“Here, my lord,” Isoldé stepped forward, her head bowed.
“In exactly ten hours, you and Morteus will be attacking the fortress,” Count Von Mont stated coolly. “I surmise that everything is ready? The armor, weaponry, horses?”
“Yes sir,” Isoldé stared at him with a questioning look in her eyes. “May I be so daring as to ask… Is it that you are not coming with us, your majesty?”
“Yes, my child,” Something flashed in his eyes.
The look in his eyes warned Isoldé not to question him further. She swallowed and nodded. “Very well, my lord.”
“Good,” Count Von Mont smiled with malice. “Very soon, my dear, very soon, the kingdom will be mine!”
“And King Periphral will be dead,” Isoldé added softly.
“Yes, yes. Your father will be avenged,” Count Von Mont seemed slightly uneasy as he shifted in his seat.
“What was long past forgotten shall now be rekindled…” Isoldé whispered, a deadly tone behind her sweet voice.
“Yes. Revenge. It’s an act of passion, the vengeance of justice,” Count Von Mont caressed the words. “Revenge is sweeter, sweeter than life itself.”
“King Periphral will regret all his evil misdeeds,” Isoldé was lured into his trance.
Von Mont smiled, then his voice turned abruptly harsh. “You must assist Morteus in killing him,” His voice was threatening.
“Yes sir,” Isoldé bowed her head. “Does Morteus… I never did find out… Why does Morteus bear any enmity against the king? I was only told before my mission that he was angry with King Periphral, for reasons similar to my own…”
Count Von Mont froze, and tapped his fingers on his throne, thinking. After a long while, he looked up and stared straight at Isoldé. “Fine. I shall tell you Morteus’ story, on two conditions.”
Isoldé pondered for a short while. “Your majesty, I would do anything for you.”
“Very well, then. Firstly, do not repeat any of what I tell you to Morteus or anyone else. Secondly…” His voice trailed off.
“Yes?” Isoldé inquired.
“I’ll tell you the story first,” Von Mont said quickly. “Many years back, this world was dominated by three kingdoms, one of which was mine, the other was King Alistair’s, and the last, Periphral’s,” He paused, and his expression shifted to an angry glare.
“There came a time where King Periphral and Alistair became best friends,” He paused again, as if rewriting some of the details, keeping something from her. “They attacked me, and conquered my kingdom with ease. I was forced to live in hiding, underground. Then King Periphral, after convincing Alistair to attack my fortress, turned on his ally and killed him. King Alistair left behind two sons, Lancelot and Morteus. I do not know what happened to Lancelot, but King Periphral adopted Morteus as his own, raising him like a pig for slaughter…”
“I think I know the rest of the story. Morteus found out just a few days ago, then escaped to protect himself… And is now seeking revenge?”
“Precisely,” A sly grin flashed across his face before he concealed it with a mask of no emotion.
“I see. Thank you for telling me, your majesty. I will not tell anyone this story and will abide to your conditions. And the second condition is?”
Count Von Mont didn’t answer her straight away. He averted his eyes and turned his back to her.
Count Von Mont turned to face her again and stared straight at her. “The second condition is…”
There was an ominous pause.
“Kill Morteus. The second condition is to kill Morteus.”
Morteus grabbed the fire torch from the hinge on the wall, and sighed. After choosing his armor and such, Isoldé had told him apologetically that she had to lock him back in. Why so? Had he not proven that he meant no harm?
He strode to the door at the far end of the cell and tried it. It wasn’t a surprise when he discovered it was locked. He examined the mechanism and fingered the lock.
“Simple,” Morteus started biting on his fingernails, using his nails as a lock pick. Seconds later, the lock clicked open.
Morteus fought the urge to laugh. King Periphral had taught him how to pick locks when he was young. He couldn’t imagine why, but at least he learnt something that came into use.
