Betrayer’s Bastards

Posted: June 5, 2014 in Fantasy, Fiction
Tags: , , , , ,

This week’s Wendig challenge. I’m not in love with how it came out, but I lost the original part of the draft and recreated it on short notice. So, yeah. Anyway, in case you couldn’t guess, my random title gave me Betrayer’s Bastards. A bit over the 1k limit, but not atrociously so.  

Ingolfar strode the halls of Caranthair, his chain mail rattling, as his mace, Foefeller, slapped against his leg. He’d been summoned by his employer, Hadrakar the Tyrant, to the throne room in order to meet with an emissary.

Ingolfar’s long blond hair and beard marked him as a Northman of the Wastes, a savage people who long raided into the softer South. The South was known to fight back, however, as Ingolfar and his raiding party discovered to their dismay as they were headed home. Ambushed by a larger force, Ingolfar had been lucky to escape with his life. He bore reminders of that day in the form of a jagged cut down the right side of his face, and half of his right ear was missing.

Travelling East, Ingolfar took work as a guard, a mercenary, and even a slaver. He’d earned a reputation as a ruthless fighter, long before he joined with Hadrakar’s forces to overthrow the current rulers of Caranthair. He’d served with distinction, smashing the defenders lines, sending them shrieking down the halls as they put everyone to the sword. Ingolfar smiled as he passed a bit of stone work still bearing scorch marks from that night.

Hadrakar rewarded those that served him well, and Ingolfar was no exception, being given the command of Hadrakar’s Children, his elite guard.

As he entered the throne room, he saw Hadrakar lounging on the Ebon Throne, a crystal goblet cradled in one hand. He wore the blackened armor now fused to his body by a wizard’s curse. The wizard’s head now adorned a spear on the walls. Ingolfar was more interested in the ambassador, however. Her slight frame, pitch black skin, and pointed ears marked her as svartalfar.

“Ah, good, Captain Ingolfar, you’re here. I was only just describing to Ambassador Lisastrata here how I was going to entrust her well-being to your tender care.”

Ingolfar leaned against a column as he studied the ambassador. She wore a silver gown, and a delicate tiara held her ebony skin in place. She smiled, her filed white teeth a stark contrast to her skin of night.

“Can the good Captain be trusted?” the ambassador asked with a voice like wind chimes.

Hadrakar raised the goblet to his mouth, wine splashing around his mouth, down his chin as he drank. “Trusted? As long as he collects his pay, he can be trusted. Isn’t that right, Ingolfar?”

Ingolfar smiled and inclined his head. “As my Lord says. And I am well paid.”

“See,” the Tyrant said. “More wine!” he bellowed.

A servant, naked but for a golden chain around her ankle came forward with a silver flagon. Ingolfar recognized her as one of the former ruler’s daughters. She trembled as she poured the wine, some of it staining the marble floor. Hadrakar didn’t notice, only interested in the crimson fluid, as if he were a man in a desert who hadn’t drunk for days.

“Good, good. Yesss,” Hadrakar said, sliding further back into the throne.  “Captain Ingolfar will see you to your quarters. And Ingolfar?”

“Yes, Tyrant?”

“The Ambassador is here as my personal guest. You and your men understand what that means, don’t you?” Hadrakar’s bloodshot eyes stared intently.

Ingolfar’s eyes narrowed. “We have the laws of hospitality where I am from, Tyrant. No harm will come to her.”

“Good, that’s good. Go now. And slave… come here.”

Ingolfar and Lisastrata left the throne room before the screams started.

“I’m surprised Hadrakar has the captain of his guard escort me to my chambers.” Her bare feet padded along next to his booted feet, and she smelled of honeysuckle.

Ingolfar smiled. “The Tyrant doesn’t trust many of the servants. The ones left alive, anyway.” He shook his head. “The sack got out of hand. There’s always a bit of killing with a sack, but what I saw-” He shrugged his shoulders, turned down into a hallway. “I fear he took the curse badly.”

“It’s true then? He’s bonded to the armor?”

Ingolfar nodded. “We tried to get him out of it, but no tool will bend the metal. He can’t kill himself, either. He’s tried too. The armor turns aside all blades. The gorget prevents a rope from going around his neck. I don’t know if he’s tried poison yet, but I imagine that will be next.”

“How long has he been like this?”

“Since the sack three months ago.”

“And he can’t take off any part of the armor.”

Ingolfar nodded.

“Not even to-”

“Explains the smell now, doesn’t it? Anyway, here’s where you’ll be staying.”

Lisastrata entered the room, shedding her gown as she went. Ingolfar entered after her, embracing her from behind, drinking in the scent of her.

“He has no idea, does he?” Lisastrata asked as Ingolfar bent his mouth to her neck, tracing kisses along her skin.

“None,” Ingolfar whispered into her ear.

#

Hadrakar sat on the throne he had so longed for, willing his body to move. The fires burned low, their coals glowing red. The other servants had to carry the girl out after he was done with her. He was told she’d probably survive the night.

How long had he been trapped in this metal shell? Unable to take it off, stewing in his own filth day after day. None of his men dared approach him, no woman was willing to look at him unless it was in disgust.

A figure moved in the shadows.

“Who is that? An assassin? Hah! Come on then!” Hadrakar pushed himself to his feet, swaying unsteadily.  He threw the goblet against the ground, drew his sword, Quencher. “Ah, Ingolfar, it is you. How are you my friend?”

Ingolfar stepped into the light. In his hand he held a dagger, a strange weapon fashioned from black glass. “Tyrant. It is late.”

Hadrakar grunted. “That it is. Why are you here? What is that?” He pointed at the weapon in his captain’s hand.

“Your death, Tyrant,” Ingolfar said, climbing closer.

“Guards!” Hadrakar shouted. “My children to me!” Hadrakar’s guards stepped forward, all of them with weapons sheathed, arms folded across their chests. “What betrayal is this?” Hadrakar shouted. “You were my children!”

Ingolfar smiled. “We’re all of us bastards.”

Hadrakar swung his sword at Ingolfar, but Foefeller was there to greet it, smashing it from Hadrakar’s hand. “You can’t kill me!” the Tyrant shouted. “You can’t- Oh.” He stared down at his chest where the dagger was buried up to the hilt, the blade having slipped through the armor like it was tissue. “How?”

Ingolfar pulled the blade free, dark with the Tyrant’s blood. In the shadows, Lisastrata, daughter of smiths, smiled.

 ###

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