Give me your trust, said the Shadow King.
With your hearts in my hand, the realm shall sing.
Trust me to know, and to do what is best.
And I shall take care of the rest.
But Trust is the colour of a dark seed growing.
Trust is the colour of heart’s blood flowing.
Trust is the colour of a soul’s last breath.
Trust is the colour of death.
Iorveth adjusted her mask, and relished the feel of bone on skin. Around her, she could feel the thundering footsteps as bound giants trudged onwards to their fate. The song echoed through her skull, providing her with a chilling reminder of who else shared that space.
Almost on cue, Betresh-Lal piped up, her voice like a chime in Iorveth’s ear.
“Remember, Borys is not to be underestimated. Even with the elixir, he will be wary, and more dangerous than can be imagined.*
Iorveth elected not to reply. Checking the weapons at her belt, she let out a breath she had not realized she was holding. History would be made today. And perhaps ended.
Give me your trust, said the queen on her throne.
For I must bear the burden alone.
Trust me to lead, to judge, to rule.
And no man shall call you a fool.
But trust is the sound of the hell-hound’s bark.
Trust is the sound of betrayal in the dark.
Trust is the sound of a soul’s last breath.
Trust is the sound of death.
Mr. Bread casually sauntered through the alley, knowing that only the stupidest cut-purse would dare approach him. Listening to the call of hundreds of merchants hawking their wares, Mr. Bread could almost believe he was a boy again. Nipping through the crowd, snatching purses from fat merchants, beating his way to the top of the Gilded Street Knights.
The frivolity of youth.
Snatched from his reverie by a passing tough bumping against him, Mr. Bread reflexively reached for a dagger he kept hidden in his armor. Checking his coin purse, Mr. Bread walked on, emerging into the market proper.
“Now then, time for some commerce!”
Perusing the jeweler’s stall, Cha’ka glanced over a number of rings and pendants. They all appeared equally shiny.
How do the dras grade these? Is size the importance, or is it rarity? Usefulness as a weapon?
“May I… help you?”
The jeweler was large, as humans go. He clearly had not shied away from what feasts he came across. His eyes were wide, in what Cha’ka recognized as fear.
“This one is curious. Which of these is best?” Cha’ka gestured to the wares on the stall.
“Ah, ah… well, all of these are made from the finest lacquer from Urik, hand crafted…”
Cha’ka cut him off with a raised hand.
“Which. Is. Best?”
The Merchant floundered, clearly ill at ease around one of the Kreen.
“Err, this one.” Pointing out a jade coloured amulet carved in the shape of a scarab, the merchant’s hands shook.
“Very well, jewel merchant. I trust this will suffice as trade.”
Placing a solid Iron dagger on the table, Cha’ka gathered up the pendant, and turned his back on the sniveling dras. With luck, Elthea would appreciate it as much as she had the severed plants.
Stepping out into the boiling sun, Moiraine adjusted the robe she wore, and was uncomfortably aware of the texture of the fabric. Her wounds from the battle with Titarion’s lackeys had not healed particularly well, and grated on the coarse fabric.
But Mooiraaaaaine! Why don’t you just get a nicer robe?
“Because, I refuse to pamper myself while the people of this city suffer!”
At this, Jenora, Moiraine’s ever present silent shadow, perked up.
“What was that, ma’am?”
“Simply talking to myself. A sign of age, I suppose.”
Moiraine squared her shoulders, and glanced out over the city. The sun was just passing it’s noon-day height, and…
Suddenly, like a slap across the face, came a burst of energy from the North, like a wave of fire in the mind.
That… that wasn’t the tribute. What the hell happened?
As Elthea stood back up, she looked around, to see what could have caused such a deafening noise. Though deep down, she already knew. Stalls were scattered, merchants and guards alike, running panicked. To where, none knew.
Cha’ka. Where is he?
Spinning about, searching too and fro, she realized that in the panic, Cha’ka had become separated from her.
Well, he likely needs rescuing. About time, if he rescued me again, I’d be far to much in his debt.
Gathering herself up, she adjusted her cloak, and Elthea started her search.
Harzen grinned, insofar as a skeleton can grin.
“Somehow, I don’t think the Dragon will be receiving a Tribute next year.”
The prisoner, bound to the stone altar, had little of use to say, mostly screams of pain, muffled by a bloody rag stuffed into his mouth.
“Don’t give me that. If you didn’t want to further the cause of research, you shouldn’t have been looting the homes of those who fled. I mean… I don’t care, but the guards did.”
Muffled screams. Did this man know nothing else? Even a pained whimper would have been a pleasant change. But no. Scream this. Scream that. It was enough to consider just burning this man to a crisp and starting over with someone less irritating.
“No, no… Harzen, don’t throw away even more test subjects.”
Reaching for the scalpel, Harzen perused his subject again.
“Tell me, do you value your tongue or your eyes more?”
Silly question. It was clearly his tongue.
Betresh-Lal sat back, an exhausted grimace painted across her face.
“An exhausting endeavor, and only the first of many.”
The Black Cloaked Figure behind her stirred, and advanced a step.
“Keep your distance, I am not dead yet.”
The Cloaked figure stepped back, and resumed it’s patient vigil.
Closing her eyes, Betresh-Lal began sending her mind afield, investigating what chaos her interference had wrought.
The ones of shadow and flame had been worth every bit of effort, and then some. Perhaps they would…
No, there was no profit in that line of thinking. Concentrating harder, Betresh-Lal redoubled her efforts. There was so much to do before Borys’s counterstroke.
Deep beneath the surface of Athas, a great rumbling began. Echoing outwards, in an ever expanding ring, the rumbling had faded to barely a whisper, too soft to be heard, by almost everyone.
However, deep in the Forest Ridge, a halfling, by the unassuming name of Uro, was standing at the top of a volcanic shaft right as the vibration reached it. Unfortunately, he did not speak any languages other than Halfling. If he had, he might have understood the whisper, amplified by the geological phenomenon. He might have pondered why the tube filled with hot lava had whispered “Soon.”
And if Uro had understood more about Geological phenomena, he might have realized that sensible people do not stand on the edge of Volcanic Shafts, and realized that a suitably large vibration would collapse the edge quite quickly, depositing one into a rather hot and sizzling death.
Alas, Uro did not.