He tried to retrace the steps that Isoldé had taken to lead him to his cell. Isoldé hadn’t thought to blindfold him in the dimly lighted maze of tunnels. Morteus turned down the corridor, waving his torch in front of him. After a few minutes, he found himself outside the armory room. He heard voices coming from the room and pressed flat against the wall just when the door swung open.
“Come on, hurry. We’ve got five hours till the battle and his majesty summoned us to the main hall,” A soldier walked out, completely oblivious to the hidden boy behind the door.
“You can go first, I’ll be right there. Just need to fit this armor on…” Morteus heard grunts and more voices coming from inside the room.
“Fine, then,” The soldier left the door ajar and strode away. Morteus jumped out lithely from behind the door, and followed after the lone soldier. If he was going to the main hall, Von Mont and Isoldé should be there…
After a series of turns, they reached the main hall, which was in theory just a large cave. Morteus ducked behind a door when he saw another soldier, presumably one of higher rank than the one he had followed. He wore a captain’s badge and a set of blue robes.
“Our lord has ordered us to go to the main tunnels to wait for him. He is not yet ready,” The captain spoke in an authoritative voice.
“Yes sir,” The soldier walked off, and Morteus heard the footsteps fade away.
Morteus hid behind the door, still, unmoving. What next? The captain was still waiting out there, barely ten paces away.
He turned to face the room he had entered. Another armory. That’s it. Morteus carefully chose a suit of armor and donned it. He grabbed a helmet and walked out the door, hoping his disguise would not be given away.
“You there,” The captain pointed at him. “His majesty orders for all soldiers to assemble in the main tunnels. He is still discussing battle plans.”
Morteus nodded, not daring to speak lest his voice give him away. As he walked past the captain, he slowed down as he heard other soldiers coming down the corridor.
“To the tunnels, you raucous lot!” The captain frowned. “Our lord is not yet ready.”
Morteus took this momentary distraction to slide down below and enter the hall. It was pitch dark in the cave, besides the small light coming from the far side of it. Morteus inched forward, and it appeared that there was no one in the hall at all. As he neared the light, he saw a dark obscure door hidden away in a corner.
He walked towards the door, apprehensive. If the door should swing open any moment…
He hid in the shadows, just a mere centimeter away from the door. He could hear voices coming from within. Eavesdropping again. A voice at the back of his head disapproved.
I need to know what’s going on. He reasoned with himself and sat down, stiffening as the clanging metal of his armor echoed throughout the cave.
After a terrifying few seconds, Morteus settled down and concentrated, intent on the voices coming from the room.
“Kill him?” Isoldé was incredulous. “Why?”
Count Von Mont narrowed his eyes. “Are you questioning me?”
Isoldé took a deep breath. “Actually, yes I am.”
“Insolent girl,” Count Von Mont’s eyes widened in disgust. “You dare question me?”
“As a matter of fact, I do,” Isoldé’s expression hardened. “This is a matter of life and death.”
“Everything is a matter of life and death, child,” Count Von Mont sneered. “And why Morteus must be killed… He’s a threat to us all. He yearns for power and revenge, just like us. But he has no bond to us, and will turn on us just like his foster father did on King Alistair. His father… Was at much at fault as Periphral was when he attacked me,” Von Mont’s voice softened and his face molded into a mask of pity. “You are young, perhaps you do not understand the deceit that rules this world. But I know what’s best for you. Listen to me, and kill him.”
“But…” Isoldé could tell he was hiding something. “He doesn’t have to pay for his father’s wrongdoings.”
“Don’t you dare defy my orders!” Fiery rage bubbled up through Von Mont’s lungs. “I brought you up, and this is how you repay me? All I want you to do is this little mission, and you disobey me.”
“I’m sorry, my lord, but-”
“But what? I’m doing this for your good. For my good. For our good. Do you want all our work for the past ten years to be wasted on a boy who doesn’t deserve it- who lived his life as a prince? He’s gullible beyond comparison! He won’t be asset to us, rather a liability!”
