This is the next instalment of the fantasy story I wrote many years ago.
I still haven’t got a title for it, so if you can think of a good one, let me know in the comments. 🙂
If you would like to read it from the start, this is the first part:
Lara, Bethra, Augustus, David and Piotr Drake were all standing in an austere antechamber, somewhere within the imposing military keep of Savarias. The plain grey Limestone walls and stone floors added to the feeling of stark grimness. The only decoration was a large tapestry that covered one wall and depicted a gruesome battle scene. Roughly dressed foot soldiers with red capes stormed the mounted cavalry of the old Imperial forces. A man wearing the robes of a Red High Mage was depicted being impaled on a pike. The scene was propaganda to show the victory of the Red People’s Army over the old Imperial Regime that had been allied with the Red Magehood. The events it depicted occurred over twenty years ago in the great rebellion. The tapestry did nothing to lighten the atmosphere of the room. There were no windows to let in light, the only light came from a lit torch that sputtered in a wall mounted sconce.
Lara turned to Augustus Caraffi “Augustus, what is the law in Savarias regarding Mages?”
“As far as I was aware the law stated that a Mage could pass through Savarias but the practice of magic is strictly forbidden.”
Piotr Drake suddenly exclaimed “What have you got me into? We’re all going to Die, aren’t we? It’s all your fault, you spoiled brat! I shall never see my Elsa or my kids again.”
Piotr had held on to all his emotions, the impatience, the irritation and now the fear, for too long and letting it all out had released him of all the usual impassiveness of the trained servant. He collapsed sobbing to the floor.
“Calm down Piotr, you’re behaving like a hysterical fool. No one is going to die, I’ll sort everything out. You’re not at risk, you’re a servant and not to blame for anything. I am going to send you back to Argor anyway. I’m sick to death of that damn coach.”
“I’m sorry Miss Lara, I don’t know what came over me, I’m so sorry.”
“This is stressful for all of us, Piotr. You would be better off returning home, before you have a complete nervous breakdown. I will give you some message for you to deliver on your return.”
Silence descended upon them, a silence that no one broke. Time seemed to come to a stand still and it seemed like a lifetime that passed in that oppressive room before a sound was heard. A solid oak door opened and a guard announced that Colonel Franz Merka, the commandant of the City, would see them now.
They entered a large room that was in stark contrast to the oppressive austerity of the room they had left. Colonel Merka obviously enjoyed his comforts. A large bay window was set into one wall through which a twilight view of the city could be seen. The window was lined with gold-embroidered blue velvet curtains. Finely woven rugs adorned the floor and the walls were lined with oak panelling polished to shine in the light of the oil lamps scattered about the room on ornate tables. There was no fireplace or hearth, instead warmth was provided by an intricately worked brass brazier that stood in the centre of the room giving enough heat to counteract the evening chill.
Next to the window was a large mahogany desk. Mahogany was an extravagance indeed as it only grew in the forests far to the south and had to be imported at great expense. Behind the desk, seated in a large padded leather chair was a man in his middle years, the aforementioned Colonel Franz Merka.
Lara saw that he was roughly the same age as her father but whereas he was a large, muscular man, Merka was fat. The shiny gold buttons strained across his belly and he had a bulbous nose, several chins and a ruddiness to his cheeks that suggested an overfondness for liquor. He also radiated a sense of pride and arrogance.
“You may be seated, Lady Boadrah, and your companions also.” He spoke with a strange accent, slightly drawled and slower than she was used to. He indicated the simple chairs in front of his desk. He continued speaking, his voice was unctuous and dripped with contempt “You are travelling to Albana, is that not correct?”
Lara replied “Yes Colonel we are. Why have you detained us?”
