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  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
    VVesley
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  • 3,209 Words
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The Truce - 4. Chapter 4

Thank you for reading!

Adrian entered the Capitol in the evening, arriving shortly after the sun had gone down. He and his advisor had traveled in the company of just four Illjardi soldiers, eager not to draw too much attention. After the end of the most recent battle in the south they could move relatively safely, but Adrian felt it was best to be as cautious as possible. They had been stopped twice, but Adrian's banner combined with the white hair and skin of the Illjardi people had granted them passage. After passing through the city walls, it hadn't taken long for Elsa Torne's men to find Adrian. They had been guided towards her massive inner-city estate, and were beckoned into a circular parlor.

One of Adrian's guards gave a low whistle when they stepped inside, and Adrian couldn't help agreeing with the sentiment. The entire estate was composed of circular rooms that were linked by small hallways. It was made of white and gray marble, and silver gild sprawled in spirals up columns that lined the circular walls. Each door was heavy black iron, and red tapestries and furniture stood out as lavish accents. Facing several doors in front of him, Adrian thought that if he didn't have an escort, he would be completely lost. Briefly, he wondered if that was part of the design of the estate. It certainly would be difficult to navigate through this place if you weren't welcome.

"This way please," said the house servant that greeted them. She beckoned, and the Illjardi followed. After walking through several circular rooms with their own doorways, Adrian started to get nervous. It felt like he was walking in circles, and many of the rooms appeared to be identical. They passed through a portrait room, a kitchen, and several bedrooms before arriving outside a final black door, but Adrian could have sworn that he had been in this particular space before. There, the servant turned and faced them. "They are all in the war room there. Your rooms are in the fourth and fifth doors, there." She indicated to which entrances she was referring, and Adrian nodded.

"Thank you." He turned to the men in his party, and addressed them. "Please retire for the night. I appreciate your efforts in getting me here. They bade him good evening, and all exited through various doors. Adrian took one long breath in and out, and then pushed open the door that the servant had gestured to. It creaked slowly open, the noise of metal hinges grating in a way that killed the conversation in the room. Adrian could tell that Carl had just been talking, but his voice died out when Adrian stepped forward into the light.

"Prince Adrian," said General Torne seductively. "How nice of you to arrive." She, Alexandre, and Carl were seated around a large round table in the center of the room. The iron in the middle of it was carved into the shape of the continent, and small figurines were placed in a strategic line that split it down the middle. The density of these figurines increased the further south the line went, which was indicative of Alexandre's stronger military presence towards the south of Nabius.

"General Torne," Adrian said with a respectful nod. "Please forgive my intrusion, both on your home and on this meeting. I apologize for any interruption or inconvenience that I may cause you."

"So formal," Elsa said with a smirk. "You are more than welcome here - it's no intrusion at all. Please, join us." She beckoned at a chair with one hand. Adrian sat, and Elsa continued. "Besides," she said with a wink, "I never mind new company. What use is a huge house with lots of beds if you can't use them all?" Adrian knew that were he not Illjardi, his face would have reddened at that. He felt the blood rush to his face, but his people did not change color the way that mainlanders did.

"I suppose you're right," he said a little awkwardly. "Thank you for your hospitality." Elsa flashed another grin at that, and Adrian turned when Carl spoke up.

"It's good to see you again. I'm glad that you're here," he said. The Tomacian was genuine, and Adrian could immediately tell that Carl meant that he was glad.

"Prince," said Alex, a little stiffly. "Is everything alright in the north? I didn't expect you."

"Ah... yes," said Adrian. "I... have decided not to pursue my marriage with Luca any longer." The room went silent at that, and Adrian noticed Alexandre go unnaturally still. Nabians had that ability, and it unnerved Adrian greatly whenever he encountered it. He still hadn't forgotten Alexandre's threat against the Illjard should Adrian harm Luca, and spoke up to explain. Alexandre spoke more quickly, and his words came out more like a growl.

"And why... is that?"

"It was Luca's choice." Adrian felt it better to be plain, and straightforward. Just a moment after he spoke, he could feel the tension in the room break. Alexandre returned to normal, and Adrian felt relief wash over him. "He has chosen Eamon instead." Adrian watched Alex as that news registered, and took in the way that he cocked his head slightly to one side.

"That is an interesting development," he said. Carl concurred, and Elsa spoke up next.

"So I take it you're here to ask about another alliance?"

"Another marriage, yes," Adrian said while noting the slight correction.

