Disclaimer: These are in rough draft form. Just getting ideas out there and playing with them. Please forgive grammatical errors and imperfections. I am using this to decide which stories to further develop and polish. I’m looking for some feedback on each. If you can take time to read it and let me know what you think (what you like, dislike, how are the characters, how is the story, how is the pacing, ect.) Here is the first one:
Lady Lareniza couldn’t believe it. She was a lady. Guards weren’t supposed to touch her. The two brutes on either side of her didn’t seem to know that. They grasped each of her arms so firmly it hurt. She choked down a gasp not wanting to give them the satisfaction of knowing they were causing her pain. The whole situation was outrageous. She had come to Brendale seeking aid from the council. Now council guards were dragging her around as if she was some sort of criminal.
If only she had listened. She could avoided all of this if she had just listened. The Ra’Taran were known for the guile. Her advisors had warned her about Garen. Then they had warned her that calling a public summit to meet with the council of the free kingdoms was dangerous. She knew they were right. It was too dangerous not to go. Her people were dying. Villages under her control were being burned, their inhabitants killed or worse. She couldn’t sit back and do nothing while her kingdom was torn down around her and her people suffered. Lady Larenzia was resolute in her decision. Danger would not deter her. Nothing could stop her from getting aid from the council. None could deny her right to it.
The Merdanian armies had strong allies. They had come to the aid of the neighbors on numerous occasions. Merdania was a large kingdom and a strong one. Though recently it suffered many losses preventing an invasion from the Thanese empire. The Merdanians had held off the invasion almost single-handedly protecting the other kingdoms of the realm from the threat. Every member of the council was in her debt and they knew it. She would stand before them, make her case, and they would aid her.
The doors to the throne room opened. Lady Larenzia’s heart sank. Sitting on the throne, in the seat belonging to the Mediator, was Lord Garen. Garen was the reason she was here. He was the king of Ra’Tara. His soldiers were pillaging and raping their way through her kingdom. Garen had come to her for aid during the Thanese invasion. He had begged her to step protect his people claiming his military was out of commission and they were defenseless.
She rose to their defense without question. Her advisors warned her that it was not a good idea to get involved but she didn’t listen. The idea of letting innocent people die did not sit well with her. She said it was their duty to humanity to defend those who could defend themselves. Once the invasion was over and the Merdanian army weakened and exhausted from battle, the Ra’tarans invaded. She had protected them and Lord Garen thanked her by killing her people and stealing her land.
The guards shoved Larenzia into the room so hard she nearly stumbled to the floor. Her long dress rustled and nearly tripped her up. Catching herself she stood up straight, like a lady should, and adjusted her dress attempting to iron out any wrinkles with the palms of her hands. She held her head high and looked around the room at the faces of the council members.
Though it disturbed her to see Garen sitting at the head of the council when she made her case the other members would listen. They would have no choice but to demand Garen stop his attack and make reparations for his actions. She would accept no less than imprisonment for life.
Lord Garen gave her a conniving smile, “Lady Larenzia, bold of you to come.”
What sort of game was he playing at? She had requested this summit. Of course she would be here. She glared at Garen a fire raging in her eyes.
“My Lords and Ladies,” Larenzia began forcing a smile and gesturing opening in a sign of friendship. “I am asked you here to hear…”
“You have asked them here?” Garen interrupted, “Your highness, it was I who called the summit.”
Lady Larenzia was shocked silent. It wasn’t true. She had sent a messenger to each of the council members a month ago requesting the summit meeting be held. She looked around the room. How could they all believe such an outrageous lie? No one questioned Lord Garen’s statement. Were they all in this together? How could they be? No. She was being paranoid. He was trying to get at her, throw her off. It was working. She wouldn’t let him stop her so easily. She started again.
“My Lords and Ladies, I am here to…”
“Confess?” Lord Garen interrupted again. “It seems a bit late Your Highness. I have already informed the council of your aggression, of how you used a faked Thanese invasion to cover up war crimes against my people.”
