Weaving Moonlight

The first in the Tales of Terrahgonia series.
Lux Robertson has a destiny.
Prince Stefan wishes to shape his own.
Jamie Cooper just wants to belong.
What do these three teens have in common? They all have a legacy to uphold. But to do this means braving a war against the tyrannical false queen of Terrahgoina, a mystical land long ago forgotten by mortals. But with hidden secrets and traitors in their midst, they may not survive to save the kingdom.

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18. The Prince's Assassin

Author's Note: We found out a secret about Erin.

Updated: Wednesday 7th May 2014

Jamie had been relieved not to be sent to the dank dungeons like before, but that had been at Yolanda’s palace. He knew he was at Stefan’s palace and he was glad that if they were going to execute him, he would get to live his last few hours in reasonable comfort.

His cell was small with steel bars that were enchanted to nullify any magic he might use to attempt an escape. There were several other cells too but they were empty. How long had it been since he had been taken here? Time worked differently in the mortal world to Terrahgonia so it was hard to tell.

            Jamie had been counting how many bars there were around his cell for the dozenth time when three figures entered the holding area. Two guards and a prisoner. The regular guards wore silver armour, whilst the Queensguard had gilded armour with a griffin on the chest. These were definitely members of the Queensguard, which meant that their prisoner was of the utmost importance. The men who had taken Jamie almost a week ago had been brutish mercenaries.

            They threw the prisoner into the cell next to him, even as he continued to protest his innocence.

            “You have the wrong man!” the prisoner yelled. “I’d never kill my own brother.” The guards didn’t say a word as they looked the cell, and left promptly. To Jamie’s horror, the guy in the other cell started crying. He almost couldn’t bear watching as the guy’s body wracked with sobs. After gasping for air, he yelled just two words at the top of his lungs: “I’M INNOCENT!” His words were laced with such sorrow and anger. Jamie curled in on himself on the bed he lay, unable to take his eyes from that fiery-headed man kneeling on the floor.

            Getting up from his bed, Jamie crouched beside the other prisoner through the steel bars. He wanted to ask who his brother was. The prisoner’s brother had to be royalty in order for him to be imprisoned here, or perhaps a powerful Duke. Common prisoners ended up in the rat-infested dungeons. Jamie tried not to recall that memory. The man’s weeping gave Jamie pause. Was it really any of his business?

            “You’re the Guardian of the Moon.” It took a moment to realise that the other prisoner was speaking to him. His head hung, facing the ground.

            “I am,” Jamie admitted. What was the point of lying? “How did you know?”

            “My brother told me.”

            “Who is your brother?”

            “Prince Stefan,” the prisoner replied. It was not the answer he had expected. Jamie froze and his eyes bulged out.

            “That heartless bastard has a brother?”

            The other prisoner shook his head, and then finally looked up at him. His sad brown eyes glistened with unshed tears. He appeared to swallow down a sob, his Adams apple visibly bobbing through his pale neck.

            “He did not used to be so heartless. He was my dearest friend.”

            “So I take it that you didn’t assassinate the Prince of Darkness,” Jamie said.

            “Prince of what?” he chuckled.

            “Darkness.”

            “Stefan is a lot of things but I hardly think he should be likened to the devil.”

            “Regardless, he isn’t dead,” Jamie stated. His blood boiled with anger. He still wanted vengeance on the prince and his mother, the queen. He had seen the madness they had wrought: The slavery of mortals, the massacres of the ‘Lower Terrahgonians’ and the implementation of the rigid caste system. [WM1] Yolanda’s reign was absolute and equality activists were dealt with severely. This was why Stefan and Yolanda had to die.

            “What?” the other prisoner asked, his eyes wide with shock.

            “The prince is alive. If he had died then I would have sense it.”[WM2] 

            “He lives? Praise be to Aten!” His eyes lit up in joy and he lifted up his hands as if attempting to embrace some higher being.

            “Ten what?” Jamie asked.

            “Aten is the name of my god.”

            Jamie only blinked. Several rude jokes had already formulated in his mind and he had to force himself to keep silent. [WM3] 

            “When Stefan recovers, he will sort everything out and find the one who framed me,” he stated. Having finally seen his face, Jamie determined that he was not much older than himself, though his grief and vulnerability had a paradoxical effect of ageing and youthening him all at once. Jamie could not bring himself to burst his bubble. Brother or not, it would be seen as an act of High Treason to attempt to assassinate the Crown Prince. There was little hope he would be freed.

            “So what was it that nearly killed him?” Jamie asked.

