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The Song of Steel

Book One - Chapter 20

By W.R. Logan


Copyright 2004 W.R. Logan

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Trayvis knew what he had done was wrong.  He had thought only to help his people, to keep them out of a war that they could not win.  The Hawkeye were loyal people and would have fought to the last beside their king.  He had only wanted to save them from themselves.


The deal was a sound one.  He gave King Geiger a map of the tunnels under Talon Peak and the king would siege the city till Kings Overlook fell.  Trayvis had done the first part of their bargain and would have voted for surrender if King Geiger had not betrayed him.


Darious had promised that the deal was set.  The Ronan’s word was as easily forgotten as his morals.  But then who was he to question morals?  He had caused his whole city to be enslaved or killed and then stood beside the men who did it.


The Hawkeye looked at his king, the man he had betrayed so badly.  King G’Leaze was bound tightly to a chair at the back of the room.  The guards had taken extra care from the man’s magic by wrapping a cloth around his mouth.  Two of the Ronan guards held crossbows pointed directly at the man.  This was meant to serve two purposes; the first to prevent the king from casting any spells and the second to keep his dangerous daughter from attempting anything.


Caitlin had not been bound, but sat next to her father.  The girl’s face was stone.  She would give no hint of any emotion to her captors.  Most people in the kingdom thought of Brianna as the more precarious of the two girls.  Trayvis believed that the only reason people thought that was because Caitlin wanted it that way.


Brianna thought and fought like an ork.  The Hawkeye had been fighting the ork since Talon Peak had first been settled so he understood her mind.  She was a strong and vicious fighter, but Caitlin was more than that.  She was cunning and unpredictable.  He feared Caitlin.


Darious was too stupid to see what Caitlin was capable of doing.  When Brianna and Unglar had escaped the dungeons, he had panicked.  The man had sent most of his guard to find her leaving only ten to hold the war room.  The man most likely still had flashbacks of the time Brianna had unhorsed him in one of the king’s tourneys.


If Darious had just killed the girl when he had the chance, none of this would be happening.  But Ronan were known for their taste of vengeance, so he had given the girl to three simpletons in his guard.  From the looks of him when he had returned to the chambers, it had almost been a fatal mistake.


“Are you going to be like this from now on,” Darious asked him.


“You lied to me.”


“The king said your people saw him coming and attacked him,” Darious defended.  “You didn’t control your people.”


“He said he would siege the city,” Trayvis huffed, “You gave me your word.”


“What are you complaining about,” Darious asked.  “The people taken from your city will become concubines and breeder stock.  Their only jobs will be to make love and have children.”


“More slaves for the market,” Trayvis shot.


“Very high priced slaves,” Darious agreed.  “What warlord or king would not want an army of Hawkeye archers?”


Trayvis did not answer the remark.  Darious took the gesture as agreement and clasped the man on the shoulder as he walked away.  Trayvis cringed at the man’s touch.  He could not remember why he had ever called the man friend.


“What,” Darious questioned, “You think you are any better than me?”


“If I’m not,” Trayvis said, “may the gods take me.”


“You are a usurper and a turn-cloak the same as me,” Darious reminded.  “And let us not forget that little plot to kill the king.  All your doing Hawkeye.”


Darious spoke only the truth.  Trayvis had hired the assassin to kill King G’Leaze.  The Hawkeye did not believe that the human race should be ruled by anyone but a human.  After all, there were more humans in the kingdom than any other race.  When the king had taken in the Dust Children of Karal, it had been the last straw.


Trayvis had plotted with the king’s royal guard.  Many of the guard had believed a human should sit the throne as well.  With a half-elf and two heirs of Elvin blood on the throne, there would be no hope of that.  Trayvis had already put men in position to take care of the half-elf’s daughters upon his death.  Then with the royal guard at his side, he would claim the throne for himself.  Only the bungling jester had spoiled the plans they had laid.


Feeling satisfied that he had put Trayvis in his place Darious left him to his thoughts.  Trayvis had paid dearly for Darious’ silence after the Ronan found out his secret.  The man was able to reach further into the pockets of the nobles in Kings Overlook.  Now he had another vote to sell.  The Ronan had found many skeletons in the closets of the council.  Secrets had made him and the town of Ronan very wealthy.


