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Synopsis

Nathaniel has risen to power on the Central Isles, ruling over the demon population that lives there. A few years after the start of his reign, the tensions start to reach a peak as the demon population begins to dwindle, victims of supposed angel attacks.
A young mage from the South is recruited to serve as the King’s court mage; a powerful demon known as Amnur. He is eager to take on his new responsibilities but soon finds that the dream he was sold has a dark, cruel reality.

Currently still a first draft, the chapter may be edited. I’ve been very ill unfortunately.


Chapter 7

His First Mission

The journey through the Umbral Forest both terrified and excited Amnur, although it had been uneventful. His only encounters had been members of his own race, who regarded him with interest and curiosity, and with nature itself. Whistling winds had launched leaves at him, causing him to flinch when one collided. A fact which was embarrassing him more and more. It took some time to steady his nerves; soon, he began to ignore the leaves slapping him, while still keeping an eye on his surroundings. All around him the canopy of the forest was thick and seemingly impenetrable from outside eyes, shielding him from any angels above. If there were any angels anyway. Amnur was unsure exactly how far he was from his target and by relation, unsure how close he was to potential danger. It was not an ideal situation, but he hoped to be able to change the situation to his favour.
One thing the guard he had spoken to had mentioned was that his location possessed a tree that he could utilise as a landmark; a gnarled and twisted old tree. It would be hard to mistake it from the healthier, younger trees. No trees had fit that description yet, so he continued on his route, with the hope that he was still heading in the correct direction.
Soon, a smell started to perforate the air. He paused for a moment to take in the scent, trying to pick up exactly what it was and where it was originating from. Amnur guessed it to be smoke by the hints of charred wood, something that pointed to a settlement or encampment of sorts. The demon hoped this was the target he was looking for, either way, it was a good lead. Silently, he crept on, keeping his hands prepped ready to barrage awaiting angels with fiery blasts.
The trees began to thin as he continued on, showing him the presence of wooden structures ahead. Low chatter broke the silence around the opening, but it was too hushed for Amnur to pick up on what was being said, if they were speaking anything aside from angelic anyway. Demons didn’t know the angelic tongue and angels don’t comprehend the demonic tongue. It kept their conversations private to the specific race. Movement caught his eye, so he broke cover, keen for his assignment to be carried out in at least part self-defence. The individual froze and gazed up at Amnur, their eyes switching between the dancing flames wrapping around his hands and the demon’s determined expression. Amnur himself froze. His eyes locked on the target below, suddenly unsure how to react.
What stood before him was not a battle hardened angel or even an angel at all. It was a young demon child, no older than ten if he had to guess. Amnur broke the spell and straightened up, clearing his throat. “My apologies, I did not expect demons here,” he spoke, his voice uneven and shaken. The boy, however, appeared scared. He ran off and entered one of the wooden structures, which Amnur could now see they were houses. There were a few scattered around the gap in the trees; from the moss and green on the wood, they had been there for a reasonable period of time. He stood there awkwardly, deciding to use the lapse to check his map and his surroundings. As he looked around, he spotted the gnarled tree that had been mentioned to him. This was definitely the place, so why was it wrong?
Other demons started to emerge, roused by the distress of the child. Amnur became uncomfortable. Their eyes bore into him, intent to find out his purpose. It would be in his best interest for him to explain himself, without any prompting. “I apologise for my actions, I was informed I would find an angel encampment here, and I was acting on my mission to deal with them,” Amnur bowed, keeping his head low out of respect.
“Angels? We’ve not seen any of the feathered kin for some time. They know to stay away from our little village if they wish to live,” one of the adults spoke up, jostling a blade on his belt to prove a point. “I do not know who sent you out here, but their information is gravely mistaken.”
Amnur glanced up for a second. Older soldiers lived out here, those with enough strength to keep the angels at bay. “Would you mind checking my map? I would like to think my bearings were off. I am new to the Isles, after all,” he sighed, knowing fully that he was in the correct place. He had to diffuse the situation somehow, though, this came over the most suitable course. The male that had spoken previously beckoned for him to come closer, so he did so and offered up the map. Moments passed as the map was examined, the demon’s expression turned from cold to angry as he stared at the scrap of paper.
