|The Ancient Prophecy
Part VII: The Quest for Loyalty
by Vipers ©
was split into 10 parts. Jump to any of the segments from here:
"Please, Sir White Lion... The patrol around this area has ceased. We know that the baron has sold us to the demons. If you don't expose his treachery, we will surely perish..." Leonard turned to Maya. "Please help us... for our lives... for your father's dream..."
Maya looked at Atrus. "Master... you will help them, won't you...?"
"Of course." He answered gravely. "Call Anna. We have a job to do."
They arrived at Castle Stoke a few hours after the sun set. The castle guards recognized the royal crest Anna showed them, so they let them in. A few horsemen approached them and asked for their business. After verifying their arrival, they led them to the castle.
Castle Stoke was more like a fortress rather than a governor's home. It was nearly as big as Stromgard. The walls were made of dark solid stones, slightly covered with algae and fungus. The design was unimpressive, consisting only the main building and two watchtowers on both sides. Smaller towers with disordered placement were built on top of the main building. The castle itself looked monstrous in the dark sky. No wonder why the locals feared of the castle terribly.
As they dismounted their horses, rain drizzled lightly, so they hurriedly took shelter. A man welcomed them and brought them inside. He wore a nice black suit with a matching tie. A clean piece of cloth was wrapped on his left hand. A typical servant's costume, Atrus thought.
"Welcome, Sir White Lion. My master is expecting you." He said politely. "Please follow me to your quarter, where you can refresh yourselves."
The servant led them around the maze of the castle. Despite the awful appearance at the outside, the interior of the castle was very neat. The floor was covered with clean, expensive-looking carpet. The furniture was exotic and well polished. The caretaker of the castle had to be a wonderful one.
The servant produced a ring of keys and opened a door for them. The door led to a huge bedroom. A big double bed was before them, flanked by expensive chandeliers. The room was so spacious; it could it an entire family inside, along with their pets. A glass cupboard kept a nice collection of vases and ceramic works. The entire room was filled with wonder beyond imagination.
Both Atrus and Anna just stared at the room in amazement that they forgot about the servant. Maya took the room key from the servant and thanked him quietly. Maya didn't share the amazement. The whole place had brought back the memories she wanted to forget. She could understand, though. Her friends, being adventurers most of their lives, were not used to this kind of lifestyle.
"Sir White Lion, my master wants you to join him for dinner in the dining room down the hall." The servant said. "Will you accept his invitation?"
"Atrus..." Anna suddenly squirmed. "I... I'm not feeling well..."
Both Atrus and the servant quickly held Anna's body before it hit the ground. Maya ran to the bed and opened the blanket, allowing the men to lay Anna on the bed. Atrus covered her body with blanket and stroked her hair.
"You're too tired... Rest now... I will attend the dinner." Then he kissed her forehead.
Anna smiled weakly, and then closed her eyes. Atrus nodded at the servant, who then walked out of the room. Atrus changed his wet clothes with a more formal suit. Maya had bought the suit for this task in the market in Stromgard. The suit was very uncomfortable with high collar and long sleeves. Maya, on the other hand, wore her tight bodysuit and put on her leather collar. Tonight, she was his slave.
Atrus walked out of the room and down the stair. Maya followed him closely, gazing downwards just like an obedient slave. They approached the large door where the servant was waiting for them. The door was opened, leading to the dining room.
The dining room was large. Chandeliers along the wall lightened the room with its delicate light. A long table was set in the middle of the room, the eating utensils for three were arranged neatly on it. Three high chairs were arranged around the table.
Sitting on one of the chair was a middle-aged man wearing a formal costume. His suit almost imitated Atrus', only with darker color. He had a well-trimmed moustache that curled at the end. A light beard covered his chin. His dark eyes watched carefully as Atrus approached the table.
Then he produced a light smile. "Sir Atrus White Lion... I've been expecting you..."
"Baron Anthony Stoke... I thank you for your invitation." Atrus slightly bowed.
"Please... please, Sir White Lion... Don't be so formal. You must be tired. Let us deal with business and formalities tomorrow. Tonight we can relax. However, my courier didn't find you in the designated meeting place. Was there something wrong?"
"That is why I'm here, Baron Stoke." Atrus answered coldly. So far he had been playing his role well. "We were jumped by bandits. I'm here to question your competence in dealing with troubles."
The baron chuckled lightly. "I do apologize for the inconvenience, Sir White Lion. I will fix the problem personally. And is that your... aide?"
"My associate apologized for being unable to accept your invitation. She is too tired. This lovely young lady is my... servant." Atrus showed the leather collar on her neck. "Maria, greet the baron."
Maya, or Maria, bowed before the baron. "Greetings, Sir."
Atrus could feel her body trembling with fear. He could understand how frightened she was in meeting the man who had ruined her life. However, there was nothing he could do to comfort her now. It had been a good thing that the baron didn't recognize Maya. If he did, they were in trouble.
Baron Stoke grinned immediately. "I don't know you have a fine taste of a woman, Sir White Lion. She is a fair maid indeed. I believe we should make the business fair, should we not?"
