go quiet during winter the day showed that there are buyers in the market. It’s a wonderful sign for the Brisbane real estate market heading into the new year.

Chapter 6: The Sacking of Sailara

Aarav sat in the darkest corner of his cell in the Imperial Dungeons. He had counted each moment ever since he was thrown into the prison on the command of his dead brother. He assumed that the night had fallen for it was always dark in the dungeons. He was to be beheaded the next day and the fear didn’t let him sleep. A mild breeze blew around the cold dungeons, erecting goose bumps across Aarav’s hands. There was no one around who could comfort him, no one who would assure him that everything would be fine, that it was all but a bad dream. He remembered Aanya, her gorgeous face, her beautiful eyes, her impeccable laughter. He remembered the comfort of her touch, the warmth of her lips and the happiness he felt around her. It was perhaps the last day he had smiled, the last time he felt lively. ‘What would she think when she hears about my death? Will she weep? Would she be hurt? Or will time heal her wounds and I would be nothing but a faded shadow in her memory?’

He couldn’t take it anymore. Gone was the guilt of stabbing his brother, gone was the love which he felt towards his father. He was furious. For four consecutive days he hadn’t spoken a single word. All he managed to do was to contemplate. He had cried the first day, thought a lot about his life the next day, developed hatred towards his dead brother and his blinded father the third day and all that contemplation, all that meditation had brought out his rage the fourth day. He got up from the corner and started pacing in his cell. He was nervous, anxious, depressed and furious. All his life he had known that death was the ultimate truth which will eventually come, yet staring at it this closely had rattled him from the insides. He had to do something, and he had to do it quickly. ‘Use your goddamn wits now.’ Escaping from the Imperial Dungeons was no piece of cake. Although no more than a hundred prisoners had escaped the dungeons in its glorious history of eight hundred years; with the current state of guards, who protected the dungeons like a parent protects its child, escaping was not going to be an easy task.

‘Hey kid, have I seen you somewhere?’ a man barked at Aarav from the cell towards his right. That cell was big, with seven men sharing it. All those seven men unanimously looked at him. Aarav chose to ignore them and continued pacing up and down in his cell. ‘I asked you something, you little piece of scum. You better not fall in my bad eyes or your guts will be ripped off before any guard would bother coming to this part of the dungeons. So better answer my question. NOW.’

Aarav still ignored him. He was pretty sure of the strength of the cell bars. And he was going to be beheaded the next day anyways. He had to think of a way to get out first.

‘You swine, I’ll choke you till you…’

‘Just shut up. Will you?’ Aarav struck back at him.

‘Boohoo… the kid shut you up Gusto’, his cellmates mocked him and started laughing.

‘Shut up Branjen, are you forgetting who rules these cells?’

‘No Gusto, I think your mother forgot to mention that, the last time I saw her’

‘You rat’, Gusto slammed into Branjen mockingly, while others laughed their hearts out. The prisoners from other cells also joined the howling. ‘At least my mother didn’t hang herself like yours, abandoning me to rot in filth’

‘If you weren’t fifty years older than me Gusto, I would’ve smacked you right in the face’, Branjen replied.

‘Ha! I’ve spent ten years in this rat hole. Men come and threaten me, but no one survives my fist. You want to taste my punch Branjen. You might as well be looking at your deathbed, boy. What is your age, Twenty? Have you even touched a sword in your life? Have you done anything other than burglary? Let me tell you what I did when I was twenty. I raped two women of my village and slit both their throats afterwards. When their husbands and brothers rushed at my place with a mob, I killed eighteen of those men, all by myself and scared the villagers away. And trust me you don’t even want to know what I did once I turned twenty three’

‘Relax Gusto, I was just joking. Don’t get so serious. Stay after that kid’

Aarav had now moved closer to his cell bars. He no longer paced up and down. He stood hauntingly still with a hint of a smile on his face.

‘Kid, what happened? You seem to be enjoying yourself?’ Aarav still didn’t speak; he looked as if he had found a new light of hope in the darkness around him. ‘Branjen, am I correct in pronouncing your name? Is it Branjen or Branyen?’ Aarav asked him politely, ignoring old Gusto altogether. Branjen was taken aback by this sudden question. He shrugged his shoulders indicating that it didn’t matter.

‘Hey kid, you afraid to talk to me directly or what?’ Gusto interrupted. ‘Why does his name matter to you? C’mon be brave and speak up.’

‘You didn’t answer my question’, Aarav repeated, glaring into Branjen’s eyes.

‘Branyen’, he replied. ‘Why does it matter?’

‘And how long have you been kept in this cell?’ Aarav asked with same inquisitiveness.

