The Pyres of Galthun
A thundering of footsteps drowned the ambience of the day as an early sunset, signalling the dying of yet another Cloudbrood season, crept through the windows in House Galthun. The very first House of Aeremus in Alamaris, erected by the mighty Prime Pyrearbiter Kelon Amberthas himself was both chaotically loud yet eerily quiet in the same breath. The grey stone looked black as the rays of the Father of Fire burned through grieving eyes. Sitting with his head in his hands, the young captain felt his chest leaden and empty, as it was on the day he heard of his own father’s death. Taken by Crow’s Fever. The Prime Pyrearbiter warned them, I will not be here forever you fools, he recalled him saying only days before he drew his last. He wiped his tear-caked cheeks with a gauntlet that felt as heavy as time itself, remembering all the scoffing he endured at the hands of the other captains for displaying ‘emotional frailty’ before his subordinates. He couldn’t handle any more ‘scorching’, especially not after hearing news of Kelon’s death. The Prime Pyrearbiter passed in his bed, surrounded by Captains, Sergeants and Young Flames. The great leader never needed his rank to speak for him. That, he could very well do with just a single stare. Such was he.
The young Captain’s thoughts were interrupted as the hinges of his chamber’s door announced a visitor. Captain Martun Ellion stepped heavily into the room and slowly closed the door behind him, shutting out the noise outside as quickly as he had let it in. An elderly captain was Martun, his jowls betraying the years he had spent donning the crimson regalia of the Father. Jowls that had been unkempt, sprinkled with silver hair for some days now. The young Captain could not help himself in noticing this and despite the dire tidings of the day he spoke up “Captain, you need a razor and a mirror. That is no state…” the elderly Captain interrupted him with his low and gruff voice, “Trezan, drop it. It’s hard for us all ya' drybreak sprout. I am not here for idle yapping”. He fixed his milky gaze on Trezan’s gleaming blue eyes. The young Captain stood and slowly embraced his elder firmly, holding him and his own tears. “I wasn't there…” Trezan begun, Martun continued “And he knew that you wouldn't be, you fool. He saw to it. You think you were on patrol by some daft accident? A Captain on an afternoon patrol?”.
“No, that doesn’t sound like him” Trezan replied with a shy smile, “but you were, Martun. What did he say?”. The veteran Captain held him at arm’s length and hesitated before opening his mouth. “I was. Sit down Trezan”. Despite his old knees Martun bend one as the young Captain sat on the bed before him. “He chose you Trezan… he chose you.”
The world around him seemed to vaporize into a swirling mist, he may have taken countless blows to his helmet patrolling the Glade villages yet he had never felt as lightheaded as those words made him feel. “You are to lead us, Trezan”. The young Captain might as well have been facing the Father of Fire himself, on the lips of an erupting volcano in his daze. He fought his hardest against a smouldering tear that burst forth from his right eye. Defeated he raised his gaze to look at Martun only to realize that the old Captain’s face had two clean streaming lines, from eyes to chin. “He chose YOU!”, the smiling veteran shouted.
The brilliant star shone its majesty on the mountain clearing. Kelon felt serene, standing on the edge of what seemed to be the world. And it was. “I am dead…” he muttered. The hard gravel broke beneath his iron heel, reminding him of the burned villages he strode through with his men during the Three Nights rebellion. Stone, dirt and bones all felt the same after been licked by fire for an entire day. They all broke away beneath the Prime Pyrearbiter’s boot. He could not recognize the mountain he now stood upon, and it didn't matter. For the first time in his life, ever since he was nothing more than a baker’s son, Kelon could breathe easy. The burdens of the world no longer weighed him down. He would no longer have to decide whether to kill a man or throw him behind bars “until every hair on his face turns white” as was the second most dire of sentences. No more weeping widows, or wasted youth on the altar of avarice. Yet, no more could he spend comforting nights at House Galthun sharing stories of valour or even sheer stupidity with his officers.
The sun was all but done for the day, lazily resting on the edge of everything; its light striking the mountain side. Kelon did not turn his eyes from the rays, for they did not burn. Instead he focused as hard as he could at the centre of the blazing inferno.
“Kelon”, a low, commanding voice boomed shatter the silence around the Prime Pyrearbiter. Even the ash and stones beneath him shifted. The man lowered his head and smiled but did not turn before he spoke, “I know your voice”.
“And now you can know all of me. It is the least I can give you before releasing you to the darkness my good friend”, the voice replied. Kelon turned slowly to look upon the Father of Fire.
The Great Dragon’s wings were spread, catching the light before them. His neck hung low so as to meet the old Judge at eye level. “My brother once walked among your people, and he felt the injustice that you inflict on one another directly, Kelon. Everything you have done throughout your life I must hold as a personal favour. I am what I am and be that as it may, without you my duty here would have been incomplete. Sincerely, Kelon Amberthas, thank you”.