As a boy, Trayvis had dreamed of being a hero but it seemed he had become a scoundrel.  When he had taken his father’s place on council, the boy had yearned to do the realm justice.  He wanted the people of Talon Peak to remember him.  They would surely remember him now.  Trayvis would go down in history as the man who helped enslave his entire city.


The damage had been done and there was no turning back for him.  He had no home or family anymore.  He would take the gold that King Geiger would give them and go to the free cities.  His father and mother would be far too old to be of breeder stock. Maybe he would have enough to buy his families freedom.  That is if they still lived.


Caitlin rising from her seat startled the Hawkeye.  He wished that Darious had taken her sword and armor.  The sight of the half-elf walking around fully armed unnerved him.  There would be a plan circulating in the half-elf’s mind and from what he had seen from Darious, the Ronan would come up short on wit against her.


She strolled leisurely around the chamber.  To watch her behavior there was no way to tell she was a captive.  The woman was calm and collective.  No fear graced her features as Darious had hoped.  Even when Darious had killed three of the council that had sided with King G’Leaze at her feet, Caitlin remained calm.


The Ronan had thought fear had stayed the half-elf’s hand but Trayvis had said it was lack of opportunity.  There had been twenty-five guards in the room at that time.  The odds were too great against her to attack.  With only ten to deal with, Trayvis feared retaliation.


“The guards have found no trace of Brianna and the ork,” Darious told him returning to his side.


“Where do you think they have gone,” Trayvis replied still trying to keep a watchful eye on Caitlin.


“Run to the west wing,” Darious answered.  “There are more rooms and places to hide.  They must plan to try to sneak out after dark.”


“You think they plan to run,” Trayvis was taken aback by the statement.  Even the Ronan couldn’t be so stupid as to think that Brianna G’Leaze would run away without her father and sister.


“They will try to make it to the ork force and warn them that the castle has fallen,” Darious deducted.  “Brianna will know that the ork will need time to lay siege to the castle.”


“Why don’t you think they will come for the prisoners,” Trayvis asked not buying the skinny man’s reasoning.


“They don’t know where we hold the prisoners,” Darious reminded.  “I put extra men on the stairs incase they come this way.”


“I hope that is enough.”


“Would you stop worrying,” Darious said, “All they have is a girl, a half-ork and an old man.  The Jester Knight has probably bled to death from his wounds.”


“The old man was a healer,” Trayvis reminded.  “I wouldn’t count Jarco dead till we have a body.”


Darious just laughed at Trayvis, but the Hawkeye did notice the Ronan stroke a boney finger across the scratch on his face.  The Ronan had said he had battled the jester in the hall and easily bested his steel.  From the look on his face, Trayvis had doubts.


His mind soon found its way back to the half-elf.  She still stood in the same place with her back to him.  The war room was not a very big room.  It was about half the size of the throne room and had maps of every kingdom and free city known hanging on the walls.  There was very little furniture in the room.  Only a few-high backed chairs and a round table sat in the middle of the room.  None of it had been of much use.  King’s Overlook had not gone to war since the Slaver War with Vale.


King G’Leaze had thought of turning the room into something more useful.  That had stayed just an idea when no one could find a good use for such a secluded room with no windows.  The darkness grabbed the room so tightly that it took twice the amount of torches to light it.  Darious had used six lanterns to light the little room.  That was as many as the Throne room.


Trayvis hated to be in this room.  All the lanterns played tricks on his eyes.  Shadows danced on the walls and floor in all directions.  A Hawkeye prided himself on his vision and did not like any place that took that ability.


Caitlin had put herself right in between two of the lanterns.  The flicker of the flames made her shadow jump and multiply.  Trayvis tried to block all the extra motion out and just watch the girl.  He could feel she was up to something.


All looked to be in order.  Caitlin stood with her back to him rocking back and forth on her heels.  Her white armor helped with the task of watching her in the bizarre, dancing lights.  Trayvis let himself relax for a second before he saw it.


