Servants of the Empire

Remnant: Book of Tulefore Chapter 6

Silvus’ breath was heavy from mounting the tall stairway up from the docks and about the road leading to the castle. The early hours of the cold morning left the streets still empty. Instead of going after the Slanian, he decided to turn to the castle in order to seek out more guards.

When he arrived through the main entrance of the courtyard, those present were absent from their stations and chatting among themselves. “What’s persuaded you to move from your posts?” Silvus barked at them.

The men stood immediately to a stiff attention. “We… assumed you had already left, Sir Silvus.” One replied.

“Don’t be so foolish,” The commander complained. “I’m in need of your aid, to help search a man- there was an attack upon the Viceroy.”

“A Slanian?” Another guard asked.

Silvus perked up and approached the men. “Yes. How-?”

“One just passed through, sir,” The first guard said. “We thought it was strange, he wasn’t entering by the servant’s entrance.”

“He’s inside?” Silvus asked, beginning to stomp off through the hall’s tall doors without awaiting an answer. “Come, we’ll need to flush him out.”

The Emperor had yet to come to the hall that morning, leaving only the servants and maids clearing the used settings from that morning’s breakfast. They glanced at Silvus before quietly focusing back on their work. The commander examined them; the inhabitants of the south wing of the castle were of various origin, some of Callian birth, whereas others were of the sort brought to the homeland from Tulefore’s colonies. A lightly-tanned Slanian woman, whom he clearly recognized, continued sending glances to him, hardly making a peep.

Silvus held his fist up, silently stopping the other guards behind him. “Block off the exits,” he whispered back, “here up front, the servant’s entrance, and the side entrance on the north. Get someone guarding the upper chambers, as well. Not a soul in our out.”

“Yes, sir.”

Silvus stood his ground while awaiting the others to disperse. His fingers trembled at the pommel of his sword sitting in the sheath at his hip. He glanced at the Slanian woman, still at work, before rounding the table and following the south wall to the rear corridor. A single other servant was ahead of him in the section of the castle, transporting a stack of plates.

Kiaren arrived shortly after to the entranceway of the great hall which had been firmly closed up and blocked to entry by the guards. Terren was not far behind, his breathing ragged. “Sister, the man can’t be that fast.”

Kiaren ignored him, stepping before the guards in anticipation that they would immediately act. “Why are the doors sealed?” She asked defiantly as the men stood their ground despite her approach.

“You should not enter at this time, Lady Kiaren.” The first said, holding his hand up to her. “Silvus already offered us an order to not allow anyone inside. He already came this way after a Slanian.”

Kiaren stomped her foot. “I know who he’s after, my father gave the order to go after him.”

“It seems both Silvus and the Slanian were faster than us, then,” Terren hummed, looking up and down the tall structure of the door.

Kiaren shook her head and turned back. “What if there are more of them in there that would follow that man?”

Terren pursed his lips and shrugged. “The servants who reside here have been here long enough, they may be trusted.”

“Stay here then,” The lady folded her arms. “The other doors may need reinforcing.”

As Kiaren began to stomp off about the courtyard, Terren was helpless to stop her. Down one of the side roads adjacent to the area was another entrance, leading to a lower level of the castle’s structure under the south wing where the servants lived and worked. Kiaren was distraught to find, already, a pair of guards already at the separate exit.

“Aside,” She directed, gesturing her hand back and forth. “I need to get inside.”

“Sir Silvus’ orders, Lady Kiaren.” The guard returned, standing before the latch. “My apologies.”

“I have rank on Silvus,” Kiaren growled, her hand at her hip. “Move.”

The first man shook his head. “Lord Danus… has asked us to…”

“Shh-” The second interrupted. “By any means, it is safer if you remain out here.”

Kiaren stomped and shuffled her stance back and forth between the blocked doorway. “If you’re out here, then Silvus is acting on his own inside. That’s not something I can allow.”

The pair remained silent, eyes shifting to each other and skating the ground uneasily. Kiaren lashed out, her teeth grit, and grabbed onto the leather chest plate of the closest, pulling him away from the door. “Lady Kiaren, I cannot-”

“Silence.” She said, yanking the latch of the door open.

