Kyran quietly stalked the halls of the castle, pretending to be a Lord. Lord Tallgrow had been very nice to them since their arrival at the castle a few days before. At first Kyran didn’t like the maids forcing him to take a bath and dressing him from head to toe in Rentosian silks of grey, white, and black, but he soon began to enjoy it.
He often wondered, while he lived in Sorrowheart, what it would be like to be a Lord. He wondered what it would be like to go not a day without food. He also wondered what it would be like to sleep in a castle that was warm. He had lived his whole life wondering about those things and now he was experiencing it for himself.
Lord Tallgrow was actually pleased to see them. Harren didn’t want Kyran in the room so Lord Tallgrow had his guards bring him to the gardens. The garden was Kyran’s favorite place in the castle! It was quiet, and there were so many bugs to chase and catch. He was busy tracking a particularly large and colorful beetle when Harren called him from the garden.
All he told Kyran was that they would be staying in Picket for a few days until the Queen came to visit the castle.
That was days ago. Lord Tallgrow was to hold a feast for the Queen and her council today and today was the day they were to take their leave for Valor.
Part of Kyran didn’t want to leave the comfort of the castle. Though it had only been a few days, he grew comfortable with this new way of living. He knew he would miss it at least a little bit.
“Kyran, there you are. The maids are looking for you. They have travel clothes for you to wear, so hurry and change,” came Harren’s voice, waking him from his daydream.
Kyran went back to his bedchamber where the maids were waiting to dress him. They held a leather tunic and breeches emblazoned with the ensignia of House Tallgrow, along with a small belt with pouches sewn in for holding belongings.
The boots were leather as well and Kyran didn’t care much for those for he much preferred to be barefoot.
Once dressed, they combed his hair and led him to the council chamber, where Harren was talking with Lord Tallgrow.
The council chamber was a magnificent domed room with a long table at its center. Long grey and black curtains lined the windows that reached up the length of the walls. In between the windows were large tapestries with the Anvil of Tallgrow sewn within. Lord Tallgrow was sitting at the head of the table with Harren at his side.
“If you ride through the night, you should make it to Valor within a day’s time. Once there you should be safe. I will assure them that you did not make it as far as Picket and that my scouts did not see you on the road. That should turn the Queen back around to Galverin,” said Lord Tallgrow.
It was then that Harren laid eyes on Kyran. His eyes grew wide and Kyran knew that something was wrong.
“Why is the Queen after us,” Kyran asked as Lord Tallgrow turned to see who spoke. He was an older man well into his fifties. His black hair had streaks of silver and his beard hung low on his chest. His muscular build was all but to be expected considering his family’s past as blacksmiths.
He wore a fine leather jerkin in the same color as Kyran’s silks and a circlet upon his head made of silver with large stones of Onyx laid within.
“You haven’t told him,” asked Lord Tallgrow in disbelief as Harren stared at Kyran with sorrow in his eyes.
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“No. I know I should have but it wasn’t the time,” said Harren quietly.
“Well now it is. He needs to know Harren, that is his right,” said Lord Tallgrow, beckoning Kyran forward.
Kyran approached them as the maids left and Harren took Kyran by the shoulders.
“Im sorry for not telling you Kyran, but I lied about the reason we are going to Valor,” said Harren.
Kyran’s heart dropped to his stomach. He knew this news was not going to be good. Harren’s face was filled with dread and heartache.
“Kyran, you are not just a boy from the slums. You are Kyran Arintear, bastard of the late King Javos Arintear, and by rights, heir to the Throne of Ethios,” explained Harren quietly.
Kyran’s head began to swim as terror coursed through his body. Harren didn’t have to tell him why the Queen was after him. He knew. She wanted him dead because he was a threat to her throne. Kyran had read about similar things in books the merchants in Brokepurse would give him.
Harren then explained, from the beginning, how Kyran came into his possession. After the story, Kyran was silent. He was filled with so many emotions that he didn’t know what to do or say.
He felt anger, at Harren and his mother. Harren, for not telling him and letting him live his life in the slums and his mother, for selling him for money.
He felt sadness that his family had to be uprooted and sent to Picket because of him. He didn’t even know if they were still alive for they had not made it to the city yet. Most of all, he felt relief, that now he could finally fight for a better life and have a chance of winning.
It was at that moment that Kyran decided that he was no longer a child. He was going to be mature and do everything in his power to protect those who had gone out of their way and risked their lives to ensure he sat the throne. He would no longer spend his time chasing beetles and playing at being a lord. He was putting aside those childish things and was going to focus on how to fight with blade and bow.
“I understand why you all did what you did. I wont let any of you down. I’m not going to sit by and be a useless kid; I’m going to fight, and be the King Ethios needs,” said Kyran confidently.
Lord Tallgrow gave a hearty laugh.
