Crown City seemed both familiar and foreign to me. The streets were wide and smooth. The stone buildings, two stories tall with windows with glass panes – a luxury out in the country – and pale clay roof tiles, had an overall pink hue from the purple/pink lightning dome above. Most of the people we passed on our procession toward the castle were dressed in expensive fabrics in various shades of orange, yellow, and green as if to complement the sky. Most had on reflective, possibly tin, liripipe hats, with the pipes tucked in various places about their person. I gestured my elbow at Vytar and he rolled his eyes.
At one intersection, a man walked out of a bar and the persons passing nearby, mostly younger women, gathered around him – sighing and fawning on him as if he were the Storm god incarnate.
“What’s that about?” I whispered to Vytar.
“Mech-magic weilder. The nobility treat them as one of its own and the common people find them,” he paused, searching for a word. “Attractive.”
The guard next to him snorted.
“They find them ‘wonderful,’ as my wife says,” the guard muttered. His superior glared at him and the conversation stopped.
We reached the Sentinel’s Garrison, which was a part of the protective wall around Crown Castle – so called because it had six pointed towers at various intervals that matched the six spires of the castle itself. The King’s crown, I realized, also had six points – reflecting elements of the architecture. Why did I know that?
The lead sentinel, Ernol – the other sentinel who had been with Vytar when I was captured – had an argument with a different sentinel about what do to with us. Ernol mentioned the words “traitor” and “beheading” while giving a pointed look at Vytar, who pretended not to hear.
“They want to behead you?” I couldn’t help asking. “For what?”
He shushed me.
The other sentinel won the argument and we were moved further into the castle courtyard and parked at the steps leading up to the Grand Council’s chambers.
And we waited longer.
Finally, a tallish man – not as tall as Vytar or Torgood, but taller than I by a few centimeters – walked down the steps. He wore a rich brocade doublet not quite the color of royal blue, and carried a staff made out of some flat black material that had a purple/pink glowing globe at the top. He tossed back his longish blond hair and gave the sentinels a stern look.
“Ernol, what’s the problem?”
Sentinel Ernol pointed at Vytar as if that explained everything.
“Ah Captain Vytar.” The way he said “Captain” gave me the impression that Vytar was not well liked.
“Grand Councilor Fadreel,” Vytar bowed and rattled his chains.
Grand Councilor Fadreel smirked. “I hear you’ve been consorting with the enemy.”
Vytar did not respond. The Grand Councilor looked at his audience as if to gauge their reactions. He noticed me and his eyes grew wide.
“Unlock them, Ernol. Immediately.”
Ernol looked stunned but complied. I rubbed my sore wrist and did not look at the Grand Councilor.
“The woman is with you?” Grand Councilor Fadreel asked Vytar, who glanced at me. I nodded.
“Yes, Grand Councilor.”
The Grand Councilor directed the guard holding the woman to take her to the physicker. Another guard started to walk off with Rand.
“Don’t touch my horse.” The words were out of my mouth before I considered what it would cost me.
Grand Councilor Fadreel gestured for the man to let go of the horse, so I retrieved my things. I felt the Grand Councilor’s eyes on me. I looked up to see him cock his head to the side.
“Angestirian. Elements take me, I never thought I’d see you again,” He held his arms wide with a smile that showed lots of teeth. I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to. When I didn’t move to embrace him, he turned to Vytar.
“Vytar, where ever did you find him?”
Vytar rubbed his wrists and didn’t answer.
The Grand Councilor stepped closer to me and I resisted the urge to step back.
“You don’t remember me? You used to call me ‘Uncle’.”
At the word, ‘Uncle,’ I got a stabbing pain behind my right eye. I felt as if the floor had opened up underneath me. I sank to my knees, dizzy.
Visions passed before my eyes. Memories and feelings. I felt as if I’d awakened after a long illness, weak and confused. I looked at “Uncle” Fadreel and I remembered walking in to my parent’s chambers one evening after I’d had a argument with one of my instructors. I’d wanted to discuss it with my mother, Lyntrillienne. Instead I found my father, the King of Adnor – and don’t you forget it boy – and his boon companion, Advisor Fadreel, raping a young – maybe 10 years old – not much younger than I at that point – scullery maid. At the time, I didn’t know it was rape. They had invited me to join in – for my education. I declined, claiming a prior engagement with my weapons trainer. That satisfied them. I asked my mother about it, because I asked my mother everything. We went on a trip after that, just the two of us, to Coalfen Swamp to visit relatives.
“You,” the Grand Councilor snapped, “get the Prince some water.”
The watching guards murmured in surprise as whomever he’d addressed that to ran off..
The runner returned with a cup of water. The hand that gave me the cup shook.
“Grand Councilor,” Vytar said in a low voice, “perhaps we should take this inside. It has been a challenging day for all involved.”
“Oh, of course, Captain. Please proceed.”
I felt Vytar lift me up and we followed the Grand Councilor up the steps and into the Grand Council’s chambers.