There are fates worse than death…
Hello, this is the ninth chapter of my serialisation of Accidental Immortal, on my blog. It will be published four times a week so the serialisation will be completed at (roughly) the same time as on Wattpad, if not a little sooner!
If you would like to start from the beginning, please head over to chapter one. There is also a contents list at the bottom of each post.
Chapter 9 – Arkan Blade
Arkan stood before the king in his private chambers. The sound of courtiers in the outer audience room was barely audible, muffled by the heavy door. Large tapestries and sumptuous woollen rugs were liberally draped over the walls and floors, creating a luxury feel that could only be dreamt of by his subjects but Arkan knew that the real reason for the excess was to dampen the sounds of the occupants so their voices would not travel beyond the room.
“Did you find anything?” The King’s voice was friendly, its low tones, mellow, like dripping honey.
“I was able to view all the rooms on the upper floors. I have given instructions to the royal map maker and a finished map should be available by the morning. He has been given gold as per your instructions My Lord. He will not talk, I threatened to pay him a visit if he did.” Arkan gave a grim smile before continuing. “The temple has more levels below. They are hiding something but I couldn’t get to the lower levels to find out what.”
“What could they be hiding?” The king rested his hands on the windowsill looking out at the courtyard. Arkan made sure to stay in the shadows behind him.
“A dragon?” Arkan suggested. Both laughed at the absurd notion.
“I don’t know, my Lord. But there were around thirty guards placed strategically around the building to stop anyone from finding out.” Arkan was getting tired of talking to the back of the king’s head. Something was up.
“I heard you came from there with more than just information?” The king’s voice was still soft but there was an edge creeping in that he hadn’t heard before. There was more to the question than idle enquiry.
Arkan felt his body freeze in place. His hands instinctively felt for the tips of the daggers in his sleeve. He hid the movement with a slight cough. If the king had doubts about him, then he would not be the only trained fighter in the vicinity. Unconsciously, his eyes swarmed around the room for tell-tale signs of watchers. How had he found out? He frowned at the uncomfortable thought, the king must have spies in the priesthood as well. If he did, why did he send him to investigate? Why not just ask his informant? Was the king testing his loyalties? For the first time in years, Arkan felt nervousness creep up his spine. He should report the girl but he wanted to find out more about Lynsey Walker before he told him everything. His mind was in a quandary. If he lied to the king there would be repercussions but if he told him everything, Lynsey would not be free for long. His loyalty to the king warred with his curiosity for the girl. He could smooth it over, he decided. He’d been in worst situations than this.
“There were some distant relatives of Luna Kartridge trying to get an audience with the High Priest. I believe they thought there would be a real dragon there.” Arkan hated the lie, but the Osiris band was an unknown. Could the King be trusted with that much power?
“Ah, the luscious Luna. How is she?”
“Fine, my Lord. Bored as always while her husband is away.” The King chuckled as he turned to face Arkan. The king’s outfit was more subdued than normal. The burgundy velvet hugged the man’s frame while the crisp white ruffles streamed like water from his wrists. He was playing with his cuffs, a clear sign that there was something on his mind.
“I hear that the visitor is quite fetching. Will I see her in court?”
“If Luna has anything to do with it, I would put money on it.”
“You?” The King’s left eyebrow rose in surprise. “I’ve never seen you gamble on anything in your life. But then our Luna’s passion for projects is a sure bet. Is there anything else you need to tell me?”
Arkan shook his head and moved towards the door. He stopped mid-way. “You will have to place the High Priest on your right during the banquet.” The king groaned but nodded. He waved his arm in dismissal.
Arkan left the suite by the secret door behind the King’s bed. Only three people knew of it. The king, Arkan and the King’s mistress. Even the queen didn’t know its location although she suspected its existence.
He came out near the kitchens. The hustle and bustle of the cooks and assistants, the pots and the pans banging and clattering – all served to disguise any sounds he might make, while the heavy hanging, while hiding the exit, gave him the opportunity to choose the moment to appear unseen into the side corridor where he could bide his time to walk out into the main passage.
The king was right. Now would be the time to break the power of the priests. They must know what they were up against. Possibly the king’s informant had a lowly status and limited access to the rest of the temple. That was it! Arkan let out a breath he didn’t realise he was holding. The informant must be the doorkeeper or someone from the kitchens.
Thinking about the temple brought the girl back into his mind. Lynsey was impossible to forget for long. He’d hardly spent a minute not thinking of her since he met her. It was obvious why. She was manly in the way she moved, there was no finesse there but she did possess a different sort of grace. Her beauty rivalled Luna’s and her blonde hair was unusual, the stuff of legends. That reason alone would have the King interested. Everyone thought that blondes had died out years ago. …and to have an Osiris band!
Arkan swerved to avoid a beggar as he entered the main courtyard. He needed to go to the library.
“Arkan, long time no see.” A warm voice greeted him. Arkan felt himself instantly relax at the sound of his old mentor’s voice.
“Birolan, always a pleasure. How is Sir Sira?”
“He is fine. Sitting by the fire begging for a treat as usual but he is on a diet. He is the size of a horse already! Try not to give him any treats this time.”
Arkan smiled. “Old friend, you know that won’t happen.”
Sir Birolan laughed, “Aye, I do. How can I help you?”
“I’m looking for references to the Osiris band.”
“Indeed? A strange topic for a King’s assassin but I won’t ask why. You don’t get to be this old by asking why.”
“Come Sir Birolan, you are not that old. You’ll be the Librarian long after I’ve retired.”
“That is true unless you have managed to curb your impulsiveness in the last ten years.”
“I was a boy!”
Sir Birolan roared with laughter. “A boy could not have seduced and bedded the Chief Advisor’s wife.”
“I think you have it the wrong way round, old man.”
“That’s not what she said!” Birolan’s eyes sparkled at the memory. Arkan, shuffled his feet in unease. Dark memories of temporary banishment to his uncle’s estates while the furore died down surfaced for a moment before he buried it. That had been humiliating. His family connections were the only thing that saved him then and he didn’t appreciate the reminder.
Birolan decided he’d had enough fun at Arkan’s expense this time around and nodded, letting his smile fade to a gentle grin. “There should be some books in the mythology section which cover the Osiris band. Do you need help with finding it?”
“No, that’s fine.” Birolan gratefully sank back into his leather chair which was probably as old as he was. Arkan could still hear his chuckling as he walked away.
The scrolls were easy to find. The library was split into several sections. The mythology books were in the back along with the romances and other fiction. It had always aggrieved him as a child that he had to visit the girly section just to read about the ancient gods but later it made for a good excuse to meet ladies.
Two out of the twenty scrolls he pulled from the shelves stood out as holding useful information. One had a clear drawing of the band. The tiny insignia was drawn in minute detail confirming that the girl’s band was one and the same. It was a copy of an earlier work and the section following the drawing was missing. The other scroll contained details of what the band could do.
Interesting, the wearer of the band could speak any language like a native. It gave miraculous healing powers to the wearer and the bearer was bestowed with all the knowledge of the Gods. What drew Arkan’s attention more than anything else was the next words in the text.
The band could also be used as a weapon.