Crown of Sight – scene 1

Enjoy this preview of Crown of Sight – releasing on March 22, 2019. More scenes to come in the following days!

1

Katach sat brooding upon his throne, its carved surfaces gilded with the treasure of his many conquests. Its bulk was held aloft on a wooden stand by two ranks of slaves, who bore it upon two great logs that sat upon their shoulders. Images of demons and human suffering ran up and down the back and sides of the great chair, a baroque cacophony of wicked iconography, dedicated wholly to the lord that sat upon it. Despite the jagged textures, it was comfortable, for the seat and back were made of supple leather, tanned by the finest craftsmen in the Draesenith empire. When Katach entertained visitors – usually heads of state he intended to bring into his power and will – he was sure to describe the secret of this leather, that it was made from the skins of kings who had betrayed or defied him. And an ottoman, no less grotesque, was being made, he was sure to remind the wavering prince. The roof above the throne, of the same sort of material, he only described to his subordinates, for it was made of the skins of those who failed him due to the unforgivable sin of cowardice.

The king of the grey-skinned giants gazed across the barren field at the gates of Pelanalda, the impenetrable domain of Pelanel the Great, the lord of the Bastion Elves, keepers of the secrets of the prim in the hazy chaos that marched to the city’s back; they were guardians as well of an ancient relic that concerned Katach’s god. The slaves that held aloft Katach’s throne, hale dark-skinned men of the southern territories, did not fidget despite the wind that blew across the battleplane, which brought stinging dust to cling to their sweaty bodies. Katach could sit as if he were upon stone, time being his own.

 “My Liege!”

Katach tore his eyes and wandering mind from the white walls and tall towers of Pelanalda to look upon his last and greatest general: Saren. Katach narrowed his eyes as he looked upon the lean Draesen that stood beside the throne.

“Speak, General.”

“We have ravaged all the lands as far north and south as we dare tread-”

“Do you dare tread no further? Does your heart quake?”

Saren fixed his face grimly. “I lost good warriors trying to find a way through the mist.”

“But not yourself, eh?” Katach smiled slightly. “You were ever a fox, Saren. Perhaps that is why you alone have survived this campaign. But you are not to play the fox with me, general.”

“Of course, Lord.” Saren bowed, his maroon cloak falling to the ground around him.

Katach looked again to the city. “The game is at last coming to a conclusion. How much will he pay for the last of his fertile land? How much will they quake when I snuff it out?”

“These are high elves, sire, not men. They will not starve out easily, nor will they count farmland of so much worth that they will surrender.”

Katach grumbled. “If they were men I would already have the city under my heel and the king’s head for a wine glass.”

“Sire, have you considered that they can conjure what they need?”

“I have. You are brazen, Saren.”

Saren nodded. “Who else lives to know your mind and provide council?”

“I can command the ghosts of your predecessors, if I wish. Do not make me expand my roof.”

“Of course, Lord, I only meant that-”

“I know what you meant, fox. You are in my mercy, and not indispensable. Remember that.”

“How could I forget?”

“How indeed, with thy wagging tongue?” Katach picked up a nearby cup. This one was not a skull, but was carved from a holy relic of ivory looted from men so pious that they died upon the altar to hide it. Katach smiled as he swished the wine and drained it. “Nobody will come to save Pelanel. We need only be patient. One of my virtues, and yours, Saren.”

“Thank you, my lord.”

“How fare the warriors?”

“Good spirits still, my lord, but their lusts will only be sated by old wine and fat whores for so long.”

“The officers?”

“Keeping discipline as well as before, though we are short on good battlefield commanders. We have had a few too many lions, I fear.”

“If it comes to a sacking, make sure the lions that remain have an opportunity to die gloriously.”

“Even at the end of the campaign?”

“This will not be the last campaign, Saren. Those that survive will be all the better. Do not grow fat on me.”

“I won’t. But lord, I must confess again I am concerned about the army’s capacity to remain loyal if the siege is to go on too much longer.”

“Don’t worry about loyalty, Saren. Loyalty I can command. Discipline is harder.” Katach stood up and hopped off of the platform, landing on the moist earth with a dull thud. His cloak of black flapped in the wind. He stood a head taller than Saren, who took a hurried step back. “Have a scribe sent to my tent. One with impeccable handwriting that knows high elven.”

“Yes, sire.” Saren bowed and held the awkward position as Katach walked past him and started down the hill toward the camp. Impaled upon the battlements were two soldiers, still clinging to life, stakes protruding from their mouths, which oozed blood. At the bottom stood two human females with bowls, collecting the crimson life. Katach could not remember the crimes of the dying, but he smiled at their punishment anyway.

“Saren,” the lord of the Draesenith Empire called back, finding his general a few paces behind him, giving him a wide distance though they walked to the same place. “Send the scribe later on. I am inclined to see to my own desires for the time.”

“Of course, my lord.”

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