MULSA'TREN V.S. AMANGEIOUS
“Lord Mulsa’tren, we accept your continuation of the peace between our people and offer our condolences for your father.” The Speaker stated, folding his hands under his sleeves.
Mulsa’tren nodded his head once, looking past the speaker with a stony gaze. Even in his ceremonial armor, Mulsa’tren was an imposing figure. Standing nearly half a foot taller than his father, he absolutely towered over the Da’nari Speaker. “I was but a boy, when my father laid aside his thoughts of conquest and forged an alliance with the Da’nari. I would be a poor son if I did not carry out his wishes.” Mulsa’tren smiled faintly. “If it pleases the speaker, I would retire for the evening. Shall we resume trade negotiations in the morning?”
The speaker bowed his head once and addressed the five councils seated around him. “If no one objects, that is acceptable.”
Around him, four of the council nodded as one. The fifth sat as still as stone, his dark eyes never leaving Mulsa’tren.
“Master Amangeious, do you have an objection?” The Speaker asked quietly.
After a moment, the wizard shifted slightly and stood, his robes whispering as he drew them closer to his frail body. “No, speaker.” He replied, bowing his graying head. “I am not as young as I once was, the events of the day have left me drained.”
The speaker nodded sympathetically. “Your wisdom has served us well through the years.” Turning back to the council. “Let this conference be adjourned. We will continue on the morrow.” The council stood and turned towards Mulsa’tren, each bowing once in turn, except for Amandeious, who stood as straight as his aging body would allow.
Mulsa’tren smiled faintly and bowed to the speaker. “On the morrow.”
“My lord, I have doubts.”
Mulsatren removed his horned helm and set it aside. “Fortunately, I do not.” He replied evenly. “As long as I can remember, my father wanted this more than anything.”
Tregan sighed, obviously not convinced. “The Da’nari have never been defeated. Their walls have stood since their creation. Dozens of armies have smashed against these walls, every one of them failed. Even your father’s. Not to mention, even those few who have managed to circumvent the walls, they all fell by Amangieous’s magics.”
Lord Mulsa’tren nodded. “You are correct, no army has ever conquered the Da’nari.”
Tregan shuffled uncomfortably in his wizardly robes, his collar obviously chafing him. “Why am I here then?”
Mulsa’tren grinned; the collar Tregan wore was a mark of servitude. Only defeated wizards wore them. It prevented them from using their magic or causing any harm, directly or indirectly to their captor. “As my bonded wizard, you are to serve me in whatever capacity I may need. As it so happens, your particular ‘talent’ can serve me best here.”
Tregan sighed wearily. His specialty, before Mulsa’tren had come for him, had been divination in all its aspects: Scrying, detection and countering such attempts. “And without me, you couldn’t be certain that no one was not spying on you magically.” Tregan frowned. “But I still fail to see how this will allow you to conquer the Da’nari.”
Mulsa’tren stretched and sat in one of the opulent chairs the Da’nari had furnished him for his quarters. “After my father laid aside his plans for conquest of this… place, he decided that I should become more learned than he was. In addition to my daily warrior’s training, I was sent abroad to learn about the world. Every year I came back with a new story or treasure to present to him. My travels took me around the world, I saw things most people only can dream of, met strange people with bizarre customs and traditions, things to revolt and delight. Have you, perchance, heard of the Da’kran?”
Tregan frowned slightly, wary of his master’s conversational tone. “Very little, I remember they were thought to be religious fanatics of some sort. They thought magic was… evil.” Tregan chuckled quietly. “Most apprentices know of them as some sort of mystical bogeymen. ‘Obey your teacher or he’ll call the Da’kran!’ That sort of stuff. Myths and legends. Nobody is even sure if they exist anymore.”
“Oh they do.” Mulsa’tren replied smugly, his eyes distant. “Years ago I found an isolated monastery. After a few weeks of complicated… ritual. They let me in. I spent months there, learning their history and finding out much. Did you know that the Da’kren was an empire once?”
“No…” Tregan stammered in surprise, not sure of Mulsa’tren was playing games with him. “An empire? Truly?”
“Yes.” Mulsa’tren replied. “In fact this used to be their homeland. Their holiest temple is the stone tower you see at the center of this city.”
The wizard gaped, flabbergasted. “How is that so?”
Mulsa’tren shrugged. “Hundreds of years ago, three nations of magically powerful people united by a great leader, joined together and slaughtered them. Only a few dozen managed to escape. A handful now remain, descendants of the survivors. They devote their entire lives to the destruction of magic in all its forms. They are probably some of the most dangerous assassins I have ever known. The really unique thing about them though, is that they seem to be completely immune to magic.”
