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The Book of the Fallen (sequel to Lord of Night) | Chapter Eight (Sir Marnyll's POV) -- Ahhhhh I love this character sm

The Book of the Fallen (sequel to Lord of Night) | Chapter Eight (Sir Marnyll's POV) -- Ahhhhh I love this character sm

Posted April 21st, 2017 by maxi

by Max
in Erissa, Erilea, Westeros, The New York Institute, Roshar, Scadrial, New Chicago, Eye of the World, Metallica and Questeria

a/n: rightio, so how about we start us off with a lil update? well, so far, i'm working my way through the first draft of book three. it's going quite well, but i am not at a very rushed speed it seems. well, not rushed. just speedy. i used to write 10k each day and i'm dwindling to 2k or so each day but i suppose that's because of how much planning i'm doing as opposed to the actual writing of the story. i need to get my head in the game. anyway, i am currently on chapter ten. i just hit 50,000 words!!!! i can't believe how far i've gotten through with this book series. and just so you know, the fourth book will be the final book where everything ties together and the battle of the end will begin.

alright, i think it's time to check up on Marnyll!

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

Sir Robb Marnyll, the Stormlands

 

A voice called into the dark.

            It was faint yet cruel and maleficent. It cried out with the force of a thousand enemies. Its maw was as black as the dark itself. It yawned, trembling mountains and hills around the knight. It awakened the dead from their sepulchres and set a cloud over all who lived in the thrill and thrall of the realms.

            In the dark, Sir Robb Marnyll’s heart thudded in his chest. He reached for his sword with hands clammy with sweat. Thud, thud, thud went his heart as he reached closer and closer for the raven-crafted pommel.

            Steel flashed in the moonless night as he ripped the sword from its sheath. A winter breeze tickling the back of his neck, the knight progressed further into the eternal night. His eyes widened as to take in more of the nothingness around him—only to discover a strange, ethereal blue light glowing.

            In the form of an orb, the light gently floated towards him. The voice. The voice came from the orb itself, but he couldn’t put his finger on what was wrong with it. On the cruelty and mischief that almost seemed alive deep in the Essence of the orb.

            This sphere… Full of immortal light—

            It screamed into the darkness.

            Screamed and wailed and screeched and, as much as he tried, as much as he pressed his hands against his ears, he couldn’t rid the world of that noise. Of that utterly demonic sound.

 

 

Sir Robb Marnyll, the Forgotten Knight, awoke from the slumber that had done a lot more bad than it had done good to him. His head was throbbing in inconsistent waves of pain, his limbs felt swollen by the feeling of never letting go of sleep and he felt slightly detached. He himself felt inexplicably detached, like his soul had freed himself from the prison cell it had been trapped in for such a long time. The knight did not know why he felt this way, but perhaps, he deserved it. Perhaps he needed this pain and torture ever since failing to commit himself to all the goods he was supposed to bring upon the world. Pain, pain, pain. The intensity of flickering flames shuddered through his head and near his heart once more as he struggled to shimmy up to a sitting position. He contemplated wailing out for nearby assistance, but knew that his captors—or whoever held him here in the first place—would not come help him if they had kept the knight locked up like this.

            Instead, he slumped down back into his seat. No, it wasn’t a seat. It was an immaculate, elaborately designed bed. Tossed with a duvet and fluffed pillows to accompany his ache-throbbing head, the mattress was supposedly built upon another piece of furniture in order to give the knight the most comfortable experience he’d had in quite some time. Sure, the pain was ebbing and flowing and would not go away in a single flourish of the wrist—but it was true that his captors were being considerate towards him. And it certainly seemed that way even more so as the knight fluffed the pillows even more behind him and lay back down once more.

            His eyes fluttered open, which he’d not thought of doing until very recently. Once his eyelashes had mainly parted from view, Marnyll caught his eyes upon the thatched ceiling, criss-crossed with logs of wood and hay and straw. There was a questionably purple stain carved into the upper right hand corner of the ceiling, but he knew enough to not dwell his thoughts too much upon it. As he tilted his head downwards, Sir Marnyll came to notice quite a few things in the room.

            First of all, he thought as he sat up so that he could take it all in, there were no doors to be sighted. The man narrowed his brows before he saw, on the floor, a square trap door a few feet up ahead and to the left and right, placed just before the wall. Supposedly, the trap door led down into where the land was set up… whatever land he was on. The knight hadn’t even gotten to considering his whereabouts yet, but he’d get right on board that as soon as he could figure out plans of escape.

