Hi Guys! Here’s what i’ve been working on for the last few years. I think i’m finally happy with it! It’s 32 chapters approx 70k for word count. I’m hoping to have it fully edited by the summer!
Maji Born - Chapter One -The Wrong Steps - 2894 words
Devarak pressed into the slab wall, watching the flickering torchlight withdraw down the elongated corridor. It vanished from sight, blinking out as it rounded the next bend. He allowed himself a moment to breathe, before he peeled away from the wall and advanced up the hallway, to continue his premeditated path.
He met few obstacles, which did nothing to quell the feeling of anxiety that had begun to grow inside him. The castle was unaffected by his presence. His task was considerable and more complex than any he had previously undertaken.
Devarak took in the visage of the double doors that guarded the throne room. He stood in suspense, stealing himself to proceed. Hesitantly, he approached the doors and pressed his ear against the cold oak.
There was no noise from within the room beyond. That had to be a good sign. Devarak glanced down at the slight gap between the door and floor. No light crept through.
He depressed the handle, and opened one of the doors a hair, praying that it was well oiled.
A muffled squeal emitted from the hinges. It was better than he could have hoped for. He doubted it would be enough to draw the patrol’s attention. He opened it a fraction more and slipped through, shutting it securely behind him.
Upon entering the chamber, Devarak had to pause, letting his eyes adjust to the change in lighting.
At the far end, three large windows let in soft moonlight, and by the angle of the lemony glow, Devarak could tell that it was nearing midnight.
Better get a move on.
The castle would be rising in a few hours, preparing for the anticipated festivities and Devarak wanted to be clear of the capital before that time.
He surveyed the room, his eyes catching every detail in the shadowed stonework, every small illustration in the stained glass window panes.
After inspection, his gaze fell on the large auspicious throne at the top of the dais. He strode toward it, taking the shallow steps two at a time. Devarak paused momentarily to inspect the throne itself, recognizing the small gems embedded in the arms and back as Albrit and Selwin, a dangerous combination.
He ran a finger over the golden arm of the seat, letting it skirt over the gemstones and for a moment his attention drifted, “This is yours, never forget it.” He pulled away from the cold metal and grasped for the small pendant he wore. He held onto his shard of Albrit, it was the only thing he had kept when he had fled.
Devarak recoiled from the throne, a flicker of pain escaping his amber eyes. He pushed the feeling away, focusing his attention instead on the wall beyond.
A generous case was mounted at eye level, floating several feet up the wall. Devarak stepped toward it, giving the throne a wide berth as he did so. When he reached the case he ran his hand along the smooth fir frame seeking a hidden locking mechanism.
As his finger searched so did his eyes, connecting each item within the case with the information he had received.
Hanging against the back of the case was a modest compass composed of polished silver, adorned with two mirrored ravens, a gift to Midais from Zedar. Cushioned on a small silk pillow was a set of emerald drop earrings, they were simple in design, but Devarak’s keen eyes made out the small sigil etched into the stones themselves, a swirling sun, from Tupre.
Lying at the bottom of the case was the long curved scimitar, it was thin as paper but by the looks of it extremely sharp which had been gifted to Midais by Diok at the end of the Brisark War. Devarak had studied all three items during his preparations for his mission, reading about them was one thing, seeing them was another. He felt drawn toward them, which made sense since each contained strong Majik.
Devarak drew his gaze away, though they were items that held both powerful meaning and ability, he wasn’t here for them.
His eyes found his prize. A large stone sat at the base of the case on a purple silk cushion. It was about the size of his fist and a molten light swirled just under the surface, playfully reflecting off the glass of the case.
To Devarak it seemed alive. Almost as if it sensed his presence, it began to pulse slightly as he watched it and he felt the urge to reach out and pick it up. For a moment he stood transfixed, gazing through the glass at the stone’s golden interior, which continued to swim against its constraints with vigor. Devarak tore himself away. He didn’t have much time and he needed to focus on finding the locking mechanism before the guards returned.
His finger caressed the exterior of the case, searching for a slight raise, depression, or seam in the design. This took him several minutes but eventually, his fingers detected a faint seam and Devarak was able to follow it along the base, pausing as he reached the center of the case.
All logic would suggest the presence of a keyhole at the center, but this case had clearly been created with the intention of remaining firmly shut and, therefore, its creator had made the mechanism more complex and harder to distinguish.
Devarak recoiled from the case and spun around as the door began to open and torchlight spilled into the throne room. He cursed inwardly and ducked behind the expansive throne, praying that his long limbs were fully concealed. He pressed against the frigid back of the chair and held his breath.
