SEEDS OF TREACHERY
Lightening blazed across the sky followed seconds later by roaring thunder. Waldrom parried the Mantion’s swing with one of his own. He threw his arms up in frustration. “You Mantion’s give me no challenge,” he shouted clouting the Mantion with the flat side of the sword.
“Melvane, find me a one who can actually fight” King Waldrom walked over to the window and watched without feeling as lightening struck a century old oak tree and set it afire.
He turned from the window and asked aloud, as if questioning his god, Sidramah, “What do I have to do to take Theodric’s kingdom for my own?”
“There’s always magic, Sire,” a short, skinny Mantion replied as he scampered into the room. “You could cast a spell on Theodric to make him give you his kingdom.”
Melvane, Waldrom’s chief advisor and lead wizard, stopped and looked at the king. Waldrom looked aged beyond his years from the use and abuse of Sidramah’s magic. The king’s slim frame and olive features showed circles under his eyes that forever seemed to get larger while his blonde hair grew thinner and grayer with each passing day. The surrounding countryside mimicked the king’s aging transformation. The rains that so beautifully brought rebirth to its neighbor, Crato, brought death and destruction to Mahorg.
The forbidden magic of Sidramah affected all that should have been colorful and pretty making it dark and ugly. As good magic drained the energy of the user, so the forbidden magic did the same: but unlike the good magic, it also drained the land’s sustaining energy. Consequently, the flora and fauna slowly perished under Waldrom’s rule. The people of Mahorg forced to adapt now used the energy of the magic to perpetuate their lives.
Though it was early spring, the trees that should have been bright green with the birth of new life were covered in brown and gray instead. Bold hyacinths and daffodils that graced the landscape of Crato were absent in Mahorg and in their place dried grass and weeds covered the ground. Grotesque fish swam lazily through a stagnant, scum-covered stream dividing the decimated palace garden. Mahorg once rivaled the beauty of Crato, but years of darkness had laid it to waste. The magic of Sidramah was unkind to every living thing in Mahorg.
At six-feet-two inches, Waldrom looked down on the four-foot-tall Mantion, “No, we need something they won’t expect. I’m not sure what, but I’ll figure it out before we visit. Have you discovered anything about Theodric’s sons?”
“Yes sire, my spies found an interesting morsel.” Melvane rubbed a scroll with his long, bony fingers before opening it and handing it to Waldrom. “Prince Brandan dislikes his teachers and it’s been reported that he dabbles with the magic of Sidramah. He’s frustrated with the old fashioned ideas Croifan the Adept is teaching him.” Melvane wiped his brow with the sleeve of his robe as he continued. “Using magic only for good irritates him, and he vents his annoyance on those close by.”
“Good, we can use that to our advantage. If Theodric doesn’t cooperate, we will kidnap Prince Brandan, and groom him to be my heir. At least that’s what he’ll believe. Now gather the wizards and finish planning for our trip. I wish to have all my plans in place before we leave. This will be a most fruitful trip for me, although I am sure Theodric won’t be very happy with the outcome. I must commune with Sidramah.”
Melvane scurried out of the room. When Waldrom summoned Sidramah, no one wanted to be in the vicinity, for Sidramah tended to set intruders on fire. He reached his quarters and found Ekul, his sister, along with a messenger. He sent the messenger to the other wizards, demanding that they meet at midday to finalize plans for the peace summit. As Melvane flipped through his books of spells and incantations, Ekul poured him a cup of tea.
Melvane’s room was sparse compared to others in the Palace of the Three Crosses. A small bed, two overstuffed chairs, a writing desk, and an eating table with two chairs lined the walls. Scattered in disarray throughout the room, lay books of all sorts, their topics covered everything from simple purification spells to the most complex nullifications. They lay open and piled on top of one another.
“This won’t be easy,” Melvane murmured. “I need to get rid of the pesky Prince Brandan so Amleht and I can follow through with our plans to capture Waldrom.”
Melvane and Ekul along with their brother, Tempest grew up in the Mantion mining village of Dundalk, in the Valkan Mountains. The Mantion’s kept their young people at home to train them, but Melvane and a group of troublesome Mantions would sneak down into Dun Dealgan, the royal city of Mahorg, where they would stir up trouble. On one of these adventures, Melvane met a disillusioned Waldrom and befriended him. After Melvane’s family home burned to the ground and his father renounced him, Melvane got even closer to Waldrom. When Waldrom assumed kingship of Mahorg Melvane became the Master Wizard.
“Then I could force our father to admit that I am more magnificently evil than Tempest will ever be. Maybe I will offer Father a room in my palace. Oh, better yet, he and Waldrom can share a hut at the mines. You know… a place to rest when they aren’t slaving there. What do you think, sister?”
Ekul snapped, “You shouldn’t have to prove anything to Father. Tempest should be the one proving himself.” She slammed the teapot on the table and stomped across the room. “Father shouldn’t have blamed you for Mother’s death. If Tempest were watching the fire instead of ogling the servants, the house would never have burned. You should’ve told Father the truth instead of defending Tempest.”
“Sidramah ordained it and it got us into Waldrom’s palace. It advances my plans to become king of Mahorg.” Melvane sipped his tea. “Besides, it gives me time to use magic to prepare Mahorg for my rule. It will be a glorious thing, you know.” An evil, smug smile settled on Melvane’s face as his mind drifted to thoughts of King Waldrom.