            The house was structured with large logs of wood tightly pressed together, held by resin of birch trees as to ensure that nothing fell apart. Well, to be fair, it was not exactly a house, per say. The knight would identify it as a lodge or a cabin. It was a one-room cabin with a desk to the wall adjacent to him, a bedside table with a mug devoid of liquid upon it as well as a large book on the left of him. On the right was a pile of unstacked clothes, which seemed to be wet judging by the way it gleamed under the lamplight just above the pile.

            Narrowing his brows again, the knight felt a cool breeze linger on the sides of his face. He rested his left hand upon the side of his head, desperate when he found shaved hair—but then found his fingers upon a bun holding every strand of hair together. He sighed, content, before resting upon thoughts that would’ve waked up destruction incarnate itself if anyone would’ve known what it was his head dwelled. A bun. His hair was in a bun. Gods be damned, if he had to go through any more trauma, it would be too soon.

            Of all places, where could I possibly be? Damn the gods for putting up with such mercilessness. Curse them for ever putting me here in the first place, he thought. His mind raced with thoughts, but none seemed ultimately tangible. With every attempt of trying to clutch onto the unanswered questions hovering about his head, nothing came to be.

            Obatin. Machimac. Ah’fanit. Geographical locations and destinations rushed past his mind as he studied the fascinating sight of the thatched roof ahead of him. He’d been on a vessel headed somewhere northwest of the Lightlands, nearby the edge of the Darklands. As he’d passed by the strait, Maid’s Bay, he’d accompanied a guardian along the way by the name of Mallum. He’d been exiled of some queen or rather; perhaps he had, perhaps he hadn’t. He was not sure now.

            Just as uncertain as he was on the presumptions of his location. Although his head… His head was quite elsewhere, swarming with contemplations of madness and utter ruin. He couldn’t focus, he couldn’t think and—most of all—he couldn’t place a finger upon what it was he smelled in the air. A drift of summery air. A storm-touched breeze.

            Cities and capitals and ruins and deserts; temples and palaces and empires and kingdoms. All of them much like the other, without being anything alike. Even with the conditions that had been wrought upon him, the knight was as torn as could be—and in more ways than one.

            The trap door snapped open with a brief click, the wood slamming against the logs that constructed the walls of the lodge. Out of the trap door popped an oval-shaped head, short-cropped chocolate brown hair edging with greys and a grim expression upon a slightly shrivelled—yet masculine—face.

            As the newcomer unfurled out of the trap door, he stood to his full height. The man was perhaps a few inches Marnyll’s inferior. He donned a charcoal-coloured coat, as well as a vest and shirt underneath said coat. His eyes gleamed an icy blue underneath askew glasses, barely hanging onto the man’s slightly crooked nose. He walked with a near hunch before the knight realised it had just been how Marnyll was positioned. He sat up against the fluffed pillows and looked at the man with curiosity blooming in his heart.

            The man shut the trap door with a thud whilst hauling a pile of four books. He placed them on the desk the knight had studied only bare moments ago.

            “Ah, you’re awake,” the man said. He staggered over to Marnyll after he had wiped his dust-covered hands on his coat and held out one of them, extending them over to the knight. “I’m Arklos. Pleased to meet you.”

            Awestruck at the friendly aura of which had emanated from Arklos, Marnyll nodded. “Sir Robb Marnyll.”

            Best not reveal my heritage, he figured. Anyone will threaten another, even with the secrets of their blood exposed.

            The air felt stuffy, suddenly, as if the gusts of wind had ceased to be. Now, the lamplight offered nothing but heat and a warm essence of contentment. He noticed that lamplight was also provided just above the desk at which Arklos sat at, swivelling a chair around. The man sat down and faced the knight.

            “I am glad you’re awake and well.” Arklos frowned. “I’m not quite sure about the latter, but I’m pleased that you’re not sleeping nevertheless. You’ve been out for a while now.”

            Marnyll’s mind whirred. “How long would that be?”

            Some time passed, the silent ticks of a clock sounding through the absent mountain ranges of his brain. The room seemed to spin around once or twice before Arklos announced, “A sun and moon. Two. Lucky you didn’t wake up at the time of the storm. It’ll be raining heavily for the next few sun and moons before it hits.”

