Dragon Fire: Episode 76

In Ethion’s great war room high atop the tallest of the castle towers, Nesmoru looked down at a large table upon which had been painted a map of the castle and its surrounding lands. Beside him stood his master Zulagareth, the body he controlled sick and withering as it deteriorated, tearing the flesh. Three of Ethion’s most powerful nobles stood on the other side of the table while one of the king’s advisors marked the map as news of battle changes came from the archers at each window.

“My kingdom was built to withstand the greatest of armies. Why does it struggle to defeat four people?” Nesmoru shouted in frustration.

“Sire, Ethion was built on the edge of a cliff and is accessible from only one side. It has withstood the mightiest of armies. Four men will never break through,” Lord Geleren assured him.

“Perhaps instead of fighting them, sire, we should open the gates and let them in. If the people see your army fail to stop these four men, perhaps they will lose faith in you. But if you open the gate and allow them to enter, when they attack, the people will see you as a gracious king who greeted his enemies with an open hand instead of a failed defense,” Lord Borodan proposed.

“You are suggesting we should let these men in and wait for them to kill the citizens before attacking for the sake of the king’s reputation?” returned Lord Geleren.

“Only a few. After the first of the attackers’ blows, Ethion’s soldiers will pour over them,” Lord Borodan explained.

“We must not make any hasty decisions until we have accurate information about the attackers. Perhaps we would be wise to send out a representative,” Lord Torth said.

“Will that work?” Nesmoru asked.

“If it pleases the king, we must attack at once, use the strength of our forces, and let the gods sort out the honorable from the unworthy,” Lord Geleren said.

“Have you forgotten that a monster fights alongside them? We cannot simply kill them. We should offer a pledge of peace then make their power our own,” Lord Borodan said.

“That monster is the very reason why we must attack with our full strength!” Lord Geleren said.

“And what if these are the people who took Prince Alidus?”  Lord Torth asked.

“Then we will negotiate for his return,” Lord Borodan said.

“I will not negotiate with these vile men. They must fall to the blade at once!”  Lord Geleren insisted.

“If they are the ones who took Prince Alidus then their siege upon our castle walls surely means the prince is dead,” Lord Torth reasoned.

“What if the prince is not dead but has aligned himself with these men?” Lord Borodan asked.

“Never,” Lord Torth insisted. “I remember Prince Alidus when he was a young boy. He would not do such a thing.”

After a long moment of silence, the three noblemen turned to Nesmoru and asked,

“Sire, what is your command?”

Nesmoru looked off in the distance as he considered.

“Perhaps if we send a representative to speak for us, the attack will cease and open the way for peace,” he said.

“This you shall not do!” Zulagareth commanded as he pushed aside Nesmoru.

“You will honor the king!” Lord Geleren roared, rushing toward Zulagareth.

Zulagareth held out his left hand toward the outraged nobleman. Suddenly thick black smoke poured from his hand, forming the shape of a spear. When Zulagareth lowered his hand, the spear flew through the air and pierced Lord Geleren, pinning him to the wall.

“”He is no longer your king! I am your king, your ruler, your god! You will hear me!” Zulagareth shouted as he pointed toward Nesmoru.

“Who are you?” Lord Borodan demanded.

“Who am I? I am the one who died and returned as death. I am life and death. Everything that lives and dies answers to me!”

“What do you say to this, Sire?” Lord Torth asked Nesmoru.

Again, Zulagareth held out his hand. Lord Torth began to seize as he rose into the air. Suddenly black barbs the size of daggers burst from his body.

“The king speaks at my command, and his words are those I give him!” Zulagareth roared.

In a stupor, Lord Borodan nodded weakly in response.

As Zulagareth withdrew his hand, Lord Torth fell to the floor, clutching his stomach in agony.

“What shall we do about Prince Alidus?” Lord Borodan asked.

When Zulagareth turned to face him, the noblemen recoiled in fear.

“The prince will die as he should have in the beginning.”

Zulagareth held out his hands and black smoke exploded into the room, filling every corner. Nesmoru dropped to the floor covering his ears as the room filled with the screams of Lord Borodan, the advisor, and the archers.

When the smoke cleared, Zulagareth stood triumphantly in the same spot. The flesh of every man in the room save Nesmoru had melted away, transforming them into skeletons. Taking up their weapons, they stood ready to command.

“Skeletons?” Nesmoru asked.

“Surprisingly difficult to destroy,” Zulagareth sneered.

Nesmoru watched in horror as the skeletal archers stood in position at each window looking out over the battle below. He groaned inwardly as he felt everything he wanted slipping away.

Zulagareth looked over the table and said,

“Zephryn’s son will return to reclaim his throne. Already he faces Hannable below the city streets.”

“Hannable?” Nesmoru asked.

“The man consumed by his monster,” Zulagareth said. “You will find that you need much help when your son comes to kill you.”

“My son?” Nesmoru asked in surprise.

“The unwanted child of a woman you raped years ago. He is in the courtyard even now fighting for his life. Soon he will come for you. He, like Prince Alidus, is as annoying as his father.”

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