The man did not speak a word. He simply stretched his right hand out with his palm facing the endless sky. The Great Dragon carefully placed a menacingly black and sharp claw tip for Kelon to tightly hold in his dead fingers. His cheeks bunched on the side of his face in the largest smile he had ever mustered and softly released the large claw from his clutch. He looked long and deep within the eyes of his master and for the first time in his existence he understood something that no Flame or Pyrearbiter could ever comprehend while serving Aeremus the Just. He knew then, that the Great Dragon could feel as he himself did while still standing on Alamaris as a man. Feel, love, hate. Fear.
Then suddenly, darkness.
The Riventhrall estate was unlike any other in Alamaris. Lord Guhrien made sure to keep it that way lest the other Noralthan families believe themselves to be above him. He could not have that. “Hmph, miners” he spat while looking at the exhausted rider before him. The young man rode for two days without rest, nearly killing his horse to bring news from Galthun to the powerful man. Lord Guhrien was too round to be a warrior, too short to pick up a sword and rush into battle. His scantily haired head was a stark contrast to the thick black moustache that dressed his lip yet his brow knit a fearful story to everyone that looked at it. At least to those who feared his wealth and the control it forced upon people.
“Miners!” he shouted straight into the messenger’s face, “why do you think they call us that son?”
The rider was beyond thought in his exhaustion, “I cannot say for sure sire.”
“They want to diminish us, belittle us. That is why! They want us to be like them. But we are not”, he smiled while holding and waving his pipe, “and if what you say is true then the word will burn in their mouths even hotter now”.
Lord Guhrien Riventhrall felt a tinge of excitement creeping up through his golden robe and into his spine at the sheer thought of carrying his claim further south. Now without fearing any wild repercussions by the fire worshippers who will be lost without a leader. He and the other six families could finally step foot in the great cities of Galthun, Yaralta and Oranai to claim what was rightfully theirs. Seats of power. For one hundred and eighty seasons the families that ran the mines all over the mountain range of Noralthan could only catch a whiff of the real wealth that their ore landed in the pockets of the Alamaris royalty. They mined iron, which put weapons in the hands of soldiers. Iron which forged armour and shields. Armaments with which wars have been won and lost, yet the “Miners” were only paid for what they produced. The ore itself. That was to be no more. Guhrien knew that no southern family could ever even as much as look at him the wrong way lest he shortens supply. And his word was the law in the north. A wrong letter or a discourteous greeting would have been enough to starve an army of weapons, and even bring a city to its knees.
“Amberthas, dead. You are sure of this?” Guhrien growled.
“Yes my lord. Passed away not three days ago”.
“And his replacement?” his eyebrows met with menace.
The young rider shrugged, “I… nobody would speak of him sire. The doors to House Galthun were barred since the moment they announced the death of the Prime Pyrearbiter. No-one was to enter or leave the grounds. Even scheduled trials were cancelled”, sweat flowed freely on his face.
The smoke from the lord’s pipe rose and blended gracefully with the smog that hugged the ceiling of the study. His thick black moustache twitched. “Rest here for the night and ride at dawn. Send a message to all my people. They are to meet me here. That is all”, he spoke through his teeth clenching onto the pipe. The young rider bowed deeply and rushed as fast as he could to scavenge anything he could find from the kitchens.
“Miners”, Guhrien growled to himself. “I’ll show them what ‘Miners’ can do when they are not given their dues”.
“As you say”, a calm voice echoed from behind the lord who did not seem surprised. Guhrien turned to face the man standing behind the pale red drape covering the rear exit of the study. “What about my dues then?”, he spoke to lord Riventhrall, staring deep into his eyes.
“How long have you been standing there you splot!?”, Guhrien exclaimed said.
“Long enough to know that I’ll probably head to Galthun next eh? Or is your grand scheme not in motion yet?”, the young man spoke as he slowly walked towards the table where the lord sat. Lean and tall, he stood three heads clear of the rich man before him. His eyes were sharp and his tongue was sharper. Clad in black leathers from shoulders to toes. He placed his knuckles firmly on the hardened oak and leaned further in, almost plunging his nose in the plume of smoke rising from the lavish silver pipe.
Guhrien returned the assassin’s gaze, “Let’s assume for a second that I won’t be off my fucking mind at how you slithered in here and that you weren't seen”.
“I told you I would send for you when it was time. You don’t make such decisions, I do”, Guhriens voice was low.
The assassin calmly removed his hands from the desk and tapped the brown hilts on the sides of each of his thighs.
“You owe one more contract Guhrien. Keep your rules and play out your little rebellion to your heart’s desire. But you,” he unsheathed his blades, “owe,” he slammed the right blade on the desk, “them,” then the left, “one more contract”. Swiftly he gathered his blades and sheathed them as he paced out of the room leaving Lord Guhrien Riventhrall in his seat surprised at the clear bead of sweat that danced on his brow.
- Frixos Masouras 2014