Tregan’s eyes widened. “Immune? I can see now why they were destroyed. Such unnatural beings should not be allowed to exist.”
“Funny, they seem to think the exact same thing about magic.” Mulsa’tren replied with a wry grin. “Despite their wondrous ability, they are still mortal and not immune from being run through with a sword.”
The wizard nodded slowly. “How can a handful of zealots take over a city?”
“They are merely the poison on the blade.” Mulsa’tren replied. “I have little doubt that most of them will die, but before they do, they will take out many of the wizards who guard this place.”
“Leaving a small but definite weakness.” Tregan noted thoughtfully. “But I still fail to see how that will accomplish anything other than angering the Da’nari. Even without the wizards, there are still the walls to contend with. Even when your father was at war with the Da’nari, his armies were not sufficient to take the walls.”
“True.” Mulsa’tren replied, coming to his feet. “It would be suicide to attack the walls from without. Which is why my army is already here.”
“I find all the terms agreeable.” Mulsa’tren stated calmly. “I see no reason why free trade can not continue between our two peoples.”
The speaker smiled, obviously pleased. “This is good to hear. When your father died, there was rumor that you might consider raising armies against the Da’nari once again.”
Mulsa’tren bowed his head. “I too heard such things. People also speak of demons that roam the streets at night. Still others say that I am half-wolf. Still others think that I bath in the blood of my enemies every morning.” He leaned forward conspiratorially. “Some even whisper that I poisoned my father to get the throne.”
The council chuckled quietly at the last comment.
“Yes, but we were still wary when you first took the throne. Caution is always best in such matters.”
Mulsa’tren nodded in agreement. “Very true, let me assure you all that I only have my father’s wishes in mind by coming here. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“What?!” The wizard paled and leaned against the wall for support. “But that… that’s impossible. The Da’nari would never have let you within the city with an army!”
Musla’tren walked over to the wizard and placed one hand on his shoulder. “True enough. What do you know of the palace of the Muradejn?”
Tregan blinked in confusion, not understanding his master’s reasoning. “The Muradejn were a desert people, once. They believed themselves to be chosen by their god. According to them their city was built on holy land by their messiah.”
Mulsa’tren nodded approvingly. “Correct, an interesting facet to their mythology is that they must pray within site of the palace three times a day. Several years ago, the land was dying and with it the Muradejn. The prophets told them that the people must leave or they would die. The people refused, they felt that it was a test of their god to prove their worth. For them to leave the palace of the messiah was akin to blasphemy. That’s a tough choice, forsake your god and live, or be devout and die. Do you know what they did?”
Tregan shook his head numbly. “No…”
“They moved the palace, brick by brick. It took them a decade, but they did it. They carried the holiest symbol of their faith and raised it in a new land.”
Tregan frowned, not sure where his master was going with this. “So what does this have to do with the Da’nari?”
Mulsa’tren shrugged and walked across the room to stand before one of the art objects that decorated the vast room, an enormous bottle with a model of a ship in it. “Beautiful. Do you know how they do it?”
“Of course!” Tregan snapped. “Every child knows that! They build the ship first, then they take it apart and put it together in the bottle piece by…” The wizard’s words trailed off as he suddenly understood what Mulsa’tren was getting at. “You didn’t send an army… You sent a few at a time…”
Mulsa’tren smiled in satisfaction. “Brilliant planning I thought.”
“But wait.” The wizard frowned. “Weapons are not permitted within the city walls, except by the military. What good is an army without swords?”
“Not much.” Mulsa’tren admitted. “By the way, what month is this?”
Tregan’s eyes narrowed. “Abren. The spring festival is in a few days, but what does that have to do with…”
“Have you ever heard of the Ghand?” Mulsa’tren interrupted, cutting of the wizards train of thought. “Wonderful people really. Some of the finest metal smiths in the known world. The thing is they hate outlanders. Usually kill them on site. In fact, the only non-Ghand ever to set foot in one of their cities and live are the Neven traders.”
“Neven traders?” The wizard muttered. “I thought they were completely pacifistic?”
“Oh they are.” Mulsa’tren assured. “But no one makes a deal like they do. Born traders, they will buy and sell anything. If they don’t have it, they know where to get it.”
