Avarice (The Kingdoms of War)

Darius Rzepka has always been content with his life. Recently, though, he's been pining for something more: the king's head.


1. Prologue

     As Casper was shuffled into the chamber along with dozens of others, he heard a voice ringing off the grimy walls.

     "Alright, everyone, settle down. If we don't have enough room, well, we'll just have to make do. There's plenty of room over to the left still, get comfortable."

     The meeting place they had chosen for this gathering, Casper's first, was rather dank, and some might even go so far as to call it a sewer. Boots squelched as they marched, crushing lichens and mosses with their heels. One had to watch where he stepped- the floor had many a pothole scattered around. Many were complaining, for they, of course, could have picked the perfect place to meet- why didn't they choose the tavern again?

     Finally, everyone settled into place, and Luther, the leader, cleared his throat. The meeting was about to begin.

     "Alright, everyone, listen up! We've got three new recruits-" somebody whistled from the far left- "and as much as I'd like to point them out, I can't see anyone who isn't in the first row.

     "Anyway," he continued, "I've got something else to tell you. Finally, after all this time, we have a confirmed Synapse!"




     Whispers, somewhere from the front.


     Then, without warning-

     "You have got to be kidding!"

     "Could you elaborate, please?" Luther looked anxious, so much that Casper started to panic, but only for a moment, a gap in time when it overcame him. After that moment was over, he swallowed hard and refocused.

     "It's a death trap, that thing! You've gotta calibrate 'em just the right way, otherwise, they won't work! More than that, there's a 67% mortality rate! You can't possibly expect us to use that thing!"

     "Is that true?"

     "It can't be!"

     "There's no way you'll get me on that thing."

     "People, people, please! I can ensure you that these machines are perfectly safe." Luther was trying his best, but there was too much unrest to do much of anything. That was the case until Casper finally decided to speak.


     The effect was contagious and overwhelming. Immediately after the words had formed on his lips, the room had fallen silent. Everyone turned to see where the demand had come from, the one that bounced around the room like Luther's had not a minute ago. Casper paled, not knowing or understanding more than the others. Those closest to him gaped; the rattling voice surely didn't belong to the gangly teen standing in front of them.

     Luther couldn't see Casper from the makeshift stage, but he took the opening. "Well, uh, thanks for that, whoever you are. Anyway, I understand you all have concerns about the safety, but this is an opportunity we haven't had in, well, a long time at least. Perhaps you'll understand that if the Synapse does fail to work, it has been for the greater good that we've tried. Do you agree?"

     A general consensus of nods spread throughout the room.

     Luther smiled widely. "Great! With that finished, this meeting has been adjourned. Anyone who wants to volunteer for this mission, please stay behind. Have a safe night, everyone, and make sure to watch for wraiths on your way home! The next notice of the meeting's location will be posted in the usual place, under an advertisement for the Albezian Circus." He waved, still smiling, and disappeared out of view- at least, less than what Casper had been able to make out of him before.

     Everyone around him started to pack up their things and head out. Casper, however, lingered, stooping over to pick up scattered trash left by the masses. As the last of them shuffled out of the room, Luther walked toward him with lengthy strides. "You here to volunteer, kid?"

     Startled, he jerked his head up quickly, then rubbed the back of his neck with one hand, the other on his knee. "Eh?"

     "Wonderful! If you'll just come over here, I'd be happy to introduce you to our other volunteers." Not leaving Casper any time to object, he strolled over to the entrance, where two other people were waiting.

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