This story is long overdue. The inspiration for this one came from the article on the discovery of the Ottoman tomb. My original plan proved …inadequate and I had to start over. Not completely, I still used the elements I set out in that article, but the plot I had in mind needed some major tweaking. So here is the story I promised all those weeks ago. Hopefully, my next one won’t be so long in coming.
Silvaria flew into the tent, her amethyst and gold robes fluttering around her. The room was tinted by the sun filtering though the orange fabric. The table full of gleaming instruments stood before her. She knew what she had to do but resisted. All of her work, and not just the work it took to create her sorcery, but also the work it took to get in a position to make it, was wasted.
She closed her eyes. Thoughts of the day she received her commission surfaced, distracting her from the task ahead. Gaining an audience with the king was an impressive feat, especially in his later years. He had grown more and more reclusive, no longer holding court or hearing grievances directly. Silvaria assumed, as did many others, that it had to do with his age and health. Indeed, he was far older than any other man in the two kingdoms could hope to achieve. Some said it was magic keeping him alive and that now his body was decaying with his spirit still inside. Silvaria didn’t know about that, but she was suspicious of his longevity.
The most incredible part of the meeting, was that she had been summoned. She hadn’t made the request. This was nearly unheard of within the last several years. Naturally, Silvaria was nervous. Perhaps she shouldn’t have been shocked by an aging monarch summoning his court wizard, but in light of his long-standing policy of only seeing his son and physician in person, she was worried. He would likely ask her for some potion to cure whatever ailment had kept him isolated for so long. Or a talisman that would grant him safe passage to the afterlife. These things could be done, but the cost was often more than one was willing to pay.
As she entered the audience chamber, a large, white silk tent in the middle of the war camp, she was struck by how august it was. By comparison, her traditionally-bright garments made her feel garish and out of place.
At the far end of the space, the king sat in a white and gold throne, gilt leaves and thorns grew up the legs, arms, and back enhancing the image of the dignified ruler. His robes were also white but he wore brightly colored jewels on his left ear, neck, wrists, and all ten fingers. They were modest in size, however, and did not look gaudy on him. His crown was a simple gold circlet, ringing his dark gray hair with the same pattern as the throne. But the floor he left bare. Silvaria approved of his appreciation for the sanctity of raw stone.
He didn’t look as old as Silvaria had expected but she could see the age in his eyes. His skin may not have been as wrinkled and saggy as someone of his years ought to have, but his gaze on her intimated a weariness that only came from outliving one’s natural lifespan. She had only seen it one other time. In her predecessor.
She approached the throne and knelt at the correct distance. His gaze seemed to warm her back as she waited and she could feel sweat form on her skin. She shouldn’t have been so nervous. She was the court wizard, there was little he could do to her, besides fire her. And she doubted that he would have done that in person.
But the rumors of the secret magic of the monarchy loomed over her and made her wonder. One should be wary of rumors passed among wizards.
When he finally spoke, the command was simple but his voice did nothing to dispel her disquiet or the thoughts of arcane dealings. Nor did it help that the very stones seemed to reverberate in response.
“Rise,” he said.
“I have called you here to ask for what I know will be a difficult and costly service.”
She remained silent. That seemed to be the correct response.
“You are aware, no doubt, that we are losing this battle.” She nodded and he continued. “And that losing this battle will likely mean losing the entire war.” Again she nodded. “What I ask is for you to help us win.”
Silvaria stood before her king, unsure what he was asking, specifically. She was no tactician. She did not know what it would take to win this battle. After waiting to the very end of what would be appropriate, she opened her mouth to speak but the king continued.
“My son. He is a capable general and will be a more than capable king. I wish to pass on to him all of my abilities. I wish for him to gain the…” The fingers of the king’s right hand raised from the arm of the chair as he considered his next words. “[bequest] necessary to continue my legacy…properly.”
Without moving he gave the impression of leaning forward, emphasizing what he’d said. Willing her to understand.
And she did understand. She understood too well what he was asking her to do. He said he knew it would be difficult and costly, but that was an incredible understatement. The rumors must be true. He must possess some innate magic of his own or he would not think this possible. He would not have known to ask.
Slowly, she gathered the will to speak. “My lord, I believe that I understand what it is you are requesting. But I need to be absolutely sure that you do as well. And that we are not the only two privy to this plan or I would face serious charges in the process of performing the necessary…steps.”
