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Rise Of The Watchtower
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-204-4
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Fiction/Adventure
eBook Length: 205 Pages
Published: October 2014



From inside the flap

With the bans against magic lifted, all witches have been ordered to the newly reopened Watchtower, there to study magic under the watchful eyes of the High Sorceress. But not everyone is pleased. That, combined with the king’s order that all children must undergo training in the guard, is making the citizens of Phalindros nervous. They have to wonder just what their young king intends for their future.

King Dominus has it all figured out. He knows what he wants and he knows how to get it. Patience is the key to winning at any game, even the game of life. He can see every piece on the board and he knows just where to move them. Or so he believes.

But Dominus doesn't know everything.

There are forces at work against him, people who have slipped through his fingers simply because he failed to see the threat in them. Now, that threat is growing.

Enemies without. Enemies within. And a king unaware that the game he's playing has far greater stakes than he could ever imagine.

Rise Of The Watchtower (Excerpt)


CHAPTER ONE

Brightly colored flowers adorned the crowded ballroom, filling the air with the fragrance of spring. Dignitaries from both Phalindros and Malfrey sat quietly talking as they awaited the beginning of the ceremony. Occasionally, someone would glance at the front of the room, where King Dominus stood beside a white-draped podium. He met these glances with a cool look of his ice blue eyes. More than ready for this whole thing to be over and done with, the young king had to work not to let his irritation show through.

Behind the podium stood the High Priest in his white robes. Late afternoon sunlight falling through the glass windows reflected off the silver dragon amulet he wore. Dominus wore an identical amulet, though his was gold. This was meant to symbolize the connection between the king and the gods. To Dominus, it was nothing more than a symbol of his own power, inherited by his birthright from generations of kings who came before him. This was why he deigned to wear it. He didn't believe in the gods, but he understood the importance of symbolism.

Dominus glanced at his mother, who sat to the right of the podium with her cousin, the Queen of Malfrey. Gazella wore a low-cut crimson dress, her honey blonde hair twisted into an intricate design of braids strung through with pearls in the fashion of her homeland. Dalia was similarly attired, though her dress was a shade more modest and dark gold in color. Beside the queen sat three of her five children; Delina, whose husband held their squirming toddler on his lap, Hortios, who was named after his grandfather, and Essex, the youngest. Like all those from Malfrey, they looked like peacocks among pheasants, so different was their attire from those who called Phalindros home.

Gazella met her son's gaze and smirked. She thought she'd won something by arranging this marriage without his consent. Little did she know she had served his purpose well by strengthening his ties to Malfrey. He smiled back at her and was satisfied to see her smirk fade into a look of wary annoyance.

Dominus' gaze shifted to the other side of the room, where the seat beside Casson remained empty. He raised a questioning brow and Casson lifted his shoulders in an apologetic shrug. A slight crease between his eyes was the only thing that gave away Dominus' displeasure.

As always, Casson looked ill at ease surrounded by royalty. Even dressed in Dominus' cast off finery, it was plain for any to see he was nothing more than a servant's son. His feet were too large to fit any of Dominus' boots and so he was wearing his own scuffed ones and, even after having taken a bath, he still smelled faintly of the stables.

The soft trill of a harp filled the ballroom and the guests fell silent. Two servants, one in the crimson and gold of Phalindros and the other in the white and bronze of Malfrey, opened the double doors. On the other side stood Litha, dressed head to toe in white silk and lace. Not so much as a hint of skin showed, as was Malfrey custom, though Dominus had certainly seen her face many times before.

Litha seemed to glide down the center aisle, drawing every eye to her. Dominus watched her as well, though his mind was more on that empty seat and who should be sitting in it. She stepped up beside him and they both turned to face the High Priest.

The High Priest gazed out over the room as he spoke. "On this day, beneath the ever watchful eyes of our Lord Basale, most benevolent of gods, we have gathered in this place to bear witness to the joining of these two people, and to witness the strengthening of the ties between two kingdoms." He placed his hands palm down on the open pages of the heritage book, which lay upon the podium.

"In the eyes of both gods and mortals, in the eyes of both those who stand with us today and those who have passed before us, do I join in marriage our Lord and King of Phalindros, Dominus Montique Bolsom Daemon uth Friesard and the Lady of Malfrey, Princess Litha Constintia."

As he spoke their names, Dominus and Litha each lay their left hands on the book on either side of the priest's. "And now let them join our blessed ancestors." The priest removed his hand and passed a feathered quill to Dominus.