Silvus had entered the castle’s kitchen. The air inside was relatively warm with the heat of the ovens soaking up the flames of wood fires burning deeper inside. The smell from the breakfast service lingered as well. The servants could not help but notice his arrival, surprised to see one of importance in their midst. The number, Silvus noticed, of Slanian servants, was sparse, less than he expected.

“Keep working, pay me no heed,” Silvus directed, catching the eyes of several of the men and women. Farther in the rear of the kitchen, the soiled dishes were being soaked in a large wooden basin and combed over by worn and wrinkled hands. With tentative steps and a scanning gaze, Silvus continued on to the rear of the level to the back stairwell.

A clutter of furniture from behind him called his attention back. The commander caught the sheen of a metal instrument in the hand of the strange Slanian. The man clacked the edge of the wide kitchen knife against one of the work surfaces, while the uninvolved workers scrambled past Silvus and back to the front of the castle. “Don’t move- what are you planning?” The commander asked calmly, his hands held out just before him.

“We no want Tuleforian Viceroy… our land.” The man spoke menacingly, his hand going white at the wooden grip of the instrument. “No forces, no swords.”

“I’m not the one you should be trying to convince.” Silvus stood his ground, looking to the shaky Slanian. “Although, you’ve lost any chance of finding favor with Medan.”

The man clacked the flat of the blade once again, before jabbing it out toward Silvus. “Stop! Go! Do not care!” He took a step forward, forcing Silvus to cautiously retreat. “Go to our home, but you not win against us, many!”

Silvus felt the small of his back touch the wood of the basin as his space to retreat dwindled. Behind some of the far racks, the remaining servants, those of Slanian birth, were looking on. The attacker bit at his lip and continued to push forward.

At his rear, Silvus managed to make contact with the edge of an earthen bowl, mostly submerged in the water. With a swing of his shoulders, he jerked around and flung the bowl outward toward the Slanian, wash water and all. The dish bounced off the man’s shoulder, and the water entered his mouth and eyes. Silvus took the chance to rush toward the man and shove his hand against the side of the table, forcing the knife to fall to the ground. With a practiced movement, the commander forced the Slanian’s hand behind his back, restraining him.

Kiaren had managed to snake her way through the packed storage room below, and up the stairs to the kitchen. She arrived as the bowl found its way to the ground, shattering. Silvus had forced the man against the table, held at bay. “Silvus-” She called out, her eyes training to the situation.

“Everything under control,” Silvus said back, holding tightly to the restrained man. He turned his attention to the other servants, who were already beginning to retreat once again. “How did you get in here? I told the guard to not allow anyone past the entrances.

Kiaren bit her lip. “That’s none of your concern.”

The Dagger

Remnant: Book of Tulefore Chapter 5

Kiaren was awoken some time early by the morning light coming through the window of her childhood bedchambers in the castle. The smell drifting up from the kitchen reminded her she had forgone her supper the previous night. She fixed her blurry appearance in the tarnished glass of the mirror across from her bed before heading down to the grand hall.

The crew departing that morning— Silvus, his recruits, and the mage, as well as the Viceroy- were partaking in an early breakfast before their departure that morning. The Medan, Terren, and the Prince-Elector were at the foremost table perpendicular to the room, carefully taking in their meals. Danus eyed his daughter who had finally shown her face, although he made no move to interact with her.

Silvus swallowed a heavy bite of roasted meat before standing and reached for a section of crusty bread to take up with him. Kiaren was leaning against the side of the empty throne as he approached. She turned her glance away momentarily from the bright rising sun cutting through the fog over the water and through the rear window. “Good morning,” Silvus offered, pushing the bread into her hand. “I didn’t see you yesterday afternoon. I- I was worried, but your father told me not go looking for you.”

“It was nothing.” Kiaren sighed, taking up the bread in her grasp. She yanked off a section and carefully chewed it. “You’re departing today?”

“As soon as everyone has eaten.” He declared, shrugging his shoulders back to the packs of gear arranged among the men.