He nodded toward his adviser, a woman Silvaria hadn’t noticed, the king’s presence was so commanding. The tall, bald woman in gray robes the color of the stones beneath their feet, came forward and handed her a piece of parchment, then retreated back to the king’s side.
Silvaria looked down the page. The red ink was nearly black, reminding her of dried blood. It was an official pardon, signed by the king, his adviser, and his physician. She noted the absence of his son’s signature. This document proved that the king knew exactly what he was asking. And that knowledge was more proof that the rumors were correct.
She rolled the parchment, careful to keep the king’s seal intact, and looked directly into his eyes. He held her gaze, unflinching, allowing her to conduct her assessment. Yes, she would do it. With as little as she knew of warfare, she did know what it meant to win here. They were nearing the end of a century-long civil war that would eventually mean the obliteration of their entire people. She had just as much stake in the outcome as any of the king’s subjects, more actually considering the others’ attitude toward wizards.
And this battle was said to be the final turning point. Whoever held the keep outside their camp would likely be the winner of the entire war. Both sides were running low on resources, including soldiers, and they had maneuvered into this final stand. Her side had the harder task of capturing the keep, but they were the slightly better resourced side. They had magic.
At last, Silvaria bowed to the king. She did not need to speak her consent aloud, keeping the parchment was enough. The king slightly nodded his head and she turned and left the beautiful tent that would probably next be used for a funeral.
Forcing her mind back to her task, Silvaria quickly stepped up to the table, trying to hurry before she lost her nerve. She swept all of the jars, bowls, inkwells, boxes of herbs, and other exotic items off the table. Her long sleeve followed, smearing the various spilled liquids together, mixing them with the blood that still coated the tables, into a dangerous concoction. When she heard the sizzling fabric, she ripped the sleeve off and tossed it onto the detritus. She hefted the table onto its side and stomped on one of the legs to break it off. Using the leg as a club, she smashed her tools to bits and spread them out through the tent. When she decided she had made it look convincing enough, she picked up a shard of glass and made several large rips in the tent walls.
Before exiting through one of these, she looked back at the mess. The hole she had previously dug in the ground was concealed by the chaos. Enough dirt was churned up in the process that no one would notice the fresh mound she had left. Her precious secret would be safe for now. With luck she, or someone she could trust, would retrieve it in the near future. She wasn’t sure she had enough luck for that though.
Garret sat under the window in the spiral staircase that led to the East Tower. Most of the soldiers and officers in the keep were down in the hall preparing for battle. He needed to clear his mind first. From the top of the tower it was impossible not to look out over the mass of brightly colored tents all reflecting their bright colors back at him. He did not want the heathens’ colors on his face, shining on his armor. He didn’t want to be reminded of their presence. Of their magic.
So he sat in the isolated stairwell, under one of the thin windows, soaking in the gloom. Distant echoes drifted up to him. The sounds of men moving around in heavy armor, the sounds of orders being given and followed. The sounds of nervous laughter and forced conversation. The sounds one would expect before a battle.
He knew that eventually he would be missed. The charge was his idea. They would call him to lead it.
He stood now, forced himself to look out the window at the sliver of enemy camp it revealed. They must know something was coming. If they were smart they would. This was the best chance he had at uprooting their camp and sending them home. They would be the ones on the defense but with no defensive preparations of any kind.
But this was probably the only chance he had at defeating them at all. If he failed, not even the loss of their king and the heir would keep them from defeating him with magic. He knew little of how it worked but his mother had filled him with a hatred and fear of everything to do with wizards.
He had a memory from childhood that he was fairly certain contained a wizard, the type to wear the long dramatic robes covered in symbols. His mother had told him to go and hide, that she would deal with the stranger and come get him when it was safe. But he had only left the room and stayed where he could hear them, see them through the crack in the wall that his mother couldn’t yet pay to have fixed.
His mother, fearless as ever, walked up to the wizard and looked him right in the eyes, defiantly. Though the stranger’s gaze was not trained on him, Garret had still shivered. His mother pointed a finger at the man, though she didn’t touch him.
“How dare you come here? Neither you, nor anyone else from that court has the right to come here.”
“If you would please allow me to speak with you, it will only take a moment.”