Tregan frowned, his mind working quickly. “And the center of the spring festival is the open market. Pilgrims come from miles to see it. There will be dozens of Neven traders there…” The wizard’s face went blank with shock as the enormity of the situation suddenly dawned on him. “And no one would think anything of Neven traders selling Ghand weapons. Da’kren kill the wizards, your so army of ‘pilgrims’ can take the city with the Ghand weapons the Neven have so thoughtfully provided…”
Mulsa’tren smiled faintly. “The city can be taken from within in a matter of minutes. With the strength of the Da’nari army outside the walls, once the gates are sealed from within, they will be ineffective.”
“And we’ll be sealed in!” Tregan moaned. “A hollow victory indeed! Do you think the armies outside the wall will simply lay down their arms and declare us victors? You can’t intend to hold the city itself for ransom, do you?”
“Not quite.” Mulsa’tren replied smugly. “I have already planned to deal with the armies of the Da’nari.”
“You wish to excavate the dead?” The speaker echoed quietly. “To what ends?”
Mulsa’tren bowed his head solemnly. “When our nations were at war, hundreds of my kinsmen sacrificed their lives at the base of the walls of this city. Many of their remains are still buried there. It is our custom to be buried in the soil of our homeland. I can not deny my people’s spirits their rightful rest without at least asking the Da’nari for the opportunity to grant them that rest.”
The council murmured quietly amongst themselves for several long moments. Finally, Amangeious stood and cleared his throat with a cough. “Not that we doubt your intentions, Lord Mulsa’tren, but in all these years, why did your father not make such an attempt?”
Mulsa’tren smiled wistfully. “Sadly, my father, though a warrior to his very core was never a spiritual man. Part of his legacy to me was that I be educated. In doing so I learned a great deal about the ancient beliefs of my people and came to feel quite strongly. I am not asking for the Da’nari to provide me with any laborers or monetary compensation. Merely the permission to bring our fallen home.”
The speaker nodded slowly. “I see no reason why your customs can not be… accommodated.”
Lord Mulsa’tren bowed his head in assent. “My people will be eternally grateful.”
Mulsa’tren watched the armies of the Da’nari execute flawless parade maneuvers from high atop the walls of the city. Tight military formations moving with precision marched across the field in a breathtaking display of military efficiency. “Impressive.” He breathed quietly. Beside him Tegran looked slightly ill. “Most impressive, m’lord.” He echoed quietly.
“Is there something wrong with your wizard?” The speaker asked politely.
Mulsa’tren smiled faintly and turned back towards the speaker and a dozen nobles gathered around a table of assorted delicacies and drinks. “No, Speaker. He is merely uneasy with heights.”
The Speaker nodded sagely. “Ah. Understandable. Amangeious sent his regrets that he could not join us. He is getting on in years and the excitement of the festival can be a little overwhelming at times.”
Mulsa’tren smiled warmly as he plucked a glass of wine from the table. “I have heard as much.” He replied dryly as he sipped his wine. “I am sure this festival will be one to remember.”
The speaker smiled and smoothed his ceremonial robes. “As soon as the parade is finished, we can all head down to the market and…” The speaker’s words trailed off as a loud grinding noise followed by a heavy thud distracted his thoughts.
“Why are the gates closing?” Mulsa’tren asked innocently, trying not to gloat.
“I am not sure.” The speaker replied nervously as he turned to one of the assembled guards. “You, go find out why the gates have been closed.”
The guard came to attention and saluted sharply. “Yes speaker!” He barked as he ran off to do the speaker’s bidding.
Behind them the nobles began to applaud quietly. “Oh look!” One of them exclaimed. “They’re doing a re-enactment in the market!”
The speaker rushed to the wall in confusion. Re-enactment? Squinting he cast his gaze across the city, trying to find out what they were talking about. A flash of steel caught his eye.
“Oh, it looks so real!” Exclaimed one of the courtesans. “They’ve outdone themselves this year!’
The speaker’s face slowly drained of all color as he watched a swath of steel cut through the streets, leaving a bloody trail of dead and dying. “Alert the guards!” He shouted desperately, knowing already there was little that could be done. No sooner had he spoken when a dozen men burst upon them garbed in pilgrims robes and bearing swords. The one in the lead pushed back his hood strode over to kneel before Mulsa’tren, proffering his sword. “We have control of the city, m’lord!”
Lord Mulsa’tren smiled faintly and accepted the sword. “Excellent.”
The speaker gaped in stunned horror. “How could you? You betrayed our trust… Amangeious will… Our wizards will…”
“Your wizards are DEAD!” Mulsa’tren shouted. “The Da’kren have a long memory when it comes to personal matters.”
The speaker stood numbly, in complete shock. “What do you mean?” He asked weakly.