"I see..." Elsa trailed off. "I think we could find a few nobles to interview here in the city. There are plenty of counts running about nowadays, and even some of the great merchants are here. Everyone's trying to do business in the midst of the uprising."

"Are there no nobles that you know? I was hoping for a more... personal recommendation. Between all of you, surely there's a Nabian of the right stature that would be willing to marry that you've dealt with before?"

Alexandre's face looked almost bored, and he replied immediately. "Trust me - there are none that I know personally that I would actually recommend." The four sat in contemplation for a few moments, and then Carl spoke up.

"Actually.... I do know of a Nabian with the right birth circumstances to be suitable. I don't know him personally, but he's got humble beginnings, and should probably get out of Nabius anyway. Hear me out..."

***

Ysabel sauntered into the circular room at the hart of Elsa Torne's estate, peering at the various doorways that led from it in different directions. She knew that her son and his husband were staying in one of the rooms, but she couldn't quite make out which one. She had just arrived from the wallfort, and had been ushered in by General Torne quickly. Ysabel had known the other General from her years in the Capitol after she had been forced to separate from Darion, and had always gotten along with her. Elsa Torne was one of the few people who seemed to understand what the demon wanted, and had always been out of the way when it was necessary. She also seemed keenly aware of when she should interject, and Ysabel glanced at the other general that was escorting her through the manse. When Ysabel turned back to give a questioning look, Elsa helpfully gestured towards one of the doors. Ysabel nodded, and approached it. She knocked, and the door opened after a few moments. When it swung back, Alexandre stood in the doorframe in a set of linen nightclothes.

"Hello... mother?" There was a question in his voice, and Ysabel didn't like to hear that. Alex had reflexively stepped backwards when he saw her, which made Ysabel frown. The demon took joy out of his fear, but Ysabel had never wanted either of her children to fear her. She thought to a couple of scars that Alexandre bore as a result of her losing her temper during his childhood, and one particular set of five dots on his back from when she had pushed him without remembering that she was wearing her claws. She frowned and nodded her head as a confirmation.

"Yes... it is me this time." Ysabel had run into Alexandre and Carl at the wallfort, shortly after it had fallen. Alexandre had made the call to lock her in one wing to purge the demon. She had been a nightmare made flesh, and was barely able to communicate with her son at the time. When Alex locked her in, he doomed anyone that remained in that area of the manse to death at the hands of his mother.

"Welcome back," he said. He held out his arm, and Ysabel grasped it below the elbow. Alex did the same, and they gave one squeeze in the traditional greeting of warriors.

"It's good to be back." After a couple moments silence, Elsa Torne spoke up.

"Well Generals, I am retiring for the night. I thought it best to bring you two to each other first, as I know you must have much to discuss. Please alert one of my staff if either of you needs anything. General DiCoteau already knows this, but General Clarion, I would recommend using the bells to get an attendant. Navigating the manse on your own can be tricky... and dangerous. I wouldn't recommend it."

Ysabel nodded, having heard stories about the Capitol's estate for the General. It was designed to act like a maze, and was booby trapped as a precaution against invaders. The manse had been around for hundreds of years, and architects had been adding to it every so often for most of that time. It was an architectural symbol of Nabius, and many who went inside never made it out. "Thank you General Torne. I appreciate it. Goodnight."

Elsa gave a terse goodnight, and left Ysabel and her son alone together moments later.

"Well," Ysabel said, "we did it. Sorry I was late, at the wallfort." Alex smirked and almost laughed.

"One down. A few more to go."

"Indeed," Ysabel agreed, liking her son's outlook. His ambition is as great as his father's. He will make a great supreme leader one day. "Who do we prepare to march on next?" Alex hesitated slightly at that turn in the conversation, and Ysabel wondered what his reservations were.

"We're not sure yet. And I don't need you to enter that state any time soon again. I expect that Fran La Croix will remain passive for now, as she is old and will probably just follow the other generals. I've got spies deployed, and they seem to agree with that suspicion." Ysabel nodded, agreeing with that assessment.

"She's always been the type to put others at risk before herself. I think we should distribute troops according to where we will most likely be attacked, which is probably to the south. The largest consolidation of power lies here."

"It's already been done," nodded Alex. "The largest threat comes from whether Uncle Yago decides to fight us. Do you have any idea whether he will?" Ysabel thought this over, but shook her head slowly with a sigh.

"He has always done what he wants, and that is always unpredictable. To be quite honest, I have no idea what his motivations for opposing you are." Alex frowned at that.