‘Almost about a month, I don’t remember exactly. Why?’

‘And how old were you when your mother hanged herself?’ Aarav held the cold cell bars tightly as the smirk grew wider on his face.

‘What? Why does it matter to you?’ Gusto interrupted, confused.

Aarav finally turned towards him and looked calmly at his old face. ‘It will help me decide whether one of you will kill the other or not?’ Aarav muttered lazily as the rest of the cell mates started buzzing like bees. He again turned to Branyen. ‘About nine or ten year old would be my guess. Am I precise?’

Branyen nodded his head, astonished and confused like the rest.

‘What does this mean?’ Gusto asked.

Aarav looked down at his feet for a moment. He then drew in a deep breath before proceeding to explain the confused men. ‘If I say Branyen, that this man Gusto, is responsible for the death of your parents, wouldn’t you kill him right here, right now?’

Branyen looked at Aarav with a poker face. He then looked at Gusto with the same look. ‘I don’t even know you’, he exclaimed to Aarav.

‘I know’, Aarav responded coldly. ‘Even I don’t know you.’

‘Yet you say that I am responsible for his parent’s death? Even when we have known each other for only a month’ Gusto disrupted again.

‘Yes’ Aarav was excited.

‘And I would say that you are mad’, Gusto too came closer to the cell bars.

‘Let us see. Gusto, do you remember the name of Lord Barth?’ Aarav spoke as he saw a jolt run down Gusto’s body. Gusto didn’t speak, but his eyes spilled a thousand secrets. ‘I think you do’, Aarav continued. ‘Lord Barth, you see held an elite rank in the Kohryan Army. For the people, he was a socialite, a loaner but in life he was the mastermind behind various missions designed to eliminate the emperor’s biggest enemies, discreetly of course. Does it rings a bell now Gusto?’

Gusto still didn’t speak up. He was just confused as to how the little kid knew about those facts.

‘Leave it. Let us talk about Gusto for a moment. Correct me Gusto, if I am wrong’, Aarav continued. ‘Your accent is heavy, heavier than the rest of us. You pronounced Branyen as Branjen; such pronunciation might seem odd up here in the north but is common with the heavy accents of the people in the southern provinces of Kohryah. Branyen as we all know is a recognized name up north but, Branjen? I don’t know if that is even a name. Let us assume that when you met Branyen in this cell about a month ago, you started pronouncing his name as Branjen, and as you said that you are the king in these cells, others followed you. Neither did Branyen oppose you. Am I right Branyen? So it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that you hail from the south. Am I precise?’ he stopped to catch his breath while Gusto simply nodded in agreement. ‘Gusto, you have a snake branded on your left shoulder. That particular symbol represents the members of a sacred cult in the southern provinces which is involved in manslaughter under the permission of the crown. Am I precise?’ he asked Gusto again only to get a haughty stare. ‘Around ten years ago, a few secrets of the crown were leaked in the public. Word started spreading that the emperor was probably not just as he claimed to be and that the crown was secretly involved in some malpractices. Their definitely was a traitor amongst the ranks. The Emperor thought that Lord Barth had gone rogue. So Emperor’s Advisor arranged a secret meeting with the leader of the snake cult of the south and planned to assassinate Lord Barth and his family. A couple of men were sent to accomplish the task but Lord Barth had grown suspicious. He had set various traps across his castle. The men were able to assassinate him but the traps were raised before they could get to his family. The men managed to get away but one was caught, and no points for guessing who he was. Many further attempts later, after about three years, Lord Barth’s wife committed suicide by hanging from a hook, leaving her children of twelve and nine respectively, to as you said and I quote- ‘rot in dirt.’ Lord Barth’s property was taken over by the emperor and the children were thrown in the streets. The blame fell on the assassin who was kicked to spend his life in the Imperial Dungeons, while the crown walked away clean’, Aarav finally stopped to look at the men. All other cellmates were intensely listening to what Aarav was saying.

‘What, what are you trying to say?’ Branyen asked slowly as Gusto closed his eyes as he realized what Aarav had said.

‘Lord Barth’s first name was Branyen. Lord Branyen Barth, your father.’

‘But my father was a landlord, he couldn’t be a…, he wouldn’t be…’ Branyen broke as tears welled up in his eyes.

‘Ask Gusto. He knows I am telling the truth’, Aarav replied.

‘How could you know all this?’ Gusto grunted.

‘I’ve spent a considerable amount of my life in the Grand Library, where all the classified documents carrying the seal of the crown are kept. I went through Lord Barth’s files. And once I go through something, I don’t forget it’, Aarav spoke in his mind.

