The Roaring Bear
Alya stared down a long, broad throne room torpidly. The walls were painted a golden brown glimmering in the beaming light and the floor was planked with slabs of red and grey marble. The ceiling was high, painted and enameled with a god’s figure sailing over the world. Swimming through the airy clouds with ease and delight. Giant, hulking pillars and columns ran down the length of the monstrous room starting with the front gate and ending on the sweeping back wall. Red vines curled up the immense tan marble, running up onto the ceiling and stretching out across the entire ceiling like veins in ones body.
A large dais sat at the back of the hall, steps leading up to a grand throne the size of a giant. The backboard was encrusted with jewels and crystals, rubies, sapphires, jades, amethysts, the whole lot. Balls of pure gold riveted the curving handrails, and the seat was hard and bitter, though satisfying. Behind the beastly throne, draped down the tall wall a silken, purple banner embroidered with a red and brown roaring bear. Spiking out of the bear’s maw a golden crown was clasped in the vicious jaws; the House of Harrin’s great and famed sigil.
A large, meaty man with a round bulging belly and a great, black beard sat in the throne. Fastened atop his straggly deep brown hair a golden crown gleamed in the beam of light that blazed through the stained windows that ran along the halls. The crown was beaded with amethysts, the purple in favor of the sigil. The lord wore a silken green shirt underneath a brown leather coat; a frame of red boarded the edges. Large round balls of gold fastened the leather together. The man’s gut threatened to break through their hold and explode out of the stifling leather. His sweaty, vexed face was plump and red, and he had a short rounded nose. He had been shouting. His deep, brazen voice boomed through the hall like a horn. Beneath his lined forehead and thick black brows, beady brown eyes narrowed in frustration. It was Alya’s father, Warden of the South, Lord Barris Harrin.
Seated beside him was his Lady Katlyn of the northern Crowned City Daro. Following her elegant curves, a thin dress of fine grey silk fell and rose along her body. Her golden hair was tightly tied into a large, thread ball on the top of her head. Her grey eyes were mysterious and cunning. They locked onto her husband piercingly with iron claws as she watched her lord rage down the hall. Alyn sat beside her mother in a small wooden chair fixed with plush, purple pillows tied to the legs with gold thread. She loathed attending her father’s throne seatings, the politics behind the running of a city. Though one day she was to be a Lady and rule, her father incessantly told her. But the truth was, even though Alya dared not say it, she did not want to be a lady or a princess. She wanted to ride on horseback and travel through the land. Ride up through the Crowned Cities, Dorn, Carvenhill, Jetta, the icy peaks of the Borgroth Mountains, see the glistering Sea of Arun and all its beauty. Ride her horse across the fields of Dorlath and through the golden woods of Aedor. The world was so large and grand and in front of her, though she was here. She rested her head on her hand, her long strands of white hair cascading over her beautiful face. She dreamed of herself standing atop a snowy precipice, her hair whipping against her face.
Her fathers defiant voice shouted out again, directed to a slender peasant clothed in a tattered brown tunic. The man trembled warily as he lay before the king shackled and on his beaten knees. “IN THE NAME OF THE KING!” Lord Harrin bellowed. “SILENCE!” And the entire throne room was consumed by a soundless quite, dead noise beginning to ring in the ears. His diminutive eyes appeared smaller in his fiery rage. “Please, Master Bailin, can you stand forth and read me this man’s offences.” At his words, a tall, elderly man stepped forward from behind the quavering peasant. His black and purple enameled armor glistened in the spiked blades of sunlight. A flowing purple cape writhed along his back as he walked along the marble floor. Sewn into the fabric a red bear roared its defiance in honor and valor of the Lord in which he served and protected.
As he unfastened his black helm, he brought out a long sheet of parchment and unraveled it so it collapsed onto the floor. Master Bailin’s hair was the color of snow and the lines that cut deep into his cheeks and forehead enhanced his age. His ravaged brows prickled over his chocolate brown eyes. He coughed into his gauntleted arm and began. “October 13, of the year 3896, decreed by the high priest of Ellinmore in the South of Tacora and the Seven Great Cities, held by the-” He was cut off by the Lord’s brusque voice as he labored upon his throne. “Enough of this.” He ordained. “I care not of the titles and location. Tell me the offence in a futile manner. I have no need of these frailties.”
“Yes, My Lord.” Said Bailin, bowing.
“I am not your Lord, Master Bailin.” Corrected Berris. “Surly your long years have taught you your titles. I had thought better of you when I took you in my court. I am your King, needed you forget. You refer to me as Your Grace.”
“Yes, my Grace.” Bailin said, dropping his aged head. “I am truly sorry for my misjudgment.”
“There is no need to be sorry, Master, just promise me you will remember.” Lord Harrin said loudly.
