The Dark Empire, Page 92-98 by Wolfenshire ()
Members remain the original copyright holder in all their materials here at Renderosity. Use of any of their material inconsistent with the terms and conditions set forth is prohibited and is considered an infringement of the copyrights of the respective holders unless specially stated otherwise.
The Dark Empire, Page 92-98
“Don’t stand in the gate,” scolded a woman, shooing him along.
He stepped away from the blue light and turned to face the woman. Nobody but the small tiger had been behind him. This was the Queen Mother, and she was even more terrifying than he could have imagined. She appeared to be young, perhaps nineteen or twenty, but that was to be expected from the Jinn, they all looked so young. But her eyes were dead. Not just the vision of death, but lifeless. There was no soul inside this being.
Rotathian jumped out of her way and bowed his head.
“She’s not going to eat you,” said a voice.
Rotathian looked down. Had the small tiger just spoke? He glanced around and noticed all the tigers were now talking. They were running to small children and excitedly telling them of their adventure on the beach.
The Queen Mother walked past Rotathian. “Playtime is over, you all did amazing,” said the Queen Mother. “Now time to get to work. Let’s get the hunters lined up, you’ll gate walk first. Zil, would you get the gate open to the Northern Mountains. We want wild boar today. Gatherers, you’ll gate walk next, get your baskets, we need wild onions. You’ll be going to the Eastern Forest.”
“Excuse me, Queen Mother,” said Rotathian. “If it’s wild onions you’re looking for, might I suggest the Selthian Woods just south of the North Mountain range, it is known for wild onions.”
The woman turned and looked at him. “My title is The Mother Raven, not the Queen Mother, and we only gather from unpopulated areas. How likely are we to encounter local residents there?”
“I have reports from all the Kingdoms that the gods have been seen in the old places all over New Aiden, so if you are trying to remain hidden, it is already too late,” said Rotathian. “However, that region is home to the Kaunaum, and they are neutral. They will not report you to the Geogg, and likely avoid you if they encounter your Gatherers.”
The woman turned away. “We will go where we planned. Koael, come here, please.”
The boy with the raven on his shoulder came over to the woman. “Yes?”
“Go get something to eat, then have Zil open the gate to the Selthian Woods south of the North Mountains. I want you to scout the area once today, and again tomorrow. If the area remains clear, we will send the Gatherers in three days.”
“You got it,” said Koael.
The woman looked back at Rotathian with a raised brow.
“You are wise to be cautious,” said Rotathian.
The Mother Raven smiled. “If I find a trap there, I will rip your heart out and feast on it.”
Rotathian almost dropped his head, but had already rendered respects to her, to drop his head again would be subservient. She might be the kind of Queen Mother that wanted that – he had certainly met a few Queen Mothers that wanted fawned over, but this woman wore weapons. She was a warrior, as all of them were. It would be a diplomatic disaster if he were wrong, but rewards only went to the daring.
Lord Rotathian met her gaze with his own steel eyes. “If I were to mean any harm to you or yours, I would meet you on a field of honorable combat, sword to sword, warrior to warrior.”
The woman nodded. “Ah, the heart of a Hawk, very good.” The woman turned and called out, “Robert, would you come here, please.”
A tall powerfully built boy with sandy brown hair and the same golden eyes as the boy that had been riding the tiger ran over. “Yes?”
“I would like you to show our guest to his quarters.”
The Raven Mother turned back to Rotathian. “You will be housed across from the dining hall. You will have no restrictions on your movement, or to whom you may speak, though, take care not to upset my children. And note that at no time during the meeting on the beach did any of us allude to being gods, Jinn, or any other supernatural being. Seek out the truth, Lord Rotathian.”
“I am here to petition for a treaty,” said Lord Rotathian.
“No, Sir Knight, you are not,” replied the Mother Raven. “You are here to discover the true nature of your world. Farmer Seth took two weeks to accept the truth around him; a very impressive feat. I would expect an educated Knight General of a vast army of Knights can accomplish the same in three days. Then, depending on results, we will consider our next action.”
“The Regent said we would discuss matters,” insisted Rotathian.
“Lord Raven did not say which matters we would discuss. I will be gone for the next three days, take care you use the time wisely.”
“Are the ancient Jinn dead?”
“Would it surprise you to discover that Aestar and the Jinn are the same person?” asked the Mother Raven.
Lord Rotathian’s expression made it clear he was dubious of that idea, but chose not to speak and chance offending the Raven Mother.
“Aestar sleeps the sleep of death, he will awake in several years, but not as we knew him. He will begin his life again in the endless cycle as he has lived for billions of years.”
“I see, so the Jinn do not die, they reincarnate, but their magic dies when this happens?”
“Aestar did not tell us what happened on this world to cause such a catastrophic disaster to an advanced and enlightened people. Perhaps you will be able to shed some light on that mystery. Three days, Sir, then we will speak again.”
The Mother Raven turned and walked away. He watched her walk among the tigers and children, praising some, chiding others for some minor offense, and even stopping to give a hug to a few of the children, and even the small tigers.
“This way, my Lord,” said the tall boy.
Lord Rotathian began to motion for his Squire to follow and noticed the boy, a well-muscled lad of fifteen, was unsuccessfully trying to keep two curious cub tigers out of the chest.
“Excuse me, Robert is it?” said Lord Rotathian. “Is there something we can do about that?” Rotathian pointed at the two cubs.
Robert glanced back at the cubs. “Have you ever been nipped by a tiger cub, they have sharp little teeth. Best to just wait until they lose interest.”
“Toleth, just leave it, you’ve made it a game for them,” said Lord Rotathian. “You can come back for the chest later.”
Rotathian followed Robert. The hall was bustle of activity. Tigers and children were running in every direction getting ready for their next mission, and all the tigers were talking.