“That’s definitely us, no doubt about it,” he growled, before exhaling and passing the map back to Amnur, trying to force his expression to a more neutral one. Amnur knew the anger was not directed at him, he had merely been given orders after all. It was just lucky he spotted the child. If he just burnt the houses first and without question, they would’ve all perished. “I advise you to return to your superior and inform them that there are no angels here, they would do better looking elsewhere.”
“I will; I apologise for any distress I caused you and your child,” Amnur responded, departing from the village without further delay. The mage had been here long enough already. As he headed back towards Shadekeep, his mind threw up more questions than answers. He desperately wished that this mission was nothing more than incorrect information; Nathaniel could only work on the information given. If he was provided with false details, then he was none the wiser. Any other thoughts were far darker, nor were they ones he wanted to entertain. His body urged him to rest, as he had not stopped once since he originally departed the keep. Amnur, however, had no intention to stop, he needed answers.
***
His passionate march soon got him back to Shadekeep, where he let himself rest for the first time. Amnur leant against a wall, taking slow breaths in and out, feeling the ache in his body. He was about to depart when he heard voices in a nearby room. The door was ajar, but he could not see who was inside. Letting out a sigh, he went past the room, not wanting to eavesdrop on the conversation.
“Any news on how Nathaniel’s plans are going Iomor? I’ve heard the rumours of supposed angels attacks taking out a few isolated hamlets,” a voice from inside spoke, causing Amnur to stop still.
“Keep your voice down, fool,” Iomor spat, but Amnur could still catch the end of the conversation regardless. “It’s a convenient ruse and hard to prove. If you eliminate any witnesses, as you should, then there’s no one to prove otherwise. It keeps our minds focused on angels, while Nathaniel takes down those that wish to oppose his rule.”
Amnur’s eyes went wide, his chest felt tight. It had to just be banter, nothing more. The King couldn’t be involved in this surely, he seemed so genuine whenever they talked. Nathaniel loved his people, he wouldn’t order their death. Yet it nagged at his mind. It would explain how he ended up at a secluded demon village and the locals confirmed that he was indeed at the right location. He needed someone to talk to, someone unbiased…
Dumon, that demon came to mind. He was old enough to be aware of the political issues, while perhaps he was impartial to any decisions made. Amnur set off for the healing chambers, wanting to find answers to his questions.
***
The healing chambers were serene as always. Silence clung to the air, creating a relaxing environment to rest up in. Dumon was tending to the plants within the expansive room, restocking his supply of herbs now his time was free. His peace was broken by the minor creak emitted by one of the entranceways, and he turned his head to greet his new company.
“Ah Amnur, what brings you here today?” Dumon spoke up, his voice was upbeat and cheerful. It was a strong contrast to Amnur’s mood, and it wasn’t doing anything to help him right now.
“I need to talk to you, urgently and privately,” Amnur solemnly replied, glancing towards the door to steady his nerves. Dumon noted his worry. His gaze shifted around the room before turning back to Amnur. With a steady hand, Amnur found himself being guided to a private room attached to the chamber, away from prying eyes.
“Now, what’s worrying you so much? This is the first time I’ve seen you so uneasy.”
Amnur shuffled on the spot, trying to form a coherent sentence in his mind. “I was sent on an assignment to take down an angel encampment, to give them a show of power. When I got there, however, I found a small demon community, who supposedly haven’t seen angels for quite some time. That confused me, so I headed back here, intent to query Nathaniel over what had just happened. But as I walked down the corridor, I overheard two demons talking about the King’s plan to eradicate those that oppose him, blaming the attacks on angels,” he sighed as he finished. It was a relief to be able to tell someone about it, but the true implications started to well up in his mind. “I was sent to murder innocents Dumon. I don’t know what to do or even what to think.”
Dumon’s expression turned grim as he listened to the tale, it was far worse than he expected. “I can inform parties that would be interested in such information; Nathaniel has a growing list of enemies due to his intentions,” he stated, but followed up with a sigh, “that doesn’t help you right now, though.”
“What do you mean?”
“While you were undoubtedly lied to and I wholeheartedly agree with your choice to back away, you still refused to carry out your orders and insubordination is not taken lightly,” Dumon warned the young mage. Nathaniel knew full well that his target was a demon settlement; the plan had only been broken by Amnur spotting the young child. Amnur froze, that was something he hadn’t thought about, potential punishment. “Did you have any idea how you’re going to contend with that?”