“A warriors answer! He surely is his father’s son! He has his spirit,” he said as he pat Kyran on the back.
Harren smiled meekly at Kyran as he kissed his forehead.
“You are very brave to say so Kyran. I know you will be a great king but before you can rule, there will be war. We need to get you to Galenport and to do that, we must reach Valor”.
“You will need such bravery if you are to reach Valor without being found. The Queensgrove is an unfortunately open province. There are hills upon hills for miles without any place to take shelter. You will be easy to spot,” said Lord Tallgrow seriously.
“We have no other option my Lord. Valor is the holdfast that begins the Riverlands. That is Lord Galia’s territory and he is a good friend. We must reach Valor,” said Harren sounding more determined than confident.
“I am a good friend as well my boy but Lord Galia is just as safe from the Queen’s reach as I am. You forget she rules Ethios, not only the Queensgrove,” explained Lord Tallgrow.
“But Lord Galia…”
“…is a man who serves the throne faithfully,” finished Lord Tallgrow as Harren tried to speak.
“If you mean to seek shelter and council from the Sea Snake of Galenport then you are mistaken. Lord Galia is an honest and dutiful man. Why would he risk starting a war over something he has nothing to do with,” said Lord Tallgrow who seemed to be growing tired of Harren’s consistency.
“Aren’t you considered a man who ‘serves the throne faithfully’ my Lord? Lord Galia is my friend just as you are. You have chosen to help me to Valor rather than turn us over to the Queen and this has nothing to do with you just as much as it has nothing to do with him,” protested Harren.
Lord Tallgrow glared at Harren that Kyran knew was a warning.
“I have known you since you were a boy,” growled Lord Tallgrow angrily, “Elliot Galia, played with you only thrice when you were a child here in Picket and those three times were over the course of three years. Lord Galia is no longer that little boy with whom you played. Do you know of the man he grew to be”?
“I do not my Lord. I must put my faith in that little boy I once knew,” said Harren quietly.
“Then you are a fool! Do you recall ever hearing of Omerfell’s rebellion during your time in Galverin,” asked Lord Tallgrow.
“Briefly my lord but not in detail. All I know is that Lord Warly of Omerfell raised his banners against Galenport in hopes of overthrowing Lord Galia and naming himself Lord of the Riverlands,” said Harren quietly.
“That is how it started, yes. Lord Galia was outraged by the sudden betrayal and raised his banners as well. He marched into battle with his sword Venom and met Lord Warly and his men on the banks of the river ‘Thoren’s Bane’” explained Lord Tallgrow.
Kyran had heard stories of Lord Galia’s Venom. The merchants had told him that the blade was a light green color and made of the sharpest Rentosian steel. It was also said that the blade was forged with venom from the Rentosian Desert Viper. The Rentosian Desert Viper’s venom can kill a man in under a minute. Right after being bitten, the viper bite burns until the skin around it is bubbling like boiling water. It is also said that it is the most painful way for a man to die.
“Lord Galia, little to Lord Warly’s knowledge, trains his soldiers to fight when cornered in water. Needless to say it was a bloodbath. The water was red with the blood of Lord Warly’s men and Lord Galia was said to have killed 150 men with Venom. The men he cut were screaming for mercy by death and their begging was said to be heard from Galenport. That is why the battle had been named, ‘The Beggar’s War’. Lord Galia did not spare Lord Warly his life, even after he surrendered. He arrested Lord Warly and brought him back to Omerfell where he stripped the man naked and marched him into the Market Square. It was there that he had the man tied up. To make an example of him, he gave Lord Warly several small cuts with Venom. The cuts were everywhere. His arms, legs, back, head, chest, stomach, even his privates were all covered in small cuts. The wounds began to burn and bubble, sending up the most blood curdling screams from Lord Warly’s mouth that most covered their ears in dread. Lord Galia let the man suffer until he was on the brink of death, then slayed the man after making his wife and children watch the gruesome display.
His son Darion Warly knew he could not avenge his father so he swore his banners to Lord Galia.
That is the boy you once knew”.
Kyran was mortified. How could Lord Galia do such a thing? Harren had always talked about Lord Galia and how kind he was. The man sounded more a monster than kindly friend.
Harren was quiet for a moment as he considered all he had heard.
“My Lord, I will not say Lord Galia was just in what he did to Lord Warly. There were other ways to handle the treason. However, I have to try. If Lord Galia decides to hand me over to the Queen, then I will find a way to escape him,” said Harren.
“And do what boy, head north into The Crown? In case you have forgotten, the north belongs to Lord Tuhlack, the Queen’s Lord Father. You will not find solace there I assure you. There is no safety Harren,” said Lord Tallgrow impatiently.