“We do not have your slack ways here in Savarias. We do not tolerate Magic in any form, I hear, in Argor, you seem to practically encourage it! Magic is an abomination and Mages conspired with the Old regime that were oppressors of the people and are our enemies. I wish to make clear the law regarding this Mage you have in your entourage. The practice of Magic is forbidden. Anyone found practising magic of any kind will be captured and Hanged. Anyone found with a Mage caught casting spells will also be imprisoned. The laws in Albana are even stricter than here with regards to Mages. Their casualties at the hands of the fighter mages during the glorious revolution were extreme. No Mages can enter Albana and if a Mage is discovered, which I understand happens now and then, the penalty is Death, without exception. As your Mage is unable to travel into the district of Albana, he will be turned back, he may as well return to Argor now. I feel obliged to insist you continue your journey without your Mage. I shall not detain you any longer, if you agree to this. However you will remain my guest, until you do agree. Is that understood?”
“Certainly Colonel, and I hope you understand fully that I correspond quite frequently with my Father and he will receive a full account of what has passed here today. The Public humiliation of the daughter of the governor of Argor, in Savarias, the tale will spread, I’m sure. I trust you do not intend to visit Argor at all? I’m sure my Father will make you very welcome.” Lara responded, unbowed.
Colonel Merka went bright red, but then slowly the blood drained from his face.
“I just wanted to clarity our Laws. I meant no personal slight, but the safety of our people is my primary concern, I must protect them from the black arts of Magic. I assure you, no insult to yourself, your father or to Argor was intended.”
“If you provide us with four of your fastest horses and free passage, I shall take you at your word and not be insulted.”
“Do you agree, then, to send your Mage back to Argor and to proceed without him?”
“Yes, I do Colonel.”
Mage Caraffi leapt up from his chair as Lara announced her decision.
“But, but, but Lara….You need my protection. You can’t sent me back!”
“I’m sure I can survive without you, Augustus. Under the circumstances, it appears that I must proceed without you.”
Lara turned back to the Colonel “Do you agree to my request?”
“Yes, I will grant it. In the morning you will be provided with four fresh horses from my stable. Please accept the hospitality of my keep for tonight.”
“Thank you. Good night Colonel.”
Lara stood up and the others followed her out of the room. Mage Caraffi looked suddenly quite ill.
The Colonel gave orders to one of the guards to escort them to the guests quarters and to bring them some nourishment.
They walked along bare and stark corridors and descended several spiral staircases until they found themselves on a long carpeted corridor with an oak door through which, they passed into a large sitting room. It was furnished reasonably comfortably. Better than the stark halls they had passed through, although not as lavish as the Colonels office had been. Blue carpets lined the floor and some tapestries, the walls. There were no gruesome battle scenes, to Lara’s relief, the tapestries were mainly of fruit and flowers. Archways led from the room to two bedchambers each with a large four poster bed. There was also a large copper bath in the corner and Lara gave orders for hot water to be brought so they could wash away the dust of the road. Before Lara could indulge herself though, Mage Caraffi wanted to speak to her.
“Lara, why did you agree to send me back to Argor? The High Mage Angstrom sent me to look after you and to teach you enough Magic so you could control it, and keep your talent hidden. How are you going to learn if you send me away?”
He was as pale as a sheet and seemed close to tears. Lara decided to reveal her plan to him.
“It came to me like an Epiphany as I stood there. I realised that they would never let me continue unless I made a promise, but I never intended to send you away, Augustus. It occurred to me that while you travel openly as a Mage, we’ll always have trouble like this, and when we reach the Albana border, we would have to part company then anyway. So, I realised suddenly that you and Piotr are very similar in height and build and seeing as I already intended sending Piotr back to Argor, why not swap. If you and he changed clothes the Colonel will think you are gone and you can then continue to travel with me. Well, what do you think?”
Augustus Caraffi looked at Lara and smiled. The colour seemed to be returning to his cheeks. “Lara, that Idea is sensational. It will solve all our problems. Very clever indeed.”
After that, Lara organised the Bath rota and after they all got clean the servants brought in some stew and bread. Then Lara and Bethra shared one bed with the Mage and David sharing the other and Piotr slept on the sofa. It didn’t take long before the unmistakable sounds of sleep filled the air.
End of Part Eleven
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 24/June/2018