A short read
Footsteps with the sound of clanking metal echoed through the old hall that was barely lit that had seen better days. Three men clad in Legionary Armor walked towards a large set of doors at the end of the hall. A pair of guards were stationed at both sides of it to ensure only a select few could get through. They were guarding the prince after all and he didn’t like to be disturbed unless it was important. As the men came closer to the guards they were saluted by them as they stepped aside and opened the large doors for them. As doors opened a violin’s sweet tune began to echo down the hall. Inside the room was a large dining room with a long table that went across the middle of it and at the other side was a young well dressed looking man playing the violin who seemed to be lost in the music he was making. The doors behind them closed as quietly as they walked. The men made sure to walk carefully towards him so they did not disturb the prince as he hated people who interrupted him while he was playing and it did not end well for them, the last man who did this found himself thrown out one of the palace’s windows seven stories up. It took a while just to clean up what was left of him and most people just decided to wait for him to finish before continuing anything. As they waited they had to admit that the prince was a master playing his violin. If only he could control his temper as well as he played. Soon to pass the time he looked at the architecture around the room. It was all finely made, he had to admit, the Ardanian royalty knew how to show off as everything looked like it was masterfully crafted. It was one of the few parts of the palace that was not damaged during the siege. A few more minutes passed until he finally stopped and placed it down on the ornate table. “Commander Lucius, what brings you up here late at night,'' said Argos as he turned to the men. Lucius and his men kneeled before him. “Your highness, I have news that needs to be addressed to you.” Argos did not seem the least bit surprised as Lucius only came around on business. “What is this time and can it wait after dinner, it should be ready any minute now.” he sat down on a finely carved chair as he waved Lucius and his men to rise which they did. “I’m afraid not of your lordship, this is quite urgent and must be dealt with as soon as possible.” He let out a sigh as he crossed his leg over the other. “Alright, then what is it then?” Lucius cleared his throat. “We have reported that Ironmound was raided two days ago.” Argos let out another sign. “What was the damage?” He took a scroll and began reading it. “The report says that forty-seven men were killed in the attack, the garrison’s quarters were set aflame and a riot broke out after the attackers left.” “They need reinforcements to quell it as they lack the men to do so.” At the moment a servant comes in carrying a dish towards them. Argos’ attention is shifted to him as he prepares himself for his meal. “Is that all?” “Can’t you just send out a cohort by yourself, commander?” The servant placed the dish in front of him and removed the cloche to reveal a roasted bird cooked and waited to be relieved as he poured a side of wine next to it in a silver chalice. He began eating it as he reached his utensils. “There is more,” replied Lucius. He stopped for a moment and looked at him. “ A shipment of iron was stolen as well.” He placed down his utensils and turned towards him. “How much?” began to tap his fingers on the table. The servant began to look nervous as he did this. “While there is no official record of how much it is believed to be at least twenty pounds worth.” A loud thud of a fist hitting the table as Argos rose from his seat with a scowl on his face. The bottle of while almost fell off that table, but the servent managed to catch it in time and place it back on the table “ You mean to tell me that bandits managed to run off with that much iron without anyone to stop them.” He yelled, “What were those idiots thinking over there?” Do you realize what will happen if this gets back to my father, and what do these Ardanian dogs will think if they can get away with this?” Lucius did not show any signs of emotion as he did this as he has been yelled at by superiors so many times, it was common throughout the legions, he just learned to deal with it. “Which is why we must show initiative if we are going to keep them in line, your grace.” He sat back down and took a sip of his wine and was looking for something. “Where is the salt? He looked at the servant. The nervous servant seemed to have his tongue in a knot and couldn’t speak. Where is the salt? He asked again in a cold voice. The fear managed to make him speak again. “We ran out of it me lord.” “What do you mean we ran out of it?” Lucius needed to wait again as the governor was in one of his moods and had to wait until it was over. “We used the last of it for your meal, me lord, just how you like it,” he said nervously. He looked at his food for a moment and back at him. Suddenly he grabbed his arm and put it on the table. A sudden cry of pain came from the servant as his knife went into his hand. “You didn’t think that I didn’t want to add some more salt to it, you simpleton.” “Now I want you to go into the city and get some more.' “Bu- but forgive me, my lord, you confiscated all of it from the city months ago after the shortage began.” He was trying to hold back the pain he was feeling. Argos paused for a moment to think before looking at Lucius. “ Commander, is there any word from the supply ships? “They should have been here weeks ago to resupply us. Lucius cleared his