There was another clunk as the door shut once more and the torchlight echoed against the walls, ricocheting up the hall.
Devarak could make out the guard’s footfall, which sounded leisurely, both a blessing and a curse. It meant that he was not aware of an intruder, but also indicated that the guard would be in no hurry to leave. He slowly made his way around the room, humming a drinking song in an off-key pitch as he did so.
“Annd so she sang a little jig. Give me whiskey, give me gin…”
Light flickered over the throne, illuminated the case briefly before dissipating as the man made his way back out of the room.
“I’ll dance and sing till my knees give out. Slip me Sintre for some spirits and I’ll dance the whole night through…”
Devarak waited a few minutes, listening intently, trying not to wince as the man’s voice cracked on the last note. When the door slammed shut he rose and rushed back to the case.
In the brief moment that the light had landed on the case, Devarak had spotted the locking mechanism. On the front at the right-hand side was a small diamond shaped notch. At first inspection, it resembled a nick in the wood, a mere imperfection. But as Devarak looked closer at it he became aware that when compressed it would reveal a tiny keyhole.
Without the light, even his exceptional eyes and keen fingers would have missed it. From within his small toolkit, Devarak withdrew a small set of picks. He took a knee and began working the lock. Concentrating hard, one ear pressed against the wood, listening for the click. He rotated his tools searching avidly for the sweet spot.
After what felt like much longer than necessary for such a basic the lock there was a small click and the case seal relaxed.
“Hah,” Devarak, released his success audibly.
He stood, stored his tools, and carefully pried the case open. Devarak withdrew a thick leather pouch from his tool belt. He knew better than to touch something with such energy, and now that the case was open, the pull of the stone had intensified, drawing him in with undulating energy.
The Ardor Stone hummed calling to him and causing his heartbeat to quicken. It compelled him to reach out for it, and momentarily Devarak had the thought to listen. Then he shook this notion off and carefully maneuvered the small leather bag around the stone. He nudged it inside, all the while making sure his fingers only touched the leather. He drew the strings closed and tied the pouch onto his belt, looping it several times.
Once Devarak was satisfied that it was securely fastened, he stood back and lowered the lid of the case. It had risen easily and without noise, gliding as if assisted, its descent was not so smooth.
In his excitement Devarak had lowered the front a bit faster than necessary and as it fell it released a rather urgent squeal and banged into its partner with an echo that reverberated through the chamber.
Devarak swore under his breath and glanced around the room. Maybe no one had heard it fall? He quickly slid into the shadows as a precaution. If he needed to make a quick escape the darkness would grant him a moment’s lead. He followed the wall, his attention focused on listening for the guards. Just as he began to wonder if the noise had gone unnoticed he heard the sound of urgent voices outside the hall.
“Did you hear that?”
“I did. It wasn’t you was it?”
“Not me. Thought you might have nodded off.”
“No nothing like that.” The second voice said, sounding indignant at the accusation. They were getting closer.
“Well, we both heard it. It could a cat?”
“Not likely, you know how the Queen feels about them.”
There was a small click and then the door creaked opened.
Devarak scanned the room, calculating the likelihood of cover. He was too far from the dais to return and the evenly spaced marble pillars were not wide enough to hide him from the torchlight.
Devarak sped through the shadows, stopping only when he reached the corner closest to the doors. With any luck he could hold his position long enough for the guards to pass him. Then he could slip passed past undetected. He reached the corner just as torchlight bloomed in the doorway, followed by two well-armored guards.
They split up patrolling in parallel down the length of the hall. They had forgotten to shut the door behind them. One of the guards was making his way toward Devarak’s corner. His torchlight was just inches from Devarak’s boots and he knew that if the guard moved any closer he would become distinguishable.
Devarak’s eyesight was spotty as it adjusted to the light of the torch. They were extremely effective under cover of darkness but reacted slowly to abrupt transitions of light.
He would have to make a break for it regardless of his erratic vision. If he could get out of the room he would be able to withdraw by his predetermined route.
Mind made up, Devarak raced for the door, knocking the torch from the guard’s hand as he did. It fell to the floor with a loud clatter, igniting the carpet on impact.
“OH SHIT! The carpets on fire!” The guard shout to his companion, panicking as he tried to stamp out the flames. Devarak took his moment of panic to swing past him and through the narrow opening between the two doors.
“He’s getting away! Oritus get him, I’ll deal with this,” came the muffled shouts of the first guard. Devarak sprinted around the first corner, trying to remember the directions for exiting the castle.