“Faked,” Lady Larenzia gasped. This whole situation was appalling. “You think I faked an invasion? You think my soldiers who gave their lives protecting your lands faked it? This is…”
“It’s an outrage,” Garen interrupted again. “It’s an outrage that you could even stand before this council after what you have done. Play the innocent Lady all you want dear lady,” Garen’s voice grew cold. She could hear his disdain for her. A disdain she had given him no reason to have. “My people have suffered for your greed long enough. This council will not entertain your lies. The truth has been made clear. You hoped to take my land from me, murder my people, and blame it all on a Thanese invasion. Now you come here, trying to play the victim, seeking support from this council. You are truly depraved.” Garen turned his attention back to the council members. “My good people, you have heard the stories first hand. Seen the eyewitnesses to the Lady’s cruelty. It is time to cast a verdict. What say you?”
This couldn’t be happening. This wasn’t happening. Lady Larenzia couldn’t believe it. Lord Garen offered them nothing but lies and the council, her friends wouldn’t even hear her out. This was all a bad dream, a nightmare. Her mind was playing tricks on her. That was it. She was nervous about the summit and so her mind devised this worst-case scenario. She would wake soon and feel much better.
“Stop,” she demanded. “Who are you to cast judgment on me? You have no evidence to support to support your claims! It was you who…”
“Guards,” he interrupted her again. “Bring in the family.”
Two soldiers stepped out of the room. A moment later they appeared again escorting a young woman and three small children. They were covered in dried dirt. The young woman had cuts and bruises on her face that hadn’t healed yet. One, on her left cheek was sure to leave a scar. Larenzia recognized them immediately. This was one of the families that had escaped. They weren’t from Ra’tara. These were her people. They had come to her after Garen’s men destroyed their village.
“These are my people,” she protested.
“I’m sure you see them that way. That’s the problem your Royal Highness. These people are Ra’taran. Just because your army is bigger then ours, and your nation wealthier, doesn’t give you the right to our lands or our people. They are Ra’taran.”
“This is absurd. They are not your people,” Larenzia looked to the family. “Tell them, tell them who did this. It’s ok, I have my soldiers outside, you will be protected.”
A sinister grin appeared on Lord Garen’s face. Lady Larenzia’s eyes grew wide. She realized too late what was happening.
It was the young mother who spoke. Her voice was quiet, filled with pain and sorrow. She had been crying. “You did.” The woman’s quiet words echoed throughout the room. To Larenzia they were louder than any sound she had ever heard. She pointed her finger accusingly at the lady. “Merdanian soldiers came to our village. The said we were to swear allegiance to Lady Larenzia or we would be hanged. My husband tried to explain to them that there was some kind of misunderstanding, that we were allies of Merdania but that this was Ra’taran land. The soldiers hit him. They took turns beating him. They made us watch as they whipped him. They whipped him and he screamed. He screamed until he couldn’t scream anymore. They whipped him until he was dead.” She stifled back a tear. The young girl was quiet the actress. Her story was true. Her husband had been flogged to death. But she had switched the characters. It wasn’t Merdanians who had attacked her village. It was Ra’tarans. Why would she lie? Why would she help the people who killed her husband and destroyed her village? It didn’t make any sense.
“Do you have any proof of this,” Garen asked his voice sounding soft and caring.
The young woman nodded. She extended her arm and opened her hand, which had been clutched into a tight ball. In her hand was a small piece of blue fabric. It was torn and dirty but the symbol of a lion could be clearly seen. It was the Medanian crest. Undoubtedly the crest had been taken from one of the soldiers that the Ra’tarans had killed. It would have been easy enough to fake but from the faces of the council members Larenzia could see that this might as well have been a confession note. Garen had played this lie perfectly. His story was crafted down to the finest detail. He was in control and he was steering everything his way.
“Should I call other witnesses your Highness? I assure you, there are many more stories like that one.”
It didn’t matter. Even if every other person was a paid actor he had made his case. He brought this family out to show Lady Larenzia that he won. The fight was over before she even got here. She never stood a chance. She wanted to hang her head. She wanted to fall to the floor and weep. Her people were going to suffer and she couldn’t stop it. She had been warned about Garen. She was told not to trust him, that he would betray her. She hadn’t listened. His cool smiles and soft green eyes had lured her into a misguided trust. She had believed in him. He had proved himself to be every bit the serpent she was warned about.
