The Lost Prince: Part II – The Seeds of Tyranny

The Lost Prince: Part II – The Seeds of Tyranny

I stared at Midon. I didn’t like the silence of the room, or the number of heads I saw, nodding in nervous agreement. It all made sense now. This was why Midon was so concerned about sedition and Aradion’s refusal to comply with the Council’s request. He wanted to completely reconstruct our system of governance, to subjugate Asha’s image beneath his own. I had known for many years that Midon was an admirer of the vast continent of Lariptus, which was the only region of the world that could even rival the might of Rarthun, but I had never anticipated that Midon would ever seek to emulate their style of leadership – for Lariptus had overthrown their own King and replaced him with a series of elected Governers, nearly a five hundred years ago.

“So, Baron Midon,” I said, lowering myself back into my chair, “now that you’ve obliterated our way of life, destroying a lineage of Kings and Queens that stretches all the way back to Asha himself, and have declared your intent to terrorise and bully our neighbours into joining this absurd Council, tell me, what should be done with Aradion?”

Midon’s broad nostrils flared. One giant hand twitched over the thick handle of the Baron’s silver pistol. Lysander rose out of his chair and, with a bloodless, frail hand, pacified the enraged giant.

“Here is what I propose for Aradion,” said Lysander, taking great care to lock eyes with each and every nobleman assembled, “Baron Midon, I think you should ride down to Brother Zorin, yourself, with a small contingent of soldiers – about two hundred should do. Stay with him for a few days, use your men to help Zorin gather up enough supplies to feed his people, as well as something for Ashuron. Show him, Baron Midon, that whilst Zorin certainly has his responsibilities to the Council, that doesn’t mean we are uncaring towards his current plight.”

Baron Midon blinked. He stroked his beard, contemplating this suggestion. Lysander stretched out his long, gaunt fingers.

“You’re a widely recognised war hero, after all. I think your presence within the south will go a long way not only to reassure Brother Zorin and to bring him back under our control, but also to dispel any weeds of sedition that might be gathering there. I will continue to oversee the protection of Ashuron in your absence.”

Baron Midon nodded. He gave Lysander a brief salute.

“You speak wisely, my good lord. I will make preparations to leave at once.”

The Council dissolved for the day. For a long while, I remained in my chair, my head spinning. Until a slight cough shook me from my despair. I realised that I was not alone. Lord Morthin and Count Lysander stared at me from opposite sides of the Council’s vast table. I did my best to raise a smile at the two gentlemen. I suspect that it probably came out as a grimace.

“If you’ll excuse me, my good lords-” I began, only to be interrupted by Morthin.

“Now that… we’re alone, Lysander. Why don’t you tell us the truth? Is Midon using the Council to seize control of Ashenmore?”

I recoiled. I hadn’t expected such forwardness from the elderly nobleman. Count Lysander sighed and ran his bloodless fingers over his long, pointed chin. Over the past several days I had learned to associate this gesture with apprehension.

“I’m not the close confidant that you clearly think I am,” whispered Lysander, “it’s true, Midon trusts me more than most, for the support I gave him when we took Ashuron, but there’s plenty that he doesn’t tell me. If Midon wanted to take control of Ashenmore, there’s not a lot I could do to stop him. Not without civil war. He has the largest number of men at his command in the entire South-East. Although it’s my soldiers that dominate Ashuron, it’s his men that control most of our neighbouring towns and cities.”

“It’s almost enough to make one laugh,” I said, “this Council was supposed to help choose the next ruler of Ashenmore… just not like this.”

“Well,” said Lysander, “I do understand Midon’s point of view. Who else is going to rule Ashenmore? Most of the Inner Nobility have been wiped out, Tamburlaine is dead, and Regan withdrew her right to the throne many years ago-and even if she hadn’t, I doubt she would be in a fit state to rule. We need a leader to unite this country. Midon wasn’t lying when he said that certain members of the Lower Nobility are plotting to declare independence. I should know – I’m the one who told him of this. Several lords have sent word to me, asking for support in their movement to split from Ashenmore. I’m sure that most of the members of this Council have had similar requests for support. I ask again, if not Midon, then who else can unite us? Who else will lead us?”

I had no response for Lysander. Several days past and, as Midon left for Aradion, I found that I still had no answer. Things got worse in Ashuron, after Midon’s departure. Lord Morthin disappeared from the Council and, no matter who I asked, nobody seemed to know where he had vanished to. Even Lysander pleaded ignorance, though he refused to look me in the eyes as he did so. Lazrilus’ warning haunted my dreams. On the third day of Midon’s departure from the city, Lysander took me aside. I followed the man to narrow slit of a window, that overlooked the central square of Ashuron. My eyes fell across the distant shadows of Lysander’s soldiers, all clad in dark blue, slithering down every nook and cranny the city had to offer. Lysander leant against the windowsill for support. His eyes had grown dark from lack of sleep since my confrontation with Midon.

“I don’t know whether I should be telling you this,” whispered Lysander, “but here we are. Tell your Vomoran to make peace with Ahasathoth. Or whatever it is he believes.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked him, full of fear. Lysander ran his fingers over his lips and chin, clearly agitated.