Another servant coming the way of the kitchen brought with her a plate of extra bread and several steins of the warm ale to further warm up the men on the cold morning. Kiaren stepped down and took one of the servings of the drink in her grasp. She clacked the container down upon the edge of one of the occupied tables, calling up the attention of the men. “A cheer, to those who are bravely departing today.”

Silvus rounded Kiaren and took up his own drink. He looked to Danus and Terren, who had risen as well. “And to you, Lady Kiaren.” The commander replied back. “May those still here continue to look up to you.”

Kiaren jostled the stein up, tossing out some of the lukewarm liquid. “To a safe return, then. Cheers!”

“Cheers!”

With stomach full, the men had gathered up their belongings and began their trek down to the docks at the edge of the water. Replacing the caravel ship that the Viceroy had arrived upon, a larger galleon had been outfitted and stocked for the relief forces.

Medan planted his hands to his sides and examined the ship. “Impressive, Danus.”

“It was undergoing cleaning in the shipyard. It’s got some barnacles still on it, but it will manage.” Danus boasted. “Your sailors, I assume, can manage it?”

“No doubt here.”

The old crew had been put up in one of the hostels near the harbor and had been loading up the ship since the night previous. The remaining provisions were being brought up the dock and over the gangplank, and the riggings were being arranged to allow them to set off efficiently. Kiaren gazed up to the deck, where a single member of the crew- one of Slanian appearance- happened to be idling, arms over the railings, and eyes fixed to the group below. She paced about and kept watch of the man as Silvus directed his recruits to begin boarding.

As the commotion about the ship died down, Silvus and the Viceroy prepared for their final farewells. The commander pulled himself away to engage Kiaren once again. “You’re not going to offer me a goodbye? You know I will return, surely.”

“It’s not that,” Kiaren said absentmindedly. “I just saw… someone suspicious?”

Silvus shook his head and looked about, his hand to his sheathed sword. “The harbor guard are all about here. Your brother took care of that while you were… absent.”

“One of the crew.” She whispered, rounding the front of the ship. Her eyes were trained to the deck’s railing, but the Slanian man had long since disappeared from her sight.

“Nonsense.” Silvus sighed. “None of the crew will attempt anything. And we’re prepared to defend ourselves from anything, regardless.”

A loud pattering of feet across the boards of the dock ringed in Kiaren’s ears. As they came back around to the side of the ship, the same Slanian man was already sprinting down the dock, a dagger held in his hand, toward the Viceroy.

“Medan!” Silvus yelled.

The attacker sliced through Medan’s garbs and into his arm before Danus or Terren could react and pull the Viceroy fully out of the way. The Slanian scrambled back over the wood planks and found himself stuck between Kiaren and Silvus’ forces, swords now at the ready. The man launched the dagger at Kiaren’s head, causing her to duck out of the way and leave an opening for him to dash out and to the far ramp that led up and out of the harbor.

“After that man!” Danus called out. Kiaren jerked around and sprinted in the direction the man had gone, catching up with the harbor guard who had heard the call.

Medan was crouched to the ground, holding his arm. “Viceroy, are you fine?” Silvus held at his side. “Elwar!” He called for the mage.

“I’m… fine…” Medan grumbled, forcing his large body up. “Just a scratch.”

Danus directed more guards after the attacker before attending to the Viceroy. “Medan, he was one of your crew, was he not? He looked to be of Slanian blood.”

“I… suppose so.” The Viceroy hummed, standing patiently as the mage pulled up the torn and bloodstained sleeve. “I guess I’m lucky I spent much of my time hidden away in my quarters the voyage here.”

Terren urged the mage to haste as he directed his energy up the Viceroy’s arm and into the wound. “He was from the ungovernable faction, then? Why… why would he choose now to attempt to attack you?”

“If I had to assume…” The Viceroy said with a hint of pain, “…he did not imagine having armed forces joining us to so quickly return.”

Silvus looked up to the dissipating fog along the horizon. “Whatever the reason, we need him captured. We’d best have him brought back there and dealt with among his people.”

“I agree, Silvus,” Danus said dejectedly. “Terren, you must go the direction of your sister before she attempts something foolish.”

