddox clapped her on the shoulder, startling her.  “Good news for you is that I’m leaving in a few minutes to go get him.  We should be back within a week, maybe more, maybe less depending on what he’s found.”

 

A thought occurred to Lin and he locked eyes with Maddox.  “The seals?” 

 

“Freshly prime.  Not even Everest can get through them while I’m gone, if he even tries.”

 

The mage looked over at Major, his face dark.  “Not a word of this gets out, got that?”

 

She nodded.  She knew how to keep secrets.  It was how she kept her rank and her name after all.

 

Lin’s smile grew.  “Good, good,” he said.  “Now, I must see Maddox off at the docks.”

 

The two left Major with her corps, heading to the actual docks down by the sea.  Salt clung heavy in the air and Lin wrinkled his nose, mind unconsciously thinking of Maddox’s bad hand.  The fingers lost to a nasty bite from the shark-like teeth of the Naiad. The boy had just seen his mother murdered and righteously lashed out at her killer.

 

Laughing inwardly, Lin thought about how most people believed the Naiad a woman, from stories older than the Children themselves.  How wrong they were… but Lin knew and Maddox knew and that was all that really mattered.

 

Let them have their fantasies he thought.  The truth will be revealed about all soon enough anyways.  We’re close enough the other Children I can almost smell them.

 

Wait. 

 

He could smell a Child, but it was not one of the ones he was looking for.

 

Lian loitered near the docks, arms wrapped around herself and looking very haggard.  Lilacs bloomed at her feet releasing their perfume into the air to mix with the salt and brine.

 

“Lian!” Lin cooed, rushing forward to embrace her.  She clung back and he couldn’t help but notice the bags underneath her electric green eyes.  “What is wrong, my love?”

She looked over her shoulder at Maddox and scowled.  “It’s her,” she spat.  “She hasn’t left me alone since Lalia’s prison break.  I thought she was bound to you but turns out we’re both the same in her eyes.”

 

Maddox shrugged.  “Can’t really help you there,” he said.  “I’m leaving anyways, so you’ll have to bear with her presence.”

 

At Lin’s questioning look, Maddox sighed and rubbed between his eyes.  “The ghost of Adreale Leval, the one only Lian and I can see, has been acting up.  I’m sure she had something to do with the Sylph’s near escape recently. I’ll look more into banishing her from this plane of existence when I get back.  Despite that hiccup, she’s mostly just been annoying, loitering and making noises only we can hear.”

 

Lin’s eyes narrowed.  He was Darkness Incarnate and here was some little ghost that managed to avoid his gaze.  Oh yes, he’d definitely have to have a talk with Maddox about this when he got back. But for now…

 

The boat was primed and ready, the poor fodder sailors saluting while Maddox bowed and walked into the deck.

 

“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he called at the gangplank was lifted and the anchor hoisted.

 

Lian and Lin waved at him as the boat sailed out onto the horizon before turning back and heading towards the carriage.  The empress clung to her husband’s arm tightly, resting her head on his bicep.

 

“How was the execution?” she asked.

 

“It went well, my love.”  Lin kept his answer short and clipped, not really paying attention to her.  He had bigger fish to fry on his mind, and so he let her prattle on and on.

 

Not even seeing the woman trailing behind them, a determined and angered look in her electric green eyes.

 


© Copyright 2019 Laurel Kitty Lee. All rights reserved.

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