Waldrom is still so naïve, maybe even more so than when I found him in the bars of Dun Dealgan. Then Waldrom was just a teen who felt betrayed by magic and the world. Granted, there were seeds of evil planted in his soul, but I gave him the sustenance needed to grow that evil. Waldrom was so lost in his own preconceived offenses that he was easily led down Sidramah’s path of evil. Now I have Waldrom just about where I need him. Soon, it will all belong to me.
“The magic of those Cratonites is useless. All that namby-pamby talk about being one with the land and Asha is ridiculous.” He caressed the magic book as if it were a precious gemstone from the Mantion Mines of Dundalk.
Turning the pages he continued, “The land is here for the taking. Use her resources and let the god replenish. Why should we replenish the land? Mindless Cratonites, Well,, when I am finished with them, Father, will finally acknowledge my power, or I will destroy him.”
Ekul sighed. “Whatever you say, brother.”
Melvane closed the book. “I know what I’ll do. Where are those wizards? They are never on time.” As he stormed out of the room, he knocked a pile of books to the floor.
Sitting on the blood red, velvet brocade chair, King Waldrom drank his goll and contemplated the upcoming meeting. It isn’t right, he thought. Theodric’s weak. He listens to adepts when they tell him to renew the land. Imagine! They say it will take care of him if he takes care of it? Balderdash.
Waldrom signaled a servant to refill his cup. Father always said the land is there for the taking. Once you used it up, you moved on. Asha didn’t take care of you. You took care of yourself. To do otherwise is showing weakness. Sidramah is the only one who matters.
Throwing the cup across the room, he removed his day robe, and shoved his arms through the sleeves of his black robe of communion. If anyone tries to get in my way, they will answer to my Lord. He has shown me the Way of Darkness. King Theodric and Queen Lilia will pay for their treachery. Never again will anyone oppose me. I will take them to the North Tower, where they can watch the destruction of their world, and the rise of my powerful kingdom.
King Waldrom pulled a dagger from its scabbard and slashed his wrist. He dripped blood into a silver goblet filled with sour wine and drank it to initiate communion with Sidramah. A fly droned by. Waldrom grabbed it out of the air and tossed it in his mouth to chase the vile potation. Finally, he threw open the iron doors of the small, cold stone chapel adjacent to the throne room and stepped through them.
The room held a small wooden altar and a chair stood in the center of the room. An iron brazier full of hot coals sat on the altar. Instructions to the servants stated it must be hot at all times. Beside the brazier sat a dagger with an intricately carved handle, portraying Sidramah torturing his victims. Waldrom walked to the altar, picked up the dagger, and placed it on the hot coals. Then he lifted the dagger out of the brazier and laid it on the first wrist he slashed. He grimaced and a small cry escaped his lips as he placed the knife above his right wrist.
“To acknowledge pain is weakness. I’m not weak, but a servant of the dark one. We are strong.” He laid the dagger on his right wrist. The smell of burning flesh assaulted his nostrils and he bit his tongue to stop another cry of pain. “I’m strong.” He set the dagger down and prostrated himself on the stone floor of the chapel. “My Lord, I’m here to serve.”
The room glowed as the coals in the brazier flared and broke into flames. A booming voice emanated from the flames made Waldrom shudder. He couldn’t help trembling in the presence of Sidramah.
“My son, rise and come forward.”
A blazing hand reached out of the flame and touched his forehead. Oh, how it burned, but he knew better than to flinch when touched by the evil one. The hand withdrew and Waldrom fell to his knees. He bent forward and touched his forehead to the floor, it felt So cool, after the touch of the flaming hand, but I don’t need relief.
“I’m strong when I’m one with you, Master. For there are none above you, only pretenders who offer no strength, no power. Guide me away from those who don’t believe. Lead me to your side so we can destroy them. Then you may come to rule Ramajadin with me as your conduit. I offer myself to do your will. I’m your servant.”
He stood and moved toward the door. Flames from the brazier roared out of it and surrounded him. Waldrom stopped. “What’s the meaning of this? Am I not your servant?”
A disembodied voice spoke from within the wall of flame. “You’re weak, son of mine. You must be tested in the flame if you’re to be my.”
“But my Lord, have I not already proven myself worthy of your trust? All I’ve done was to glorify you. Mahorg is ours and soon Crato will fall into place. Ramajadan will be yours because of what I’ve done.”
“However, you still love. There’s no room for love in my domain. Cleanse yourself of this love.”
Waldrom dropped to his knees. “But she is the key to getting what we want. Without Lilia, Theodric is powerless to do anything. She’ll add a dimension to our rule that will cause all who would defy us to fear us instead.” Still the flames burned around him, getting hotter and closer. A growl emanated from them.
“Do you dare disobey me? She’s weak, a slave to Asha. She’ll only serve to be your downfall, unless you remove her influence over you. Don’t disappoint me. I’ll not withhold my anger if you don’t obey. There are others I can find to do as I wish.”
“Yes, my Lord, I understand. It will be as you wish.” The flames slowly died as the red glow which surrounded the voice faded. When no flame or glow remained, Waldrom stood and left the room. Once in the foyer, he removed the black robe of communion and donned his day robe.
“How can I make Lilia my queen and have Sidramah accept her?” An evil laugh echoed in his head. The burns on his forehead and wrist stung as if newly inflicted. Ignoring the laugh and the burns he strode purposefully to his quarters.