"I was afraid that you would say that."

 

***

Talia lay in her spot in the corner on the stone floor, still chained at the wrists and ankles. Her body was beginning to cramp all over again, so she practiced exercises that involved flexing groups of muscles one at a time. This helped circulate blood to the regions and kept her from getting too sore. If nothing else, it also served as a way to occupy her time. She had spent most of her time in Yago’s home in this same space, save when she was bathed every few days. Any excursions from her spot were escorted by several guards at a time, and they were very careful never to unchain more than one limb at a time. This so boring…

Indeed, Talia had barely even seen Yago most of the time that she had been his prisoner. She wondered what he had been spending all of his time doing, but supposed that he was a general. Still, he should at least hold court every once in a while. Surely his subjects have some way to air their grievances? She could tell that the room she was in was clearly designed for such a purpose, given the fact that it was a large open hallway with a throne at it’s head. Talia’s restraints were built into the floor to one side of the giant chair, and were placed in what felt like an oddly prominent location. I wonder who is normally chained here… or what.

Just as she began her routine of stretching, at least as far as she could in the manacles, the door to the great room opened. Yago strode through, flanked by his head of household. His black cloak billowed behind him, and he stared coolly at Talia as he walked up towards her.

“Good morning niece,” he said. When Talia made no reply, he rolled his eyes. “I witnessed your birth. The least you could do is acknowledge me you know.” At that, Talia stuck her middle finger up at him. “So petulant,” he said with a tsk. “No matter. I’m holding court here today, so that you can see how things are done by a true Nabian. I’ve got a special guest coming, and I wouldn’t want you to miss it.”

Talia’s heart rate rose a little bit at that, but she made no show of it on her face. Yago didn’t seem to notice, and abruptly sat down on the large throne. He sat at an odd angle, with both legs over one arm of the seat, and his back reclined over to the other. He gave her another look, but decided to return the favor and ignore Talia’s presence. “No matter,” he mumbled quietly. “Let’s see who strolls in, shall we.”

A few minutes passed, but it didn’t take long before the head of household made an announcement. “May I introduce the honorable Jamison Hadeaux, grandmaster at arms.”

“Ex-grandmaster at arms,” Talia whispered quietly. Yago didn’t react, so he presumably knew that information. It was just the four individuals in the room, and silence tread on except for the loud clanging of metal that rang out with every step that Hadeaux took. He walked down the length of the room, stopping just before he got to Yago’s seat. He went to one knee, and gave a slight respectful nod before standing back up. Talia took the sight of him in, and noted that he didn’t look good. He had bags under his bloodshot eyes and looked grimy, and Talia suspected that he had returned to drinking.

“General Clarion,” he said out loud. “Thank you for receiving me. It is an honor to see you again.”

“The pleasure is all mine,” said Yago with a devilish grin. “You are most welcome here.” Talia broke her silence at that, and addressed Hadeaux directly. She was elevated due to the small platform atop a set of stone steps at the head of the room, but keenly felt her chains.

“What are you doing here, Sir Jamison?” The question was spoken more like a statement. “You should be in retirement.” Sir Jamison looked her direction and took a few steps closer to her. He hocked back a gurgle in his throat, and spit in her direction. The wad landed a few inches from where she was, and she looked down at it surprised.

“I,” Jamison said, “am exactly where I should be. You are the one that should have fucked off to another life. You and your brother both.” Talia raised an eyebrow at that, violence starting to creep into her mind. She was not used to this level of disrespect, especially from someone that had once served at her behest.

“How dare you,” she said. “Know your place.” Hadeaux practically growled at that, and looked towards Yago while speaking to Talia.

“I know exactly what my place is. It’s here, defecting to a real general. Your brother has brought shame unto your line. Your father would have been disgusted by his actions. I will see the last of the Di Coteau’s eradicated for it if it’s the last thing that I do!”

“My brother should have killed you when he had the chance,” said Talia venomously. Jamison smiled at that, and continued on.

“Yes he should have. Now, I’m going to show him all the pain that gave to me tenfold.” It hadn’t been too long since Alexandre had publicly fired and banished Hadeaux in front of a crowd, and Talia could tell the insult to his pride still stung. The castellan had been a vain man and held grudges as long as Talia had known him. His anger and violent responses to every day situations was one of the reasons that Darion had chosen him as a staff member, and he played a huge part in developing Talia’s own mirth.

“General Yago, I humbly come to you asking for revenge, one of the sacred tenants of our country. Will you hear out my request?”