Master Bailin nodded briefly and ran his finger down the yellow parchment, his eyes scanning for the offence. He glanced up briefly at Lord Harrin and back down to the account of crime. “Samuel T. Rilly, son of Gregon Rilly, peasant of Alethar is here by convicted of attacking and assaulting an officer of the highguard. It is documented that Samuel T. Rilly, while planting a grove of wine bushes in the gardens of the East Walk assaulted sir Nielor Gyrinfe who told the peasant the gardens were forsaken by use of unauthorized citizens. Samuel, armed with a dagger, managed to attack the guard. Sir Gyrinfe unarmed the man and brought him to justice and the highcourt.”
“Liar!” The shivering peasant shouted, the word ringing through the throne room. Almost instantly, Lord Harrin rose from his throne, his immense figure the size of a grown bear. “How dare thee speak in the King’s throne room unless spoken to.” Samuel cowered under his tattered clothes, hiding his face from the seething Lord. “Master Bailin, I have heard enough of this rash, foolish peasant.” Snarled Berris. “Escort him to the Block, I will meet you there. He must learn for his heedless, misguided outburst.” Master Bailin nodded in response, daring not to object and stooped over the hunched and sobbing peasant. His pained cries amplified through the vast room as he was dragged out of the gilded throne room and out of the massive iron doors.
Alya followed the weeping man with her elegant, mysterious eyes until he disappeared behind the immense doors. They shut with a low, sonorous thunder. She glanced up at her father; she could see the color returning to his face. His rage was beginning to subside. She could faintly discern his mutterings under his breathe, “Fool.” He continued to say to himself. Alya knew when the man had walked in he had no chance of survival. Every man that entered the throne room under charge ended up on the Block. She grieved for the poor man as he was merely dragged into the hall.
Alya peered up at the painting across the ceiling. The rich colors vivid and breathe taking. She wondered whether Allinor wanted his people to be like this, so uncivil about matters. She wondered if some day Allinor would come down from the heavens and snatch up all the cruel men for their wrong doings. She remembered vaguely a conversation between Yari, her caretaker when she was younger that Allinor would perform such an act. The only question was when.
Her father hefted himself from his grand throne and waddled, for his stomach was to big, over to one of his guards. Handing a piece of paper over, he swept his beady gaze to sir Illon, of the highguard. “Bring me Saber from my commons. It is fastened atop a hook on the wall and meet me in the Courtyard of the Frail.” He patted Illon’s shoulder and shuffled away, his leather boots clopping against the marble like horse hooves.
When the hall was emptied and the throne lay barren, the crowd gathered in the lush, verdant Courtyard of the Frail, gathered around a high platform in the center of the tan stone ground. High columns rose out of the floor and up into the air, their tops a pedestal for large wrought iron oil lanterns. Though no fire flickered in their hearts for it was a beautiful afternoon, the sky stretched with streaks of thin misty clouds. Shadows cast down from the high pillars and blades of darkness fell over the crowd.
Standing atop the crumbling stone platform the whimpering peasant shuttered on his blackened knees. A thick, black cloth was wrapped tightly around his face and was stuffed into his mouth. He was clenched by a pair of burly guardsmen with black and red enameled plated armor. Their grasp was unrelenting and stiff. Their faces were hidden behind gleaming mail and spiked red helms. As Alya entered through the tall, swooping archway and under the tangled green vines of summer’s grace, she bustled through the crowd to stand behind a pillar. She could not bear to see what was to happen.
From behind the ribbed pillar, she watched with one eye her father, now clad in golden mail and a brown leather breast coat, walk up the few iron bound steps and up onto the platform. As he walked tediously, he struggled to fit his tight leather gloves over his pudgy, paw-like hands. Following closely behind him, sir Illon strode swiftly across the narrow pathway of people to the raised platform. Lying across his plated arms, a greatsword was sheathed in a red, iron scabbard, tiny brown engravings laced down the enamel. Gesturing to the guards who held the peasant, her father turned his back and motioned for his sword, Saber.
Sir Illon kneeled and outstretched the sheath, hilt and pommel directed towards Alya’s father, Lord Harrin. With ease, Berris slid the greatsword out of its scabbard; the sound of iron scraping against iron consumed the open-aired courtyard. Tipping the hilt of Saber, the pommel was the shape of a curved tooth, gilded and gleaming in the beaming light. Along the flat of the grand iron blade, the words Might is Rule, the famed words of House Harrin glinted in the summer sun. Turning on the peasant, Alya’s father heaved the mighty greatsword with both hands, his muscles bulging.
Alya glanced back at the shivering peasant, straining against his bonds, his arms struggling to move. He sat there, death looming before him. Alya wondered what he was thinking. She wondered what it was like to stare death in the eyes. The guards who held him now lugged the man to a stone block and tipped his head over the edge, holding the man’s back down with monstrous vigor and strength. Lord Berris walked to the side of the man, staring down at his exposed neck. Alya knew it was coming. She prepared herself to not look. The small peasant’s eyes bulged as her father shouted out with his booming voice, “Your spike awaits Samuel T. Rilly, offender of the King. Let death take you and let justice be given.” And he brought the immense blade down upon his neck with one clean, fluid stroke so fast the blade could not be seen. Alya whipped her head away from the scene, tears beginning to stream down her face. She did not understand.
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