            “They say it was manticore venom. It was in his cake,” he answered, coming his red hair back with his fingers. “The one I made especially.”

            “You bake? Don’t you have servants for that?”

            The guy nodded. “It’s a hobby of mine.”

            “Well, whoever poisoned him is an idiot.”

            “Why do you say that?”

            “Guardians of Darkness can’t be killed by poison. Poison is in their nature, much as the shadows are.”

            The other prisoner’s eyebrows rose. “How do you know that?”

            “My dad— the former Moon Guardian— he kept a journal filled with all the information on the Guardians, the Elemental Warriors and many of the creatures of Terrahgonia that he acquired. Some time before he left me, he told me the place where he kept it hidden.”

            “Wow. And it holds unknown secrets?” For a moment Jamie worried he had shared too much, but if they were both to be executed, what did it matter?

            “A few,” he admitted. “Not that they will do me any good now.”

            “What did you do to end up imprisoned?” the stranger asked.

            “I stole something of great value from the queen.”

            “That’s not so bad compared to attempted assassination. Perhaps if she is feeling merciful the queen will have your hand severed for thievery and imprison you instead of executing you.”

            “And that’s what you call merciful?” he exclaimed.

            “Not me. It’s what Yolanda may consider as mercy.”

            “You know, you’re not very good at this comforting thing.”

            “Sorry,” he muttered. “Stefan always did say I was quite blunt about things.”

            “Well, I’m not going to let it end like this. I can’t.”

             Jamie had defied the queen from the beginning and he refused to be killed under her order, or by her hand. Besides, he had still not seen his father since he had arranged to have the curse lifted. He had to see his father.

            The other prisoner sat up in a kneeling position, holding on to the bars. “Then don’t.”

            “What?”

            “Don’t let it end this way. You’re a Guardian. You are one of the most powerful Terrahgonians. Why don’t you just escape?”

            Jamie gave a dry, humourless laugh. “You think I haven’t tried?” I’ve passed out twice from attempting!”

            Rage emanated from Jamie’s body as he growled like a chimaera. It was better than the other option. He refused to cry. A hand grasped his own— soft and reassuring. He looked up into the stranger’s face to see the man’s eyes bulged out. A few moments passed and he still didn’t move.

            “Hey dude, are you in there?” Jamie asked.

            He heard the door swing open with a thud and a tall, dark haired woman entered. Her black cloak was unhooded, revealing a black mask obscuring the top half of her face. Her leather trousers sculpted perfectly around her long legs.

            “So it’s true,” she said. “Erin, you have a death wish.”

            Jamie snapped his fingers at the other prisoner, Erin, who remained in a trance. Isn’t that a girl’s name? he wondered. Finally, he seemed to awaken from his stupor and blinked several times.

            “Dude, who’s the chick dressed as Lady Zorro?” Jamie asked. Unlike Zorro, however, the girl’s mask was intricately laced as if she were readying herself for a masked ball.

            “Mila, is that you?” Erin asked. He walked towards her and held onto the bars.

            “Ridiculous. One night together and a second date and you’ve already forgotten my name,” she said. “Men.”

            Under different circumstances, Jamie would have patted Erin on the back, cheering lewdly, ‘Waha-hey, get in there, lad!’ Considering the seriousness of the situation, and the fact that this woman was his only hope at escape, he kept his comments to himself.

            “You’re wearing a mask for goodness sake,” Erin said.

            “Touché.”

            “And I would hardly call that mission a date.” Mila shrugged her shoulders and approached Erin’s cell.

            “Time to get you out.”

            “It won’t open without— ”

            “One of the guard’s fingerprints and his ka signature,” she said.

            Mila unsheathed her sword and swung at the air. Where the sword had struck, there was now a tear revealing nothing but blackness. Then another hand came out.

            “What the hell?” Jamie exclaimed. Blood dripped from the severed hand but Mila didn’t seem to mind.

            “Who’s he?” she asked Erin.

            “The Moon Guardian. The problem… or the solution. It depends how you look at it.”

            “I told you to stop prying into my business,” Mila snapped. She placed the thumb of the severed hand over the scanner beside Erin’s cell and pressed a few buttons on the panel. “I should let you rot here.”

            “You could, but then you would never get that favour I owe you,” Erin said.

            “I seem to recall that you owe me two favours. Now be quiet. This part requires concentration.”

