The Power That Binds By Mark E. Cooper
Copyright©2000 by Mark E. Cooper
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Pergann sits staring into the flames oblivious to his surroundings. He is the last in a proud line of Kings that can be traced through twelve hundred years of history to the beginning of Deva and to the founders themselves.
The room in which Pergann sits is dusty and cluttered with the remains of meals taken alone in the dark, mouldering untended on their silver plates, but not a rat will you hear. There is no longer enough food in all of Devar to tempt a rat from hiding, for if it did, it would become dinner itself. Devar starves, while the spring sunshine beets down, but Pergann neither knows nor cares. The drapes remain closed shutting out the day and life’s cares, all except a thin sliver of sunlight spearing the darkness through a tear in the rich fabric.
The door opens behind him, but he does not turn. “Leave me. Take your prattle to Morfran.” The King says dismissing the interruption.
The figure continues into the room and stops behind the King’s chair. “Chancellor Morfran has… departed shall we say. It’s time for you to follow him.”
Pergann gasped. “Ascol! What do you think you’re Gahhh!”
The man named Ascol pulls on the toggles of the garrotte just enough to immobilise the struggling and dying monarch.
“It’s time for Deva to have a strong King again; not a self pitying old man.” Ascol says as he saws on the toggles with great enjoyment. “My sorcerer wanted to kill you himself, but it’s more fitting for the new King to remove the old one don’t you think?” Ascol frowns and stops his play. “Oh sorry, you can’t answer can you? Never mind, I’ll take it as said you don’t agree.” He said and laughed at the old man.
Pergann struggles for air but the twine was buried deep within his flesh. My dagger, where? Sparkles of light flash before his eyes as his oxygen starved brain struggles to find a way to survive. He finally remembers, and fumbles at the side of his chair.
“Now, now, none of that.” Ascol say’s in a conversational voice reaching for the dagger.
Pulling with one muscled arm on the garrotte, Ascol examines the blade with the other. “Well, this is a surprise! You do have taste in some things it seems.” He turns the blade in the meagre firelight watching entranced as the light glints on the perfectly formed steel. “Chulym steel, or might it be Japuran I wonder… no it’s too old for Japura. I think I’ll take this for a keepsake.” He thrusts the dagger into the sash around his waste. “Just to remember you by as it were.”
As Ascol leans back, Pergann’s struggles cease and the stench of death fills the room.
“Ah, curse it! Now look what you’ve made me do.” Ascol says to the dead man. “Phaw, you stink!” He unwinds the bloody garrotte from where it sliced through Pergann’s neck to the bone. “I don’t think Demophon is going to like this. No indeed not,” he mused quietly to himself.
“What precisely won’t I like my dear Ascol?” Came a voice out of the darkness behind him.
Ascol spun in a crouch ready with sword in hand, but he straightened when he saw a familiar man in guardsmen armour. The man was no guardsman. Demophon was a Hasian sorcerer recently come into Ascol’s service.
Using the sheathing of his sword for an excuse, Ascol looks away from Demophon’s eyes. “Just a little accident.” He says airily.
Demophon crouches to examine the corpse. His head snaps up and he glares angrily at Ascol. “A little accident! You fool, this was supposed to look like a natural death, not murder!”
Ascol twirls the bloody garrotte through the air, unconcerned with the spatters of blood flying away from it. “Well… you see… and then…” he stammers, then more firmly, “Well curse it, fix it with your magic!”
Demophon’s face froze. “Don’t ever give me orders.” He said in a deadly voice. “I’ll fix your little accident this time, but make another and it will be the last you ever make!”
Ascol goggled at this… this peasant addressing him in such a fashion. “How dare you! I’m to be King, I’ll have you executed!”
Demophon cocked his head. “Oh?” He stood up to confront Ascol squarely. “And just how will you do that… from the grave?”
Ascol didn’t answer, but instead edged away from the now scowling sorcerer, until his back touched the door.
Demophon waited for a moment listening to the silence. “No glib answer? In that case, you may leave. I have to arrange something to cover your incompetence.” Demophon turned his back on Ascol declaring his contempt for the would-be King of Deva.
Ascol clamped his jaw shut and spun on his heel to storm out the door followed by the sorcerer’s quiet laughter. Making his way through deserted corridors, he cheered himself with thoughts of Demophon and his garrotte, Demophon and hot coals, Demophon screaming in agony as he put his eyes out with his new dagger. By the time he reached the alley where his men held the horses, he was positively cheerful. His men heard their lord whistling and looked at each other in relief.
Ascol angry, they did not want to see.