Mulsa’tren smiled grimly. “Your wizard made a lot of enemies in his life. The Da’kren are just one among them.”
“You will never get away with this!” The speaker sputtered, growing irate. “Our armies will destroy you the moment you open the gates!’
Mulsa’tren nodded quietly. “You know, I keep hearing that. I guess I shall have to do something about it.”
Turning away from the speaker he strode towards the edge of the wall where the armies of the Da’nari conducted their maneuvers, unaware of what was transpiring within. “Zrokar, the battle is yours.”
As he spoke, one of the robed figures stepped forward and slowly reached up with heavily tattooed arms to push back his hood. The gathered nobles gasped in fear as some of them recognized the pale emaciated countenance of the infamous Necromancer.
With a faint grin he stepped to stand at Mulsa’tren’s side and drew forth a slender bone flute from his robes. Placing it to his lips, he began to play a mournful, discordant melody. As the song echoed over the field, the armies below began to break formation, as the soil began to churn beneath their feet.
The confusion turned to panic as hundreds of bony hands clawed their way through the soil and pulled themselves upward. The Necromancer continued playing as the battle raged across the field, each fallen Da’nari soldier rising to turn on his former comrades. Finally, the slaughter was over, with hundreds of zombies and skeletons milling about aimlessly.
“Excellent.” Mulsa’tren hissed. “You’ve exceeded my expectations, Necromancer.” Without another word, Mulsa’tren plunged his sword into Zrokar’s back and sent the Necromancer tumbling over the wall. With the flute’s spell broken, the army of dead began to fall, one by one, until only a mass of bodies lay strewn across the once pristine fields.
Through it all, the speaker stood, too shocked to speak. Finally, he found his voice. “You will pay for this…”
Mulsa’tren turned to face the speaker, his sword still dripping with the necromancer’s dark blood. “Somehow, I doubt that…”
As he took a step forward, two dark skinned men with intricate symbols etched into their faces stepped forward with Amangeious staggering between them. They shoved the ancient wizard roughly to the ground at Mulsa’trens’ feet. “Our bargain is complete.” They intoned as one. “The rest are dead, save this one.”
Mulsa’tren nodded appreciatively and stepped towards the fallen wizard. Amangeious’s head and face were bruised and bloody, it looked as if he had put up a bit of a fight. Rolling the wizard onto his back with his toe, Mulsa’tren placed a heavy boot in the middle of the wizard’s chest. “I have waited all my life for this very moment.”
“Why, do you do this?” Amangeious choked, coughing up blood.
Mulsa’tren smiled grimly. “Because for hundreds of years, you destroyed so many people and lives. You flaunted your might with this city. Mocking all those you left alive with its impassive walls. Hundreds of my people died at these walls. My father wasted his life trying to beat you, only to be charmed by one of your foul spells.”
Amangeious struggled weakly under the weight of Mulsa’tren’s boot. “I did nothing to your father… He grew weary of the fighting. It was he who made the treaty and forged the alliance.”
“Lies!’ Mulsa’tren shouted as he pointed into the city. “All his life he planned to burn this city to the ground. He learned of all your enemies and united them with the promise of your death.” Mulsa’tren’s eyes narrowed dangerously and he leaned close, placing the tip of his sword under the ancient wizard’s chin. “Until he met with you. Then you cast an insidious spell upon him and he no longer desired conquest. It was up to me to take up his goals, his dream. Unfortunately, he became too addled in his old age. He told me he planned to join our people with the Da’nari. This I could not allow. His death was more merciful than yours will be.”
The wizard swallowed slowly, blood running freely from the nick under his chin where the point of the sword bit into flesh. “You have deluded yourself.”
“No…” Mulsa’tren hissed as he pushed the sword through the wizard’s throat. “I am victorious.”
He twisted the blade as the wizard twisted violently under his blade, blood gushing from the wound. Finally the wizard twitched once, and lay still. Pulling his sword out with a twist, he stalked towards the speaker who backed away slowly. “I surrender, I only ask that you spare my people.”
Mulsa’tren grinned as he drew bloody circles in the air with the tip of his sword. “Spare them?” He jumped forward, grabbing the speaker by the front of his robes and drug him to the edge of the wall, overlooking the city. Already his troops had begun systematically killing the men and children, dividing the women up as spoils. The shrieks of the dying and violated rang through the streets. “By nightfall the Da’nari will be no more.” With a grin he pushed the Speaker over the edge and watched his arms flail as he fell screaming to the cobblestones below.
“Enough!” The speaker shouted. “I have seen enough of this barbarism.