He clapped his hands, and then two young women entered the room immediately. They were slaves all right. They wore cotton maid costumes with tight waistbands and short skirts. They also wore leather stockings hooked on garter belts beneath their skirts. Heavy metal cuffs circled their ankles, wrists, and necks. Long silver chains dangled from their metal collar. Their black hair was bound on the back of their heads by silk cloths. They were very pretty, but acted submissively.
Maya squirmed at the sight. Atrus could see her mouth trembling. Cold sweat was formed on her forehead. She was in great fear. He grabbed her palm behind her back. She squeezed his hand tightly.
"Your girls are very stunning, Baron. I envy you." Atrus said slowly.
Th baron laughed hard. "I begin to like you, Sir White Lion. I'm sure we will have an interesting discussion before us. Now let us not let the dinner grow cold, shall we?"
Anna peeked out of the bedroom. The hallway was deserted. She straightened up her tight long pants, buckled her belt, and then began walking silently across the hallway. Her high boots were replaced by rubber-sole shoes which, assisted by her new levitation spell, produced almost no sound. She couldn't levitate her body yet, but her skill was enough to lighten her body weight.
When Maya had proposed this idea earlier, Anna had fought against it. The idea had put both Maya and Atrus in a very tricky position, but Maya had insisted that both she and Atrus would do just fine. The plan was simple. Anna had pretended to be too tired to attend the dinner. Then she would explore the castle and snoop the baron's quarter to look for any proofs of betrayal, while Atrus and Maria, Maya's fake name, dealt with the baron. Leonard had no idea what kind of proof she might encounter, but he was sure the baron had made a deal with the demons.
Compared to Maya's task, her task seemed to be nothing at all. She could picture how frightened Maya would be when she saw her slaver. She had volunteered to be Atrus' slave for the night, and Atrus had accepted that for the first time since they had met at Tiras. Her role would minimize her contact with the baron, as she would be expected to serve Atrus and Atrus alone.
Anna could picture how Maya would serve him, and it made her jealous. But this is not the right time to feel jealous. She vowed she would straight things out with them once their task was done.
Looking for the baron's quarter would be the hardest task. The castle was huge enough that even her advanced eagle eye spell couldn't cover the entire complex. Maya, however, remembered the place. She had given Anna a complete description at how to find the room. Maya had claimed that she had been thoroughly punished inside that room, so she remembered it well.
She paused at the end of the hallway. Before her was the stairway down to the main hall and the dining room, where Atrus and Maya were. Before her was another long hallway leading to one of the castle wings. She could sense four guards guarding the main door and six guards standing at the mail hall. She crept into the wall at the hallway. The long hallway before her was guarded by at least ten guards.
She didn't mind killing those guards, since they were just hired soldiers who worked for money. Those people... those filthy people had ruined her life. She could just go berserk and walk casually along the hallway filled with corpses, but that would ruin their mission. Personal feeling couldn't interfere with a task, especially a royal one. She set aside her anger as she produced her notebook.
Typical mages usually had spellbooks during a battle. As a great scholar of magic, Anna preferred to memorize the spells rather than relying on books. Ever since she and Atrus had discovered the long-lost Book of Elements, her magical skill had improved significantly. However, the Book of Elements was not an easy book to learn. No matter how hard she had learnt, she couldn't master the entire book in a short tome. She had had to write down several important spells that might become handy in this task.
"Where was that spell... Ah... Sleeping spell..."
It was one of the most useful spells when one didn't want to kill anybody. Sleeping spell simply contaminate the air with the force that would charm anybody in its path, except, of course, the caster. The spell was safe and harmless. It was considered to be a cheap spell for young and eager mages, but if used properly, the spell could be very useful. The victims would fall asleep almost instantly once the spell worked. Advanced caster could even manipulate their dreams, but she couldn't do that yet.
She enchanted the spell, carefully guided the sleeping force to the hallway only. If the guards at the main hall were affected as well, it might rise up suspicion. Then she waited.
It didn't work.
She still could hear the chatter from the hallway. The soldiers should fall asleep upon contact with the spell. Atrus and Maya could buy her time, but she didn't have forever. She enchanted another one, stronger this time, and waited.
She didn't sense any magic barriers around here. She didn't sense anybody using magic to resist her spells. She only knew that her eagle eye spell never disappointed her before. But the guards were still awake. Cursing herself, she let out another spell. If this one didn't work, she would climb the roofs.
This time Lady Luck was on her side... finally. In her eagle eye view she could sense the consciousness of the guards getting weaker. They were getting sleepy. Then one by one the guards drifted to dreamland. When Anna peeked at the hallway, all ten guards were either sitting against the wall or simply lying on the floor, sleeping.
When she looked up, she knew why the first two spells didn't work. At the end of the hallway, a huge window was opened. Outside, the storm was raging. The wind had to have sucked the spells outside before doing their work. Then the third spell was indeed a pure luck. Now all she had to do was creep into the baron's quarter, if she could find it, before anybody discovered the slumber party.
