Here’s the next installment of Wrathgate, and a little message from Jonathan! Enjoy! 🙂
Chapter 3: The Argent Spire
Accusingly Esmer glared at James, black hair disheveled around her shoulders, verdant blade in hand.
“I thought you were my friend.” Esmer said, pointing with her shield hand at the scar James felt on his cheek. “Do you remember that, James?”
“You thought wrong.” James said, lifting his sable staff for battle.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
When James awoke, he was distressed. How many times must I suffer that dream? He silently thought. Finding himself on a comfortable four-poster bed, James slowly sat up and stretched. Logic not explaining to him how the events last night could possibly culminate in him being laid on a feather bed, he consigned himself to the afterlife and set his feet on the floor. He was dressed in his old clothes, but they were dry and clean as the day his mother had woven them. The salty ocean stench that had pervaded his last memories was gone, replaced by the scent of cherry blossoms.
Gracefully constructed from soft white stone, the room in which James sat was spacious and smelled like fresh flowers. The walls curved slightly, which led James to believe he was probably in another circular tower. Although, James thought, I didn’t actually go up the tower in Ravenna, I only climbed out of the dungeon to the ground floor. He felt a strange curiosity about what he would have found had he continued to climb.
Feeling immensely comfortable in the mild temperature he was accustomed to, he dropped silently to the floor and investigated his new accommodations. A window let in warm yellow sunlight, and a small fireplace crackled across from the bed. When James saw the chest at the foot of his bed, he knelt and lifted the lid. Inside were a few new sets of clothes, a pair of comfortable-looking moccasins, and a green hooded cloak.
Noticing that his shoes, which had been in irreparable condition the night before, had been discarded, James donned the moccasins, but preferred his sable shirt and trousers. After he took a belt complete with a place to attach his satchel and a short simple dagger, he closed the lid of the chest and set about exploring the rest of the room.
After a brief examination of his surroundings James deduced that he was in a guest bedroom, probably in the Argent Needle based on the peculiar crest wrought into the top of the polished brass mirror on the door. He walked over the door, swung it open, and then walked out into the hall. His moccasins sank nearly an inch into the exquisite fur rug that must have been imported all the way from Madeira. A regal-looking tall man swept by, robes rustling as he eyed down James.
“Am I dead?” James asked.
The man looked mortified, and then hurried away with redoubled robe-rustling.
“Take that as a ‘no’.” James said, deciding to find someone, anyone who could give him an explanation. Nothing over the past couple of days had made any sense whatsoever.
By instinct James walked down the hall until he found a parallel hall, and then walked that way until he found a staircase. Actually, he found two staircases, twisted around each other as they rose ever higher. They were blocked off from the room by great stone banisters, but there was an ornate archway that allowed entrance to the staircase. James walked through the archway and started to climb the steps.
After a minute or two of climbing the wide stone steps, James met a well-dressed woman who was going down.
“What do you think you’re doing?” said the woman, putting her dainty hands on her hips.
“I’m climbing the stairs,” James said.
“How did you get in here?” she asked, unsatisfied.
“I’m the duke of Vinteria’s nephew.” James lied convincingly. If he couldn’t believe the truth himself, he doubted that anyone else would. The woman brightened instantly.
“I’m related to you, my dear. I’m your uncle’s cousin’s father’s niece. I’m Ellana.” The woman stepped closer. “Now, how is Marien?”
“Actually, that’s why I’m here. I heard that my uncle was here on urgent business, and I needed to tell him that Marien has contracted a terrible disease.”
“Oh!” Ellana turned very pale. “What is it?”
After working in an apothecary shop for a year, James was very accustomed to different ailments.
“Well, that’s the thing. She caught Witch’s Rot first, but then came down with the Echidna fever a day later. She’s being looked after by the finest leeches in Vinteria.”
Ellana looked confused but she smiled and nodded.
“Well, I’ll just let you talk to the Duke then,” she said, picking up her voluminous skirts and heading down the stairs. “Tell him I said hello,”
When she had disappeared around the bend James heaved a huge sigh of relief and continued climbing the stairs. When he reached the top of the stairs he walked out of another archway into a domed atrium with sparkling fountains illuminated by a large circular aperture at the apex of the roof. Beyond the fountains, instead of the usual warren of chambers and hallways, there was a single door directly ahead of James.
Great. James thought. They are never going to believe me.
He was wrong.