On the floor behind her, Caitlin cast two shadows.  That would not be unusual giving the circumstances, but the shape of the second shadow was too uncanny to miss.  The first shadow traced the outline of the half-elf perfectly, while the second appeared to be a little taller and have short-cropped hair with a small cowlick in the front.  Even that would not have caught Trayvis’ eyes if it had not been for the extra appendage in the shadow’s middle.


Trayvis let his hand drop to his quiver.  As he pulled his arrow it began to try and squirm from his grasp.  Then he felt the sharp pinch of fangs in his hand.  Instinctively he tossed the arrow aside.  He saw the snake slither away from him in the dim light.  The Hawkeye quickly unbuckled his quiver and threw it to the floor receiving two more bites for his trouble.


The guards that had been watching King G’Leaze were passed out on the ground.  While the king’s ropes appeared to be untying themselves, more of the strange silhouettes graced the ground around him.  The fallen guard’s swords floated from their belts and stayed suspended in the air.


When he tried to yell, he realized that no sound came from his mouth.  No sounds were made by anything in the chamber.  Two guards fought with a sword that hovered in the air before them, slashing and cutting against their steel without noise.  When Darious finally noticed the battle, half his men were already dead.


Trayvis fought the effects of the poison.  He wanted to watch the daring escape.  As he had thought, Darious ran at the sight of the carnage before him.  The man was good with a sword but one of the biggest cowards that ever lived.  However, a bunch of swords flying around a room by themselves was a scary sight.


The guards fought the aspersions as best they could.  One of the guards was lifted high off the floor and lingered there for a few seconds before his body sailed into the stone.  Another also died by stone.  The sigils on the king’s skin glowed bright as words that Trayvis could not hear spouted from his mouth.  The stone reacted to the magic forming a large stone hand that seized the guard in its palm.  The plate mail the man wore crushed in its grip.


The two remaining council that had been true to the king cowered in the corner.  Neither chose to participate in the battle for their freedom.  How they could choose not to fight for something so important was beyond Trayvis.  Not that the rescuers needed any help.


Trayvis let his body slide along the wall to the floor.  His arm had lost all feeling and his hand was enormous from the swelling.  The poison in his arrows must have given the spell-made snakes an extra deadly bite.


So intent was he at watching the half-elf that the thought of her father had never crossed his mind.  It was then he had realized that Caitlin had played him.  The Hawkeye had kept his eyes on her just as she had planned.  How he envied the skill of this woman.


The silence was lifting and sound returned to the chamber as the last guard had his head crushed by unseen hands.  His arrows had returned to normal and Trayvis thought he might even have enough strength to draw his bow.  The thought was not very appealing to him.  He was dying.  What would be the purpose in further helping the men who had wiped out his city?


The king shut the door and chanted a spell over it.  It glowed as bright as the lanterns by the end.  The door was the only way into the halls beyond.  Trayvis knew the king had just made the group some time to gather themselves for their escape.  The dead bodies of the guards were searched by invisible people and stripped of anything that could be of use.


“Trayvis,” a voice called to him.  He could not see the person it belonged to, but recognized the voice as Jarco’s.


“Heard you bested Darious with a blade,” Trayvis said.


“And two of his guards,” Jarco bragged, “Cut that wand of his in two.”


“Good for you,” Trayvis told him.  He was happy the Ronan had lost his prize possession.


“I will get some help for you,” promised Jarco.


Conta had come to join the two when he realized that the Hawkeye was still alive.  The fat man looked down at the dying man without pity.  The eyes sentenced Trayvis to the death that he deserved.


“He is a turn-cloak,” Conta told Jarco. “Let him die as one.”


“Don’t forget a scoundrel,” Trayvis added.


The man left and Trayvis assumed that Jarco had done the same.  After a few minutes he felt something be pushed into his good hand.


“There is not much there,” the bodiless voice told him.  “But it should be enough to ward off the poison.”


The sound of bare feet slapping against stone followed the jester’s departure.  The man had not even waited for a “thank you.”  Or maybe he hadn’t expected one.


Trayvis debated if he even wanted to drink the potion for many minutes after everyone had gone.  Self-preservation had won the battle of morals and the Hawkeye had named himself a bigger coward than Darious.  The mouthful of thick liquid ran down his throat as he drifted into a slumber that the banging on the magically sealed door could not disturb.






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