            “S-Sun… Sun and moons?” he echoed.

            “Oh. Oh, I forgot. I’m truly sorry. It’s been a day or so since you’ve been awake last. Sometimes the Old Age language bleeds into the New Age for me. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s something in the Essence.”

            Two days. I’ve been asleep for two days. How many have been avenged? How many have been killed? How many battles have passed, wars ended and begun? By the gods, I’ve been asleep for two days—and no one has informed me on what’s what.

            He sat up, his eyes widened with surprise. Shock. “Two days? I need to move. I need to get up and start fighting. The Placards have probably woken up by now. The Book of the Fallen could—”

            Arklos interjected, the struggle to settle the knight down clear in his gleaming blue eyes, “Now, now. No need to get all in a worry. I’m sure nothing much has occurred in the time you’ve been out of it.”

            The knight shook his head fiercely. There was no time for certainty; Marnyll had lived off of presumptions and accusations. If there were undying horrors slowly manifesting across the globe, there was no stopping them. The Stormlands had offered him minimal experience in the few years that he’d traversed there in his old days of journeying, but he did remember one thing: keep your head locked into your goal. And his goal—

            The Stormlands. Marnyll squinted against the hushing lamplight fluttering down across his peripheral and main vision, attempting to cut through the faint illumination cascading through the gaps of the logs. There was no questioning the kinship that thrived and bloomed from the aura of the man, not to mention the pure friendliness that the knight had detected minutes ago. Now that he knew the true extent of the man’s heritage, perhaps Arklos would poke and prod into the knight’s. He hoped not; Marnyll knew his geographical location—and that seemed to be enough.

            “I can’t be here. People have called me for greater things than journeying to a foreign land of which I have not much communication with. Alas, man, I don’t know much of your blood—nor do I know of your people,” Marnyll replied, pressing his lips together in a taut expression.

            Arklos leaned forward in his chair, his sharp blue eyes speaking of long-lost inquisitorial legends extending further than eons past. Firelight shuddered across the man’s face, shadows radiating widely from the expanse of his skin. His shrivelled skin indicated that he might’ve been some sort of librarian or lecturer.

            Whatever the man’s specialty is, I guess it’s not my responsibility to point out on it. Marnyll had far better things to do than speculate his saviour.

            As if summoned by some greater being hidden in the catacombs of his mind, the man announced heartily, “You, knight, were the sole survivor of a shipwreck. The vessel crashed onto the shores of our land, the remainders of your people either discarded to the sea or impaled by shards of the ship. You were left on the shores, spluttering water from your mouth before I had volunteered to haul you up past the Demesne and to my personal cottage.”

            The Demesne. The Travtwain Demesne, the Kingdom of Storms.

            Arklos continued, his voice brittle with concern, “Many of our peoples thought you to be a burden, a demon from the hell-realms. They swore right down to their blood and bones that, if another maelrom saw someone of the Stormcrew, they’d punish them rightfully. They’d hang you by your toes, leave your intestines out for the ravens. But others… Others, like me, thought of you as our new beginning. A peaceful demesne of dreamers and believers. That you could bring a new world upon us is my—our—dream. You do remember the Battle of the Last Brigade, yes?”

            “How could I forget?” he countered, something unspoken lodged in his throat. The pain of remembrance darkened his eyesight before he could conjure thoughts out of that immortal darkness that lurked beyond.

            The Battle of the Last Brigade had been a tumultuous time of discovery and challenges for both opposing sides—the Stormcrew and the maelrom. The maelrom had claimed the Stormlands as their own rightful territory. Of course, by their namesake, the Stormcrew thought the land to be their own and had declared war against the maelrom for believing otherwise. It had been long and treacherous and deceitful. And yet, the shadows of the ancient war still lingered. The maelrom had reigned for not so long—perhaps a decade or two—after their utter victory had claimed the land for their own. However, some whispers murmured of a rebel organisation planning to win the territory back. The basis of the Battle clung to the catacombs of Marnyll’s memory. He might know quite a lot, but there was even a line that cut at the origins of his own people.

            “The others are blaming you for a supposedly forthcoming rebel attack,” Arklos proclaimed, “but I think not much of it. You’re clearly as broken as a man could be—and I’m not saying that just to win your faith in me for being such a graceful companion.”

