News of Korlabdis’s fall reached Bezreddyn as did the pregnancy of his daughter-in-law. Both were bittersweet events for him. he had known the twin mages that had been the governors of Korlabdis and had been their close friend. They had taught him much of the magic he knew and had been benevolent leaders who had allied themselves closely with many of those within the Dark Ring. They had cared deeply for their subjects, bringing on a time of prosperity and growth. But now, it had all ended.
Niobe, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. She was cruel, hateful, and thought of her subjects as toys. A true member of the nobilis. His son, Hadrax, was no different despite the fact that Bez had brought him up to be respectful of others.
The eminent birth of a child would not change either. In fact, they would either sacrifice their child to whatever horrid god they had converted to or sell the poor kid into slavery. They would never think of keeping a child to carry on their lineage. The nobilis seemed to live in the moment, ignoring the needs of the future.
Perhaps that was why the imperial family had begun to inbreed. Sadly, the rest of the nobilis had found the draw of the imperial trend too enticing to leave well enough alone. They followed the trend and had begun to breed themselves out of existence. Perhaps it was best. Perhaps it was time for a new house of nobles to rise.
He would simply have to keep watch until he knew what was to become of his future grandchild. He would also have to watch his son’s movements. Something told him that Hadrax was about to do the unthinkable, the unforgivable. He prayed that his gut instinct was wrong, but he knew that it wasn’t. after all, Hadrax had always taken the worst of two paths when presented with an option.
He sat back in his small apartment and breathed a silent spell. His pox had been cast upon the governor of Yndarr, no matter who it would be, until the prophecy was fulfilled. The curse would see to ending the empire’s control of the city. The emperor didn’t deserve his power. He would be the next to fall. Bez would see to it.
But he had to do what he had begun one step at a time. Today, Yndarr. Tomorrow, whichever cities his son besieged in his vainglorious attempts to appease the soul eaters. Each governor Hadrax installed would die hideously. Bez would make sure of it.
From there, he would work his way outward until he was able to remove the imperial family. Even if it took him his whole life. He had to protect his grandson. He had to keep the lands safe.
Kyrzhad listened as the messenger read Hadrax’ message. Silently, he sat as the disappointing message seemed to run on forever. When it was over, he shrugged. He had expected as much.
The twin mages had been wiser than he had given them credit for. While he was sure that they still lived, he also knew that there was no telling where they had taken their much coveted tomes. No matter. The mine’s reopening was a far better event.
His scribe sat at the ready, awaiting the emperor’s command. He watched his lord intently, nervously. Kyrzhad was unpredictable. A wrong move could cause one to lose their head…literally.
“My answer is this,” the emperor began, coolly, “To Hadrax, my loyal general. From His eminence Kyrzhad I. Dear honorable general.
“Worry not about the tomes or the wizards. They are now out of our reach. Instead, focus upon complying with the demands of these ‘soul eaters’, whatever they be. I have enclosed with this message, a list of seven cities to besiege. Only be sure to steer clear of those cities that are governed by the Dark Ring. Only mages live within those cities and will defeat you within minutes.
I have also sent you maps showing the cities that are free for the conquering and their location as opposed to those cities controlled by the Ring. If needed, I will also send reinforcements to aid you in your conquests. Cordially, Kyrzhad I, Emperor of the four lands.”
The scribe allowed the ink to dry, then rolled it into a scroll. The emperor walked over to the scribe’s table, picked up the wax stick and placed it above the candle. When the wax became liquid enough, he moved it above the scroll and allowed some of the wax to drip on the scroll to seal it, then pressed his signet ring into it to mark it. Taking the scroll, he dismissed the scribe and gave the messenger leave for a few hours.
He needed to gather the maps. Hadrax had more need of them than he did. The young general was so willing to do his bidding, it was uncanny. If he didn’t know any better, he would have believed that Hadrax was positioning himself to be the next emperor.
He rolled up twenty maps into one neat bundle, then rolled a regional map around them. He scribbled a list of the cities he wanted ‘brought back under imperial control’ and a list of cities to avoid, putting both inside the rolled up maps. Before leaving the war room, he lit a candle and lifted a wax stick above it. When it was liquid enough at the end above the candle, he moved it above the rolled up maps and allowed a few drops to seal them shut…pressing his signet into the cooling wax to mark them.
He blew out the candle and left the room, returning to his throne room. Calling a guard, he sent for the soldier acting as Hadrax’ messenger. The young man entered hesitantly. The emperor handed him both message and maps.
“Take these to your general,” he commanded, “And Godspeed. Allow none to see either. Make no stops. There mustn’t be any delay in these campaigns.”
The messenger nodded, bowed, then took leave. Kyrzhad sat watching as he left. Soon, war would spread over the lands. War that would solidify his power as emperor.
He smiled. Everything was going as planned. He only hoped that Hadrax would not get wise to his motives. He needed his general to do his bidding blindly.
Hadrax sat, livid, as he listened to his wife’s message. He had instructed her to make sure that she would not get pregnant. Yet, she had been careless. She would have to pay the price for that carelessness.
Still, he would deal with her when she was brought to Korlabdis. Perhaps he would send her into the mines and through the gates barring the way to the main shaft. He smiled cruelly. But the most immediate problem was what to do with the child. He looked up at the messenger, then to his scribe.
“Take a message,” he commanded, “To Niobe, Wife of Hadrax, conqueror of Korlabdis. From Hadrax, conqueror of Korlabdis and, soon, all that surrounds it.
“When the child is of age and is weened, you shall sell the child to the slavers of Yndarr when they visit the capitol and then come to join me in Korlabdis. Once you have given birth to the abomination that is the child, have your womb closed up so that no other mistake can occur.
“This is my wishes. Cordially, Hadrax, Conqueror of Korlabdis.”
The message was handed to him once it was dry and a candle held above it to drip wax to seal it after rolled into a scroll. He pressed his ring into it to mark it, then handed the message to Niobe’s messenger. The young man bowed, then left.