11 A Conspiracy Unmasked

Chapter 11

A conspiracy unmasked

The Queen, Brandon and Hawkeye enjoyed a quiet lunch. After which the Queen excused herself to prepare for her son’s birthday tomorrow. Brandon and Hawkeye returned to their quarters.

“Have you seen Dameon or Cassius today?” Hawkeye asked.

“I think they said something about training,” Brandon replied.

“And Catarina or Serah.”

“Serah was going to reacquaint herself with her old home and friends. Cat was going to explore.”

Hawkeye sighed, “I just hope none of them are in trouble.”

“Don’t worry,” Brandon reassured her, “Cassius is good at staying out of trouble and besides Serah is probably with them.”

Hawkeye nodded, unconvinced. “That’s what worries me.”

 

After Alex’s challenge Dark Alex had led us towards one of the private courts. Dark Alex was already wearing a broadsword strapped to his back and Alex had his short sword stuck through his belt.Dark Alex drew his broadsword from, the firestones in its hilt flickering briefly at his touch. Alex seemed to realise that without any elf-stones he was at a major disadvantage and turned to Dameon, “Can I borrow your blade, Dameon.”

Dameon shrugged and unsheathed his sword, “Sure.”

Alex took it a swung it experimentally a few times, “Not bad. Alright,” he settled the sword in the guard position “let’s finish this.”

Dark Alex nodded and settled himself in the guard position.

Alex moved first, coming in with a low sweeping backhand. Dark Alex jumped it easily, “Is that the best you can do?” he asked scornfully. Alex snorted in reply and retaliated with a murderous round-house swing. Dark Alex blocked it easily and thrust with his sword sending a small bolt of fire at Alex. Alex tapping into the elf-stones called up a shield of water. The fire splashed against it and flew out in all directions. Standing to one side Luka threw up anelemental shield to protect the others from any deflected spells.

Dark Alex growled and tapping into the elf-stones on his sword brought his blade aflame. Alex countered by encasing his sword in water. Dark Alex came in with a savage side-cut, fire flowing from his blade. Alex countered and mist billowed up from when the two blades connected. Alex disengaged and leapt back before sending a small whirlwind of water at his opponent. Dark Alex sheared right through with a blast of fire and came on, wreathed in mist. Dark Alex faked a side-cut then transformed it into a overhead. Alex blocked the overhead and locking blades began to push Dark Alex back. Dark Alex dropped back onto one knee and using Alex’s own momentum threw him over his shoulder. Alex turned in the air and landed in a crouch.

“Your equal to my skill on the ground,” Alex said then he suddenly leapt upward and spreading his wings hovered a few meters off the ground. “But how are you in the air?”

 

In the cell deep below the fortress I tried to question the guards as to why I was being confined. They ignored me. I rolled my eyes and began looking for another way out. The insignia on the surcoat of the guards caught my attention, The Misted Realm. I frowned something was wrong. Retreating into my cell I called upon the magic of the Ki’miri contained within this fortress, shaped it into a powerful bolt and blasted the cell door off it’s hinges. The guards spun around but were two slow to stop me. I rolled past the first one shattering his knee then running him through with his own sword. The second guard lunged at me with a spear. I grabbed the spear shaft and yanked the guard forward taking him out with a knife hand strike to the neck. I moved on, sword in one hand spear in the other.

I kicked open the door, that led to the lower levels above the prison cells and froze. Facing me were at least twenty Ki’miri. It took me a minute to notice that they were all dressed in Misted Realm garb and another minute to see that one had my swords strapped to his back. In a blur of movement I slashed at one who reached for me, used the spear to pole-vault over them and landed on the Ki’miri who held my swords. I landed on his chest and drove him to the floor snapping his spine. Rolling off I came to my feet, swords in hand. There was a soft hiss and the blades sprung to life with lightning fire.Flicking both swords into the Shien reverse grip I waited for the attack. But there was to be no attack. The Ki’miri took one look at my ready stance and the lightning fire encased blades. As one they broke and ran. I moved through the corridor’s quickly ascending to the higher levels.

 

Alex and Dark Alex swooped around each other, blades clashing and disengaging. Alex ducked under a swing causing Dark Alex to overbalance. Alex took full use of the only opportunity he was going to get. He moved in a slashed off the feather tips of Dark Alex’s wings rendering them useless. Dark Alex crashed to the ground. Alex landed over him and placed the tip over his sword on his throat.

“Do you yield?”

Dark Alex gripped his sword then relaxed. “I yield.”