“Then I will find a ship to take me to Rentos, Ilyrian, Sarth, Wurth, Torren, Godsland or wherever I can assure Kyran’s safety. I will not cease, my Lord, until Kyran is safe and well trained so he himself can lead his armies against the Queen”.
“What armies Harren? You speak as if making a king is as easy as picking a flower. The boy has no armies and no one even knows of his true birth. Lords are not quick to start wars over something they can’t even be sure of. You are asking them to raise their banners against Galverin for a boy of ten who, to them, may or may not be the bastard child of King Javos”.
“I will find a way my Lord. Even if I have to scour every country on the map to find an army, I will do that. I will see my boy in his rightful seat,” said Harren loudly.
Lord Tallgrow looked taken aback by Harren’s obvious commitment to Kyran.
Having kept his silence for the duration of the conversation, Kyran finally spoke.
“My Lord, I trust Harren. I’m only a boy of ten and I cannot do this on my own. It sounds to me that Lord Galia is a terrifying man, but you have said he is dutiful to the throne. If that is the case, I am the rightful heir and so he serves me”.
“You can tell him that if you wish. I know that I cannot disuade this farse of a quest so I intend to help you to Valor. I will have you ride in a carriage with a small group of knights around you. You will be dressed in the finest silks I have and the carriage will be flying my banners. The queen’s men, if they should see you, will not suspect at trickery. I shall tell them that my lady wife rides for Valor to sup with Lady Tyber for one of her many ‘Ladies of the Riverlands’ festivities,” said Lord Tallgrow rolling his eyes.
“Won’t Lady Tallgrow be here when the Queen arrives,” asked Kyran.
“Not to fear lad. My wife hates attending feasts that I host. She says I am, ‘to unkempt to be elegant’ whatever that means. So I will explain to her the situation and she will gladly stay in her chambers”.
“We thank you for you assistance my Lord. I think its time we were on our way,” said Harren beginning to stand.
“Yes, I believe so too. His Grace is fine in the silks he wears, but you must change Harren. The maids have your clothes. Change while the carriage is being prepared,” said Lord Tallgrow, waving away one of his guards to ready the carriage.
“As it please my Lord,” said Harren as he stalked from the room.
Within the hour, they were leaving the castle gates in a large grey carriage. Its driver was a man by the name of Pete whose eyebrows were so bushy you would think he had no eyes.
Within the carriage, Harren and Kyran sat comfortable on large pink cushions and were surrounded by puffy pillows. The curtains were drawn as to keep the light from shining brightly within.
The carriage, no doubt, belonged to Lady Tallgrow.
The road was smooth until they left the city then the ride became a bit rougher.
Harren had fallen asleep after a few minutes but Kyran could not bring himself to shut his eyes.
What if Elliot Galia really is the man that Lord Tallgrow said he was. What if he turned Kyran over to the Queen, or worse, cut him with Venom.
Fear began to overcome Kyran as he pictured Lord Warly, bubbling, bleeding, and swelling, in the middle of the Omerfell Market Square. The screams for mercy were so loud in his thoughts that he was like to think he actually heard them.
Kyran shook the thought from his mind.
Surely Lord Galia isn’t the kind of man to hurt children. Honest and dutiful is how Lord Tallgrow described the man and that is what he put his hope in.
“He said nothing of kindness though,” thought Kyran as he moved to get more comfortable.
In his attempt to shove away thoughts of Lord Galia and Venom, Kyran began to think about his mother Genna.
Had she really wanted him back so much that she had to give herself up to the queen? Did she love him after all?
Kyran pushed those thoughts away as well.
“If she had loved me, she would have kept me. It makes no matter anyway, she is dead”
He also thought of Varyth, the kindly Sage who gave him to Harren on the night of his fathers death.
“I only spoke to him once but I feel he loved me more than my mother ever did. I feel bad for trying to cut his purse that day.”
Kyran glanced at Harren, who was snoring quietly within his pillows. His nameless blade hung from his hip and it was there he spotted the tiny trinket of Ghami, the god of death and guidance.
The last time Kyran prayed to Ghami was at the temple in Galverin on the day the queen’s men butchered the people of Sorrowheart’s tavern. He was a child then, but now, he must pray as a man.
“Oh Ghami, god of death and guidance,” he prayed, “Guide me on the path that will lead me to make the right decisions when I need to. Ethios bleeds from misrule and I am the only one who can save it. Guide the many souls that will be lost for my cause, welcome them to your hearth with open arms, for they have died valiantly for their rightful King”.
Kyran always felt much better after praying. The gods were the only ones who could save him from harm.
No matter how hard Harren tried, he wouldn’t be able to protect Kyran from everything and Kyran knew that.
“Its up to me to protect him now. Harren, as well as the whole of Ethios,” thought Kyran.
He shut his eyes once more, this time with his head clear. It was not long before Kyran found himself deeply asleep, free from all of his worries, if even just for a little while.