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Jessie

The Prince of Shadows

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Chapter 1

Thunder roared, lightning crashed and the fierce wind drove the lashing rain like arrows as the rider, crouching low over his beast, raced over the reddish and barren ground. Working together in a feat of co-ordination horse and rider flew across the forgotten land. An ancient stone wall appeared suddenly in the blinding rain, and the horse, understanding without words, leaped over as if it were a mere rock. The skillful rider had no need to spur his horse on. It was hardly sweating, though it had ridden hard for the best of five leagues. The gigantic and brooding form of a tall and craggy castle loomed up, as they rounded the last dark hump of a hill.

The rain threw itself with unbelievable force against the ancient battlements, sullen and gray against the black sky. The horse slowed slightly, as the drawbridge landed with a thud, like an old and evil arm of a beckoning monster. The rider and his bearer swept across and the gates of the curtain wall as they were thrown back just in time. The rider slid off before the horse had even ceased to gallop, landing in the large courtyard in a swift and
smooth movement.

Sleepy  grooms stumbled over and took the black and velvety horse. The stairs that led up to the single solid door were designed that the attacker would have to fight with his left hand at an awkward angle, while the defender had both room for full swing, and a right handed and comfortable position. The door was thrust open from the cold and dark great hall. A huge and finely clothed figure with a flaming torch stepped out as the cloaked rider strode up the stairs. “Leor, you are late.” The man with the torch spoke.
“Hush,” said the rider, who had thrown back his hood and in the light revealed sharp gray-blue eyes and tousled blond hair.
“If you had been through the same plight as I have, you would not now draw breath.”  “Come, let us go inside.”
The man with the torch re-entered the castle with the wet rider. Probably the lord of this castle, thought the small figure hiding behind an old forgery. The figure flitted from shadow to shadow till he was out of the dark secret door in both the castle walls.
As he pulled out the key of each door, it fitted perfectly in with the rest of the wall and the key-hole disguised.

“You were not seen by anyone, you say.”
“Aye, sir.”
“Well I say it is too risky. If that snob who's in charge found out about this, he'd take control of everything and ruin it all.”
“But that wouldn't happen if he weren't there. All ways to the Top is risky, but if you trust your luck you gets there.”
Suddenly he was hoisted into the air, the snarling face of Griunbad, Lieutenant of the Guards of Hordin, pressing against his. “I don't take chances. Already you've caused me trouble enough for more than your weight in gold.”
Clunking metal shoes marched their way through the cavern, and the light of torches came near. “We'll talk again, Trungul, now get out!” The wiry creature scampered away. If Griunbad had cared to look, he would have seen a second shadow following.

Inside the castle, in a secret chamber, a single lamp burned.
Two figures sat at a magnificent table, studying ancient maps and parchments. The giant figure rubbed his chin. "This rebel 'prince' really has us in a tight corner. Leor spoke. “My lord, would it not surprise him if we were to take back our men. He would think it for fear of his armies from the other way. If we then wheeled them round to face him at this point,” His finger marked the proposed route and stopped just inside a narrow gorge.
“We could fight only the small portions of his army that can fit through at any one time.” The man opposite him frowned and then turned his bright eyes to face him.“I think that is the best thing we could do, if your news is as urgent as we must take the precaution of believing. We are badly out-numbered, I am afraid.
Whatever we do, we must do so soon. We could sit here for thirty days and not find a better plan. After I tell the others, we ride tomorrow.” With that he stood up and seeing through the high, narrow slits that passed for windows the pale glow of dawn, turned and strode out. Leor sighed and followed him, glancing strangely at the painting behind him. He shook himself.
They would need courage for what lied ahead.

 

2 comments

Keven on 27 January, 2017

Spectacular story snippet. I loved the attention to detail and the element of mystery

Dan on 1 November, 2015

I loved this story! as soon as I started I was hooked and was sad when it ended. I think this is a really good story!