“Midon gave me one secret instruction before he left. He believes we have spent enough time waiting for the Necromancer to tell us how he used the plague from Diamox to send undead hordes marauding across the coast. He has instructed me to go to Regan’s house and kill the Necromancer without a trial and without the other members of the Council finding out.”

“By Ahasathoth!” I exploded, “first he dissolves the monarchy without consulting the Council, now he’s ordering the execution of prisoners without the Council – tell me, Lysander, what good is the Council if it just lets Midon run amok across the land?”

Lysander sighed.

“I don’t like it any more than you, Demetrius, but what choice do I have? Midon left three days ago, which means he should be at Aradion by now. I’m running out of time and, By Ahasathoth, I don’t intend on dragging this land into a civil war over some Vomoran!”

Lysander wiped his lips. When he spoke again, it was with low, hushed tones.

“I’m telling you so that you can give your Vomoran a chance to make peace with whatever gods he worships by tomorrow night. That’s when I’ll come.”

“Why bother telling me at all?” I muttered, “why don’t you just go to Regan’s now and do away with the Vomoran, like your master commands?”

Lysander lowered his eyes.

“Nobody had greater reason to hate the Vomorans than I,” said Lysander, “they abducted me and tortured me for several days and nights, until I made my escape. Whilst they had me, locked in the bowels of one of their lesser warships, I was under the care of a Vomoran nurse. She was an old, wrinkled bad tempered thing. Every morning, we could crawl into my cell with a wet cloth and dangle it over my lips, sprinkling them with nourishing drops of water, as I drifted in-between starvation and fever. She was my one source of comfort during my imprisonment. And do you know what happened to her?” Lysander stared right through me, fingers twitching over his lips, “I slit her throat with a rusty nail I found one morning. She was the last person I killed in the Vomoran War. An old, bandy-legged nurse. So, I suppose you could consider this my way of making amends. I have every reason to hate your Vomoran, Demetrius. If nothing else, he’s primarily responsible for our current predicament. Him and that fool, Tamburlaine. Even so, I want to give him the chance to make peace before I carry out Midon’s orders.”

I returned to Regan’s house with a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had no love for Lazrilus but even so, he didn’t deserve to be thrown aside like some savage beast, without even the right to stand trial for his crimes. I trudged to the bottom of Regan’s stairs. I imagined that the noblewoman would be sitting in her usual place by the empty fireplace, adrift in a torrent of bittersweet memories from happier times. As I prepared to climb the stairs, however, something caught my eye. I turned my head and found myself staring back into the little oval portrait of the old King Tamburlaine and his children. I found myself gazing deep into the bright brown eyes of Prince Santos. Suddenly, something shifted in the back of my mind. I remembered my previous confrontations with Midon, Lysander and Morthin. All of our recent troubles stemmed from the fact that there was no heir to Tamburlaine’s throne. Yet, here he was, staring back at me, right now! Santos, unlike Regan, had never formerly renounced his claim to the throne. As such, in theory, he could return at any time to take his rightful place as King of Ashenmore. That would unite the people and the Lower Nobility against Midon’s growing tyranny! And, of course, as deranged as Midon might have been, he would not risk civil war by rejecting Santos’ legitimate claim to the throne. To take advantage of a gap in power was one thing, to challenge a rightful master was quite another.

Yet, how to reach Prince Santos? I gripped the banister of the stairs with an iron hand. As far as I knew, he was still on the island of Kazore, living amongst the Priestesses. Kazore was a giant mass of land, one of the largest in the Southern Isles, besides Vomora. It could take years to search for him, even with the assistance of the Priestesses, and I had no knowledge as to whether those mysterious sorceresses would be inclined to help me. Still, I knew I had to try. And, with determination taking hold of my old heart, I knew that I would not be able to make the journey alone.

Several minutes later, I was in Lazrilus’ room. It had taken a lot of persuasion to convince Midon’s guard to let me through the door. Perhaps this was a sign that the men patrolling Regan’s house were aware that the necromancer was not long for the world, or perhaps this was merely the result of bad fortune, regardless, by the time I stumbled into the Vomoran’s sparse, comfortable cell, I was already flustered and agitated. It took me three attempts to relay all my experiences to Lazrilus, the warning from Lysander, Morthin’s disappearance and my decision to travel to Kazore in order to find Prince Santos. Lazrilus watched me struggle through this little speech, then examined me with thin, derisive eyes.

“Alright, Demetrius,” said Lazrilus, “so you plan on travelling to Kazore. Why are you telling me this?”

I took a deep breath and drew closer to the Vomoran. He shied away from me, retreating behind his little mound of books and scrolls. Evidently, his time locked up had made him apprehensive of close contact. Nonetheless, I persisted until I was sitting right beside him on the narrow bed.

“I can’t make the journey alone, Lazrilus. Under normal circumstances, I’d take a whole team with me but now… well, Regan’s servants are too frightened of Midon’s men to assist me and the rest of the Court don’t dare act against the Baron. Besides,” I offered him a thin smile, “from your perspective, this journey provides the perfect opportunity to escape certain death. Whether you abandon me on Kazore, or follow me back home with Santos, either way you’ll escape what Midon has planned for you.”

