Lord Tenet laughed as his fool gamboled between the tables, his own voice nearly lost among the raucous laughter filling the hall. Servants swirled about the tables, bearing pitchers of wine to the guests at Tenet’s feast. Other servants carried away the plates and trenchers of the first course of food, beef in gravy seasoned with enough cinnamon and cloves to leave the spicebox bare. Tenet’s extravagance meant that meals in the coming winter months would be bland, with little more than onions and leeks to season them, but it would be worth it to…
Tenet let his eyes slide to the side to where Baron Zelquon, his rival at court, gulped at his own wine cup. Yes, to impress, no, to intimidate, Zelquon, was worth near impoverishing the keep.
“You set a hardy table,” Zelquon raised his cup in salute.
Zelquon’s words were polite, but his voice tone was grudging.
Tenet returned Zelquon’s salute with one of his own. “I have but begun.”
Tenet stood and raised his cup. Silence fell over the hall.
“Bring in…the beast.”
The doors to the kitchens opened and six servants entered, carrying between them an enormous platter on which lay the roast carcass of a mighty aurochs.
“My huntsman has done well,” Tenet said. “Rise, Edoran, and accept the thanks of these who feast.”
From one of the lower tables a slim man stood. He bowed. “My Lord is kind, but it is My Lord who slew the beast with his own spear.”
Tenet laughed. “Ah, but it is my loyal huntsman who led me to the point where I could use my spear. How shall I reward–“
Before Tenet could complete his question, the main doors to the hall burst inward limned in blue flame. A man in dark robes strode through the remains of the shattered doors.
Several things happened at once. The hush in the hall, if anything, deepened, followed a moment later by a repeated murmur, the single name, “Delros.” Guards appeared from behind tapestries, their swords drawn and ready. At Tenet’s side, Zelquon sprang to his feet, his hand grasping for a sword that was not there. Against this foe, they were not rivals, but allies.
An icy hand of fear clutched at Tenet’s heart but long practice schooled his face into resolve.
The robed man, Delros, lifted his hands and pushed the hood back from his face. “I come in peace.”
“Peace? With the prophesied conqueror?”
Delros sighed. “I cannot speak to any prophesies. But, the truth is, I mean you no harm.”
Tenet opened his mouth to speak but Delros raised a hand, blue flames licked about his fingers.
“I had not finished.” Delros took several steps forward, to the center of the hall. “All I ever wanted to do was pursue my studies in my keep. No more. And yet, people keep coming attempting to kill me.
Delros’ eyes narrowed. “Well, I am alive and the assassins are dead. But that they keep coming is…annoying. I want them to stop. Just…leave me alone and I will be able to stop killing the people you send to kill me.”
“You expect us to believe…”
“Believe what you want. I don’t want to kill your people. It takes time from my studies. Leave. Me. Alone.”
With that Delros turned and strode from the hall. Once he’d passed through the doorway, he gestured and the pieces of the door gathered themselves up from the floor and reassembled themselves.
Tenet looked at Zelquon and shrugged.
“We must stop him,” Zelquon said.
Tenet shrugged again. “How? You saw his power.”
Outside, Delros sighed and pulled his hood back up.
“Did they believe you?” A young woman, dressed in a buff leather tunic and pants, her hair pulled into a knot at the nape of her neck lounged against the wall opposite the great hall’s door.
“Probably not,” Delros said. He turned and strode toward the exit of the keep weaving among the magically slumbering guards.
“Why didn’t you tell them about the prophesy?” The young woman fell in at his side.
“They don’t believe I mean them no harm. Do you think they’ll believe that their fool astrologer got the prophesy wrong?”
When Delros had first heard of the so-called prophesy, he had investigated. The astrologer had miscalculated the position of the lesser moon. While the prophesy was true, he’d missed the time by five hundred years.
The young woman shrugged as they emerged from the keep into the bright sunshine. “You’d think they’d be glad that they had five hundred more years to prepare for this conqueror.”
Delros laughed. “Oh, you misunderstood. It isn’t five hundred years from now It was five hundred years ago.”
Delros waved his hand and his sky-barge descended from where it had lain hidden in a cloud.
“One of the many wars. A wizard king gathered several kingdoms together. They went conquering, built an empire. And in time the empire broke up.”
The gangway on the sky barge unfolded and Delros gestured the young woman to precede him.
“Just on of their interminable wars, like any other. They didn’t even notice. That’s all the prophecy was, just one of their endless wars.”