“A moment is more than you’re worth.” She spat.
The hooded man remained silent for a moment and Garret got the impression he was gathering his patience. When he did speak, he abandoned his pretense at civility.
“You will listen to me. I did not come here to harm you. I do not care what you think I do and do not have the right to do. Sit down.”
The way his mother sat made Garret worry that the man had used magic on her. He had been so transfixed by the man that he hadn’t noticed her backing toward the chair. But even though she may have followed his command, her face was no less firm.
“Thank you,” he said, his control returned. “I realize that you believe that you have been slighted, that you were tricked into your current situation. If you hadn’t run away, things may have been different. It took us these years to track you down to deliver this message.” A look of satisfaction crossed her face as he paused to dig in his robes for a package. “This is for you.” He extended the brown parcel toward her.
“I don’t want any handouts from you,” she said, turning her face away from him.
“Madam, if you’ll forgive me,” he looked around the drab, gray room and Garret froze as the wizard’s gaze lingered on the crack through which he was peeking, “but you don’t have the luxury of pride. It’s very romantic to turn down a gift from-”
“Don’t you dare speak his name here.”
She shot a worried glance at the door she had closed on Garret.
Sighing, the man continued, “Very well, whether you wish his name spoken or not, you don’t have the luxury of turning him down. You owe it to your son, if not yourself, to make sure there is food on the table, clothes on your backs, and no more drafty cracks in the walls.”
His mother’s posture faltered ever so slightly, things had been hard lately and she had been praying for help. It would be ungrateful of her to deny it when the gods deigned to send it, not matter the source. Still looking away, she held out her hand for the package.
“There is also this.” He passed a parchment over to her. “He wanted to explain things to you better since you were clearly misinformed of the situation when you…entered his company.”
After delivering his charges he immediately turned and opened the door. He stopped in the ray of sun he had let into the small space. “If I may…” There was no response so he continued. “You are being quite stubborn and that boy deserves better. He deserves to know. And I think you’ll find that, after today, he will begin to ask for that knowledge.”
Shaded eyes flickered to the crack once more, almost a command in itself, and then the man was gone.
His mother tossed the letter in the fire without opening it. But she did keep the box. She used the money it contained to move them into a better home in a safer neighborhood. A great many years later, when time had done it’s work and healed, at least partially, her many wounds and smoothed over her abrasive stubbornness, she called Garret to her side. She gave him a smaller box and told him it was a gift from his father, one that she probably should not have kept from him.
Still clinging to the last bit of pride she had however, she said they had tricked her and robbed them both of his birthright. When he asked what she meant, the only answer he received was that it would do him no good to know what he had lost.
He felt under his shirt for his only prized possession, the ring that had been in the box. He traced his finger over the gold leaves and thorns.
Garret cleared these thoughts and went down to lead his men.
Silvaria was joining the refugees heading out of the camp. She wanted to escape before anyone, including the court advisers and others now lost in the orderless camp, could find her. She hadn’t realized that she outranked most of the officials the king had brought with him to this camp. The next in line for succession was back in the capital and no one knew who was in charge. The military had no problem running itself, although in this particular scenario they had the same idea as everyone else: Get out as fast as possible.
Initially they had come to her asking for help in resisting the inevitable onslaught coming from the keep. She tried to explain to them that her magic could only go so far and she didn’t have the power to turn an entire battle. Well, she had had one hope but it was gone now. A waste of so many things more important the just the ingredients it took to make it.
The group of deserters suddenly stopped. She craned her neck trying to see ahead to the disturbance when someone grabbed her arm. Silvaria turned to see the bald adviser with the stone-gray robes. She now wore mourning black, as Silvaria supposed she should probably be doing. As an official member of the court she should show respect to the departed king. She thought she would blend in better this way. Apparently not well enough.
The look on the woman’s face made Silvaria pity her. Not only because she was clearly so panicked, among other emotions surely lurking beneath that powerful one, but because she could do nothing to help her.
“Silvaria, you must come back.”
She pulled her arm free, an easier action than she had assumed. “I must do no such thing. I am tired of being told what I must do. You must join us and flee if you wish to live.”
“But you made the-” Silvaria cut her off with a glare and a shove of the arm. “You know what you did. We need you. We need it!”