“Gullible?” Isoldé questioned.
“Yes, gullible!” Count Von Mont was shouting at the top of his lungs now. “He was kept in the dark for fifteen years, and the second he learnt that King Periphral was not his father, he believed it to be true and ran away without a second thought! He believes anything that he hears.”
“Sometimes gullibility and innocence is good,” Isoldé murmured under her breath.
“Good? Gullibility?” Von Mont let out a hoarse laugh. “What have I been teaching you all these years? You wouldn’t survive a second in this world. What year are you living in- the ice age?”
“Perhaps the complex society that we have woven today is not as good as the caveman age. I know the world is full of deceit, but that is because of our greed- the greed of humans,” Isoldé said.
“So what are you trying to say?” Von Mont narrowed his eyes, his finger tapping on the chair impatiently.
“That this world is full of trickery, and I despise that. And that I do not wish to continue that trickery, whether through making use of Morteus then killing him…” Her gaze was unwavering. Then her eyes flickered downwards. “Or even with taking revenge on King Periphral,” She added quietly.
“Impudent fool! Are you to forget about avenging your parents? Are you to turn on me and what you believe in?” Von Mont stood up, enraged. Smoldering fire burnt in his eyes.
Von Mont’s eyes glinted dangerously like daggers.
Isoldé bowed her head. “I do not know what came over me. I am sorry for being so impertinent, my lord. I shall not do so again.”
“Good. That’s more like it,” Count Von Mont still gripped his chair tightly, but his voice was more controlled. The air felt caustic in Isoldé’s throat. What was I thinking, defying him like that?
There was a clashing sound of metal coming from outside. Their heads swiveled to face the door.
There was a moment of silence as they both stared at the door.
“Did you hear that?” Von Mont grew rigid.
“Yes, my lord. Could it be the soldiers?” Isoldé prompted.
“Perhaps,” Von Mont sat silently for a few moments, then turned back to continue their conversation.
“It’s an order,” Count Von Mont said, not knowing that Morteus lay just right outside the door. “You and Morteus will lead the troops to attack King Periphral. When the king has fallen, you can take Morteus out of the picture. Kill him. Make sure that the queen and the sons do not escape.”
“Yes sir. I shall not fail you,” Isoldé felt uneasy, but she knew that pandemonium would pursue if she did not agree with him.
“Kill him,” Von Mont sensed her unwillingness. “Do not attempt to rescue him. You will face my wrath if you do.”
Shivers went down Isoldé’s spine. “Do not fret, your majesty. I will follow your orders to the fullest of my capability.”
“Good. Now, we can continue with arranging the battle plan…” Von Mont smiled, content.
Outside, Morteus listened in shock silence. He had stood up when he had heard his name, ready to escape.
Morteus closed his eyes and slid onto the ground, his back against the wall.
“After that we’ll kill him…” The voices echoed in his ear. He slumped lower into the ground as despair trickled into his veins. He had no way out this time around. Why must the world be so cruel to him? He was rejected, time after time, and he was sick of it. History just kept repeating itself, again and again.
I’m just another spare pawn in someone else’s quest to dominate the world. First it was King Periphral–
Morteus was filled with loath as his thoughts jumped to his foster father.
King Periphral- He just kept me as a reminder of his power, his victory in conquering… my kingdom. The kingdom that’s rightfully mine. Fury bubbled in his lungs as he cursed himself inwardly. How come he hadn’t seen through his lies and deceptions? Now he was getting tricked again, just in different time, different place. Checkmate.
Tears sprang to his eyes. Checkmate.
No, no, NO!
Morteus’ blood boiled with fury and his lungs burst into flames. His face was contorted with rage as he looked up, eyes burning with inexplicable anger.
“Count Von Mont…” His hand balled up into a fist, knuckles showing on his pale skin. “I will not die. I will survive, I will live. I will not be your pawn, I will be your king.”
“I will be king.”