Her two daughters yelped small screams of fright as the Lavashians roughly shoved a badly abused person into the chamber with them. Jocinta Haguana regarded the slim youth who had been dumped into the prison they had been held in for months. Even though they told her the letters she wrote to her husband, Fitlock, were being delivered, Jocinta despaired of ever seeing her husband again.
“Matra! Della!” Jocinta barked at her cowering daughters, “Help me get him into a bed!” Her daughters remained where they were and simply stared, wide eyed, at the body bleeding onto the floor. Jocinta Haguana shook her head, “Look, dears,” she said calmly to her children, “I know this man has been badly hurt, but look at his face, see past his injuries and truly see his features.” She watched as her daughters looked before adding, “He’s from Trathlain. He’s a fellow countryman and in need of our help.” Matra and Della edged towards Gremlaw’s injured body as if approaching a dangerous animal, rather than an unconscious youth, doing as their mother instructed and looking down on him with a little compassion. The two young women looked at each other in surprise, before glancing at their mother and nodding.
Duke Wattiern DeLarouge paced the length of the stone walled room in which he waited for the most powerful man in the Kingdom to summon him. Even this antechamber dripped with opulence, decorated with portraits and statues of the royal family from years gone by and possessed of rich, woollen tapestries which draped down the walls like silken garments draped over the curves of a woman. Even DeLarouge, used to fine living and expensive surroundings, found this excess overwhelming as he dodged plushly cushioned and gilted sofas.
A door opened and DeLarouge watched as the queen seemed to float past his position, nodding gracefully to him as he bowed low before her. She laid a single finger on his shoulder, as light as a butterfly landing and told him,
“You may enter now.” The queen breathed as she sauntered across the room.
“Majesty.” DeLarouge responded. He rose and strode to the wooden portal through which he found his majesty King Garnandus staring down at the city below. DeLarouge took three steps towards his king and dropped to one knee, offering the back of his neck in the traditional genuflection. Garnandus turned slightly before returning his attention to his capital,
“Get up Wattiern,” Garnandus’ deep voice reverberated around the cavernous chamber, “You know there is no need to kneel when it is just you and I.” The king turned as DeLarouge rose again, “Now, what is this dire information you have come across?” DeLarouge watched as the king seated himself in a vast chair and gestured for the Duke to sit as well.
A sense of disappointment crashed through DeLarouge as he sat and faced his king,
“A pair of tin pot traders delivered a message from a spy I sent to infiltrate the Durana Trading Company, sire.” DeLarouge started. Garnandus nodded his understanding and DeLarouge continued, “They said an old friend of mine wanted me to get a message to his mother,” DeLarouge’s guilty eyes flashed to the impassive face of his king. “I was supposed to tell her Strathnave is no more.” Garnandus’ eyebrows rose as he recognized the name of the border outpost,
“And?” The king wondered.
“I had a long interview with both men who seemed to believe the entire town had been possessed by demons. I had men from the neighboring town sent to investigate and they have confirmed my fears,” DeLarouge looked at his king, who was shaking his head slowly as if he could change the news he was about to receive by force of will alone. DeLarouge continued, “According to the sergeant in charge, the whole town, including the military outpost, is in disarray and the populace is screaming out for Forever.” Silence descended in the king’s quarters for such a long time DeLarouge thought the king had fallen asleep.
The Duke risked a glance towards his king and barely kept himself from gasping. After knowing this man for his entire life and working directly for him since the death of his father, he had never seen him as angry. Garnandus had both his fists clenched until the knuckles were white, his nostrils were flared and the muscles in the side of his jaw flexed in controlled rage.
“How many?” The king growled through clenched teeth. DeLarouge swallowed,
“Four hundred souls in the town, sire, and double that in fighting men.” DeLarouge felt his stomach fall as Garnandus’ expression changed to one of anguish.
“Dear gods! Twelve hundred! Tell me a cure has been found.” He almost begged. DeLarouge could only shake his head, no. King Garnandus of Trathlain scrubbed his suddenly careworn face with one hand before leaning forward and staring deeply into the eyes of DeLarouge, who felt the full force of his cold anger, “Send a force, DeLarouge, burn the town to the ground and have everyone put to the sword. Men, women, children and all the soldiers. Make sure the garrison is fully manned and make preparations to get supplies through to them.” Duke Wattiern DeLarouge stood and backed away from his king. Almost at the door, DeLarouge turned to exit when he heard Garnandus speak again. “No more games with Lavash, DeLarouge.” The king almost whispered, “I will tear that country apart until it’s few rivers run red with Lavashian blood and when I get hold of the Emperor,” the king paused, “I will choke him with my own two hands.”
Gremlaw’s mind swam in a sea of pain. His very brain seemed to throb with pain and something seemed to be standing on his nose. It also felt as if someone had dragged him across a gravelled surface for three or four weeks as his skin sent messages of flaming agony to his brain. He groaned weakly and felt a soothing coolness across his forehead. Gremlaw allowed his eyes to flutter open for a second to focus on a kind looking, female face before descending into darkness once more.
He woke sometime later, a gasp of pain escaping him as he sat up and his back hit the wall behind him. Gremlaw looked down to see his naked chest had been bandaged and dressings had been applied to his arms. His eyes focused on two younger and one older woman who had all turned at his exclamation, the two younger ladies blushing at his semi dressed condition. The older of the three made her graceful way across towards him as his quick mind discerned something familiar in the faces of the two girls.
“Greetings, young sir,” the woman said, “Do you understand me?”
“Where am I?” Gremlaw asked, his dry throat making his voice sound strange even to himself. The woman dipped her head to one side and sadly replied,
“We’re all prisoners somewhere in Lavash. You’ve been unconscious for nearly a week and not said anything. Might we know your name?”
“My name’s Gremlaw,” he said in a rasp as the connections fitted together in his brain, “And if I’m as good as I think I am,” Gremlaw added smugly, “I was working for your husband about three weeks ago.”