“I will,” said Yago with fake grace.

“I wish to seek out and destroy Alexandre Di Coteau’s home and staff. He has left it largely unguarded, and I know the grounds well. Most of the forces that remain there are despicably weak imitations of leaders, who deserve to be desecrated. Recapturing the north will be a boon to the war.”

Talia’s heart sank at that, and she looked to her uncle in panic. Oh no…

“Sure,” said Yago casually. “I don’t see why not. What do you request of me?”

“Only 30 men, General.” Yago raised an eyebrow at that, but Talia knew why the number was so small.

“The Di Coteau estate is still a fortress, is it not? I can’t imagine that my nephew would have even had time to dismantle all the defenses between now and when I was last there – what makes you think you can get by with so few of my men?”

“Like I said,” Hadeaux replied, “the manse is weakened substantially. The leadership there is frail, and I know a way into the estate from the outside. There’s a tunnel that goes through a bloodlily cave to the west. We can get in, kill everyone, and hold the territory with just a few.”

“How interesting,” Yago said. Talia could tell that he already knew this information, and was just putting on a show for her. He wanted her to know that her home would be under attack, and he was giving Hadeaux the satisfaction of gloating in front of Talia. “You have my leave. My staff will take care of the arrangements tonight. Goodbye,” he said with a dismissive wave. Hadeaux left with a curt nod and thanks, and Yago looked at Talia with cruel delight in his eyes.

Shit.

 

Copyright © 2018 VVesley; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

I wonder who Carl had in mind 🤔 

Excellent chapter, when you uploaded chapter 3 and I saw that this story was third in a series and I eagerly read the first two books! I can’t wait to read more.

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I too wonder who Carl has in mind for Adrian.

I have a strong feeling this plan to attack Alexandre's home will have some unpleasant surprises ahead. Luca isn't a fool and he fully expects to be attacked. I hope the ordinary citizens he has assembled are up to the task.

Edited by drpaladin
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17 hours ago, Etotsira said:

I wonder who Carl had in mind 🤔 

Excellent chapter, when you uploaded chapter 3 and I saw that this story was third in a series and I eagerly read the first two books! I can’t wait to read more.

Oh, I'm so glad to hear it! Thank you very much for reading and commenting!

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14 hours ago, drpaladin said:

I too wonder who Carl has in mind for Adrian.

I have a strong feeling this plan to attack Alexandre's home will have some unpleasant surprises ahead. Luca isn't a fool and he fully expects to be attacked. I hope the ordinary citizens he has assembled are up to the task.

The only thing that I can say to both of those statements is that you will find out soon! Thank you so much for reading and reviewing! I appreciate the support!

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Talia must be feeling so useless locked up like that. Difficult to take action without help, though it seems hopeless at the moment. Maybe if Mikhail shows up... 

 

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2 minutes ago, Puppilull said:

Talia must be feeling so useless locked up like that. Difficult to take action without help, though it seems hopeless at the moment. Maybe if Mikhail shows up... 

 

I'd imagine this is definitely difficult for someone like her, who is so used to being at the center of action. Thank you for reading and commenting!

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As difficult as Talias' situation is it may give her a unique opportunity to gain some valuable intelligence.

I'd like to hope Carl was thinking of Kade but I don't know whether or not he is aware of his existence. Someone with a humble upbringing?

Haddeaux. I was going to go off about him being a despicable traitor, but then he was dismissed and banished after his outburst so he doesn't really owe Alex any further allegiance. Knowing the secrets of the Di Coteau manse makes him dangerous. His undoing could be his arrogant disregard for Lucas' leadership abilities. Let's hope Luca can re-educate him. A humiliating failure would make him very unwelcome back at Yagos' manse.

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13 hours ago, Goodie said:

As difficult as Talias' situation is it may give her a unique opportunity to gain some valuable intelligence.

I'd like to hope Carl was thinking of Kade but I don't know whether or not he is aware of his existence. Someone with a humble upbringing?

Haddeaux. I was going to go off about him being a despicable traitor, but then he was dismissed and banished after his outburst so he doesn't really owe Alex any further allegiance. Knowing the secrets of the Di Coteau manse makes him dangerous. His undoing could be his arrogant disregard for Lucas' leadership abilities. Let's hope Luca can re-educate him. A humiliating failure would make him very unwelcome back at Yagos' manse.

It may indeed. 

I think it's safe to assume that what Alex knows, Carl knows :) 

We will see!

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