            Marnyll resisted the urge to smile before a destructive thought bloomed in the corners of his mind. “Where had the remaining Stormen people gone? Once the victory of the maelroms had been made, of course.”

            “Exiled.” A sigh unfurled from the man’s mouth. He swivelled around in his desk chair, hauled a book over and searched thoroughly through the book he had whipped out. “The knights, men, warriors and what-have-you were exiled. One of the warlords, or however your people claim the names of your rulers, told the rest to venture to the outskirts of the Stormlands before telling them… Well, they were lost men. And lost men have no recollection of what they had once been. So, they were exiled by the warlords and summoned to different lands.”

            There must be more of my people out there, then. If this man claims they were exiled, banished by my own kind… Well, there must be a way to scuttle the men out of whatever caves they were hiding within.

            “I just don’t want to be alone,” the knight admitted. It had been a rough journey—resulting in some ominous, hard object cracking against his head—and there was only so much a man could do before he snapped. “There’s no fun in being the one left out of your own tribe.”

            “I can only imagine,” Arklos said, planting a firm hand on the blanket covering the knight’s leg. There was no contact of skin on skin to reassure him that someone was there to comfort him, but it was enough—as far as men could go to comfort each other.

            Arklos resumed his examination of the tome before him, flipping through pages full to the brim with illustrations depicting ancient treaties, declarations and wars. The latter staggered in Marnyll’s head and awakened the thoughts of why he was here. Nevertheless his companion did nothing but flick through the book, humming to himself. More times than once, he stopped at a page and examined it before flipping it over as if it had been irrelevant to any important event. That was before he stopped upon a page that described too many things for the knight’s mind to wander across. A bridge of stories in the old man’s hands, he gazed at it unwittingly before turning it in a semi-circle for Marnyll’s eyes.

            “Have a look at this for a moment,” Arklos’s voice reverberated through the room itself, tossing and turning like the waves of an unending ocean.

            Marnyll pressed two large hands against the pages. His callused skin made contact with rough parchment scratching at his cuticles and digging into his skin. He pulled back from the page with his hands, as if it had done harm to him, before leaning forwards and examining the pages. The portion Arklos showed him described the islets and islands surrounding the Stormlands; the facets and planes of the neighbouring mountains… and the Dyrwen Piers where the knight had woken from his slumber.

            A map of the entire Stormlands upon two pages, as well as brief explanations of the locations and their origins and histories, sprawled with fashionable calligraphy. Swirls and curls met at each ends and even sudden flicks of letters met with each other, a bridge between worlds.

            “Here—that’s where we are, right now.” Arklos pointed a fat finger to a roughed-out clearing on a mountain, a jutting chin of stone, just above the piers but below the looming shadow of the Travtwain Demesne. “The trap doors lead to a tunnel that interconnects with the towns and villages surrounding my own. It’s our favoured mode of transportation.”

            The map had been drawn by a considerably talented artist. Marnyll had not observed the Stormlands completely, but the exterior of the land itself had been drawn in complete sophistication. The Dyrwen Piers had steep mountainsides that climbed all the way to the clearing on which stood many households and cottages connected by way of tunnels.

            The clearing led up to the Kingdom of Storms, a towering empire hewn by stone and wind and hail. Irregularly angled spires straightened their backs all the way to the clouds. The entrance to the Demesne were two large oak doors with golden knockers, most likely imported from the Dreamlands neighboured at the north-eastern coast. An archway made of stone made for a bridge connecting one tall tower to the other, two imposing factors of popularity—judging by the dots of inhabitants lurking within the monstrous kingdom.

            Like teeth on a beast, the towers jutted out from the ground every which way. Candour was no virtue for the Stormlands, it seemed—especially with the way stone steps led up from the clearing all the way to the royalty that leaked out of the kingdom. A few courtyards had been thrown together in a cluster of stone and brick and mortar, yes, but apart from that… It was nothing but a labyrinthine mess of towers carved of madness and chaos incarnate.

            Surrounding the Travtwain Demesne was the top of the large mountain, which was notably known in other lands. The mountaintop was roughed out for a mismatched expanse of tawny ground to be laid out for accompanying households. On the edge of the expanse upon the mountaintop was a cliff whose maw led out into the deep, dark ocean—which was made as a coast of the Dustlands. The ocean beneath the sprawling mountains, besides the large main one, seemed to be laced with flotsam and shingle. The string of green and yellow led off into the corners of the Dustlands. These corners were partially obscured by shadow—but also by the artist’s interpretation of the mainland. Perhaps the artist did not want to admit the Dustlands was in association with the Stormlands. Or so it seemed to the Forgotten Knight.