People were starting to stare. The brightly-hued hoods with shadowed faces were turning in her direction. Not wanting the attention, she drew the adviser aside.
“I have told you there is nothing more I can do for you. The magic the king commissioned only works on his son. Worked. The only chance we had died in a drunken charge on the keep.”
Silvaria had nearly screamed when the soldiers charged into her tent carrying the dying man. She had been so absorbed in her work that she hadn’t heard them coming despite the commotion they must have been making. But when one is in the thrall of one’s own magic such things disappear.
They laid him down on a table and then seemed to realize for the first time what she was doing. Initial shock gone, Silvaria froze in panic, she had crimson blood up to her elbows. The body of the recently departed king lay on the table before her, splayed open, heart halfway removed from his chest.
For a brief moment that could have lasted an eternity, no one spoke, moved, breathed. The moans of the other royal in the tent brought them all back. The soldiers visibly shook themselves and made their decision to ignore the strange, disturbing actions of the court wizard, physically turning from her and speaking while facing their liege.
“You must save him. He can’t have much time left.”
Silvaria hesitated. The king may be dead, but her work was not lightly abandoned. Then again, her work would be useless without the king’s son. She gently placed the heart back where it belonged and went over to see what was going on.
“What happened to him?”
She didn’t wait for a response before taking out her dagger, which made the soldiers start and reach for her but not before she cut off the young man’s armor and tunic. She didn’t need them to tell her he had been shot with an arrow. Arrows. The shafts had been broken but she could see them now. Three arrow stubs stuck out of his side.
She stepped back, tried to rub the sweat from her brow but only succeeded in adding a blood smear.
“The death of his father…it was so sudden. He drank too much and wanted to make them pay. He blamed them.” Silvaria must have let her thoughts on this show for he said, “I know, we tried to tell him they had nothing to do with it. That this wasn’t the way to honor his father. But the drink had taken hold and he couldn’t be stopped.”
The official story was that his health had finally failed him. Silvaria assumed that his son would be informed of the truth. The anxious glances and fidgeting of the soldiers told her that the official story was about to be replaced, or at the very least amended. What are a few more rumors?
Silvaria stood there staring at the last hope they had at ending nearly one hundred years of bloody contests. And she got to work. She retrieved some smaller, finer-bladed knives and carefully removed the arrows, her hands now covered in blood from both father and son. She mixed a poultice, it was lower magic than she usually performed but she always kept the ingredients handy just in case. This was meant to stop the bleeding, prevent infection, and seek the inner wounds, which she could not sew shut, and add a rush of magical healing directly to them.
Despite her steady hands and swift ministrations, she doubted it would work. He had lost so much blood already and at least one arrow had gone too deep. She feared it pierced a lung. Even if the poultice could heal it, the blood that must have already entered his lung would be trapped there.
“Take him back to his tent. Clean him and make him comfortable. Burn prayers and call the physician. If he stirs, try to get water down him. That is all we can do now.”
When they left, she turned back to the other man she had cut open tonight.
“What have we done?” she said, wishing someone would answer.
This magic would take much more concentration than removing arrows and mixing a poultice. She painted ward spells on the tent to prevent further interruptions. Even if the prince’s condition worsened, the only thing that had a chance to save him now was the project the king had assigned her before he died. It was imperative she finish it.
Silently, she worked. The heart was reluctant to leave its host, the body it had nourished for so much longer than it was intended to. It did finally come free though and when it did, Silvaria placed it in the golden bowl. She conducted the rites, burned the rare ingredients the king had somehow already had waiting, spoke the words, and performed the gestures. This particular sorcery combined almost all of the forms of magic and it tested Silvaria’s skill, knowledge, and endurance.
When she was finally done, the heart floated in the golden bowl, now slightly glowing, surrounded by a liquid, quicksilver with viridian, auburn, and cerulean swirls. She placed it in a simple wooden box and closed the latch.
The atmosphere in the king’s son’s tent told her she was too late. Dawn was breaking and illuminating the purple room. Violet light cast across the young man’s face making him look more gaunt and wasted, like he had been dead for days. Silvaria didn’t know how long she had spent casting her magic, her own fatigue and hunger indicated it had been long, but surely not more than a single night. When she looked back at the young man, however, she realized the funeral wreaths had already been placed and he was wearing clean clothing, ceremonial clothing. Perhaps she had taken that long. There had been no other choice. Stopping the rite wasn’t possible and there was nothing else she could have done.