“Well, what makes you think I can even sail?” muttered Lazrilus, “what if it turns out I’m just a burden to you? Perhaps you’ll take your chances alone and toss me overboard?”

“Lazrilus,” I said, rolling my eyes, “I’m an old man, I doubt I’d have the strength, even with good reason, to toss you overboard. As for your skills at sea… I can tell by your sharpened teeth that you’re a former member of the Vomoran navy. The fangs are part of some bizarre initiation that your kind put their sailors through. Barbaric, if you ask me, but what else would one expect from a Vomoran?”

“Oh yes,” muttered Lazrilus, “if only my people behaved in a civilised manner like you Ashenmore folk, and carved our thrones out of the skulls of old monsters, or plotted to kill men without a trial, or threatened dozens of nobles into complying with some mad dictatorship… actually, that last one does sound like something we would do…”

I suppressed a grin.

“Listen, Lazrilus,” I said, “the two of us might not be friends, but neither one of us wants to see Baron Midon maintain his stranglehold over Ashenmore any longer. Santos is the only chance we have of returning some semblance of order to this land. Will you help me?”

The Necromancer bared his sharpened fangs and bowed on unsteady legs.

“I live to serve you Ashenmore nobles,” said Lazrilus, “now then…”

Lazrilus scampered over to the door, ducking just beside it so that, once the door was opened, he would be concealed behind it.

“Knock on the door and tell the ape on guard that you need help,” said Lazrilus. I hastened to obey. Moments later, the guard burst through the door, obscuring Lazrilus from sight as he did so. The guard raised his rifle, face paling as he scanned the room.

“Where is he?” barked the guard, storming towards me, fingers tightening over the handle of his weapon. Before I could think of a convincing lie, Lazrilus drifted out of the shadows, his sharpened teeth glinting like silver. I reached forward in horror – for a fraction of a moment, I feared that the Vomoran intended to rip out the man’s throat like some savage dog. Fortunately, Lazrilus merely snaked his arm around the man’s neck and held him until the guard slipped into unconsciousness. Lazrilus picked up the guard’s fallen rifle and darted though the open door. Dripping with exhilaration, I followed the necromancer.

In no time at all, the pair of us had stolen one of Regan’s carriages. The electric engine buzzed as the Jazrillite crystals burned, propelling us deeper into the night, towards Ashuron’s harbour. I made sure to drive. The back of the carriage contained several thick blankets which I instructed Lazrilus to hide beneath when we arrived at the gates of Ashuron. I told Lazrilus that the harbour contained several vessels that could be piloted by a team of four men – although it would not be ideal, these would be our targets to acquire. The sun floated into the pale grey sky as we reached the sealed gates of Ashuron. A stoop shouldered; lank-haired soldier glowered at me from the officer’s booth. I recognised him as one of Lysander’s men.

I poked my face through the carriage’s window and exchanged some pleasantries with the man – or tried to, at least. Lysander’s man fixed me with the longest, coldest stare, before waving me through the gates.

I parked the carriage beside the harbour and, taking care to make as little noise as possible, dragged Lazrilus out the back of the carriage. In the distance, I would see the wavering silhouettes of Lysander’s soldiers. Behind them towered pure white walls of the royal palace, where I had served the old King Tamburlaine and his son, where I had worked as a tutor, as a courtier and an advisor. I wondered if I would ever see it returned to its former glory.

It didn’t take Lazrilus and me long to find the ideal vessel. It was an old, but sturdy, fishing ship, it’s wooden deck a rat’s nest of fishing nets and thick, serpentine ropes. Below the deck, I found several cases of Jazrillite crystals. Fortune was on our side. I placed several crystals into the translucent engine and switched it on. I shielded my eyes as the crystals lit up with crackling purple energy and the engine lurched into motion. Lazrilus was already hard at work on deck, fiddling with the ship’s rudder. I stumbled, nearly falling to my knees as the ship began to move, sliding out of the harbour with all the elegance of a drunken whale. I slapped my knees in frustration. Evidently, my sea-legs had grown weak with my old age. I rushed to the deck. Lazrilus was a perfect shadow against the early morning light. His grey skin seemed to shine, and his pointed teeth glinted like freshly cut diamonds. Freedom clearly suited the Vomoran. I joined Lazrilus by the ship’s rudder.

“This won’t be easy,” I said, “we’re going to have to work together, Lazrilus. So, I don’t want any tricks.”

“Tricks? Me?” Lazrilus bared his fangs, “how could you think so badly of me?”

I fixed the Vomoran with my hardest stare. Lazrilus’ smile faded.

“I won’t ask about your past,” I continued, “if you weren’t willing to tell Midon how you came to be on our shores, you won’t be willing to tell me. And I won’t ask how a Vomoran sailor learned about the Diamoxian plague. It’s not important now. All that matters is that we get to Kazore and find Santos, for the sake of Ashenmore, we have to succeed!”

To Be Continued…

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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