Dominus removed his hand from the book and neatly wrote his name beneath his father's. A smile twitched at the corner of his lips. How shocked the people gathered here would be if only they knew he'd spilt his father's blood upon the castle stones with the dagger he wore strapped to his side. It was an ornate thing with an onyx hilt and a crimson blade. And though it looked more like a decoration than a weapon, like Dominus it was far more dangerous than its appearance suggested.

He handed the quill back to the High Priest, who then dipped it in ink and passed it to Litha. Her hand shook so her name beneath Gazella's was hardly legible. Once she returned the quill to the priest, a temple initiate stepped forward bearing a slender silver coronet upon a crimson cushion. Dominus lifted the coronet and placed it upon Litha's veiled head to show all present she was his chosen queen.

Litha slid her arm through Dominus' and they led the way from the ballroom to the banquet hall, where the wedding feast was to take place. Her delicate fingers gripped his arm tightly, no doubt in an effort to gain the strength to walk at a slow and stately pace.

The banquet hall was paneled in dark oak, with the floor a lighter shade of pine. It was one of the few rooms in the castle whose floor was not made of stone. Lit candles were scattered about and white roses stood in tall vases in the four corners of the room.

Dominus and Litha made their way to the head table, behind which hung two banners. A gold dragon on a crimson backdrop for Phalindros; a bronze manticore on white for Malfrey. Once the royal family and their guests were comfortably seated, servants arrived with the meal; roast venison and wild boar, fresh baked bread, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as a number of delicacies from both kingdoms.

The court minstrel arrived soon thereafter, and the gentle music of his rosewood harp served as a backdrop to a number of quiet conversations. Dominus sipped his wine and calculated how long he would have to endure all of this before he could retire to his chambers. He had purposely made certain the ceremony would take place in the evening; the earlier night came, the earlier he could end this facade.

A servant came to take Litha's veil, revealing a pale, slender face. A single braid of honey-gold hair, strung with tiny diamonds, hung over her left shoulder. Litha stared down at her plate with her hands clasped firmly in her lap. Not exactly the happy picture of the blushing bride Dominus would have preferred, but there wasn't anything to be done about it. She was a weak woman and any prodding on his part was liable to have her shedding the tears shimmering in her cornflower blue eyes. And he couldn't have that.

Dominus placed his glass on the table and turned to Casson, keeping his tone low so only the other man could hear. "Where is Kaida?"

"I don't know." Casson squirmed under Dominus' intense gaze. "She told me to come ahead and she would be right behind me. I haven't seen her since."

Kaida had been acting a bit odd since the Spring Festival, but Dominus simply shrugged it off as excitement over finally going to the Watchtower. Failing to attend the ceremony was something else altogether. He could not imagine what would possess her to do such a thing when she knew how important it was she make this last appearance at his side. They would have to have a serious talk about this before she left the castle.

A bard arrived to regale them with what Dominus considered the tired old tale of Monamorra and the Watchtower War. Those around him seemed fascinated by the story of the brave young woman from a foreign land who saved Phalindros from the evil High Sorceress. Not exactly Kaida's favorite story and one Dominus didn't care much for either. He was seriously considering having the telling of it banned. It put the Watchtower in a bad light and that was not at all conducive to his plans.

After the bard came the acrobats and the visiting minstrels and the like, blurring across Dominus' vision as the evening wore on into the night. He could not recall ever having been this bored in all his life. After the sun set, the talk and laughter got a little louder as the guests left off sipping their wine and began to imbibe on the stronger drinks. In polite society one simply did not get good and drunk as long as there was daylight to be seen.

Once the guests started passing out into their plates, Dominus judged he'd endured long enough. Now, the young king was supposed to rise and give a speech. His mother wrote it herself and gave it to him a week prior with stern instructions to memorize every word. Dominus threw the speech into the fireplace without even a glance at it. He had no intention of making a speech to a room full of people so inebriated that come the next day they wouldn't even remember he'd delivered it.

"Casson, attend me." Dominus rose from his seat. Casson quickly followed; Litha a touch slower. Down the end of the table, Gazella glared at the three of them, but Dominus didn't think she'd gotten quite drunk enough to make a scene.

The three of them walked silently down the corridor leading to the entrance hall. There, at the foot of the staircase, Dominus turned to Casson and said, "Tell Kaida I want to see her tomorrow in my study. And she better have a good reason for not being where she was supposed to be today."