The Tale of a Mage (part 17)

Much to her chagrin, Nyx remained bound for the remainder of their journey. The mood remained tense as the days passed. Nyx and Livia exchanged glares at every available opportunity. Cassandra, being the forgiving type, attempted to engage Nyx in friendly conversation however she maintained a certain wariness which hadn’t been present prior to Nyx’s attempt at murder. Nyx responded to her attempts at reconciliation with a series of half-hearted grunts not quite ready to forgive her sister for failing to take her side. Each time Cassandra appeared slightly more dejected but she kept trying none the less. Izzy was the only member of their party who did not appear at least somewhat agitated having reassumed her air of impassivity.

Izzy continued Cassandra’s magic lessons every evening when they made camp. The muted yet increasingly frequent squeals of excitement which Cassandra emitted throughout the lessons indicated to Nyx she was finally mastering basic protection spells. However, the effects of said spells were not apparent to Nyx.

Livia had begun teaching Cassandra to use a sword insisting a hunted woman needed greater means to defend herself than just magic. The two were getting along sickeningly well which was proving highly detrimental to Nyx’s plans to show Cassandra of how monstrous Livia truly was. Nyx watched Cassandra giggle in response to something Livia had said with a groan of disgust. Why did Livia have to be so nice to her? Not to say that Nyx wanted Livia to hurt her sister however one would think she could be at least be a little gruff with her, show her true colours on occasion, do something which would make Cassandra at least a little mistrustful of her. It was quite rude of her, really, to come between Cassandra and herself by being so… agreeable. It was difficult for anyone not to be kind to Cassandra though, Queen Cerise excluded of course. She was just so sweet, so naïve. She seemed to bring out almost everyone’s protective instincts. Nyx continued watching her with a sigh. For the moment, as she spoke to Livia she looked happy. Nyx’s refusal to engage with Cassandra was starting to take its toll. The expression which appeared on Cassandra’s face with each rebuff resembled that of a kicked puppy. As angry as Nyx was at Cassandra’s betrayal she was becoming increasingly angrier with herself.

It was late in the evening four days after the incident with the arrow when they finally reached the Dwarven Kingdom. Mountainous stone walls reaching towards the sky greeted them as they arrived at the gates. Nyx craned her neck to see the top of the walls. Sentries marched back and forth along the walls’ summit maintaining vigilant watch over the forest beyond. The light of their torches shone down bathing the group in warm light.

“I wish to speak to King Horrik.” Izzy shouted to the sentries nearest the gate. The group waited in silence as the sentries mumbled amongst themselves. At last a stout dwarf with a long orange beard peered down the wall at them.

“And who the bloody hell are you?” He barked his eyes squinted in suspicion.

“I am an old friend of your king.” Izzy met his stare with a calm intensity. The dwarf took a step backwards and the mumbling recommenced.

Several minutes dragged by as the mumbling began more heated. Just as Nyx was beginning to suspect their journey had been for nothing the gate rumbled open. The orange bearded dwarf clambered down a set of stairs which were carved into the wall.

“I’m Malcolm” he held his hand out to Izzy who grasped it firmly.

“Isolyn” She indicated in response. Malcolm’s eyes widened in recognition.

“I shall escort you to the king however if I find you have lied about the nature of your relationship with him I shall see you regret it. These walls are enchanted to suppress magic. Your sorcery will not help you here.” Malcolm let go of Izzy’s hand and started off down the cobbled path.

“Well, it’s a good thing I’m telling you the truth then.” Izzy headed after him and the rest of the group followed her lead.

They made their way through winding streets. Livia tugged Nyx along behind her by the rope which bound her wrists. Nyx took in her surroundings as they walked. The streets were lined with small stone houses. Lights flickered invitingly in the windows and Nyx shivered, the thought of a warm fire intensifying the chill of the crisp night air.  They passed rows of shops and a tavern from which the sounds of lively music and boisterous chatter emanated. The streets were filled with the aroma of spiced meats wafting from the many food carts which lined their sides at random intervals. Many citizens paused to survey the unfamiliar travellers in a combination of confusion and curiosity.

Before long they reached the palace. The building was fashioned from exquisitely carved marble blocks. Gilded domes topped its many towers, sparkling in the light of sentry torches. Nyx momentarily contemplated her chances of getting away with climbing up and chipping some of it off. That was a lot of gold after all. She quickly dismissed the idea. The palace was crawling with sentries. Enormous doors swung open to greet them and Malcolm led then inside. It doors lead straight into the royal dining room. The walls were lined with roaring fires. Nyx sighed in contentment in response to the warmth. The room was filled with long tables. The tables were laden with meats, breads, and pitchers of ale. At each table sat twenty dwarves conversing cheerfully as they indulged in the offered food and drink. At the far end of the room was a table elevated upon a dais. At the head of that table sat a dark haired dwarf his head adorned with a golden crown. Izzy marched swiftly towards the dais. Malcolm matched her pace. She paused only once she stood before the king.

“King Horrik” Izzy bowed “you once told me you believed it would be to the benefit of your people were I to rule in place of my mother. My travel companions and I come to you today to request your assistance in achieving that end.” Nyx stared at Izzy incredulously she had thought they were here to seek sanctuary. This was the first she had heard about an attempt to overthrow the queen. She groaned. All she had wanted was to rescue Cassandra. What had she got herself into?

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