Suddenly she realized that her brightly colored robes stood out dramatically in the tent. Not to mention the blood that still coated her arms and spattered her front. She needed to remove herself from this place before anyone truly noticed her.
With the box still tucked under her arm she returned to her workshop. The smell of blood, death, and burned offerings made her feel bilious. The box in her hands seemed an overwhelming weight. Without thinking, she knelt on the floor and dug a hole with a wooden spoon from the table. Tired as she was she could only keep going until it was just large enough for the box. Once it was carefully lowered to the earth and covered, Silvaria went to her personal tent. She sat on her cot, curled into a ball, and wondered what would happen next.
She knew no better now than she had then. The people of the camp, like this adviser, wanted her to solve the problem. They thought she had gotten them into this mess and it was her duty to get them out. But it wasn’t her doing. None of it was. She did was she was asked. Everything else fell apart.
The only chance they had now was to escape and hope no one ever found the magicked heart in the golden bowl. While its intended purpose would only work on the king’s son, other things could be done with it. It was too dangerous to carry around and it could not be destroyed. She had done the only thing she could think of to protect it. To protect them all.
Hopefully, when the enemy soldiers got to her tent, they wouldn’t bother with it because everything was already destroyed. After the battle, no one would remember that it had been ransacked before the enemy arrived and everyone would assume anything worth taking was gone. No one would look too closely. No one would notice the mound of fresh earth under the wreckage. No one would find her finest work.
With bitterness, she turned from the lost adviser, pulled her hood back up, and lost herself in the crowd once more.
Garret stood over the ruins of the enemy camp. The bright fabrics of the tents, the oranges and yellows, reds and purples, were all brown with dirt and blood now. The setting sun was taking any remaining color away and storing it until morning. A light rain was attempting to wash the scene clean but only succeeding in spreading the muddy hues and dampening the victors’ spirits.
They had won. The enemy had fought hard and died valiantly, but they died. It did not make him feel good to have defeated them. He thought after all these years he would be excited to have finally made progress. Until this point, none of the battles had turned the tide of the whole war so decisively. It would be over soon now.
Garret would be known as the great war hero who ended the Civil War, vanquished the evil magic-using foes, and made the world safe for the rightful champions. He imagined the same would have been said if the other side had one. Except they would be proclaiming the victory of magic over the savages or simpletons.
Something was wrong though. Something felt unfinished. It was driving Garret mad. It was driving him on. He found himself wandering the battlefield, led by some invisible thread, a soundless drumbeat to…he couldn’t tell what. But he followed it.
He passed soldiers being tended by field surgeons, soldiers sitting, recovering themselves and letting the adrenaline slowly fade. He passed bodies. Many had died on each side and their blood mingled, the red mud making no distinction between sides.
Ruined tents, destroyed furniture, broken weapons. Nothing had escaped unscathed. He stopped, letting his gaze scan the horizon. Then he saw it. The place the feeling must be leading him to.
A solitary tent stood among the debris. Its slashed walls flapped in the soft breeze, seeming to wave him over, and he could not resist. The moaning men he passed and crunching wood beneath his feet went unnoticed. Only the tent filled his vision and occupied his mind.
Inside, the destruction seemed to match that of the rest of the battlefield, down to the smell of death and blood caked dirt. Shards of glass reflected the orange ceiling and many-colored liquids pooled around them. Expensive tools and fancy wares were flung haphazardly and discarded. He recognized these implements. Magic. This was the wizard’s tent. He had heard of the new wizard, a woman of great talent it was said. Though, allegedly, the king hadn’t called upon her since she took office as the court wizard. He paid his spies well to know such things.
Well, at least her implements hadn’t survived the onslaught. Her magic hadn’t been able to save any of her things. With any luck, she was dead herself, though he knew that was a slim chance.
Garret turned, holding open a flap of the ripped wall when he felt something. The pulling and thrumming that had led him through the maze of destruction was suddenly much stronger. It didn’t want him to leave.
He was filled with a feeling akin to nausea mixed with longing. He needed something and it was here, somewhere, among the arcane leavings of the wizard. Without thought to safety he dropped to his knees, counting on his armor and gloves to keep him from the sharp glass and dangerous refuse.