            As opposed to the mist-touched south of the Stormlands, the north was touched by shadow and darkness and gloom. This was odd, considering the beauteous radiance emanating from the nearby Dreamlands. Of skies and secrets and lingering thresholds was the Dreamlands. Meanwhile, the north of the Stormlands was completely saturated in the forgotten memories of a land once tarnished by war and lies. A cobweb of lies, it seemed.

            Ripples and eddies swirled in the ocean lurking beyond, nearing the sea close to the Dreamlands, the Darklands and the Lightlands. The ocean swirled like the briny depths of some ancient sea, curled in half-smiles and cunning beings of immense abilities.

            It frightened Marnyll to know that monsters came in all shapes and sizes—and were waiting around every forbidden corner in all of Questeria.

            “It’s… It’s much different than what I thought it would be,” he stated. His eyes held onto Arklos’s and, in that moment, he felt true fear for whatever was to come. “I always imagined the Stormlands as some land full to the brim with hope and faith. But maybe water and hail and stone hides nothing, nothing but the dark secrets of the world.”

            “It’s hidden beneath the crevices of stone, knight.”

            “What is?”

            A sharp knife of emotion gleamed in the man’s icy blue eyes as he replied, “Hope. Faith. Conviction.”

            “How—how can that be? I’ve searched kingdoms and empires, palaces and slums only to find the scraps of something left bare. It was all gone, wasted by men and women who thought war to be the end of hatred. How can there be hope left when all we have is memories of it?” he asked, more to himself than to the newcomer before him.

            Arklos put the book back where it had come from, placing it gently upon the wood of the desk. He gulped, throat bobbing as he did so. The grey in his hair was orbited by a circlet of lamplight, the faint shuddering of flames offering shadows leaping across his face. There was too much emotion in his voice as he said his next few words.

            “Even in the memories of it, we can find hope. Stone and darkness may hide all that you believe in, but give it time. It will not wear out. It will only shape what you dream of.” A small smile was carved on the man’s mouth, his lips thinning with every firm movement.

            A brief moment of silence reigned before Marnyll asked, “What’s that part there in the north? I’ve never seen such darkness on a mainland before. It’s rather confronting for your people, wouldn’t it be?”

            Arklos nodded grimly. “This book was made only a few years ago, but the darkness isn’t quite right. It was the interpretation of the artist… But now it seems as if the artist had known what they were talking about. It’s spreading nation-wide. The darkness, I mean. And not just that—but a storm as mighty and ancient as any. Some people suspect Decay, some people suspect the gods but others… Others believe it’s something cryptic. A force of nature forbidden from entering our realms. A dark, omniscient being.” He shivered, teeth chattering at the same time.

            “It can’t have been the latter. I’d suspect the gods if anything, but even that can’t be true. They’re stuck up in their star-cages! Everybody knows that. It’s just a matter of time until they come down here and… and feast upon what’s left of us. No, it can’t be the gods so it must be just some catastrophically natural disaster,” Marnyll suggested, his eyes flickering in alarm. A sense of incapability washed over him like a rippling tide sending tendrils of flotsam down into the ocean. Deep in the presence of his sorrowful heart, he felt it hum right there—indecision.

            And there was something there in the man’s eyes that the knight saw. Something that yearned for a brighter goal, a brighter future. The knight should’ve expected it from the way things were: speaking of fate, of hope and a better world. Perhaps these idealist speculations were teaching Arklos some good.

            Lamplight wavered in undulating, rolling hills of flame. The sparks and embers lit up half of the old man’s face, casting the other side in complete, engulfing shadow. The darkness reminded Sir Marnyll of the ‘dark being’ said to be ridding the north of any light whatsoever. However, the radiant part of the man’s face reflected something purely impossible—but the impossible could be made probable. The knight knew it from past experience.

            “Where did you come from?” Arklos asked. The question seemed completely out of the blue, but Marnyll didn’t want to admit its brusqueness. Instead, he gazed into the flames to the wall adjacent to him.

