A False Legacy by Benjamin Agar
Year: 2387 AHV (After Holy Victory)
Age: Late Medivale Era
Country: The Kingdom of Everdeen
Everdeen. Arken, like many a Hunter, held a healthy hatred for the realm. Its corrupt aristocracy, its penchant for slavery. But as he rode in that horse-drawn carriage, he couldn’t help gaze out the window, awed by Everdeen’s brilliant white coastline as it wound with the blue sea, fifty metres below.
The road was smooth; there’d been nary a judder since Arken had left the city of Qarzert, about twenty kilometres ago.
That was what happened when labour was free. Maintaining the roads was cheap and trained their slaves were taught well.
Arken reclined in his seat and watched the sun shimmer across the calm sea.
He could get used to this. Life had been like this all the time for him sixty-seven years ago when he was treated like a king.
Because he was a king.
Arken smiled. He actually didn’t miss it, the stress, the intrigue. Now life was much simpler. Hunting and killing rogue vampires was far less dangerous than dealing with politics. And no, he wasn’t being sarcastic.
Although, he wasn’t sure what he was to deal with on this assignment. The Hunters were hired by Hasteq the lord of Qarzert to look into a town thirty kilometres north. A town named Jazewerth, a town that had stopped all communication with the outside world about two weeks ago.
And a town with a strange name like most places in Everdeen.
Usually, the Hunters wouldn’t take contracts with the Everdeenian nobility, but the price lord Hasteq had offered was just too good.
Arken had to meet the man back at his huge, overly ostentatious palace in Qarzert. Arken saw through Hasteq’s jovial demeanour, despite his soft, pink, plump face, the second he saw him.
A slave towelled the lord’s sweat-soaked forehead as another filed his toenails. The hot summer sun streamed through the stain glass windows, lighting images representing some long legacy Arken had no interest in. The lord in his gaudy opulent clothes sat upon his gaudy opulent throne in the large throne room and looked down at Arken with poorly hidden disdain.
‘I pay so much, and I only get one of you?’ Hasteq had said, by way of greeting.
Arken had bowed, but only to hide the contempt he couldn’t help let to his face. ‘My apologies, my lord. All of my colleagues are busy with other matters at this time.’
‘Matters more important than this?’ said Hasteq.
Arken bit back a retort and said, ‘No, lord. They had just been assigned to other duties before your request came to us.’
Hasteq grimaced. ‘And you do not look like much. Are you sure you are not an elf?’
Arken smiled. He couldn’t blame the lord for thinking that. He was tall and skinny. Pale due to being born and raised beneath mountains. With slicked back long white hair and sharp, almost feminine features. Arken didn’t fit the bulky warrior archetype which Hasteq seemed to think he’d be.
‘I hope I do not sound arrogant, lord. But I am much more than much. That I assure you.’
Hasteq let out a bark of a laugh. ‘You do not sound arrogant. You sound extremely arrogant. I like that. I hope you manage to live up to your confidence, Hunter. I am very worried about the people of Jazewerth, they are my responsibility, after all. I would hate to see them hurt.’
Arken knew that Hasteq was more worried about his lost tax revenue and loss of material than the people. The man was easy to read, which baffled Arken. The nobility of Everdeen was infamous for their plotting and politicking.
A rare bump in the road brought Arken back to reality.
He’d hated bowing and scraping to Hasteq and not just because the man was a pompous arse. It still nagged Arken, he who was once a king, was forced to scrape to someone who’d once been so beneath him.
Arken forced the thought away. Even after all these years, his aristocratic arrogance could come to the fore. But Hasteq hadn’t earned his position; he’d been handed it on a platter.
Arken had earned his crown; he’d fought on the front lines in countless battles against the armies of his cruel bastard half-brother and later, the lords rebelling against his rule. Hundreds of men had fallen to Arken’s sword and hundreds of times he’d been a mere millimetre from death.
He grimaced, and what did he get out of it? All those bloody battles, all those deaths lead to nothing but more death and betrayal.
Where Hasteq, an enslaver, would likely live out a comfortable life of hedonism and excess.
It sickened Arken, but that was the way the world worked.
If the Hunters and the vampires of Valandri had it their way, that would change.
Change for the better.
‘Sar,’ said the gruff voice which brought Arken awake.
The carriage driver, a rather regally dressed dwarf looked at Arken through the front window.
‘We’re about a kilometre from the town, as yeh ordered, sar.’
Arken glanced about. The sun was setting, and they were no longer on the coast. The forest now dominated each side of the road.
Arken cleared his throat, struggling to recall the driver’s name. ‘Thank you. I appreciate this, I do.’
The dwarf looked at Arken as if he’d insulted his lineage.
Arken reached into his pocket and pulled out a fist full of gold coins. Around fifteen Angarans worth, half of his allowance given for the assignment.
‘Take this,’ he said. ‘Might help you escape this hell hole of a country.’
Before the dwarf could reply, Arken dropped the coins on the floor, retrieved his bag and slipped out of the carriage.
’Jaroai bless yeh, good sar. Thanking yeh. You’re much nicer than other humans ‘ere,’ the dwarf said when the Hunter was a few metres away.
Arken turned on the balls of his feet, gave the dwarf a broad smile and a wave before turning and continuing onward. Arken just hoped the dwarf wouldn’t be found with the gold.
That he could use the money and escape somewhere, make a better life.
He doubted it, though and it caused Arken a hit of regret, like a punch to the gut.