While running his hands through the mess, looking for… he didn’t know what, he noticed a section of looser soil than the rest. There were scuffs in the dirt and areas less packed, but this felt different. It felt spongy and was in the shape of a perfect square. He started digging.
It didn’t take long to uncover the box. She must have been rushed and couldn’t bury it any deeper. Gently, almost reverently, he pulled it out. He didn’t know what was inside but it was certainly what had brought him here. Hesitation gripped him.
Brushing dirt from the top he saw the intricate carvings on the lid. And the gold inlay. He removed his gloves and pulled the ring out of his shirt to compare the design. They were a match. A tangle of leaves and thorns etching their way around the box just as they etched around his ring.
Vaguely worried about some magical trap, he undid the latch. Slowly, almost unwillingly, he eased the lip open. When it was no more than a crack apart, light softly spilled out onto his hands. He froze. There was magic inside. The urge to slam the lid and toss the box as far away from himself as possible nearly won out, but he kept his grip steady and calmed himself.
Thoughts of his mother came to mind. He thought of her bitterness, of her eternal hatred of magic and wizards. Her anger felt petty now. It was a personal hatred brought on by some experience she had had. He thought of her throwing the letter into the fire unread. How she had refused to tell him why she hated magic so much even up to her death. For the first time he wondered how different his life could have been without that persistent, stubborn hate.
He opened the box. And he saw the future. He saw everything.
Silvaria had been riding hard all day. She acquired a horse in the nearest village, a wizard could usually find a way to buy what he or she needed, and rode as fast as she could away from the battle to come and the capitol that was surely next. She gave the beast a concoction to keep it going longer than it normally could but she still needed to stop so they could both rest, she didn’t want the poor thing to die. Or for her to get sores. Veering off the main road, she entered the woods. She let the horse pick its own way through the trees. This was not a close wood so the horse had no trouble getting through. Eventually it came to a stream and stopped to drink. Silvaria got down and did the same.
Stretching out on the blanket she laid down on the verdant bank of the stream, Silvaria tried to collect her thoughts and process the events of the last several days. The king had worked fast after making his deal with her. Everything had already been in place, like he had no doubt she would agree. She supposed that was reasonable since he kept her on retainer to do whatever he asked. And who could pass up the opportunity to work such powerful magic. It was unlikely anyone had done that spell in her lifetime, or would again.
Still baffling was the loss of time she experienced while preparing it. She probably should have known that would happen, but never having worked such strong magic before, it hadn’t occurred to her. Perhaps if she had found a way around that, things could have been different. She may have saved the king’s son.
But none of that mattered now.
In fact, none of her life’s work mattered now. The weight of that realization was all the worse for still not having slept since the whole ordeal started. Even the remote city she was fleeing to would soon belong to the enemy. She was certain they would take camp and route the king’s men today. She didn’t need sorcery to know that.
But what came next? They avoided magic, either out of fear or some misplaced feeling of superiority. She would have to resort to hiding and performing menial tasks for those brave enough to seek her out. These woods were just the kind of place that those sorts of wizards lived and worked. Secluded but peaceful. Not so difficult to find that they would never be able to work again. No matter how belittling it would be, they needed to work magic from time to time. Silvaria didn’t know if she could do it. She had grown used to the lifestyle of court and being surrounded by people and luxury. It would seem, though, that she had little choice.
If only she hadn’t lost that time.
Perhaps it was a brilliant idea, or perhaps she needed more sleep. But she thought she knew how to find out what she wanted to know.
There are certain supplies a wizard always keeps on hand. The most useful herbs, a few bowls and vials, the ability, magical or otherwise, to start a fire. The spell she needed should be possible…
By the time things were ready, the sun was behind the mountains and the sky was the deep purple that preceded black. Stars already shone and she could see them twinkling between the leaves.
She said the words and her vision went entirely white.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, images began to resolve. The brilliant colors of sunrise shimmered across the scene, giving way to the darker shades of earth and the remnants of battle. She could see a man. He was kneeling, no, bowing, his head on the ground, his hands clutching something. A golden bowl. And it was empty.
Quicksilver flowed over his hands, arms, up to his face hidden in shadow.
