The Lost Prince: Part II – The Seeds of Tyranny

The Lost Prince: Part II – The Seeds of Tyranny

Over the following weeks, I started to see a devastating truth to the Necromancer’s words. Barnabus started ferrying me from Regan’s house to Ashuron, to attend Midon’s newly established Council of Ashenmore. According to Barnabus, this was supposed to be a temporary measure, until a new ruler of Ashenmore was decided. Regan was also invited but, of course, she refused this offer.

And so, I bore witness to the increasingly dictatorial actions of this new Council. Some of the changes implemented by the Lower Nobility, whilst it made me uncomfortable, could at least be justified. Lysander had command of the largest portion of troops out of the entire Council and, since Tamburlaine’s demise, he had requested his daughter, Lady Lalia, to send many more hundreds of reinforcements. His men patrolled every spare corner of Ashenmore’s capital, ensuring that all citizens strictly adhered to the rules of the Council’s new quarantine, and defending the city gates from any more hordes of the undead. I also saw the shutting down of trade and fishing, and the gradual decline of communication between Ashenmore’s cities. These changes to the governance of Ashenmore were waved through the Council with barely even a flicker of contention.

Of course, as the days bled into one another, more and more decisions were passed through the Council that I began to take issue with. The first instance of this was the mass desecration of graves proposed by Count Lysander. I was not the only one to object to this. Two other members of the Lower Nobility, the Lords Morthin and Loran, agreed with my objections that the destruction of every burial ground, and the mutilation of all bodies along the south-eastern coast of Ashenmore would be sacrilegious, not to mention a vile insult to the families of the dead. Midon growled throughout my objections, fingering his silver weapon. I found my thoughts flashing back to Lazrilus’ warning. Mercifully, Lysander raised a hand to silence his fellow nobleman.

“Demetrius,” sighed Lysander, “of course, this is not a decision I have come to lightly. In order to take precautions against the dead, we have to risk upsetting the living. We have control of things for now – but how long will that last? I understand your necromancer friend is being very-ah-tight-lipped as to why resurrecting those sailors from Diamox resulted in hordes of undead, rising up across the coast? From my limited research on cases of necromancy in the Rarthun Empire, I always thought that it was necessary for an undead creature to scratch or bite someone in order to pass on their infection-but, that’s necromancy for you gentlemen,” Lysander shook his head, “a menace as unpredictable as it is deadly. Which is why we must take every course of action to eradicate its impact from our shores.”

My stomach turned as Lysander rambled on.

He was a tall, painfully thin man with long, gaunt cheeks and long, snow-white hair. His lips were a pale blue and his fingers had taken on a frail, bloodless quality. His visage and colour were unlike anyone else’s across Ashenmore. Rumour had it that this colourless appearance of his stemmed from Lysander being captured by the Vomorans during the Siege of Valos – the longest, bloodiest and most brutal battle in the entire Vomoran War. As a veteran of this war, and that siege in particular, I can attest to its bloodiness. It wasn’t the appearance of Lysander that made my stomach churn, nor the relaxed way with which he spoke about digging up and tearing apart the bodies of hundreds, if not thousands of our fellow people, but the manner with which he insinuated I was somehow a friend of Lazrilus. I watched as several pairs of large, anxious eyes turned my way at the mention of the necromancer. Lysander was turning the Lower Nobles into his subjects, even as he answered my question.

I bowed my head at him, indicating I agreed with his answer.

Midon removed his fingers from his weapon.

Terrible though this was, the ravaging of our burial grounds paled in comparison to what happened next. Since its formation, the Council of Ashenmore became increasingly reliant on supplies from our southern towns, most of which had been ravaged by the undead hordes and the riots generated from the deaths of the Inner Nobility. Of course, Lysander’s daughter continued to send supplies of food and medicine alongside her Father’s reinforcements but most of these went straight to the bloated army that shrouded the formerly great city of Ashuron. The people, on the other hand, were largely left without aid – until, that is, Baron Midon ordered the smaller coastal towns to begin sending a small portion of their crops up Asha’s Pass to the capital. Most of these diminutive towns were more than happy to help restore order to the heart of Ashenmore, with one exception. Ariadon, a tiny, tiny fishing village on the very tip of our southern border, responded to Midon’s request with a fear-stricken and pleading refusal.

Demetrius

The village’s governor, a Cleric of Ahasathoth called Brother Zorin, declared that a third of Ariadon’s population had fallen to the strange necrotic plague – with many more being slain in the ensuing battle against their undead neighbours. Brother Zorin and a battalion of the village’s militia had been forced to herd the shambling, disease-ridden corpses onto the village’s fleet of ships, before setting the ships alight to eradicate both the undead marauders and the enigmatic pestilence. This had saved the village, but it had left them without any ability to fish for sustenance, and so the village was forced, night and day, to send little parties of men and women out to forage and hunt for food in the surrounding countryside. Ariadon was scarcely scraping together enough food for its own dwindling population. They certainly had nothing to spare for Ashuron.

