The High Queen Sorceress (complete)
Author: jessicaw

Chapter 21
chapter 21

After a grueling trek through the narrow mountain passage way, King Haden and his army finally stumbled out of the other side. They did not wait for everyone to finish crossing, but instead started marching toward the quiet city of Mardane down below.  

  They waited just outside the city walls, hunkering against them in the darkness as the rest of the men followed in silence, crouching like stealthy cats stocking unaware prey as they waited for orders to attack.                           

When most of his men finally joined him, King Haden gave the signal, bringing his sword down on a small rock in the darkness. Sparks flew from the blade as it made contact. Brine’s heart almost gave out at the signal. He felt sick to his stomach; he just hoped he had given them enough time.   

Men flooded through the city like the plague. They smashed in every door, lighting torches as they went.

After several intense minuets, they all came to a slow stop, looking around confused. “What are you doing?” Bellowed King Haden “Capture them before they get away!”                                                             

“My lord.” One of the men piped up. His voice trembling at their recent epiphany “There is no one here.”  “What!” Bellowed King Haden, his face growing redder than the ripest tomato in the torch light. He brought his sword up in a swinging motion, the blade ripping through the air with a sharp stinging sound. It came down on the unfortunate soldier with so much force that it cleaved his head in half. Men tried to look away and stifle their terror as the warm spray of blood rained down on them, making plinking sounds as it landed on their armor.

King Haden took off; galloping through the streets, using the front hooves of his horse to kick in doors here or there. Searching for much needed food or weapons, and finding nothing. He yelled out in anger as he galloped back towards his men, one of them failed to move out of the way fast enough and was trampled to death under the angry hooves of his big war horse. 

“This is unacceptable!” He bellowed the words barely audible as they left his lips. Spittle flying everywhere, showering those close enough to him. “To the Lord’s mansion!” He said, pointing his sword in its direction.  Men changed direction as they picked up their battle cries, charging towards the house.    

They found more of the nothingness that filled the rest of the city. The weapons store was empty, the larders bare, the kitchens emptied of all useable cookware or spices. There was no gold, no people, no animals, not even a mouse searching for crumbs. Everywhere he looked, there was nothing.   

Enraged, the king ripped a torch out of one of his guard’s hands and lit the stables on fire. The flames licked hungrily at the wooden structure and swept across the small scattering of hay on the ground. It snaked its way over the ground, licking up the dry grass with a vengeance.     

The poison in the hay hit the system of flames, causing them to jump and burn even brighter, higher and with a much louder crackling. King Haden jumped back at the sudden pop and Brine smiled inwardly.   

“It’s been poisoned!” Brine said. Fear and anger dripping off his tongue so thickly that he almost tricked himself into really being angry. “They poisoned it! Quick! Run for your lives! Don’t touch anything!”            

Panicked men took off in all directions, running for open doors and out of the city as fast as they possibly could. Anyone who did not move with the tumultuous crowd was trampled under their feet.      Brine was light headed. Elated that there wasn’t a single soul for Haden’s men to prey upon. He looked down at Taddy, who sat in front of him on the horse, her hands still bound. They exchanged a quiet, knowing smile.   

As the last few soldiers exited the abandoned city, they lit the rest of it on fire. As they galloped away, everything around them danced in the fiery orange glow of the burning world that once was Mardane.

After the adrenaline had left their bodies and they were a safe distance from the burning city, King Haden sought out Brine. Brine put on a face of pure disgust as the king approached. “Filthy rats!” He hissed.

He grabbed Taddy by her thick black hair and shook her. “What did you tell them!” he said, sounding much angrier than he really was. Taddy faked a grimace and scowl but said nothing. “Answer me!” Brine yelled, shaking her by the hair again. “No.” She said, hatred pouring out of her eyes as she held his gaze, making him shudder inwardly.  

“Then who?” Demanded King Haden. Taddy turned her deadly green eyes on him. He shuddered at the sight of them and looked to the ground. There was something about Queen Valencia that he found repulsing. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he grew nauseated every time he caught her eyes.   

“I don’t know.” She said, staring at the back of his head. “Maybe if you hadn’t of wasted so much time looking for me, then the people who escaped Capance wouldn’t of had time to alert Mardane. It’s your own stupid mistake. Men who light fires should know how to dance with the flames, otherwise they leave themselves with no other choice but to burn.”

Enraged at her insolence, King Haden raised his hand, the back of it heavily laden with the purple and red oversized gemstones pointed at her cheek. They glittered menacingly, hungry for the taste of her flesh.