Lady Larenzia could protest. She could fight it but she could already see she had lost. She couldn’t believe her own people would sell her out. They had betrayed her to the very man responsible for their suffering. What had told them? What did he promise them to get them to talk? She desperately wanted to know. Even if it didn’t change anything she wanted to know why. It was all she could do to keep from screaming the question out.
She sealed her lips. Garen had thought of everything. He had anticipated her every move. She would not give him the added satisfaction of watching her squirm helpless as a worm on a hook. She was a lady. She would act like one. Her army may have suffered great losses to the Thanan but they could still resist the Ra’tarians. If it was a war Garen wanted she would give it to him. She had a legion of soldiers with her. She would return to Merdania and prepare for war.
Garen looked to the other council members. Each gave a slow, single nod of the head. He smiled wickedly and looked to the lady.
“Lady Larenzia, you have betrayed the decree of peace put into effect by your father. You have committed crimes against humanity killing innocent people to steal a land that wasn’t yours. The council finds you guilty,” Garen paused savoring every word. After a long moment he continued, “of treason. The penalty for which is death.”
Lady Larenzia found her calm, regal composure impossible to keep. She lunged forward screaming, “I’ll not be judged by you! I have protected these lands. I have defended your kingdoms. If it’s a war you want Garen, it’s a war you will get. I’ll show you…” She turned to storm out. If she could just get to her soldiers, everything would be ok. She would find a way to expose Garen’s lies. He would pay for his mistake. All she had to do was reach her soldiers.
She turned suddenly and ran. She knew it would only make her look guilty. The council was already convinced she was. If she remained here it was over. They would kill her and the truth would be forever lost. So she ran. She was out the door before anyone could stop her. Over her shoulder she heard Garen shout for the guards and the loud thunder of boots clamoring after her.
She made it down several hallway and was approaching the courtyard where her army waited. Once she reached them she would be safe. It would all be over soon. She threw her body into the large wooden door in front of her. It flung open creaking loudly as if in complaint.
Once again Larenzia felt her heart sink into the pit of her stomach. Her army was outnumbered and surrounded. They didn’t have a chance. She couldn’t move at the sight before her.
“Nooooooo!” She screamed falling to her knees. Her eyes welled up with tears as they began to stream down her cheeks. Her hands ran to her hair clutching her head. She screamed and wailed as if denial would change something. She didn’t hear the guards stop behind her. She didn’t hear Garen approach.
“Still think you can escape my lady?” Garen asked.
“Please,” she started desperately. “Leave my people out of this. You don’t have to hurt them. You have me, let them go. If you have any de…”
“You brought an army of armed soldiers into the holy city of Brendale. You cannot be so naïve as to believe that would go without consequences.”
“Please, they are my escort. They were not here to attack you.”
Garen paced back and forth in front of her, “Perhaps I believe you. I may even be willing to spare your men. If what you say is true, tell them to drop their weapons.”
Larenzia eyed Garen suspiciously. Was this another one of his tricks? Whatever it was it was a chance, perhaps the only chance she had to save her men. Something in her gut warned her.
“If they are here peacefully as you claim, then it shouldn’t be a problem. Tell them to drop their weapons and I will spare their lives.”
Larenzia nodded. She stood up and ironed her dress again with her palms. The Brendale guards parted for her so she could step into the courtyard and address her men. The commander, a man named Quin Falsed stepped forward bowing to her respectfully. His hand never left the hilt of his sword.
“M’lady are you…”
“Commander,” she interrupted trying to muster her most authoritative tone, “order your men to drop their weapons.”
Quin seemed surprised by the order, “That’s not wise M’lady, shouldn’t we…”
“Commander!” She practically screamed at him. “Tell your men to drop their weapons.”
Quin seemed to consider the order for a moment. Finally he turned and gave a single gesture to the army of Merdania. Swords and spears crashed and clamored on the stone floor as each soldier obediently removed their weapons.
The Brendale guards swooped in like carrion birds on a dead rabbit. Larenzia barely stepped out of the courtyard before soldiers had collected all the weapons and removed them.
Garen smiled, “Thank you Lady Larenzia. You’re compliance is appreciated.” He turned his gaze to one of the guards behind her. “Kill them all.”
