Of Armor and Bone: Chapter 30
Chin paced around the room of the great hall. Several guards stood by the door, blocking his exit, while the Arcanus sat peacefully at the table. “You must not keep me here, I’ve committed no crime, Lady Arcanus.” Chin complained, eying the two men armored men in his way.
“I’m afraid you must answer to the Order and myself before we can allow you to leave.” Charlstine explained, her normal stony expression turned downward. “As a member of the Order yourself, as well as a conspirator to Xiandol, you will be held accountable for what’s happened today.”
“Charlstine-” Chin exclaimed as he marched to face her. “Mr. Bently clearly acted on his own, possibly persuaded by Mandabus. You must believe none of this was premeditated.”
“Mandabus is one thing. But you- you are Bently’s senior officer, are you not?” Charlstine raised her voice, slowly moving to her feet from the seat. “To allow someone with questionable motivation out of your sight, especially after his altercation with Mr. Shiloh.”
“We are far from our home, Lady Arcanus, and we have had hardly the circumstances to peacefully examine our situation. You must understand why both peoples are on edge.”
“This land is divided by war, Mr. Chin.” The Arcanus leaned in, waving her hand in front of his face. “I understand why you would choose to not come alone, but in doing so, your circumstances have revealed to us that Xiandol has not been transparent with its actions regarding the magical arts.”
Chin glanced at the two guards whose gazes had not left him. He backed away from Charlstine and took a seat upon one of the rough chairs. “There are four of them, those particular sets of armor, and their weapons.”
The Arcanus returned to her chair and stared across the table at Chin. “The magic is potent, intoxicating, isn’t it, Mr. Chin?”
Chin flared his nostrils and continued to explain. “The magi in Xiandolia were attempting to find the ways of the lost art. So that people like us would be able to lend powers like our own to the battlefield without violating the treaty.”Charlstine studied Chin’s face as he continued. “When the Order commanded that the governments seek out and kill the non-aligned, it seems we… took liberty with how it was carried out.”
“How so, Mr. Chin?” Charlstine asked in a low, demanding tone.
Chin gulped. “They were held, put into dungeons where they could be retained… as human livestock for the magi’s experiments.”
“Uncouth and vile, but… they knew the repercussions for not siding with their fellow men during the formation of the Order.” Charlstine stated.
“One by one, their blood was slowly drained and distilled until we had their pure magical essence with which to complete the forging of those arms and pieces of armor.”
“And the quality of the enchantments?” Charlstine asked.
“Nothing like those of legend, but more than sufficient.” Chin boasted. “Those four who were given the gear were able to burn more than half the Tuleforian settlement to the ground in an hour, unmatched.”
“The artisans at Xiandolia truly have no equal in this day in age, do they?” The Arcanus praised back, hoping to pull more for Chin.
“Indeed.” Chin said, holding his tongue.
Charlstine stood back up, peering out the door that was still blocked by guards. “Zethurus and Shiloh of Tulefore left in a hurry. Was there some reason, something you told them, that put them at haste?” She asked, her body still turned away. Before Chin could answer, she spoke again. “There is an addition to your story that you still wish to hold back from me.”
“If I tell you this…” Chin said, gritting his teeth. “I would see no end of the harassment my people would offer me.”
“WE are your people, Mr. Chin.” Charlstine exclaimed, quickly turning. Her blue robes fluttered slightly at her ankles. “Should the people of Xiandol wish to chastise you for speaking the truth, then the Order shall grant you asylum.”
Chin held his breath, staring at the hard, uneven surface of the table top. “Do you remember the feeling you experienced when the artifact was delivered to this land from the heavens?”
“I could not forget it.” Charlstine nodded. “The source of all this conflict. My sources tell me that the energy suddenly disappeared recently.”
“Disappeared, no. I felt it a second time,” Chin reminisced, “just before the first snowfall last winter. Our men were excavating a tunnel that had been dug in the northern tip of our mines.”
Charlstine squinted at Chin to examine him for deceit. “What did they find there?”
“They ran across something strange; a patch of rock that had a different makeup from anything surrounding it. I was called to investigate it, but even before I had arrived, I knew what it was.”
“The artifact.” Charlstine mouthed.
“The Sing Stone, some took to calling it. Delivered to this world by the gods.”
“Tulefore and the Emperor would have people clamoring over each other for it if he had caught wind.”
Chin let out a low snicker. “It wasn’t easy to conceal, especially with the miners wanting to spread tales. When we had enough of the surrounding rock cleared away, we were better able to examine it. The stone was brittle and easy to break apart by hand, likely caused by the multiple years of freezing and thawing. The magical forces, however, were still intact.”
“You could transport it home to your artisans bit by bit.” Charlstine nodded.
Chin sat up proudly. “That Sing Root, the one Zethurus used to abate the power of that dark armor… it was of great use to us in keeping its aura hidden. Not even the General knew of it and the plans we had for it.”
“And what were those plans exactly?” Charlstine asked.
“When the residual power in the old stone of the mountain finally was to fade, we knew that it would cause a commotion.” Chin explained. “We sent the four completed sets of armor to the front line as soon as possible to cause a distraction and further the notion that Xiandol was equally panicked about its absence.”
“Meanwhile, you could quietly do what you wanted with the fragments of Sing Stone.” Charlstine said, pacing about the room. “What then?”
“I was able to gather little news about it after it left my custody.” Chin admitted. “It was nearly the dead of winter, being snowed in at the base of the mountain.”
Charline raised her voice once again. “But you know now, don’t you?”
Chin pursed his lips. He stood and faced the direction of the mountain. “Xiandol has long been without a proper standing army, especially since the bloody battles with Tulefore in previous years have culled our numbers. King Halmalch sent his elite guard to the front, twenty men, bearing sets of radiant armor, each of them. The metal resonates with the same power I felt in the Sing Stone.”
“The power would be more abundant than that of mage blood by itself, then.” Charlstine sighed.
“And therefore able to forge an invincible army. I informed the Tuleforians that if they were to return now, their settlement would likely no longer belong to them.”
“The nature of normal men is to constantly want more, is it not?” Charlstine noted.
At the door, one of the guard quietly was conversing with another man who had approached them. Charlstine was urged to join them, and hear the conversation. “I see.” She said, nodding along with the men. “Mr. Chin,” she called back “It seems things are moving just as your predicted.”
Chin moved to the door, following Charlstine’s gestures. Outside, they began the long walk down the cobbled road and to the main gate of the city. Held at bay by the guards was a group of distraught and dirty looking soldiers. The man in front did a quick bow to Charlstine as she approached.
“Are you the one they call Arcanus?” Slivus asked.
“Penelope Charlstine.” She offered. “You are from the Tuleforian settlement?”
Chin took a few steps back and turned his body away from the group.
“We request your aid, Lady Arcanus.” Silvus pleaded. “If anything, we must ask you to spare some first aid, or even a horse, we-”
Charlstine raised her hand to silence him. “All in good time. I believe I am aware of what has happened.”