throat “I’m afraid not, your grace, they are not willing to make the trip until the pirates in the region have been dealt with.” He rolled and looked back at the servant. He twisted the knife in his hand and he let out a yelp of pain. “You are going to be a good little dog and tell that cook of mine that if he does not find any salt for my next meal, I’m going to feed him his entrails and I’ll beat you with your severed hand if he doesn’t come through.” “Understood, my lord.” He nodded. He pulled out the knife in a quick pull and began cleaning it off with the servant’s sleeve. “Good, now run along and tell him.” The servant bowed while trying to stop the bleeding and began to rush out of the room. “Oh, one more thing,” he said. The servant stopped in his tracks and turned back to him with fear in his eyes. “Get the maid to come in to clean up this mess. There was a pool of blood on the table and a trail that followed the servant. “Yes, me lord,” he replied and rushed towards the door to leave. Argos returned to his meal as if nothing happened. Lucius took a step forward when he felt it was safe. “Your grace, there is also another matter I wish to bring up.” He didn’t even bother to reply back and just waved his hand while he was eating. “We need to address the issue of the Brotherhood of the Wood.” He took a sip of his wine and turned to him. “What is there to talk about, they’re nothing more than bandits.” “We will get rid of them eventually." Does this fool even realize the trouble that these rebels are causing? Lucius thought to himself. They are a threat that's been undermining the empire in Ardania for years and they have yet to be eradicated since the war ended. “ We believe that they were responsible for the attack on Ironmound.” Argo placed his utensils down for a moment. “Alright, they are crafty bandits then and why wouldn’t they be they are Ardanian filth after all.” After gaining governorship of the new province he made sure to put those mongrels in their place and the ones causing trouble were put down. “You must understand grace these rebels are becoming bolder and bolder as the years have gone and we must-.” Argos raised his hand to stop him. “Commander, let me make myself clear, there are no rebels in this province.” “They are nothing more than thieves and murders that have been causing trouble for us lately and we will rid ourselves of their filth soon enough.” Argos has known about this brotherhood for some time now, sure they have been causing more trouble than usual lately, but he had done his part to try and get rid of them. Bounties were placed on any known members with enough coin on their heads to even make a beggar live life comfortably. Which meant that bounty hunters would be going after them from all over the Western Lands or at least Ardania to try and get rid of them for them. Then there was the decree he made a while back as well, anyone being apart or aiding the brotherhood will be killed on sight. It didn’t matter to him either way, they would be eliminated one way or another no matter how many bodies had to be piled up. “But the question is how much longer will it take to get rid of them, that’s the problem. The legions across the province are spread out thin trying to keep order and the brotherhood is only making things harder for them to do that.” Said, Lucius. He didn’t even know why he kept trying to get the governor to understand the situation. To him, this was no more than just a game. Ever since he got here he has been disregarding his duties as provisional governor and has just been living in luxury for so long. Why the emperor would send him down here to rule makes no sense at all. From what he heard the prince was stealing from the royal treasury and instead of punishing him properly, the emperor believed sending him here would teach him to become a mature, responsible man. This of course has only made things worse as he just does whatever he wants now with no one to stop him. He was indeed what everyone says he was, a spoiled brat. Though this was not going to stop him from trying to keep the province from falling into utter chaos. “We can’t use military force to get rid of them because we lack the force, to begin with.” “Which is why I suggest your grace asks for aid from the capital for a few more legions to maintain stability, maybe even ask the aid of Prince Leonidas if possible.” Argos let out a sadistic laugh. “My brother is indisposed at the moment, commander.” “From what I’ve been hearing he and the fifth legion are in Ferosia dealing with an uprising.” “As for your request for more troops, I’m afraid that it is not possible for the moment.” “You mean the Senate has denied us again? He wasn’t sure if he felt worried or angered by this news. Even the men with him felt uncomfortable when they heard this as both of them gave a glance to one another. “What did they say this time?” He asked. Argos picked up a scroll that was near a pile of them on the table and handed it over to him. “The same old excuse they told me last time, there are not enough men to reinforce the legions lost during the war and many are still being trained, all the reinforcements we’ve been getting have been nothing more than cadets fresh out of the academies from what I’ve seen.” Just then the sound of a door opened and a young woman in a maid uniform walked in with a bucket, a brush, and rags. He turned to look at her and pointed at the blood on the table and floor. She walked towards the table and began cleaning. Lucius could see bruises on her face and arms as she cleaned. She was relatively young, no more than seventeen at least to be working