            Mila allowed the hand to drip blood along the steel bars trapping Erin. She closed her eyes to concentrate when she was finished and wisps of shadow flickered like a dancing flame. The shadows extended until it completely surrounded the cell and snaked its way around Erin. For a while, he stood perfectly still even as his eyes widened. When it grew too much, he batted the shadows away.

            “Enough of this shadow magic!” Erin yelled.

            “The shadows cling to you,” Jamie stated. He felt almost like an intruder somehow. He was surprised at his own silence, but there was something engaging about Mila. The confidence in her voice— the assertiveness. Or maybe it was the deadness in her eyes. “I’ve seen them do that to only one other.”

            “I’m not Stefan,” Erin replied. “I seek only the light.”

            “I sought it too, once. Now I want vengeance.”

            At that, the cell door was unbolted and the shadows receded. Mila finally blinked and returned the hand through the tear that led to only blackness.

            “Then come with us,” Mila said. “You might be of some use to me.”

            “Sure, just get me out of here.”

            *“I wouldn’t do that if I was you,” a voice called out. Yolanda entered the room with a cold demeanour. It seemed strange to Jamie that there were no guards with her. “The Guardian stays. As for Erin—”

            “My queen, I was framed,” Erin insisted.

            “I am your queen no longer. You are an enemy of Terrahgonia from the day forth, and Stefan would have you executed.”

            “He’s innocent!” Jamie snapped.

            “Stay out of this,” Yolanda shrieked. As she raised her hand, Jamie was flung to the other side of his cell, hitting his head. His vision became murky and he may have blacked out for a while. When he got himself together, he saw Yolanda give Erin a leather bound journal quite like the one his father had left him.

            “Take it, my son. Mayhap you will one day understand why I chose the path I did.”

            “This whole time… I have never been an Arnette?”

            “No, my son.” Yolanda held out a hand to touch his face. “The blood of House Rumianstev flows through your veins. You are of the shadows, as am I.”

            “This is too much to take in,” Erin said.

            “I know.” The ice-cold queen did the unexpected and hugged Erin. It shocked Jamie that this dictator might actually have a heart. She kissed him on the forehead and Erin let her. Next to them, Mila stiffened, hand beside her sheathed sword, just in case. When Yolanda let go, Erin and Yolanda’s eyes were reddened. “Take care of my son, assassin or it will be your head I will be after. Take him to the Unseelie King as I have instructed and nowhere else. Be careful of him, Erin.”

            “I will,” he nodded.

            “If you are leading us into a trap then it will be I who will be back for your head, queen,” Mila said.

            Yolanda only laughed. “That is unlikely.”

            “So is my death. In any case, I will be taking the Guardian as well.”

            Yolanda frowned. “That is out of the question, now be gone before I am found aiding Erin’s escape.”

            “Sorry, Guardian,” Mila called out. “You’re on your own.” That didn’t surprise Jamie. “Wish I could give you a hand, though.” She seemed to emphasise the word ‘hand’ and swung her sword strangely but non-threateningly. Jamie was reminded of the severed hand and instantly brightened, then frowned again as Yolanda looked at him curiously.

            “Too bad hands don’t come out of thin air,” Erin added, seeming to understand what was going on. “You never told me your name, by the way.”

            “Dead men don’t have names,” Yolanda said.

            “My name is James,” Jamie replied. “But my friends call me Jamie.”

            “Well, goodbye Jamie,” Erin said. “I hope you will find something more meaningful than vengeance in your last moments before the execution. I’m sorry.”

            “Goodbye, Erin.”

            Mila used her sword to slash across the air, nearer to the floor. “Come on,” she said. Erin held Jamie’s gaze for a moment longer before diverting it to Yolanda, and then the scar in the air leading to a dark void. He took Mila’s hand and together, they jumped, the tear sealing behind them.

            Jamie was left alone with the queen.

            “Was all that really true?” he asked. “Is he truly your son?”

            Yolanda glared at him with dark, cloudy eyes. “You shouldn’t have heard that. But then, what does it matter? You will be dead soon enough and you will take my secrets to your unmarked grave.”     

            “I knew you were a terribly queen, but you’re even worse at being a mother.”

            Yolanda’s eyes flashed violet and then the air in Jamie’s lungs were expelled and something in his neck constricted, leaving him unable to breath. He writhed on the floor, and for a long drawn out moment, he thought he would die. Suddenly, the oxygen came back to him.

            “Consider that a mother’s mercy,” Yolanda said. Then she stormed out of the room.

            Rage ignited inside Jamie as he continued to breath deeply, filling his lungs with much needed oxygen. She thought she had him right where she wanted him. How wrong she was. 

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