His initial plan had included moving at a much slower pace. He chided himself internally, reminding himself that counting on luck was poor planning. He knew better and made a note to plan contingencies for the next time…If there was to be a next time.
The second guard, Oritus, was catching up. Even with his heavy armour, he was now only a few paces behind Devarak.
Devarak was still running half blind, and just barely managed to maneuver around a large column. His vision was slowly returning. Thank Azuthe. This was great timing as he had just noticed the folded corner of the area rug ahead and easily passed over it.
He risked a glance over his shoulder, the guard was still following, but was panting hard now and stumbled as he reached the rug.
Devarak reassessed his path, his exit was still a floor below and all the halls looked the same. The guard had resources on his side that Devarak lacked.
He yelled loudly, waking the sleepers, and summoning his fellow guards to his position.
“Intruder! Second Floor!”
Devarak rounded the next corner How far into the castle was he? He knew he needed to head down toward the front entrance, he would have favoured leaving through a servant hall but at this point, he doubted he could locate one.
There was a shout as he entered the next hall. Devarak swore under his breath, as another guard came toward him. This one was older, with a grizzled, close-cropped beard. He brandished a short sword at the thief, his grip steady and his grey eyes clear and intent.
“Stop right there boy.” His voice was stern, Devarak felt its effect and for a moment it stopped him in his tracks. The statement pulled anxiously at his memory, The steel of a sword being drawn from its sheath and a familiar shout, “Stop right there. You know I can’t let you leave.”
Devarak spun on his heel, retracing his steps, he would find another exit.
“You’ve nowhere to run boy, this castles been locked down.” the guard drawled, his voice was deeper than the one in his memory.
There was something unsettling in the man’s calm, indifferent tone. Devarak pushed on, feeling a slight chill creep up his spine as he did so. He didn’t bother to glance behind him as he retreated up the hall. He could hear the sound of the man’s armour clinking behind him.
Another shout came from ahead and then three more guards rounded the corner. Devarak stopped and glanced behind him, two more now joined the older guard who had addressed him previously. With a nod from the older guard, who seemed to be in charge, the two flanking guards drew their swords and pointed them at Devarak.
Devarak’s eyes darted frantically from wall to wall searching for a gap in their defences, a hint of an escape route.
The hallway they’d cornered him in had windows along it, all latched shut. He would never make it out and even if he could unlatch one in time, the fall would kill him or at least injure him beyond escape. The guards were spaced out, three behind him and three ahead of him. Devarak cursed under his breath. They closed in toward him, backing him into the cool stone wall. Devarak raised his hands, keeping his glare on the old man.
“What did I tell you, boy?” The man growled. He stepped forward and placed his sword against Devarak’s throat. “Now, answer this, what are you doing skulking around the throne room? You don’t look like a servant.”
The man appraised Devarak’s trousers, which were several inches short, his dark tunic which was thinning, and finally focused his gaze on Devarak’s face.
“And a Kayasdart eh?”
Devarak continued to gaze unblinkingly at the man but did not respond to his query. The man didn’t seem to expect a response, however.
“Well, you know how this ends.” With a sigh, the older man turned to the guards on his left and right, “take him to the dungeons. We’ll deal with him in the morning. We will inform the King of this incident at that time there’s no reason to wake him.”
Two of the guards stowed their swords and each grabbed Devarak by an arm. They were shorter than Devarak by a whole foot, but also built more solidly, even with the heavy plate armour, Devarak could make out the thick sinewy neck of the guard on his left.
“No need to be rough. I’ll submit.” Devarak said as the other guard pushed him aggressively toward the wall. They hadn’t noticed the stone, but it was only a matter of time. If he went quietly there was still a chance he could shirk his guard before they reached the dungeon. One of the guards was clasping his wrists into manacles now. Which was not wholly unexpected, but they would definitely prove problematic.
Then they each took an arm once more and began leading him down the hall passed their commander. Their eyes met as Devarak was pulled past. Grey clashing with gold. The commander held it unflinchingly, then he glanced down at Devarak’s waist.
They had passed him. The commander took a step forward, and pointed down at Devarak’s waist, “What is inside that pouch boy?”
Devarak didn’t respond, electing instead to stare down the deserted hall ahead. This was it. He wasn’t going to be able to get out of this unscathed. One of the guards hastily removed the pouch from Devarak’s belt and dropped it into his commander outstretched hand.
As the commander began loosening the drawstring, he paused, his features darkening. He glanced up at Devarak and then back at the Stone.
“Wake the King.”