Alex nodded, and removed his sword. He turned back to the others as Luka lowered the shield. He handed Dameon back his sword then turned as he heard a sound behind him. Dark Alex crouched behind them his sword poised to strike. Something whipped past Alex to the left and Dark Alex reared up a knife appearing in the centre of his chest. Fire sprung up and within a minute Dark Alex was engulfed in flames. The others covered their mouths and noses as the smell of burning hair, feathers and flesh filled the air. As the fire died down Cassius walked forward and pulled his knife from the blackened figure on the floor. Whipping off a layer of ash he stuck it back through his belt. At that moment a bell started to sound and Alex looked up.

“Oh no.” He cried, “I have to get back. I have to get ready for the celebrations.” He sped off leaving the others standing there staring after him.

 

After meeting up with Dameon, Cassius, Luka and the others and figuring out what had been going on with the two different Alex’s, we returned to our quarters to clean up.

“I can’t believe the other Alex tried to attack you!” Catarina remarked for about the fifth time.

Dameon rolled his eye’s, “From what I gather he being doing that to a few close supporters of the Queen.”

“I saw a few locked doors when I was escaping from the dungeons,” I explained. “I was so intent on finding Alex that I didn’t stop to look.”

“Can’t say I blame you,” Cassius put in. “If he’d treated me that way I would have wanted revenge.”

As we reached the corridor outside our rooms we parted company and entered our own rooms. I followed Catarina into the bedrooms we shared where we found new clothes laid out for us. Catarina had received the traditional plain robe of a Ki’miri spelldancer.[1] I had a newer version of clothes I’d received in Sammathrace. Daemon and Cassius received the formal uniform of Ki’miri warriors. As we left our rooms we encountered Brandon and Hawkeye who had just returned from a meeting with the faction leaders.

“Are you four ready for the celebration?” Hawkeye asked. She was dressed in her tournament uniform; a light blue top that reached to the waist and was overlaid by a tunic in dark red. She was wearing dark blue pants and black boots. She had a brand new Ki’miri crossbow slung across her back and a pouch at her belt held twenty-four razor sharp, broadleaf shaped quarrels and six amour piercing bolts. Brandon was dressed in shining, silver, full plate amour. His broad sword was swung across his back underneath a large kite shaped shield.

“We’re ready,” Daemon answered, “Do you know where we’re going.”

“The Queen said she would send someone to guild us there,” Brandon replied.

We all turned around as there was a knock as the door.

“Come in,” Hawkeye called. The door opened and Luka entered and bowed, “The preparation’s are all in order. Please follow me to the throne room.” She turned and led the way out of the room. Brandon and Hawkeye followed, arm in arm, Dameon and I followed with Cassius and Catarina bringing up the rear.

We entered the Throne room and Luka led us to the throne. My mother gestured for me to stand on her left side, Brandon and Hawkeye were stationed to my left side while Dameon and Cassius stood to the right of the throne on the far side an empty seat. Suddenly the clear notes of crystal trumpets sounded and the doors at the far end of the hall opened. Alex entered flanked by two night apprentices. He was dressed all in black, black tunic, long black leggings and black boots with the White Horse emblem emblazoned on his chest and sleeves. He approached the throne and dropped to one knee before bowing and then taking his seat.

The Queen rose and signalled for silence. “I have a few announcements to make before we engage in celebrations. First the Ki’miri have pledged allegiance to Dameon, son of Alex II.” She paused while the assembly cheered. “Second, we are sending a delegation to the Thundercats of Thundera and solidify our age old alliance. Thirdly, as some of you may have noticed my daughter Serah has returned. She has told me that she has no interest in becoming Queen which brings me to my forth announcement. Alex my adopted son has now reached the age if sixteen and so is ready to take on the title of Prince of Tel’ Duskstark.” She paused again while the assembled Ki’miri cheered then she raised both arms. “Let the Celebration’s begin.”

The celebration’s and formalities of the day went off without a problem. With the threat of the Mind-benders lifted the Queen was a lot more relaxed. She was able to focus on the proceedings and it was clear that she was feeling better. Alex himself, despite hating crowds was having fun. He was playing his flute and dancing along with some of his friends aided by Luka and two or three other mages who were creating an area of low gravity filled with brightly coloured streamers that danced with a life of their own. The celebrations and festivity’s lasted long into the night and it was three in the morning when the last of the Ki’miri retired to their beds.


[1] Spelldancers are Ki’miri mages that follow both the way of the moon and the way of the sun. They have traits of both night and day mages.

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