like this, but the prince did enjoy the women he employed this way. Though what he did to them when no one was around was something that made his blood boil. But he had to suppress it for now as he couldn’t touch him without being run through by every guard in the room and there were at least a dozen of them. Another issue the prince suffered from was paranoia. Lucius then looked at the scroll handed to him and examined it fully. It was authentic alright, the Senate seal and all as he read every word of it. This is why he hated politicians to begin with and the Imperial Senate was no exception. Corruption was all over and they got away with it. They were the reason why the war started to begin with and they rather protect their profits than risk their necks to secure these lands. He crumpled up the paper and tossed it across the room, landing in the blood that was being cleaned up. “Those fools don’t even know what is going on here and they expect us to hold off whatever enemies that show their heads while they lounge in their villas without a care in the world.” He pounded the table as hard as he could. Argos didn’t even flinch when he did it, though his men did and some of the guards as well. Lucius Marosties was a man to be feared in the seventeenth legion and often let his anger out on both his men and enemies. He was a Vatain through and through that would do anything for the empire. That's what Argos admired about him and was one of the few things that he tolerated in this dung heap of a province. “Well, they do have a point, losing forty thousand men can put a strain on things.” That's right. Lucius thought to himself, the war cost them deeply in what was thought to have been a short campaign turned into years. It turned the region into a land of famine and disease. “But don’t worry about that anymore, my dear Lucius, for I have solved that problem for us.” He pops up his head when he heard him say his name. For the many years, he had been by his side, Argos only said his name when he was about to tell one of his schemes to him, often they would be sinister by nature. For a man of the imperial family whose sigil was a falcon, he acted more like a serpent instead. “What pray tell did you do to get this aid?” He said with a stern look at him. He picked up another scroll and opened it and revealed the document to him. He was hesitant at first not knowing what it was but his curiosity got the better of him and he took it from him. A look of shock came over his face and the men with him when they saw the symbol on it, the mark of the Inquisition! “What have you done!” “Do you know any idea what will happen when the Inquisition shows itself here?” Saying that out loud made everyone in the room unsettled. The footsteps of the maid leaving the room even showed fear in them as the door closed. “Now, now, there is nothing to worry about, and who says the Inquisition is coming here.” Lucius didn’t even understand what he meant by that. “Remember when you said that we were having trouble getting troops and supplies from the Great Forest. He nodded at him. The forest was vast and spanned all from the Spine to the Ildrean Ocean. There were only three ways to get to Ardania because of it, by sea, the Narrow Path, and through it. Since it took longer through the Narrow Path, most of their troops and supplies had been going through the forest to get here faster. Of course, not all got through, which might be just because of anything since it harbors many things that can keep a man up at night. Not to mention these savages of the forest tribes and Beastmen, along with the brotherhood who they have failed to find still. “Well, let just say I pointed them in the direction of the forest to deal with our problem for us.” He figured out what he meant by that quickly. “You mean they’re going in there to deal with the savages for us.” This might be a good plan after all if the tribes are converted or wiped out then supplies and manpower could get here a lot faster than before. “I have a few friends in the church that I managed to convince that the Great Forest has for too long been absent from the light of the Exalted.” “The rest was simple really and if they come across anything that might be of interest to us then they will tell us.” Argos was playing a dangerous game by doing this, the Inquisition was not a force to be reckoned with, in the old days not even emperors couldn’t avoid their judgment. He had to watch his step too from now on as well or end up in a cell or worse. It did not matter now, he had things to attend to and needed to finish this meeting. “Very well your grace you seem to have everything under control for now.” “Now about Ironmound,” Argos cut him off. “Yes, yes you can send a relief force to Ironmound.” “Will a single cohort be enough to deal with those peasants? He bowed to him, his men did the same. “Yes, that will be enough, and may your grace enjoy his day.” With that Lucius and his group left and Argos returned to his meal. What they did not realize was that their conversation was being listened to by the maid behind the door she went through as she placed her ear against it. Once it was over she looked at the crumpled scroll that she took without anyone noticing. There was some blood on it but it was still readable. But she felt sorry for poor Richard, no one seemed to be safe from that monster, her bruises reminded her of that. She left her thoughts and folded it as small as she could and placed it in between her bosom under her dress. She walked down the hall and prepared for the next meeting that was coming up.
C. B. Ash
Nice! Will there be more? Hope so!