They reached what Rotathian had thought was the end of the hall with an ornate wall, but now saw it was something else entirely.
“We have to go through the train,” said Robert. “It’s a pain being in here because it blocks so many doors. We’ll take it back outside when the Titans are done fixing the island.”
Robert climbed a set of steps to a platform. Rotathian realized what he was looking at and reached a hand out reverently.
“This is the Chariot of the Gods,” said Rotathian. “But…how is the sun moving across the sky if this is here?”
Robert waited at the top of the stairs. “That’s just a legend, the Sun God doesn’t actually pull the sun with a chariot…oops…I wasn’t supposed to say that, Moeth will kill me.”
Rotathian’s face clouded with anger. “You would be executed for a slip of the tongue?” he asked.
Robert’s eyes widened. “No, No. That’s just an expression. What I mean is we are supposed to be helping you see the truth about the gods. There is a sun god, but he’s not really a god at all, he’s an Elemental. I should just shut up, I’m making it worse.”
Rotathian climbed the stairs. “No, I want to hear what you have to say, provided it does not endanger your life in the telling.”
“We don’t execute people…well, we do, but not our own…I mean, oh for the love of the sun god…I’m totally screwing this up.” Robert took a deep breath. “My Lord Rotathian, I apologize, I am actually trained in the art of diplomacy, but I have been away from the Hawk Court for so long now I fear I’ve forgotten my lessons.”
Rotathian reached out and put a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Fear not, diplomacy is a thing that must be practiced every day to keep your proficiency. Perhaps you can start by telling me of your home at the Hawk Court.”
Robert’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. Rotathian smiled. “Think about what you just said, young man.”
“Oh, I gave it away that I’m from a different Court,” said Robert.
Rotathian followed while Robert told him of the Hawk Court on Darai. They entered the engine car, the Prince Consort was sitting in a chair adjusting dials on a panel in front of him. The cooking pot the Prince had worn on the beach was discarded next to him and he was now wearing a tall striped hat.
The next car they entered caused Lord Rotathian to blush, he had no business being in this car – it was obvious these were the Royal Bed Chambers, but he could see there would have been no room to walk around as the walls were too close to the Chariot to allow them to have gone around.
They entered the next car, a comfortable room with a fireplace and couches, and a girl sitting in a red plush chair reading a book. The girl was dressed identical as the Queen had been, even her hair style was identical. Perhaps from a distance she could pass as a body double. That had to be it, the girl was a body double for the Queen, but up close anyone would be able to see this girl was not the small lizard species as the Queen was.
Lord Rotathian nodded politely to the girl as they walked past. The next car was a dining car, but did not look to be in use. The last car was another sleeping chamber, but an open bay and likely used for servants. Robert led the way out the back and down to the hall.
Robert turned into a room opposite a large room with tables. “That’s the dining hall over there. There are three fresh meals a day served by the farmer’s wife. And this room will be your quarters while you’re here. Down at the end of the hall is a door that leads outside to the island, but be very careful out there. The titans are still repairing the island, and they don’t have any safety protocols to keep from stepping on someone. We’ve had a bunch of close calls. Nobody will go outside anymore until the titans finish.”
Rotathian walked around the room. There were chairs, a couch, a table, and a desk. Several doors led to other rooms, two with beds, and one a bathing room.
“We think this was an office, but we moved the furniture up here for guests,” said Robert. “We’re going to move the train tomorrow to a hanger bay we found, it’s such a pain to get anywhere with it here in the hall.”
“The train?” asked Rotathian.
“Oh, you call it a chariot,” said Robert.
“I see, why is it here in the hall?”
“There was a really bad hurricane and we pulled it in here,” explained Robert. “The island was completely flooded, but we were safe down here.”
Lord Rotathian sat down at the desk, even the craftsmanship of the furniture was superior to anything he had ever seen, other than the very few pieces remaining from his ancient ancestors. There was a writing desk rarely used that sat in the corner of his private office in the castle; that desk had the same craftsmanship as this desk.
“Young man,” Rotathian looked up from the desk. “If I had a guest in my palace, I would not be giving them full access to everything.”
The boy shrugged. “I don’t know, I’m not really part of this whole thing, I don’t know what they’re planning. If you don’t need anything else, my brother is waiting for me.”
“You may go,” said Lord Rotathian.
The boy bowed, then turned and left the room. Rotathian had watched the bow carefully, it had been a natural fluid motion. The boy had grown up in a Court, but not this one. There might be a mystery of his own people to discover here, but the mystery of these Jinn and their intricate associations with each other were much more interesting.
“My Lord,” the Squire interrupted his thoughts. “What do you want me to do?”
“Return to the blue light and ask to accompany the hunters, learn as much as you can about how they hunt, their command structure, their culture, friendships, and any internal intrigue that might exist within the Court.”
The Squire looked out the door at the Chariot of the Gods.
“Go on now, before the hunters leave, that thing is only a machine.”
The Squire looked back at Rotathian.
“Yes, I know the Chariot is intimidating,” said Rotathian, knowing what his Squire was thinking. “But, I am becoming more angry than intimidated. Nobody gives guests this much freedom in their palace. I want to know what their game is. Just hurry through it and soon you can spend the morning in the familiar forests of our world.”
Placated at the thought of getting out of this Palace of Horrors, the Squire hurried off and disappeared back the way they had come. Lord Rotathian walked across the hall and looked inside the dining hall. A woman was serving food at a long table, presumably the farmer’s wife. He considered having breakfast, but another thought occurred to him. There was one place Robert had said he shouldn’t go, out onto the island. That would be where he would start his search.
Rotathian turned away from the dining hall and headed for the door to the outside.