Lysander craned his head forward, examining us with a curiously blank expression on his face. I stared past the man’s skeletal, bloodless face, scowering the nobleman’s hollow eyes for any glimmer of the fellow I had once considered my friend and confidante. There was nothing there. Lysander’s eyes were devoid of pity, the tyrant’s iron resolve poured out from between his long, curled eyelashes. As I stared, deeper and deeper into Lysander’s eyes, I found myself wishing that I were gazing into the frenzied, bestial pupils of one of the undead.

Ashenmore Chap 5 Pt 2 Illo 3

“Ah,” said Lysander, his voice reverberating throughout the densely populated throne room, resting his chin on his long, pale fingers. “It’s good to see you again, Demetrius. I see you’ve brough the Necromancer with you – I suppose he’ll die on Ashenmore soil, after all! And who is that beside you?” purred the wicked nobleman, arching a thin, ghostly eyebrow. “Barnabus? Well, this is a surprise.”

“May Ahasathoth strike you down, villain,” spat the old soldier. Lysander rolled his eyes and, lazily waved his hand towards his daughter. Laila barked out an order, in a language that I could not discern. Lazrilus cried out but, before any of us could react to his warning, one of the Vomoran warriors raised his rifle and fired. Barnabus crumpled in a heap, his thin chest weeping blood. I swore and without thinking, raised my staff. Lysander pounded the arm of his throne with a thin, bloodless fist, though, his face still remained just as blank as ever.

“I wouldn’t move if I were you,” whispered Lysander. “If you, or any of your grubby little rebels decides even to blink without my permission, my daughter will have one of these charming fellows slit the throat of one of these unfortunate little boys or girls.”

I lowered my staff, trembling with useless rage.

“Who are they?” asked Una. Lysander’s eyes slithered in her direction.

“Did I address you, girl?” said Lysander. Lazrilus glowered, but didn’t move, his eyes flickering towards the serrated, black knives of the Vomorans.

“They’re our families,” croaked one of the noblemen, huddled beside a marble pillar. Lysander arched another eyebrow and looked in the direction of the speaker. It was a short, balding man, dressed in green robes, whose name I couldn’t quite remember. The nobleman’s chin quivered, and his dark cheeks were slick with tears.

“When Lysander took control of the Council,” sobbed the unnamed man. “He rounded up our wives and children from the city and dragged them before us. He gave us one, simple command, to surrender ourselves to his will, entirely. He promised us that, if we obeyed him, he wouldn’t harm our families, but” rasped the poor nobleman, his eyes wide and haunted. “There was a test we had to pass, to demonstrate our loyalty. He took us to the wall surrounding Ashuron, and, when we got there, we saw that he had tied ropes round the necks of twenty other lords, the remaining half of the Council. These were the men with no families for Lysander to use as blackmail. He forced us push these rival lords to their deaths, before letting his pet Necromancer’s have their way with them-”

“Hush,” muttered Lysander and, at once, the nobleman fell silent, a shudder rippling across his plump shoulders.

“You’re a monster!” spat Una, revolted. Laila snickered and Lysander, never once taking his eyes off the little priestess, reached out with one, skeletal finger and stroked the back of his daughter’s neck. Laila’s eyes shone with affection. My stomach turned at the perverse gesture.

“What I can’t understand is, why would you work with Vomora?” I cried out. “After what they did to you during the war… they tortured you, Lysander!”

“Wrong,” said Lysander, smiling coldly. “The Calibites tortured me. The Solossian Vomorans saved my life!”

“What?” I spluttered, but Lazrilus seemed to understand, stepping forward to snarl at the treacherous lord.

“Remember what I told you, Demetrius?” spat Lazrilus. “Vomora has three major factions. Two of which include the Solossians, my masters-”

Lysander pounded the throne with his frail bloodless fist, his gaunt face lunging forwards in indignation.

“I don’t recall inviting you to speak, you cur!” hissed Lysander. One of the Vomorans pressed his knife even deeper into the flesh of a short, grey-haired woman, huddled at the brute’s feet. Lazrilus stepped back, hissing in disgust. Lysander settled back in his throne, the cold, lifeless smile returning to his face.

“Although, the wretched little mongrel is quite right,” said Lysander. “During the first half of the Vomoran war, long before the Siege of Valos, I was captured by Calibite sailors and, yes, they did torture me. Night after night, they tortured me. They flayed the skin from my bones and then, as I approached the brink of death, they had one of their Sorcerer’s heal my body, sewing up my ravaged flesh for them to tear apart once more. This carried on for endless nights. I prayed to Ahasathoth. I begged for my fellow soldiers of Ashenmore, for my king, to come and save me.” Lysander shook his head. “Both had abandoned me. Then, one day, the Calibite ship that had imprisoned me was plundered by Solossians, led by an Imperial Bishop who served the Solossian family. They were the ones who saved me. For that, I owe the Solossians my life, my soul, my loyalty. I told the Bishop as such and then, the fellow took me to another ship and introduced me to the eldest son of the Solossians, the man who now rules one third of Vomora, the Supreme Vizier of the Church of Valkarria-”

“Uruk, the Mad Sorcerer,” whispered Lazrilus, genuine fear weighing down his voice. Lysander’s eyes snapped in the direction of the Necromancer but, instead of chastising him the traitor merely smiled.

“Indeed,” said Lysander. “The two of us came to an agreement. That I would work in secret to take the throne of Ashenmore for myself, and once I had successfully done so we would create something unprecedented in the entire history of the Southern Isles: the peaceful unification of two nations, into one all-powerful state! The Ashenmore-Vomoran Empire! With our combined powers no one would stand against us. We would take the rest of Vomora, then Thalton, then Ishnu, then Bellos, and, of course, Kazore too! Imagine that, Demetrius! An empire to rival that of Rarthun! All in the palm of my hands! Oh, and I worked long and hard for it, too, poisoning the old king Tamburlaine and his wife-”

“TRAITOR!” I howled. Lysander rolled his eyes.

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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