Excerpt from The Fountains of Aescalon

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This is first draft rough:


So back down the tree I went, to wait out the waning of the river from Aescalon. Teleporting down only required a tiny fraction of the energy of up. Yes, nature's books always balanced, but there was no rule I had to use or internalize the difference in potential energy. I could simply allow it to dissipate into the environment.
As soon as I materialized in my own room, a small task-daemon tried to attack me with a poisoned dagger. Even if it had succeeded, it wouldn't have endangered me, but its target-seeking rebounded off my passive defenses and sent it in search for its creator. I followed it in leisurely fashion, curious as to who had sent it.
It didn't go far. The room Roni and her parents were in. Which meant I had to think this through now.
The first question I had to ask myself was if this was likely to be their last attempt on me. Honestly, I had to conclude that if they survived this attempt, they'd most likely keep trying. I'd forborne to execute them once for their attacks on my person. It hadn't gotten me what I wanted, which was left alone. And if you give even the most incompetent assassins enough tries, they'll get lucky once. Which meant I couldn't rationalize saving them, not to myself. Even if they were the parents of the Queen-to-be.
Perception showed me that Roni was still asleep, though, despite commotion and the racket plainly audible out in the corridor, in the middle of the day, as the servants ran for cover. Can't blame them for not wanting to get caught up in something they knew nothing about. You might not think it of him, but Agran was trying to protect Theana, who was the real target of the kored-guided daemon. She'd sent it after me, therefore she was the target of the rebounded spell. He was doing his best to keep the daemon away from her, and he was screaming in rage, she in terror, yet Roni was still apparently asleep. Which implied a trance of some sort.
Agran finally succeeded in stabbing the daemon, but it wasn't flesh and blood in the way creatures were. All he managed to do was create enough of a threat that the daemon decided he was worth noticing, and stabbed him with the dagger. The poison was nasty stuff, it began eating at him right away and he lost control of his muscles and fell twitching and screaming in pain to the necris augmented poison. Theana had gone out of her way to create a nasty end for someone less defended than I was.
Which made it a rough poetic justice when the daemon stabbed her, not ten seconds later. And kept stabbing her, time and time again, as the poison stole her mind and her control over her body.
Theana fell and began screaming in agony just as her husband had a few seconds earlier. Like him, she was suffering the paralyzation and pain inflicted by the poison she'd chosen. Unlike him, she didn't completely lose control of her body immediately, which meant she had to be augmenting her life energy somehow.
And that's when I knew, and when I looked with Sight through my perception. No wonder Theana looked so well-preserved while Roni was aged beyond her years. Her own mother had been tapping Roni's life force. And stealing her wizardly power as well.
Roni was a wizard.
Only now, in the last moments of her life, did I understand what a sociopath Roni's mother was. I could have discovered it earlier, forcing myself into her mind with auros and reading her like a large print book, but the social conditioning I'd inherited from my original had stayed my hand. She had to have been tapping Roni since infancy, stealing her power and her life-force to augment her own.
Which made some action necessary. Not saving the parents - Agran was within a couple heartbeats of death already, and Theana was headed that direction. There was no time to be subtle - I slammed down a wall of matra, cutting off Theana from Roni's life force and power. A touch of auros ensured that Roni wouldn't awaken for a while. Roni was safe from the daemon, which would dissipate at her mother's death, but I didn't think she needed to witness her mother's dying agony or the immediate aftermath. She'd learn the facts soon enough. That accomplished, I wrapped myself in a cloak of auros and went in search of King Edvard.
"Alexan, where have you been all day? I sent a servant to your quarters but I was told you didn't answer."
"Your Majesty, I was up at near the top of Ygg, watching the runoff from the Scourging. But I have grave news about Veronia and her parents."
"Is Roni dead?" her asked, and I shook my head, seeing his relief.
"No, but her parents are. When I returned from my trip to the top of Ygg, there was a daemon waiting for me. It wielded a poison dagger, but its targeting spell rebounded off my defenses and sent it in search of the wizard who'd sent it after me."
"You killed them?"
"No Sire. Appropriately enough, the effects of her own intentions killed Theana, and her husband as well. I simply didn't intervene on their behalf."
"Reasonable enough, under the circumstances. An entire hall full of guests and servants saw what they tried to do yesterday. But I wish you'd found it within you to forgive them. It's going to make things more difficult."
"Your Majesty, I understand the situation. But yesterday's forbearance was the limit, as I believe I made clear at the time. My homeland is a wonderful place, but our political rivalries are deadly within the ultsi, and one thing we're all in agreement over is that we're not required to help each other train competent assassins by letting failures live. I withheld my hand yesterday out of consideration for you and for Roni despite conditioning going back to my childhood saying that I should have killed them both on the spot. But forbearing to act once was the most I could do. I did save Roni, however. And you need to know, she's a wizard. Her mother was tapping her power and her life force."
"Roni's a wizard? Are you sure?" Edvard replied.
"Yes, I'm certain. Her mother's been stealing her power since she was very young. That's the only thing that explains how even Roni doesn't know."
"Does this change anything? I saw the two of you dancing last night."
"Sire, perhaps it would have under other circumstances, although Roni's almost an infant by the standards of my homeland. Even without what just happened to her parents, however, she's decided she likes you, not me. She and I might have been friends, but given what just happened to her parents that's likely moot. I saved her because she bore no blame for what her mother did, otherwise she would have died with her mother. The spell stealing her power and life force would have kept pulling from Roni to sustain her mother until there was no more."
"For which I thank you. Why did you bring this to me?"
"First, to let you know immediately what had happened. Second, because Roni's going to need help from you when she wakes up. It won't be long - what I did will keep her asleep perhaps another hour."
"I understand," Edvard replied, "Thank you Alexan. I'll do my best to explain the situation to her. I can't have my Queen carrying out a vendetta against my Viceroy."
"Your viceroy?" I asked, amazed at this man.
"Even Storg would be tempted by the power - I've known him for twenty years. I trust him, but he wants power, so he'll be my Marshall and I'll find him a fief for his children and his old age. You don't want power, at least not that kind, or you would have had it. So if something happens to me, you'll be the Regent for any children I might have. The appointment is all drawn up. You won't refuse me, will you?"
I shook my head, "I don't know how long I'll be in Migurd, but for however long that is, I will do as you ask."
"Good," the king said, "I wasn't certain you'd accept. Now if you'll excuse me, though, I have to deal with the situation you've left me, and it would be best if you were not there when Roni wakes." He strode off towards her room, calling for the servants

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on December 20, 2017 9:13 PM.

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