“I shall go as well, my lord,” Silvus interjected, inspecting Medan’s already healing wound.

Kiaren’s eyes flashed back and forth among the roads and alleyways. The artisan’s district was cluttered, with carts of supplies and projects messing the paths among the buildings. At her bay were a pair of harbor guards. “What did he look like, milady?” One asked.

“A Slanian- bronze skin and a narrow nose,” Kiaren replied.

Another guard scoffed. “More than a few of the guild members around here employ those folk as their errand boys. We’ll never find the one you saw.”

Kiaren glared back at the man, who was already losing focus on the task. She stepped away without offering another direction, taking up the path that began out toward the edge of the city. Her gaze moved back and forth among the buildings, some of which had not yet begun to stir with the work of the local craftsmen. Each sign of movement or shadow brought upon a menacing glance.

The patter of approaching boots against the ground from behind alerted her back around. Terren met up with her, his breath heavy. “The guard told me you were off this way. Why are you going off on your own?”

Kiaren continued her pace and patted at her hip where the heavy-looking weapon was holstered. “I don’t need such accommodations. If you ever came by the barracks, you’ll know I can best just about anyone. The Slanian only had the single dagger on him anyway.”

Terren sighed, his legs moving back and forth furiously to keep up. “You know father… would never offer a single person forgiveness… if something were to happen to you. Even if you do not care for castle life… that is the fact of being of royal blood.”

“And yet, you’re allowed so much.” Kiaren sighed. “Leave me be. We’ll never find this man about this city if we’re searching the same places.”

“I sent the harbor guard off to the shipyard,” Terren said. “Silvus went off in the direction of the castle in the case he decided to loop back around.”

Kiaren shuffled to a halt. “Silvus? Why hasn’t he left yet? Medan hurt that badly?”

“He’s perfectly fine, the mage saw to that. But father wished for the Slanian to be brought back with them and judged by his own people.”

Kiaren scoffed. “His own people…” She paused, looking over the nearby roofs to the castle up on the outcropping. “We have a good deal of Slanians who work the kitchens, do we not?”

Exercise of Power

Remnant: Book of Tulefore Chapter 4

A rabble had formed at the entrance of the castle late that morning, following the distribution of military orders to the families of those who had been selected by Silvus himself. The captain of the guard was already present inside the great hall, aware of the fallout of his actions. He paced about the stairs before the throne while the crowd outside hummed with frustration. The castle guards stood under the arched entranceway, aided by Kiaren, keeping the doors from opening out to the courtyard.

The Viceroy was at the rear of the hall, looking out the window over the sea. “If these folk were in the place of those at the Villa in Slana, they would have vastly different opinions. Do not despair upon your decision, good Silvus.”

Danus stood by Emperor Manek, hungrily sitting upon his throne. The fat man grumbled. “Ask them if they would not want any more of the dishes served by the Slanian cooks, the next time they come about to one of our banquets.”

“Now brother,” Danus hummed, “We are not here to entertain the foolish desires that these folk would wish to impart on us. Commander Silvus- you were fully in your right to draft any of one of those men who were pledged to serve the Kingdom.”

“Of course, your highness,” Silvus replied, hands still wavering at his sides.

Terren arrived upon the unexpected crowd of finely dressed folk and their stewards, gathering rowdily at the door. He glanced back at the young mage, who was close at his rear. A few of the castle guards were held in a tight formation before the set doors, with long pikes- ones outfitted with dulled tips- in their grasp. Another guard came about to meet Terren, presenting himself stiffly. “Sir Terren, it is not safe to proceed. Allow me to lead you through the lower entrance to the great hall.”

Terren licked his lips and shook his head. “I suppose Silvus and my father are inside?”

“Awaiting your arrival, yes.”

“I shall manage in finding my own path.” He declared, reaching behind him for the shoulder of the young mage. “Elwar, your first task shall be to urge this rabble out of the way. Master Lahldonicus said you were sound in your restraint?”

Elwar blinked at the crowd. “I shall do as you ask.” He stepped forward upon the cobbled rocks of the Castle’s courtyard, his eyes following the cracks among the individual stones. A few lengths away from the castle’s doorway, he knelt to the ground and touched his fingers lightly to the material beneath him.

