Here’s the fourth chapter of Wrathgate, courtesy of Jonathan Shelnutt. 🙂
Chapter 4: Belief and Disbelief
“You can’t possibly be believing this, your Majesty!” moaned Quintus, throwing up his hands in despair.
“He can’t lie while under my enchantment, Quintus. And we did notice the magical disturbances.” Cybelle said, baubles jingling as she spread her white arms soothingly.
“And what do you propose we would do about it even if it were true? We can do nothing!” Quintus said, eyes fiery.
“We need to leave Cithara.” James said slowly. “We could go to Thornhill.”
The King and his advisors turned towards James.
“Thank you, boy, for your strategic input. Now why don’t you run along and stop meddling with affairs over your head.” Quintus said, crossing his arms. “As civil advisor it is my role to decide what to do in this situation.”
“Don’t be foolish, Quintus,” Cybelle said, twisting her long blonde hair with her jewel encrusted finger. “This affair is clearly of a magical nature, and therefore under my supervision.”
The King cleared his throat and the two advisors quieted down instantly. “I think we should wait for the prince to arrive before we make a decision. He is officially the military advisor, after all.”
The two advisors groaned.
“He is perpetually so very tardy, my King, and I don’t really believe that he would have any input.” Cybelle said, adjusting her glittering sapphire-adorned tiara.
“He never does…” Quintus muttered,
With a bang the heavy oaken doors were flung open, and another man entered the room.
“You,” James said, reflexively taking a step back and rising to his toes.
“Yes, child, it is I.” said Tagrin, smiling widely.
“Thirty minutes late, Alexander, as usual.” Quintus drawled, with his hand on a half-empty hourglass sitting on a pedestal.
“Your Majesty!” cried James, spinning towards the King. “This is an imposter! He tried to stop me from warning the people about the Ashen!”
Quickly Tagrin began to speak, but the King interrupted him.
“I daresay that I know my own son when I see him.” The King said, a smile playing around his lips. “Xander, what do you have to say for yourself? What were you doing last night?”
“Nothing of the sort. father, I was meeting the guard captain about the repairs to the walls destroyed by the Sea Slavers from Madeira.” Tagrin said, glancing at James.
“Excuse me, your Excellency, but the child is still under my enchantments. He is currently unable to say anything he does not believe to be true.” Cybelle cut in, glaring at Tagrin.
“May I talk to the child for a moment? In private?” Tagrin asked, looking directly at the King.
“Certainly, Xander, whatever you like,” the King said graciously. Tagrin snatched James’s hand and, with an iron grip, dragged him out of the room, through the wooden door, and out near a gurgling fountain connected to the railing of the stairwell.
“What do you want with me?” James asked, trying to mask his fear.
“To tell you the truth, child. I am Prince Alexander, but you saw me last night in another role.” Alexander pulled James closer and spoke in a whisper. “It is a long story, but let me tell you that I have infiltrated the ranks of the Thieves’ Guild, and am now spying on a very dangerous man. I chased you for two reasons last night. First, I wanted information. Second, I wanted to protect you from him.”
“Was it you who brought me here?” James asked.
“I could not be seen taking you to the Argent Spire, so no. The guards would ask too many questions. But I did find you, and arrange for you to be taken here.”
“I think you are telling the truth. I’ll play along.” James said, finding no insincerity in Alexander’s striking sea green eyes.
“Tell the King that you didn’t see me last night. He can’t know that I am working for…” Prince Alexander caught himself as if he were about to reveal something. “He can’t know that I’m spying on the Thieves’ Guild.”
Stifling his curiosity and stemming the tide of questions that assaulted his tongue, James allowed himself to be led back into the throne room. The King raised his eyebrows expectantly, and the advisors paused their animated conversation.
“Explain yourself, child.” The King said sternly, but not harshly.
“My apologies, sire. Your son clearly is not who I thought he was.” James said, careful not to lie. Her enchantments quiet, Cybelle looked satisfied.
“So, Xander, this boy believes that the Ashen have returned from their banishment, and are now living on a small island roughly thirty miles from our own,” the King said.
“Marten, you fool…” the Prince muttered so quietly that only James could hear him.
“What do you think we should do about it, military advisor…?” Cybelle said, with venom on the word ‘military’.
“We must retreat to Istris.” Alexander said firmly.
“Istris?” the King said, astonished.
“Leave the city?” Quintus looked like he was about to have a heart attack.
“Trust ourselves to sea elf magics?” Cybelle wrinkled her nose in disgust.
“Why not Thornhill?” James said to himself.
“Only the lore masters in Istris would have any chance against the Ashen.” Alexander said adamantly. Cybelle drew herself to an impressive height.
“Sea elf lore masters! Bah! I have not worked my entire life building up a magical element in Capria’s guards only to run to the mainland the first time a real threat arises!” she spat, lighting an eerie green flame in her right hand. James shuddered, remembering the flames of the same color in Ravenna. Quintus nodded vigorously.
“Quiet! I am the King here, and the final decision is mine,” the King said, banging his wooden royal staff against the ground. “We will stay on Capria. The city of Cithara is built on solid rock, and our walls are strong. Men and sea elves defeated the Ashen once, and we shall do so again.”
Alexander fumed. “Father, you underestimate the Ashen.”
“The Lord of Cithara has spoken.” Quintus leered, spreading his arms in mock helplessness.
“Then I invoke the Gift of the Prince.” Alexander said coldly. The room went completely silent. “As Prince of Cithara, I will lead all the Sea Elves on this island to Istris, as is my ancient right. The Prince has spoken.”