Right as he was about to strike her, a sudden, calming thought washed through his mind. He looked into her green eyes. They were concentrated on his face. His hand stood suspended in midair, never coming any closer, as if tacked to an invisible wall.                                                                                                    

He studied her for a long, long time, his eyes growing large and white as certain thoughts flooded his mind. His lips began to form the word witch, but no sound emanated from his throat because Brine intervened. “Your Highness, I will beat this trash for her sins, but for now, I think it is best that we move on to the next city as quickly as possible before they have time to rally each other.” 

“Yes, yes, very good Commander, very good indeed.” The King muttered as his hand slowly slipped back down to the horse’s reins, gripping the smooth worn leather in his clammy palms. He slowly started turning around, his thoughts still locked on Taddy’s green eyes. He knew there was something he was about to say, but he couldn’t remember it anymore. As he looked at her, he found her to be the most repulsive woman he had ever seen, but just a woman and nothing more.                              

Once King Haden had his back to them; Brine gave Taddy a warning look. “That was too close for comfort.” He whispered into her hair. She smiled a small smile. “What? For him to call me a witch? I’m not a witch. Don’t worry, I can handle myself!” She nuzzled into his arms, pressing herself against his chest. Her warm flesh made his body ache. Against his own will, he pushed her off of him.  

Within three fourths of a day; they reached Lantalla but, just like Maradne, it too was completely deserted and the little sustenance left behind poisoned. Furious, King Haden ordered the entire town burnt to the ground.

They traveled all over the realm of the land of the free for near close to two weeks, but every time they came across another city or town, they found the same thing. Their provisions grew dangerously low and several dozen men and horses had already perished from such a long and difficult journey.   

On one day in particular, they reached another town, completely desolate just like all the others. Haden screamed until he was blue in the face, hacking down anyone unfortunate enough to be in his way. 

Since then, a large empty bubble was maintained between him and the men at all times. No one dared to get too close for fear of losing their lives. They avoided eye contact and fell silent whenever he approached.

After a fruitless raid throughout the entire Kingdom, they reached the outskirts of the land of the free. Beyond was some of the no-man’s land between the land of the free and King Haden’s domain. He hated this stretch of land. It was sparse and desolate. Only very poor farmers lived out here and they were all spaced extremely far apart. To the right was nothing but ocean. It was only a few day’s hard ride back to Galanda.

King Haden sat and pondered what his next move should be. He didn’t understand how an entire kingdom of people could just disappear. He watched the ocean as its foggy blue waters lapped lazily at the sandy beach, eating into the shore and carrying it away as it receded.                                             

Maybe they had taken to the ocean, sailing away from him to start life on the other side of the world. No, there was no possible way they had enough boats sturdy enough to carry that many people in such a short time frame. Besides, he could see at least two ships docked in the distance as they bobbed up and down on the gentle current.   

Commotion from behind stirred him from his thoughts. He turned around, dragging his attention away from the vast body of water.     

A small, thin old man with a shiny bald head and a white bandage like tunic broke free of the crowd of soldiers like an egg from its shell.

“Your Majesty!” The old man called, waving one hand frantically in the air while the other kept the leather satchel on his side from bouncing out of place.  

“Your Majesty!” He called again, a little more frantic this time, a small grouping of soldiers and guards chasing after him as he tried in vain to reach Haden. The sandy beach moved under his feet, slowing him down as he tried desperately to retain the traction.                                                                                                      

He squinted at the man, trying to make out who he was. Recognition finally hit Haden right as the guards pounced on him. It was Datameon, his well trusted informant.                                                                  

“Let him go.” He ordered. The guards on top of the old man quickly clambered off, allowing the frail figure to stand up and dust himself off. “Come.” Haden commanded. Datameon quickly ran over, his bare feet digging into the sandy beach, threatening to bury themselves in the wet underbelly.    

 “Just in time!” Said Haden, his sour mood easing up slightly. He was hoping Datameon knew something about where all the people had gone, maybe he’d seen them. Datameon came to a stop about a foot and a half from the King, placing his hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. Haden watched as his white tunic hung limply from his panting form, every rib in his chest completely visible as he heaved air in and out of his lungs. “Your majesty” He stammered in-between gasps.

King Haden handed him the little canteen of drinking water that he still had left. Datameon eagerly took it and drained the entire flask in one large gulp. Handing it back, he returned his hand to his knee and took in several more long breaths of air as sweat dripped off of him like stones falling over a mountain cliff. 

King Haden waited with pained patients as Datameon struggled to regulate his breathing. After what Haden deemed to be an eternity, Datameon straightened up and dropped to his knees, bowing before his king.  

“What is it already?” King Haden blurted out, annoyed and unable to wait any longer. “Have you found the people missing from all the cities?”

Datameon shook his head. “What? No your majesty, I have found something much, much greater. Quickly, we must go! I found the portal and it’s open!”

 

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