The earthy hum began low but arose to a grinding call. The nobles began to peer at their feet, then jump back, scampering into one another, as the pavement dislodged them away from the entranceway. The front of the castle trembled, and the heavy wooden doors shifted uneasily. At the other side, Kiaren and the other guards held tightly against the wooden planks, fearing the worst.

“That shall be enough,” Terren directed down to the mage as he walked swiftly forward. The rabble, parted through down the middle, looked about for the cause of the trembling when Terren stepped forward between them. The attending guard and the mage followed in obedient procession. The men assigned to the entranceway bowed their heads in thanks and turned back to rap upon the door with the agreed-upon signal.

“Let them through, Kiaren.” Silvus directed, pulling himself closer to the doorway. The guards at the base of the throne platform straightened their stances. The doors were forced outward, revealing Terren and the accompanying others at his sides.

“Good day, sister,” Terren said, announcing his arrival. “I did not expect such a welcoming party.”

Silvus eyed the man and the young mage at his side. “Interesting you would choose this way to come in.”

The rabble of nobles took the opening of the doors to force another push forward against the helpless guards. More of the castle’s defenders came forward to block them from encroaching upon the throne and its occupants.

Danus shook his head. “It would have been a wiser decision to take the secured entrance. Your recklessness is going to be the cause of someone’s grief one day.”

Silvus offered a brief examination of the mage as he presented himself. “I am at your service, Commander Silvus.”

“The shaking was your doing, was it?” The Commander replied, glancing to the outsiders, who despite their growing tension, were very much intact.

“At Sir Terren’s order, sir.”

“Exemplary.” Silvus nodded before stepping up finally.

The rabble was held at bay by Kiaren and her guards, shouting out names and calling for bargaining. “Lord Danus, spare my son,” said one. “I shall trade five bushels of grain in exchange for dropping the service order!” Another cried hopefully. “He’s too young to go.”

“Fine people of Tulefore!” Silvus’ cry traveled across the hall, cutting through the cacophony of voices. He marched down before the line of guards blocking off the group. “How dare you… all of you… cheapen the service of our young men and women who lend their strength to this empire. In a situation such as this one, we can only rely so much on those who volunteer to voyage to our holdings across the seas and secure the peace there. There shall be no buying your way out of the service your sons and daughters have been pledged to at this time. Know that I shall be leading these forces myself, and I will see to it that none of them come to harm. If you wish to discuss the events currently unfolding in Slana, myself or Viceroy Medan will be present for a short time longer to answer your concerns.”

The crowd began to shuffle back in a more orderly state. Kiaren watched on as Silvus delivered his address. In the returning calm, she returned back up to the throne, glancing at the mage her brother had brought with him.

Medan joined with Silvus and began speaking to the group of people. Terren smirked and watched the confident commander’s back. “I see why you’re so fond of him, sister.”

Kiaren ignored her brother and paced about to the window, looking to the ocean waves below. Danus crept behind her as she slapped her fist to her leg. “I’d have never been able to deliver such words,” the young woman confided to her father standing in the corner of her eye.

“After you see Silvus off, I beg you to take time away from the remainder of the trainees and spend some time here at the castle, my dear,” Danus directed hopefully. “I’m sure we can accompany someone else to keep them active with drills during the winter.”

“What would you desire from my presence here, Father?”

“It would not be for myself, but for your own well-being.”

“When have you ever cared about my well-being?” Kiaren huffed, jerking away and turning to the spiral staircase to the upper levels. The echo of Silvus’ voice trailed off in the distance as she mounted the steps.

Kiaren’s old room of her childhood was among the other lavish chambers above the great hall. Though it had not been inhabited for some time, it remained organized and cleaned of dust and cobwebs. The window at the far end looked over the courtyard and the city much lower. Some of the nobles who had come to protest the drafting of their kin were already beginning to part dejectedly. Kiaren sat down on the firm mattress of her bed and took in the soft, unnatural-feeling fibers of the coverings. “A room for a princess…” she mumbled, looking to a long-neglected stuffed doll on a corner shelf.