Amnur tried to respond when a knock on the door drew their attention. With a gasp, his eyes darted to Dumon. The healer took a deep breath and approached the door, his hands shaky as he unlocked the door and opened it up a crack.
“Did you get injured on your very first assignment Amnur? Oh dear,” Nathaniel teased, making the mage shudder. “Come, let’s recount the details in private.”
The demon wished nothing more than to run and hide, but it was impossible. Amnur stepped forward, and Nathaniel put a solid, powerful arm around his shoulders. Seeing no other option, he simply gave Dumon a silent plead as he departed.
Dumon stared in horror as they departed, he had to do something to try and save Amnur from too much harm. He searched underneath a cloth for a glass orb, feeling the warmth of mana tingle his fingers when he located it. A magical relay orb, designed for communicating with others who possess a similarly linked one. Sounds reverberated around the healer’s mind; evidently, his target on the other end had noticed his presence. “Listen to me closely; Nathaniel has made a move, in a different manner than we expected. Amnur’s been caught up, and he’s in grave danger, but we’re too late to stop whatever happens to him now. I just hope that Nathaniel intends to keep him in service, rather than killing him and finding a replacement to do the same.”
“I’ll come down and meet with you. If Amnur survives this, he’ll appreciate knowing he has allies,” the voice on the other side replied, cutting the transmission dead as they stepped away. Satisfied but still wary, Dumon hid the orb and set out to prepare himself for possible surgery.
* * *
Amnur struggled to steady his breathing as Nathaniel marched him on. The King’s smug expression was doing little to calm his nerves. He believed that Amnur had carried out the task, trying to convince him that it was so was going to be difficult. With the brisk pace being led by Nathaniel, he soon found himself once again at the ornate doors that lead to the audience chamber. A sweeping gesture knocked him inside the room, once entry had been granted. Amnur glanced around the room, but to his relief, there was no one else there. It would be harder to lie to two individuals, assuming they were of similar minds.
“Why don’t you take a seat on the throne while you recount the details?” Nathaniel spoke with a wry smile, gesturing to the carved seat. The mage gulped, being sat down would require him to have to keep his head craned upward, keeping eye contact. Whether it was intentional or it was just Nathaniel being overly prideful in his Court Mage, he was unsure, but Amnur was certainly uncomfortable. Either way, he had to oblige, refusing the request would be suspect. Taking a deep breath, he settled down on the cool stone.
“Well?” The King teased.
“I followed the directions that one of the gate guards had given me and ended up at the landmark they had mentioned; a distinctive tree,” Amnur spoke, pausing for breath and to measure his response. Nathaniel’s expression remained cheery, pleased that he had located the place successfully. “When I arrived, there was no one around. I did however easily spot the encampment, to which I set it alight with a barrage of furious flames.” That second half had sounded better in his head, he had to admit. Still, he desperately hoped that it was convincing enough.
“Anything else?” Nathaniel queried, catching Amnur off guard.
“Well, I did manage to graze myself by accident after being startled and colliding with a tree,” he stated with false embarrassment, hoping to give a legitimate reason for why he was visiting Dumon. “I’m not overly confident with the outside just yet.” That remark earned a chuckle from Nathaniel, which calmed his nerves a pinch.
The conversation went silent. Nathaniel didn’t come up with another question, or even a statement. He did, however, appear to be thinking, perhaps to give him another assignment; though that thought filled him with just as much dread. Without a word, the King came up and placed a hand on his shoulder, holding on with an uncomfortably firm grip. He was facing away, leaving Amnur unable to see his facial expression.
“You know,” Nathaniel started, tightening his grip on the mage’s shoulder, “I don’t appreciate being lied to.” Amnur froze, biting his tongue as he felt the King turning towards him, his crimson eyes drilling into him. “I know when someone’s lying to me, and you were doing a pitiful job of hiding it,” the King growled. His grip was starting to become painful as he dug his fingers into Amnur’s shoulders.
“What did you expect me to do? That was a demon village, there were no angels in sight,” Amnur spat, cringing at the pain radiating out from his shoulder.
Nathaniel laughed at the comment, making Amnur wish he could shrink into the chair. “Details,” he replied, “what I expect you to do is follow your orders. Evidently, that’s difficult for you, so I guess I’m going to have to teach you a lesson.”