Mulsa’tren blinked in amazement, suddenly disoriented. He was still standing on the wall, overlooking the city, but instead of carnage, a thousand quizzical faces greeted him. “What is going on here?” He choked angrily, he tried to turn around but his hands and feet were firmly bound and all he managed to do was fall in a crumpled heap.
“Pick him up.” A disgusted voice growled.
Mulsa’tren found himself hauled up by his arms and brought face to face with a strangely familiar face. “Amangeious?” He whispered in disbelief. Gone was the wizened and frail old man he had run through. In his place stood an old, but still strapping figure. His pale gray hair was full and dark. His eyes, were now smoldering coals, filled with loathing and disgust.
“There you have it, by his own admission.” The wizard spat, turning away from the stunned Mulsa’tren.
The chained lord recovered enough to be indignant. “What is going on here? I demand to know…”
“Silence!” The Ancient wizard shouted. “You demand nothing! Your confession has told us all we need to know!”
“My confession?” Mulsa’tren gasped weakly. Staggering forward he looked out into the field. Gone were the piles of hacked and mutilated bodies. Da’nari soldiers were impaling struggling pilgrims on spears, no, not pilgrims, his own men. Along the main road, a dozen pikes were set into the ground, each adorned with a dark-skinned head. Realization slowly began to sink in. “How could you have known?” Muttered angrily, turning around he saw Zrokar standing next to a bound Tregar.
“You betrayed me…” He spat at the necromancer.
Zrokar shrugged and pushed open his robes, revealing a collar marked with Amangeious’s sigil. “I didn’t have to.”
Mulsa’tren turned his cold gaze on the cringing Tregan. “You? Impossible you are bound…”
“You betrayed yourself.” Amangeious replied smugly. “Your mind is an open book to me.”
“Impossible.” Mulsatren snapped. “The amulet I wear protects me from…” His words trailed off as Amangeious produced the amulet in question.
“You mean… This amulet?” The wizard asked pointedly. “Yes, an interesting trinket. I crafted many such things in my youth. Had you not worn it, I might never have suspected. Your little lackey was good. But not good enough.”
“Enough.” The speaker intoned. “The council has seen the evidence and heard the confession. Judgment has already been passed. Does the condemned have anything more to say?”
Mulsa’tren glared daggers at the wizard then turned to look at the speaker. “My people will never bow to you.”
The speaker shrugged. “That has never been our desire.” With a deep sigh he stepped forward and address the Da’nari gathered before him. “Good people. The council passes judgment upon Lord Mulsa’tren Kurgo for the murder of the rightful ruler of his people and the conspiracy to commit genocide.” He turned back to the defeated Lord. “Your crimes are terrible, made worse by the fact that you are completely unrepentant. Therefore it is the decision of the council that you be hanged.”
Mulsa’tren laughed mockingly. “So be it.”
“Also.” Amangeious added with a faint smile. “As penance for the lives you so needlessly sacrificed, you will be forced to repeat your death ten thousand times over. Once for each of the lives you threw away in your arrogance.”
Mulsa’tren broke out in a cold sweat. “What are you talking about?”
Zrokar stepped forward. “Lastly, because of the depths of your treachery and deceit, once you have died for the final time, your soul will find no peace and be trapped in your rotting corpse until nothing remains of your body to hold you in this world.”
Mulsa’tren surged forward screaming incoherently. “You cowards I’ll kill you all!”
“Hold him! Gag him!” Amangeious shouted to the closest guards. Two leaped to do his bidding, grabbing him roughly by the arms and slamming him onto his back.
Zrokar stepped forward and drew a wickedly sharp knife, working methodically he cut away Mulsa’tren’s shirt and began cutting symbols into his chest, chanting all the while.
Mulsa’tren watched in horror as tendrils of blackness oozed forth from the necromancer’s hand, embedding themselves into the symbols carved into his flesh.
Finally, the Necromancer stood. “I am done. Do what you will with the vermin.”
The guards hoisted the bleeding lord to his feet and hauled him to the edge of the wall.
Amangeious stepped up behind him and slipped the noose over his neck. “You should have listened to your father.” He whispered before shoving Mulsa’tren over the edge.
The crowd cheered as Mulsa’tren fell. For a split second he felt the rope snap tight and his world went black.
The crowd cheered as Mulsa’tren fell. He flailed wildly and the noose slipped off to one side. The noose snapped tight and he began to kick frantically as the rope tightened. Stars appeared as his vision turned blood red. Finally, blackness overtook him.
The crowd cheered as Mulsa’tren fell…
By: Jason Haley