            “Why would you want to know? I know plenty about you, so I don’t see why I should have to tell you anything. There’s too much on my plate to handle any of this chit-chat, old man. Go back to your books if you want to know any unnecessary information,” Marnyll snapped, his head throbbing from aches and pains. Fury ebbed and bloomed throughout his veins, squeezing down into wrath that bubbled in his marrow.

            “I have told you much about my people. It’s time I learned about you,” the man retorted, “and so, I ask: where did you come from?”

            A wave of nausea subsided, as well as the pain. The dark feeling rolled in his stomach before fading away into a stiff light. Petals of radiance bloomed in his chest as he spoke. He didn’t understand it, but it was almost as if he had gone through a state of darkness before lifting his head up through the surface to discover the beauty of light. Even his own comprehension summoned incredibly wistful questions left unanswered.

            He decided not to tell Arklos of it. There was no telling how considerate and concerned he would be.

            “I came from the Lightlands—not originally, but I had come here before arriving on board the ship. Merchants spoke of the best wine and flatbread so I went against hope and arrived in the Lightlands right from my homeland, Tsaria. It was not the best wine and flatbread, dare I say it. And should the knowledge be implanted in your skull, I suggest you do not venture to another land in the hopes of finding good wine and flatbread. You will be highly disappointed.”

            Arklos made a funny noise.

            “The Lightlands was new for me,” he continued, shifting pillows around in order to get at a comfortable position. “I hadn’t ever gotten used to the heat and the Order of Light was making new laws and rules and conditions day by gods be damned day. It was obsessive—even for a ruler like Queen Merissa. Troubled by the fates she left her own people in, I decided to leave. At this time, I started worshipping many gods before I’d gotten word of a newcomer. And a fascinating newcomer at that. Nobody knew who they were, but they had a great wide hood on. A cloak! They were out searching for somebody. And the gods only knew what they would do with the culprit once they sought them out.

            “So I started looking for the hooded stranger. It’s odd when I think about it now. A person looking for a person that’s hunting a third person. It just seems like a great, big game of chase to me now. My Stormen sword had given me great pleasure throughout the hunt. I wove through streets and slums and towns trying to spot the hooded person—but to no avail. That was until there was a confrontation between the two.

            “Shadows wove around me, a grand tapestry of looming mist and smoke. Tendrils of it swarmed my figure, but I knew that I would achieve the goal I wanted: to find out who that stranger, the newcomer of the Lightlands, was. And nobody would come in my way to stop it. Not even some person being hunted by said newcomer. People knew me then, but not as well as they know me in the Stormlands, apparently. And yet they came to watch, a small cluster of ten or so people, as we all huddled up and watched the fight between stranger and newcomer begin.”

            Lie. Lie, lie, lie. There had been no people watching—but he couldn’t make it seem as if it was just him. As if it was even more innocent than the hellish situation he’d been in.

            “They fought and fought and fought. Punches, kicks, anything to finish off the brawl and get to the death the other supposedly deserved. But, as I spied with my eyes, I realised that it might’ve not been as true as a fight as I had been expecting. Instead, the hooded stranger pulled out a sword and bashed the pommel of the weapon into the newcomer’s head. I was surprised at first but that was before I noticed who she was. And, once the sunlight caught onto the shadows obscuring the stranger’s face, I—and the people swarming around me—was cast in deep shock as we came to the conclusion that this was no ordinary person we faced. The apartments and households around us yawned before a deep silence struck the surrounding streets. The dead end made at the end of the street was splattered with the victory of the stranger… And that stranger was Queen Arnaressa Gramsion. And the newcomer? Fravado Promprii Farighan, the Dark King, the Lord of Night. Now known as Druid-King Althulor of the Core.”

            Arklos’s breathing had become haggard, drenched in fear. His eyes were wide in surprise, hands clammy as he clutched onto his pants in anticipation of what was to come next.

            “Now, I knew that Fravado would eventually take over the throne, claim it as his own. He had his powers—but magic was spreading across the world like a stain. True, nobody knows its origins: where it had come from, what the quintessence of it was and who had given the magic to most of the people. However, that was something nobody had discovered: we can easily defeat a dark lord. He hadn’t gone mad with power, but he only had it. He had Decay and Infusion and Manipulation. Has it. There’s enough certainty in gathering an army of a million Infused to know that we can fight back. Simple. It has been done before and it will be done again.