Then she found it. The room she was looking for was right above her level with a well-guarded hallway. The room seemed deserted, for no soul was inside. But the hallway there was guarded by at least twenty guards. When she crept on the stair at the end of her hallway, she could spot the nearest guard right above her. To her dismay, the guards in that level had also opened the window...
She let out a long sigh. This was going to be a long night...
Maya took another spoonful of the buttery diced meat and carefully put it in Atrus' mouth, which he accepted readily. The meat tasted a bit sour before the sweetness came out. No matter how hard he tried to hold himself, a soft moan escaped his lips. Maya just looked at her, smiling at his reaction.
"Cerulean scallops..." the baron announced proudly. "It was shipped fresh every month from the rebelling Cerulean village, far northeast from here. I was lucky I have the agents there." The baron gulped another spoonful offered by his own slave. "The technique to cook this dish is very rare."
Very rare... but he was sure Maya would be eager learn it very soon, Atrus thought.
The dinner had lasted for half an hour. It seemed so silly to him. As an adventurer, he would eat fast and simple, so he would have enough time to rest after a long journey. The royal behavior sometimes puzzled him. They had started with prawn cocktails, chicken salad and a bowl of meat soup. He couldn't identify the meat, but it had tasted good. Maya had tasted everything before he ate them... although she couldn't eat them.
Atrus glanced at her. As a slave, Maya had to taste the food served for her master before the meal, just in case the food was tainted. Such action symbolized a slave's unquestioned knowledge and loyalty. Maya possessed the loyalty, but not the knowledge. She was very nervous, although she did a good job not to show it. She just imitated what the baron's slaves did to him.
Atrus looked at the two slaves serving their master at the other end of the table. They were as nervous as Maya. They knew he was looking at them, but they simply avoided his eyes.
"I am amazed at the food, Baron Stoke. I owe your chef my best compliment."
Atrus caught it in the corner of his eyes. One of the slaves blushed slightly.
"I see you made this dish for us." Atrus quickly said to the girl. "A fine one, Miss...?"
"M...Missy, Master..." She answered groggily.
The action came instantly. The baron stood up and slapped her so hard that the girl's cry echoed in the room. She fell on the floor, sobbing. Maya grasped at the sight.
"You have made TWO mistakes today! One, you're not supposed to talk unless you're told! I will introduce you as I see fit! Two, you're not to call him Master! I am your only master!"
Silently Atrus regretted his action. His inner heart couldn't accept the treatment, but he couldn't do anything right now. He would apologize to her, but not in front of the baron.
"I do hope you can forgive me, Sir White Lion. She is our newest member." The baron said.
Atrus tried his best to suppress the distress in his answer. "You are forgiven."
The dinner continued, although there was a slight tension in the air. Atrus personally disliked the baron, and he knew Maya would be delighted to dispose him with her blade. But being known as traitors for killing a war hero would do no good in their long-term goal. He could just hope that they had bought enough time for Anna to do her part. The success of the mission was their main priority.
Finally Baron Stoke ordered the wine to be served. "Carefully handpicked from the numerous vineyards near the southern border, and expertly brewed in Tiras by my own assistants..." The baron announced, "This is our welcome to you, loyal servant of the king!"
Maya poured a small amount and took a sip first. The reaction came instantly as the purple-black liquid burned through her throat. It was a strong one. Maya had never drank wine before, and it took all her self-control not to burst in front of her master. She pretended to cough, but she was trying to get the liquid out of her lungs. She gave Atrus a warning look.
However, the baron's slave was not so fortunate. Missy's reaction came as instant as Maya's, but she failed to control herself. She the liquid in her mouth, smearing the tablecloth with black patches in front of Atrus. He wouldn't mind at all, but the baron was enraged.
"STUPID BITCH!!! You have embarrassed me before my guests!!! GUARDS!!!"
A pair of castle guards came with a long whip on their hands. The whip had a thick knot at the end, not enough to damage the skin, but enough to make terrible bruises. Maya squirmed and moved closer to Atrus, frightened. The girl struggled frantically, but she was no match for the two guards. They pinned her body on the table surface so her ass was vulnerable. The baron pulled the skirt down, revealing her bare bottom. She was not wearing any panties.
"Please, master... I'm so sorry... I... I haven't taste wine before..." Misty sobbed.
"Well, you will taste something better than wine. It's bitter, isn't it? We'll try something sweet." The baron turned to Atrus. "I hope you understand me. A discipline session can't wait, can it?"
However, the baron was not seeking agreement from Atrus, and continued his mischief. The slave was still struggling when he rubbed her bare ass and spanked her. The slap came hard, making the girl scream in pain. The other slave was watching in the corner in horror. Maya jolted on her feet in every strike. She looked at Atrus gravely, hoping that he would stop the torture. Atrus, however, had had enough.
"It seems to me that your way of treating your slaves is very unsound." He said calmly.
was split into 10 parts. Jump to any of the segments from here:
|Another top quality story by Vipers.|
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