Ithuriel: Inception (Chapter One)

Presenting original fantasy fiction from Robert Roach, this prose series features sword and soul hero Ithuriel in adventures placed in fantasy lands.
 

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PART TWELVE

The young barbarian's silhouette is motionless. Ithuriel seems like a massive, chiseled statue as he intently scans the castle's expansive rear facade. He deliberately takes in all the information that he can. Since Ithuriel will likely be sacrificing himself in order to save the king, the big young man plans to command a high price from his enemies for his life.

Ithuriel continues to use his location—his high ground atop the imperial garden's wall—to peruse the castle & the parkland. Bubbling with rage, the solitary warrior realizes that the "shadows" on the garden's lawn are actually dead royal guards.

The young giant squints his eyes & grits his teeth in anger. He's almost to the point where the outer wall ends at the palace's hillside. This course has taken him farther from a direct path into the castle, but this route has taken Ithuriel into the mansion & the hillside's shielding shadows.

Having reached the point where the outer wall meets the castle's hill, Ithuriel leaps to the ground. The mammoth warrior hugs the hummock's natural verdure & craggy obscurities. He completely blends into the topography.

Knowing the castle like the back of his hand, Tzum´'s pride and joy reaches a concealed entrance. It is the size of a manhole, covered by loose rocks. The opening lies along the crease where the cliff connects with the palace's foundational extension.

Ithuriel slips into this well-hidden, top secret service entrance. He weaves along a tunnel until he comes to a narrow, little-known hallway. This leads to a larger hallway. Ithuriel's #1 responsibility remains to protect the king. And this route is taking him toward the ideal place to begin this vital work.

The smooth inside walls, comprising the mansion's interior, are similar to the exterior—a mix of violet & milky striations, only subtler. Like other Aston structures, nature intermingles with architecture, breaking up the uniformity of the stone's splendor. Other architectural details, tapestries, paintings, sculptures & exquisite furniture accent the building's beauty—even on this lower, relatively "mundane" level.

Now safely & secretly inside the castle, Ithuriel goes straight to the king's private guards' quarters. It's a place where many of his friends—King Telemann's personal protectors—prepare to do their important work. It's where Ithuriel has met his compadres—practicing & laughing & breaking bread with his friends.

Rounding into this large chamber, Ithuriel comes up short. They've been slaughtered—all 24. The room is strewn with blood, gore, spears, swords & dead sentinels. The barbarian is stunned by this.

This is a horrible turn. Now, so far as Ithuriel knows, he's COMPLETELY on his own.

Ithuriel inhales deeply & lets out a slow sigh. Shortly thereafter, the expression in his eyes turns to steel again. If he's on his own, then he's on his own. Ithuriel's here to exact vengeance & this is what he'll do.

The gigantic swordsman resolves to hurry toward the fourth floor alone. To do so covertly, Ithuriel takes another secret path toward a little-known back stairwell. This route will take him to one of the expansive throne room's hidden service entrances. No one will be aware that he's arrived.

Unfortunately, two foreign mercenaries are posted at the first floor's landing to the back stairs. Fortunately for Ithuriel, the man & woman seem lackadaisical—just as the warriors at the outer wall had been. As far as they're concerned, all the excitement is done. The fighting is over. All of the hard work is done. Their money is earned. The time for stressing has passed. Might as well relax.

And "relaxing" is exactly what these two are doing. No reason to exert themselves. No sense to get jumpy. Nothing more to do.

However, despite their apathetic attitudes & postures, the adversaries' tactical location prevents Ithuriel from secretly ascending the staircase. They're too far away for Ithuriel to sneak up on them—whether or not the assassins' backs are turned toward him or not. And the barbarian must ascend to the fourth floor in total silence.

A sudden thought comes to mind, prompting Ithuriel to retrace his route to the guardroom & the massacre therein. He immediately grabs the perfect weapon to execute his plan.

The big, young man peeks around the hallway's corner once more. Ithuriel's smile is a mixture of relief, expectation & retribution. The lazy guards haven't moved. The two murderous mercenaries are still enjoying their conversation.

Ithuriel lightly shuffles into the hallway in perfect stillness. Ahead of him in the corridor—about 30 yards away, the guards continue to joke amongst themselves. The warrior hefts & balances his weapon for a second. Ithuriel knows that he should hurry, but not rush.

As the sentries stand in a staggered manner, Ithuriel draws back his throwing arm and, in the same motion, launches his spear.

The lance whistles through the hallway's air. It speeds past the wonderfully embroidered tapestries, blooming ivy that grows, interwoven into the wall's lattice details & other minutiae that clearly exhibit the palace's wonder.

Within a split-second, the spear rips completely through the male warrior & impales the female mercenary.

With nearly inaudible grunts, both fighters slump to the floor. Dead.

Ithuriel continues to sprint, vaulting over the slain mercenaries & up the staircase, taking the steps three at a time. The barbarian ponders for a moment as he runs upward. It's odd to find members of Kahnuri's hired mercenary forces—warriors that supplement the realm's civilian army—& for these unknown foreign fighters to be inside the palace, he thinks.

Or, on the other hand, maybe this isn't odd.

Only one fighter is posted next to the second floor's landing. Liwâ makes quick work of this adversary & Ithuriel continues on toward the throne room. Once he reaches the third floor, the warrior heads away from this stairway & toward a different back hallway. Ithuriel presses the wall's frieze & design work in a peculiar pattern. An old, hidden device springs into action & a secreted portico opens.

Ithuriel quickly steps inside & closes the hidden stairway's door behind him. The massive young soldier bends over & twists his shoulders, silently & swiftly squeezing up the steps.

Once he arrives, hidden by this back entrance's architectural design & decorative foliage, Ithuriel reconnoiters the massive room. He's appalled by what he sees.

Despite the chamber retaining its regal luster, the scene Ithuriel takes in is macabre.

Kahnuri's royal palace has long been one of the world's grandest structures—hands down. The mansion's throne room is the structure's crowning jewel. Though DahVora necromantically fashioned the castle from the hillside centuries earlier, the powerful mistress of magic left the interior of the building's vast majority unfinished. Queen Miino & her successors would be able to finish the castle's designing & place their personal stamp & style on the palace.

The throne room is the only interior chamber that DahVora personally created. Everything is preternaturally gorgeous. Despite the coup's activities, all of this truth remains. However, the throne room's beauty underscores this night's horror & causes it to stand out in even more terrible contrast.

The room stretches up to the seventh floor's ceiling. DahVora used the same natural materials on this interior gallery as she did on the exterior. The structure looks partially constructed/partially organic. The same violet & milky off-white striations are awash throughout the internal walls. The pattern of glass walkways that comprise the fourth floor's flooring—all of them easily wide enough for five people to traverse the pathways shoulder-to-shoulder—break up the empty space above the cathedra & above its adjacent chamber. Pillars undergird the walkways at the throne room's upper level.

In spite of the elevated passageways being glass, DahVora's spell that fashioned this structural detail is strong enough for scores & scores of people to party on the pathways without straining the glass. Unless the entire manor were destroyed, these walkways will continue to stand.

The hidden service doorway that Ithuriel is using is on the throne room's lowest level. The door is in a recess at the chamber's center—about 30-feet opposite the chamber's royal dais. 

Ithuriel story elements are the sole property of Robert Roach/Hometown Productions ©2020

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Words and illustrations by Robert Roach

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