The man sat up and she was shocked to see the king’s son. But that couldn’t be. No magic could bring him back from the dead. As if in response, the vision reoriented on his face. She saw her mistake. He had some of the same features as the man she had tried to save, but not all of them. So this mystery man was likely related. And that would mean…
Her mouth gaped and her eyes, though she had no control over what she saw, grew wide. Her spell was only intended to work on the king’s son. Since she only knew of one son, she had seen no need to specify which son. The vision shifted to the ring on his finger, the ring showing the royal symbols, the pattern on the king’s throne, the pattern that made up his crown.
She was taken to his eyes, close enough that she would, if she were in there person, mingle her breath with his. She saw there the viridian and auburn and cerulean swirls. It had worked exactly as she planned. He was being granted all the power of the king, which she was beginning to suspect was even greater than she had guessed.
Silvaria thought back to the rumors. He had planned for this. That ring was proof enough. The only way one of the enemy could have gotten that ring was if the king had given to him. Or to his mother. It was easy to get caught up in the rumors of a king gifted with magic so strong it kept him alive far longer than was proper. Rumors of a king whose magic could reveal to him secrets of things yet to come… It was easy to overlook the rumors of mistresses. Of women sneaked across enemy lines. But if he had deliberately sired a child…
Everything became clear in that moment. The king’s machinations were revealed and she knew she would be needed soon.
The vision ended and her view of the stars returned, now bright against the pitch-black sky.
King Garret strode out onto the balcony. The white rail was carved in intricate designs, not unlike the ring he wore openly on his left hand now. A vast city of vibrant color sprawled before him and he tried to take it all in. The roofs were tiled in terracotta and the stucco walls were painted in all the shades of sunrise. Gem-toned clothing hung on lines between windows and gardens filled with fragrant blossoms spilled their treasures over walls and through fences.
After years of hating this place, never seeing it but hating it all the same, he was forced to admit how beautiful it was. It was a beauty, however, that he decided was best enjoyed in small doses. He returned inside and enjoyed the sanctuary of his all white private chambers. The king had lived with a lavish but simple style. One that Garret appreciated. Adjusting to the kind of living quarters the others in this city enjoyed would have been very difficult for someone with his upbringing. But perhaps, that was all part of it too.
Garret still couldn’t believe what had happened. He couldn’t imagine laying the foundations for the events that put him where he was today: ruling a united kingdom for the first time in almost one hundred years.
There was still a lot of work to do. His people had suffered much and had been living in squalor for a long time. But he knew the brightness of this place was a facade and times were harder here than the citizens let on. Those fancy clothes and painted walls were startling to one such as him, but they were probably not as bright as they had once been. They could all use a good wash and many needed patches of one sort or another.
These things, King Garret could remedy. He strode into the audience chamber and prepared for his expected guest.
When the wizard entered, he was sitting in the throne. In an homage, he made sure to use the same posture his father had when she met with him. He wore the same jewels as well. He hoped she noticed. The hesitation in her step, the rise of one brow, indicated that she did.
Now that his show was over, he stepped off the dais and closed the gap between them. He was impressed that she kept her shock from showing on her face, only the change in her posture gave her away. He may not have noticed before acquiring his new…abilities.
“Silvaria, it is good to finally meet you. I feel like I know you already.”
She bowed then said, “Odd considering your father only met me a day before he died.”
Garret smiled. He was glad she was obeisant but not cowering. He wanted someone he could confide in, someone he could rely on, trust and make plans with. And it needed to be her.
“Yes, well,” he said, “he may have only met you once, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t know you long before that.”
She seemed to consider his words but kept silent.
They stood like that for some time, each weighing the other. Finally, he watched curiosity take her over.
“I’d like to ask you something, your highness.” The last was a bit delayed but he couldn’t blame her. It was a lot to take in. He nodded his consent. “How much of him did you inherit?”
“Enough to know how I got here. And what must be done. I am honestly not sure how much of it is memories he gave me or my own abilities manifesting.” He wanted to take her arms and make her look into his eyes, see how this question vexed him. “I need your help,” he finally said. “I need to know what I am.”
“And you’ll be able to work with me?”
A valid question. Back in the tent on the battlefield, he had abandoned his mother’s unhealthy hatred of magic. He realized he was letting her experiences cloud his own judgment. He realized he had to let go of the past in order to shape the future. And he meant that literally. He could shape the future. They would do it together.