Larenzia felt her legs give out from under her. She collapsed to the ground. She wanted to save her men. She had just sealed their fate. She had failed. She was supposed to protect her people. She failed them. Her family had ruled Merdania for a thousand years. She had lost it in less than ten. Garen said something to her but she didn’t hear it. She didn’t hear anything but the desperate cries of her men as they fought hopelessly for their lives.
She could see them struggling valiantly. They were unarmed, thanks to her, and outnumbered almost ten to one. Some of her men had weapons, taken by overpowering their assailants. They fought back. They fought with a furious courage that filled Larenzia with both pride and despair. These men deserved better. They were noble warrior, men of honor. They did not deserve to be put down like wild beasts.
“Lady Larenzia, how far you have fallen,” Garen’s voice was smooth, almost inviting. The twisted monster was enjoying this.
“Please,” she cried out desperately. She no longer cared about her composure. She wanted her soldiers to be spared. She would give him anything, whatever satisfaction he wanted, she would give it. She was prepared to confess to the lie he had fabricated if only he would spare her men. “Please, you win. You have me. Let them go.”
“And deny you the privilege of watching me ascend to your throne? No, no, no. My lady, I am not so cruel as to take from you the opportunity to witness my greatness. I have defeated you completely. I will take your kingdom without losing a single soldier and the council will thank me for doing so.” Garen smiled his sinister smile. “You have lost even with your rich, fertile lands, and your mighty armies. You could stand against the empire of the Thanese but are toppled by a single man. I am going to enjoy being king of Merdania.”
“My people will never accept you!” She tried to stand. She wanted to kill him. Everything she was, everything she had drove her to lash out. Her hand came up in a fury. She swung it at Garen’s face. He caught it with ease squeezing tightly against her wrist. His grip sent a jolt of pain down her arm. She didn’t squirm. She didn’t wince. If he wouldn’t spare her men she would give him nothing else to enjoy.
Garen lifted her to her feet. Two guards grabbed her and held her arms behind her back. They held her there forcing her to stare at the courtyard. She watched her soldiers die. With every passing moment she saw her army wither away. When there was only a small remnant remaining Garen leaned in close and whispered in her ear.
“It’s over,” he said.
“You won’t get away with this Garen!” It sounded ridiculous. She knew it. He knew it.
“Your Highness, I already have,” he responded smugly. “You’ve had a long day. Why don’t I show you to your room. I took the liberty of preparing a cell for you.”
The guards led her down a series of hallways and stairs. They passed the chambers and the kitchen and descended down a few more flights of stairs. She knew where they were going. This was the way to the dungeon. She shivered. She didn’t care for the dark. Ever since she was a little girl it had frightened her. She was ok if other people were around but the idea of being alone in a dark prison sent shivers through her body.
“Please, Garen, I helped you. I fought the Thanese for you. You don’t have to do this.”
He said nothing. He just smiled. She hated herself for trying but she couldn’t stop herself either. The thought of being locked alone in a dark dungeon was too much to bear.
“Please, you win. I wont fight you. Just don’t leave me in a dungeon by myself.”
Garen’s smiled widened. There was a bright sparkle in his eye. “Your Highness, I wouldn’t dream of leaving you alone in a dark dungeon. I’m not a monster.” She felt relief though his tone told her she shouldn’t. “I couldn’t bear the thought of you being lonely. As I said, I took the liberty of preparing a cell for you. It is filled with men. They are all violent criminals. Many of them are convicted rapists. None of them have seen a woman for months. They should be rather enthusiastic company. Something tells me that despite the chill, you wont be cold.”
Larenzia’s feet became planks. Her knees refused to bend. She could see the cell door. The room was dark but in the torchlight she could see the shadowed faces of at least a dozen men. She wanted to scream but knew she couldn’t. Any fear or weakness she showed now would only make things worse for her later. A single tear ran a down her cheek as she tried to seize control of her expression. She forced herself to step forward walking into the cell without the assistance of the guards.
“Take good care of this one lads,” Garen instructed.
“We will sir, treat her like a lady sir,” one of the men said from the shadows.
The iron door to the cell screeched as it closed. With a loud slam and the click of a key the door was locked behind her. Lady Larenzia sighed, preparing herself for what was coming.
Copyright © Tyler Edwards 2014.