Before Amnur had time to respond, he felt himself being hoisted from the chair, still only being held onto by the shoulder. The hand moved down to the arm and threw him to the floor, before being lifted back level. Nathaniel was escorting him out of the room and out of the castle. Amnur knew exactly where he was headed, but he didn’t know how to stop it.
They arrived back at the target village, where Amnur was forcibly dumped on the floor. He raised his head, sore from the aggressive handling. Nathaniel was marching up to the huts, banging on the door of the nearest one. A demon wearily answered it, only to be met with a flash of the King’s obsidian blade, before being thrown down to the ground below. Amnur stared in horror as the body slammed against the floor, blood seeping onto the grass. Nathaniel went through the occupants one by one, cutting them down regardless of their age and Amnur felt unable to stop his rampage.
Moans arose from the downed demons, making Amnur realise that Nathaniel wasn’t outright killing the villagers; he was leaving them to die an agonizing death. “If you want to end their suffering, you’ll have to do that with your own hands,” the King teased, pausing for a brief moment to observe the mage’s reaction. “Otherwise just leave them. They’ll die in a few hours, maybe a day maximum.”
Amnur sat still, unable to respond to the cruelness of the words being uttered. Cries of pain arose around him, clawing at his mind. He could end this, swiftly and with less pain than they’re experiencing now but then their blood would be on his hands. Bellowing laughter broke his thoughts as Nathaniel finished off the rest of the village, leaving a trail of bodies. With tears streaming down his face, Amnur approached the first demon and placed his hands over his heart.
“I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t know this would happen,” he sobbed, directing a concentrated burst of mana at the demon’s heart, rendering it useless. The demon’s pulse faded instantly, and the body went still. His suffering had ended.
Amnur went around the demons one by one and repeated the procedure, ending their lives. In his distraught state, he failed to notice that Nathaniel had finished and was stood watching him, a twisted grin present on his lips. Eventually, all the victims were still. Amnur had completed his task. Tears streamed down his rugged face as he surveyed the scene. It was horrid, everything was horrid.
A sharp pain and a feeling of being launched brought his mind back to the other fact in this situation; Nathaniel. The King had just kicked him hard, moving him from the spot. “Now, what have we learnt?” he enquired, towering above the mage’s hunched body. Amnur turned his head up and just glared, but the lack of responsive unnerved him. With a sigh, Nathaniel reached down and grabbed Amnur, pulling him up level. One thing Amnur could tell was that his aggression wasn’t appreciated, a fact being made obvious by the discontent in the King’s crimson eyes.
Nathaniel glanced behind his captive, before throwing him at the ground. He landed straight in a pool of blood, which splashed up and covered his body as he tumbled. Amnur tried to react, but he felt himself being lifted once more, being launched into another blood puddle. The King repeated it again and again; Amnur was feeling sick with all the innocent blood saturating him, along with the pain from the rough handling. He laid there panting, any fight he had remaining had left his body; Nathaniel’s lesson had been a success. “Now, that’s better; be a good little subordinate, and things like this won’t happen again,” Nathaniel spoke, standing hunched over his mage. “However, if you dare disobey me again, the consequences will be much, much worse. Understood?”
“Yes, your majesty,” Amnur sighed, not willing to make eye contact. The whole ordeal had thoroughly disgusted him. Nathaniel was truly ruthless, the blood split appeared to fill him with glee, opposed to dread.
“I thought as much,” the King grinned, hoisting Amnur back to his feet and dragging him off into the distance, leaving the bodies to rot in the summer air.
They arrived back at Shadekeep after maintaining a rigorous pace, numbing Amnur’s body with the pressured march. The gate guards saw the mage’s dishevelled state, but due to the presence of the King, opted to turn their heads away. He wasn’t going to get any help from them, Amnur knew; he wondered how many shared the same opinion. Nathaniel wasn’t one to cross, not for anyone.
“You may wish to consider a shower,” the King spoke now they were away from the door, giving Amnur a firm slap on the back as he departed for his chambers, alone. Amnur whined at the pain caused by the action as he stood in the middle of the entranceway, unsure what to do. Blood dripped off his body and clothes, leaving a small trail behind him but the gate guards still refused to acknowledge his plight. Desperate, he opted to try the one person and location that he could think that would help; Dumon in the healing chamber.

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Gabriela Voelske

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