After Armageddon: 6) Requiem Labyrinths

Read Part 5 of After Armageddon: Very Insincere Forgiveness


Why did killing this lesser lord who’d just declared himself “king” of the Northern reaches of Eboncrest matter when they’d just handed over the key to becoming an Eternal? Ranroth didn’t seem intent on using the item. Achilles and Andiel had both agreed after the fact that his story giving away the Spark as the grand prize to a tournament he intended to host was obviously made up.

A bad lie though for a professional liar… maybe Ranroth was just crazy enough to be telling the truth this time. The paladin had even given both Achilles and Andiel an “official invite” to the tournament for killing the mage turret – an enemy he’d been hunting for some time as well, it turned out.

In either case. Achilles was in no mood to participate in a tournament when his life was in shambles.

A King And His Princess

He shook his head to clear his thoughts. When he looked up, Andiel was motioning to him harshly. Pointing at the king who was making a stir with the documents he was reviewing, below, starting to pile them up on the side of his desk. The late hours of the night were beginning to wear on the new “monarch,” it seemed. Andiel had finished tying a rope to himself, which he pointed at articulately. He then motioned for Achilles to grip the rope from the other end and hold it tight. Achilles watched as Andiel made a slicing motion across his throat, then prepared to leap from the wooden beam where they were positioned.

Just before he leapt, however, the grand oak doorways opened to the meeting hall. A short blonde girl walked in. She called out to the king and twirled in her blue gown. Achilles recognized the girl right away. He’d scouted the small keep and surrounding space during the previous week, preparing for their infiltration. He watched with decreasing patience as the princess ran to hug her father goodnight. Somehow though, he wasn’t surprised when he again looked up to Andiel, who obviously didn’t plan on waiting until the girl was gone.

Like so many other times in their adventuring days together thus far, Achilles thought, things would’ve been so much easier with just another moments’ patience from Andiel.

But Andiel leapt.

The girl screamed when she saw the dark figure falling from the ceiling. The guards just outside the room heard their liege lord yell for help. The cries for help turned into sickening gurgles as Andiel’s blade sliced through flesh and vocal chords. The rope slipped through Achilles’ hands just enough for Andiel to slam into the princess before the rope went taut. The rafter that Achilles stood upon cracked loudly, then snapped, fully. He fell, clinging to air, then landed upon the bloodied king.

Bad To Worse

Only pure shock kept the guards at bay long enough for Andiel to get up, pick up the princess, and hold his dagger to her throat. “No one of you moves, or she dies.”

Miraculously, as Achilles got up, he didn’t feel any broken bones or major injuries. He gingerly stepped away from the king’s broken husk, glancing over at the guards and motioning an apologetic hand. He limped behind Andiel, sighed deeply with his hands on his knees, stood up abruptly, and folded his arms. “That’s right. If any of you come any closer, we’ll kill the princess right here.”

“You dare slay the king, defile his body, then threaten the princess?”

“Uhm, Achilles?” Andiel shifted his weight, unconsciously.

“You monsters!” The guards were inching closer, weapons drawn.

“Shut up, Andiel,” Achilles whispered. “We can use her as a hostage, jump out the window into the river below, just like we planned, then ransom her later.”

“Yeah, well about that.” He turned his head to talk through the side of his mouth. He spoke very slowly and quietly. “I’m pretty sure when I partially fell on her, I somehow killed her. I’m pretty sure she’d already dead.”

Achilles turned back towards the guards. “On second thought, you’re right. We’ve already done enough damage. No child deserves bad treatment of any kind. She wasn’t part of this. We’re leaving her to you. Now, Andiel!”

Making The Escape

The assassin kicked over the princess and the two bolted for the stained-glass windows on the side of the room. Moonlight still poured in through its various shapes and colors. Suddenly, they broke through, shards slicing them, reflecting the silvery glow of the moon as they fell into the deep rushing darkness below. The roar of the cold river grew as they fell towards it, men’s faces appearing at the broken window above.

They hit the water.

By the original plan they should’ve had at least a day’s head start on their trackers. Both knew that the descent into the river would be damaging. It was about twenty feet below the base of the keep, alongside the cliff where the castle was mounted. But neither had expected that they’d be making the dive in desperation, after having both already fallen from the castle’s rafters. Achilles had also really been sure that the guards wouldn’t find the king until later that night, or even early morning.

Captain Zulkarr

But by that night, only an hour or so after they’d made their escape, they were huddled in a shed on a farmer’s property, surrounded by guards searching the fields.

Throughout the night they’d kept hearing a name from the various guards they passed as they’d stalked through the fields, seeking refuge from their pursuers.  Captain Zulkarr. They spoke his name with reverence, with more respect than any normal man.

Now they’d run out of places to hide. The shed was their last resort in a field filled with enemies. They heard a dozen or so guards stop outside the shed, as they’d done numerous times that night. Horses where breathing hard. Vague whispering ended in the very distinct words they’d been hearing all night, though: “…Captain Zulkarr.”

Then, a very loud, clear command.

“Surround the shed. Burn it down.”