205: There are two kinds of people in the world.
It took nearly an hour before Tra’Khil and his men returned with all 50 of the priests of the Guardians. No more than fifty. No less than fifty. For thousands of years.
Several of the priests gasped and others backpedaled when they saw Claudius. He smiled, though there was no friendliness in it.
The tension in the room thickened.
“Commander,” Kru’Nah said. “Your men are dismissed, but you are not.”
“Sire,” Tra’Khil said. He turned to his men. “Dismissed. Return to your homes and wait for further instruction.”
They saluted in unison and left. The absence of the soldiers only increased the tension. It had the distinct feeling of no witnesses to whatever was about to happen.
“Kru’Nah,” Claudius said. “Will you do us the honor of retrieving the Writings?”
“The Writings?” Kru’Nah said. He couldn’t retrieve them. They were protected by many spells, most of which he didn’t know.
“Yes. You will find they are quite vulnerable.” Claudius turned his eyes to Kru’Que’Nah. “They will be in your mother’s chambers.”
Her face blanched.
“Never underestimate the relic of the Guardians,” Claudius whispered to her.
Kru’Nah exited from the same small door his mother had entered. It was only then that he realized the castle was still entirely silent. No buzz from servants. None of the usual sounds. Instead of going straight to his mother’s chambers, he turned toward the kitchens.
He was utterly unprepared for the sight in the kitchens.
Every worker lay dead. One near the fire, another slumped awkwardly over a lump of dough. Even the children sprawled on the floor. Blood pooled at the far end of the floor, which clearly sloped downward though he’d never noticed that before.
He breathed in through his nose and turned, leaving the macabre scene behind him. He could only imagine it was the same throughout the entire castle. Every servant must lay dead where they were.
Of course his mother had ordered the executions, but she would never have done it herself. Would the palace guards have done this? Those at the gate couldn’t have been involved, could they?
It was only then that he realized he hadn’t seen any other guards this entire time. Only the gate guards remained, and each guard stood a half-day post. If this happened after they’d gone to their post, it was entirely possible they had no idea. The bodies in the kitchen seemed fresh – no rot smell had started to emanate yet.
As he walked the long hallway to the royal chambers, he thought back to meeting Allyandrah and this grandfather. Had he followed royal protocol, both would have been executed on the spot. His entire rescue regiment should have been executed after losing soldier after soldier. If Tra’Khil had followed the orders given him, Kru’Nah wouldn’t even be here.
He was his mother’s son, but he was nothing like her. The only ones left alive would have to be those like her, unless she deemed even them to be a liability.
He paused outside her thick wooden door. He squeezed his eyes shut, not wanting to come upon another grotesque scene. Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes and pushed on the door. It swung with ease in silence. Her outer chamber was empty of any persons. Glancing around the room, he saw nothing that could have resembled the Writings. He had no choice but to enter her inner chamber.
Trepidation choked him as he crossed the room toward her inner chamber. This would be the most awful scene of all, he just knew. He gathered all his courage and swung the door open.
Bodies of the elite class leaders were piled on one end of the massive chamber. Piles of blood-soaked priest robes were strewn about. The Writings lay on the middle of her bed. Picking a path through the carnage, Kru’Nah laid a hand on the massive volume. Not a single drop of blood was on it. He hefted it from the bed and wrapped his arms around it, hugging it to his chest.
He took one last glance around, hardening his resolve. Claudius would not execute this judgment. It wasn’t his place.
Kru’Nah made his way back to the great hall, a rage simmering inside him. He fought to keep it under control. He strode past his own chambers and stopped. Turning, he entered. His own personal servants lay slain everywhere in his room. These were servants he’d known from his youngest years.
Tears stung at his eyes and he clenched his teeth. He removed his scimitar from above the mantle of his fireplace.
“I will avenge you all,” he whispered through clenched teeth. He breathed deeply several times to clear his head and the tears from his eyes. After strapping his sword around his waist, he picked up the Writings again.
He wasted no time in returning to the great hall.
The priests huddled in a group just away from Claudius. His mother’s rage had grown and her body quivered. Her jawline bulged with the clenching of her teeth. She glowered at Claudius.
“Oh, good,” Claudius said. “You’ve found them.”
“I have,” Kru’Nah said. “Thank you, relic of the Guardians. You are dismissed from further proceedings. I wouldn’t want to keep you from your responsibilities, many which lay beyond our borders.”
A small smile tugged at Claudius’ lips. “Young prince,” he said with a deep bow.
“Commander,” Kru’Nah said. “Assemble your men. Two per priest. Four for my mother.”
“At once, sire,” Tra’Khil said. Within just a minute or two, soldiers filed into the great all.
Kru’Nah could not contain his surprise. His eyebrows shot up and he stared at Tra’Khil.
“Soldier speak,” Tra’Khil said. “Some instructions don’t mean what’s said.”
Kru’Nah nodded. “Well executed, Commander.”
Claudius bowed deeply to Tra’Khil. “You have my respect, Commander.”
Tra’Khil sucked in a breath, struggling to keep composure. “I’m… humbled… honored… great relic,” he stammered. He returned a bow. His eyes glistened when he returned upright.
“Commander,” Kru’Nah barked. “Escort the prisoners to the public square.”
“Sire,” Tra’Khil said. The soldiers assembled with little instruction just as Kru’Nah had commanded. He led the procession out the front gates of the hall. Tra’Khil grabbed the execution bell and rushed ahead of Kru’Nah, ringing the bell, which echoed across the city. Immediately people gathered, following the procession.
When Kru’Nah arrived in the public square, he sighed. A wooden stage had been erected in the short time he’d been away.
There were two types of people in this world. Those like him and those like his mother.
He would cleanse the city of these leaders of the latter.