I listened to this news along with the rest of the Council. The Lower Nobles looked to one another, a faint ripple of perturbance spreading throughout the room. One question passed through thirty-seven heads, in the blink of an eye-what was to be done about Ariadon. I raised my palm to speak. Midon indicated that I had permission to do so. I told the Council that, as far as I was concerned, we should withdraw our request for resources from Ariadon – indeed, if anything, I declared, we should send a contingent of soldiers with clothes and medicine to Brother Zorin and the survivors. Lord Morthin agreed with me and, I could tell by the faint nodding of heads and rubbing of chins coming from several other noblemen that there was some sympathy for this course of action within the Council. Morthin rose to his feet, holding the table to steady himself. Morthin was a very old man, with a withered, hairless dome for a skull and skeletal, emaciated lips. My heart went out to the old nobleman. Morthin had lost all seven of his sons and two of his daughters during the Vomoran War, with half of them dying during the final hours of the Siege of Valos. Morthin hailed from the western coast and, like Lysander, had come to Ashuron out of a sense of duty. Under normal circumstances, he would have been settling into a twilight of retirement, not deliberating on dwindling supplies amidst the ruins of a nation, brought about by that damned fool, Tamburlaine.

“Of course, my good Lords,” rasped Morthin, “I understand that sacrifices must be made under times of… hardship. And these are… times of hardship. Still. I think that Demetrius… speaks with good sense… this Council has been hoarding too much for too long. Ashuron is secure. Lysander’s men have seen to that… but… what of the rest of the coast. I’ve been receiving reports… terrible reports… bandits roaming the beaches… Clerics abandoning their temples… We should go to Ariadon’s aid. Yes. Help Brother Zorin…”

With these words, Morthin sank back into his seat. As soon as his twisted back met the wood of his chair, Midon leapt to his feet.

“My good lords,” barked Midon, “I’m all for showing sympathy to our struggling neighbours but, sympathy does not mean we abandon our position of strength. I’ve also been getting reports, Morthin. Of sedition. I have heard from several of my agents that some of our fellow nobles have intentions to take advantage of this crisis to try and declare independence from Ashenmore and set up their own putrid states. When I set up this Council, I requested the presence of the sixty members of the Lower Nobility across the South-East and Western coasts. We have half that number. Were they all killed by the Vomoran’s plague? I don’t think so. Our neighbours in the north have also been suspiciously silent. So, we have the entire Onyx Forest against us, and ripples of treachery spreading across the South-East – granted, yes, I’m assuming the worst but if my experiences of war have taught me anything, it’s to assume the worst. If it weren’t for Lysander’s daughter sending us aid from Crelos, this city would have fallen long ago! I agree that we should send soldiers to Ariadon. And medicine to, why not – but we should also send them a warning. When we make a request for supplies, we expect that request to be fulfilled. And if Zorin cannot organise his people well enough to meet this request then we should relieve him of the burden of leadership-”

“Hold on!” I cried, “Brother Zorin, I am sure, is doing the best he can. And he’s managed to do it without resorting to the same oppressive tactics that we have! My good lords, look at what we’ve been reduced to? Soldiers stalk every corner, men and women cower in their homes, our neighbours whimper as we strip them of every crumb and scrap of cloth… this Council was supposed to be a temporary measure, until we successfully appointed a new ruler of Ashenmore. Ashenmore needs a new king or queen-”

“Why?” spat Midon. A whisper of suppressed gasps swept through the room. Morthin looked up at the Baron from beneath his wispy, chestnut eyebrows. It wasn’t a challenging look, more one of resignation. Evidently, the ancient Lord was not surprised by this outburst from Midon. My heart sank. Lazrilus, Morthin – was I the only one that had remained ignorant as to the Baron’s intentions?

“Let me tell you this,” hissed Baron Midon. Lysander rose from his seat, perhaps in an attempt to silence his friend, but was dismissed with a furious wave of Midon’s gauntleted hand, “this whole mess-the undead, the demolition of the Inner Nobility, the widespread panic…all of it comes from the fact that we let a stupid, arrogant child take the most powerful position in the land, let him bully and berate us for months on end, and let him dabble with forbidden magic. And Tamburlaine has not been the only time that we’ve let a bad ruler govern Ashenmore into ruination. We’ve all had to learn about the madness of Princess Ilya, as children. And what about Tamburlaine’s Father? That blasted fool-against my advice, was too soft on the Vomorans and, because of that, we had to endure two invasion attempts and the disaster on Valos… not again! I have no intention of letting a fool or a madman wield that much power in this land ever again. I have a responsibility for my men and my people-

“So, who should rule Ashenmore?” I snapped, “will it be you, Midon?”

Midon glared at me. Then, for the first time that day, his dark face split into a broad, bestial smirk.

“I can see why you’d think that Demetrius,” grinned Baron Midon, “having to scuttle between the twisted personalities of Tamburlaine and Regan for so long… it would be enough to instil cynicism in even the purest heart. No. I have no intention to dominate this land. I simply propose that we cement the control of the Council. Rule Ashenmore as a shared group, without one voice to hoard too much for itself. Is that such a bad vision, Demetrius? An Ashenmore governed by a collection of knowledgeable and experienced men and women, as opposed to being subject to the arbitrary whims of hereditary leadership? Without having to pray to Ahasathoth that, whenever we get a new king, they won’t turn out to be some sort of brute or buffoon?”

About The Author

Rhys Clark

I am an English and Theatre Studies student at the University of Warwick. I particularly enjoy dystopian literature and political satire. My influences as a writer are George Orwell, Christopher Hitchens, Kurt Vonnegut and Harold Pinter.

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