            “But there was one thing that wouldn’t stop me: Queen Arnaressa Gramsion. If she ever came in my way, I would cut her down like a lamb in the slaughterhouse. She had gone mad with power. She had used it to get what she wanted. She was the Queen of the Gramsion House Island, near the Sakalaki Isles—where Fravado had come from. Where the Dark King used to live. And now? Now she’s executing her people for bad deeds. If they don’t do a deed right, cut their heads off. If they don’t launch a message by raven in time, burn them at the stake. She was constantly killing her people without even realising the true Outcome of it all. Who knows where she is now. Who knows what she’s up to. But that’s what I’m wanting to find out. That’s what I am yearning to unravel.

            “There will always be a ruler. One king follows the next, a new queen in his wake and soon enough it unfolds to a royal member of complete and utter chaos. I’m not here to finish it off—I’m here to slaughter the houses. I’m here to kill that gods-damned Queen before she gets to any more trouble. Before she kills all of the armies planning to fight back against the Dark King. She will ruin hope for us. She will clutch it in her hands and burn it right down to the ground, the ashes of faith itself. That’s why I am here. I want to find hope in your people, I want to gather an army and I want to do it right. There’s no more mucking around this time. I’m not here to rally forces to kill the Dark King. He’s not even on the throne right now. That bitch-Queen Merissa is. She will do no harm, though—she’ll just watch over the kingdom. No.

            “I’m going to kill Queen Arnaressa. If there’s any hope left, it won’t be here with her still around. If I kill her, then we can gather allies and armies and forces and conquer the Darklands Kingdom. Make the world a better place. She’s got magic. Her and all her squadron does. They will stop at nothing to get what they want. And whatever that is… Well, we’ll see. We’ll see in time—and then, before it’s too late, I will show you. I will show you, Arklos, how bad a person she is. Not just a queen, but a person.

            “There is hope here. I heard it washing on the waves of the shore. I hear it even now, in the flickering flames nearby. There is hope everywhere—but not in that woman.”

            Arklos’s voice shuddered slightly as he whispered, “I don’t understand. Are you saying that I have to agree to this? I cannot agree to murder a Queen. I’m—I’m not fit for that and I don’t suppose I ever will be. If you want an assassin, go and raise the Broken Prince from the dead. Me? I’m not ready for that. I never will be ready.”

            Marnyll shook his head firmly, thoughts of battle and death and destruction washing away the pain in his throbbing headache. There was something about battle that calmed him—the explosions, the hellfire, the groans of dying men. He said, “I’m not saying anything of the sort. And we will not be assassins. If we do plan this out accordingly, analyse it and stake it out in individual sections, we will eventually become more than assassins—but warlords. Rulers of nations. Subjugators. We are here to live our lives right, not by anyone else’s rules. Not by someone who believes that hopelessness will guide us through the ends of our lives right. What are those but rules? Nothing. We will become nothing with her still alive. We will be rebels, fighting against the ideas of futility. Look at me! I’m in a bed in the Stormlands when I had hoped to get to the Darklands. Why is that? Because she got in the way. Her and her cloak of shadows and darkness, weaving together nightmares nobody could think she was capable of. Well, she is. We’ll kill those nightmares and forge dreams out of them.”

            “I understand,” Arklos said. His voice strained with fear of what the knight spoke of. His eyes glistened with tears, with the idea of a broken world. And Marnyll knew, in that moment, that he had at least caught the man’s attention. He had said something that meant the world to Arklos, but now it was just time to give the man some space. “I just need time to think about it. I’ve been through so much in the last few days that I don’t want to think about anything but rest and keeping you safe. I don’t want war—I just want equality and peace. It’s all I hope for.”

            Marnyll would not answer with another speech. He would not. “Right. Well, I’ll leave you be.”

            “Thank you. As will I leave you,” Arklos replied, somewhat gracefully. “The books will be here for any reading you intend to participate in.”

            The man twisted around, rose from his chair and unlatched the trap door just at his feet. The creak of wood ripped through the near-silence in the room, casting a darkness over a corner of the room as a whoosh of air brought by the trap door extinguished one of the shuddering flames.

            “Oh, and before you leave…” the knight’s words trailed off.

            “Y-Yes?”

            “Don’t expect me to help with your people anytime soon. Trust is gained through actions, not words. You can ask the Queen about that.”

            “Which Queen, knight?”

            Marnyll chuckled. “Exactly.”


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