‘Gusto, is this true what he said?’ another cell mate asked Gusto, but he didn’t reply. ‘Gusto, tell us this untrue.’ Gusto just kept staring haughtily at Aarav, who reciprocated the same feelings.

‘Gusto, you pig, I’ll kill you’, Branyen threw a punch at Gusto. But he was still sharp in his reflexes. Gusto swiped his feet and tilted his body. Branyen’s punch swung past his ear and rammed into the iron bar of the cell.

‘Kid, I don’t want to get involved in this’; Gusto spoke as Branyen threw another punch at him, hitting his face this time. Gusto shrugged. ‘I am warning you. One last time, kid’

‘You killed my father. You broke my family. You are the reason why I am rotting in the streets. You destroyed my life, and I am not going to let you walk free.’ Branyen came at Gusto with another blow but met his palm this time. Gusto’s hand gripped tightly around Branyen’s punch, stopping it midway. He then launched his other arm which stuck Branyen mightily in the chest, throwing his frail body in the air and smacking him back hard, into the cold floor. All the other prisoners from the nearby cells started taking sides and howled like wolves. ‘Kill. Kill. Kill’, their voices resonated across the dungeons in unison. Branyen got up on his feet and slammed his head in to Gusto’s torso, throwing him off guard and ramming into the iron bars. But this made him even furious. Gusto dug his knee hard, hitting Branyen in the chin, spurting off blood from his mouth. The echoes of all the other cell mates grew louder and louder with each passing moment. Three guards, who guarded that floor of the dungeons, quickly rushed in to stop the fight. By the time they came, Branyen was lying unconscious while Gusto sat on his chest, punching him madly with both his hands, beating him into a pulp. The first guard who touched Gusto was immediately pushed away hard into the cell wall. The keys of all the cells of the floor were tucked in his belt. As soon as he hit the bars, Aarav, who was still standing close and observing the fight silently, quickly pushed his hands and hooked his fingers into the keychain. The guard adjusted himself and again rushed forward to help his two companions who were finding it hard to control Gusto’s madness. Aarav quietly moved his hand back in and sneakily moved towards his cell door. The lock came undone in the first try itself. The other prisoners were so much consumed with the fight that no one noticed him slip away.

But Aarav’s main concern was getting out of the heavily guarded dungeons. He was kept on the fifth floor of the enormous building. Sneaking out without getting noticed was impossible. He had to think of something else and his quick wits didn’t fail him. He dashed ahead at every random cell door and started unlocking them one by one. Two, four, seven, eleven, the cells doors came undone and hordes of angry prisoners were set lose. As soon as the other guards started approaching the floor, they were met with an army of angry prisoners who attacked and leapt at them like hungry dogs. Aarav moved ahead in the crowd which was packed in the dark, narrow gallery. He rushed further ahead and opened the cages in the farthest back ultimately setting all of them free. He passed his own cell again and glanced nearby at the prisoners, who had beaten the guards and ran away in the crowd, which was now clashing with other guards. Aarav looked at Branyen who was almost about his age. He was dead, his body bleeding profusely. Aarav quickly untied his golden necklace, bearing the sigil of their kingdom, The Codebook and stumbled in the cell as he wrapped it around Branyen’s neck. He then dashed across to the other end and picked up the iron hammer of one of the guards who was killed. ‘I’m sorry’, he muttered in his head and closed his eyes as he picked up the hammer and slammed it forcefully on Branyen’s face. After two more forceful strikes, Branyen was disfigured, to the point no one could fathom his identity. Aarav almost shed a tear but had to do what was necessary. He rushed out again but saw that the whole gallery was blocked as the guards and prisoners clashed for survival. There was no chance that he would escape the place. The guards were strongly holding the prisoners back and in no time, the Kohryan town watch would approach the place, killing everyone who tried to escape. Think! Think! Think! What can I use? Rush with the hammer, steal a sword. No! Organizing and rallying with the prisoners. Together they will be stronger. Yes! Aarav looked ahead and saw the prisoners charging like a mad bull, aggressive and effective but untamable. He dropped that idea instantly and thought for a moment to go back inside the cell. A cold, mild breeze tickled his neck and calmed him down a bit. The breeze is helping. Think of a way. Think! Think! And that is when it hit him. The Breeze! He immediately rushed back in the direction that breeze was flowing. If there is a breeze, there is a window. And he was right. In the darkest corner of the gallery, a small gap led to a short flight of stairs. Aarav climbed up it quickly, almost slipping once on the grease accumulated on the stairs. He reached up and there he saw before him, a small window, overlooking into a moat on the backside of the dungeons. Aarav didn’t stop to think even for a second. He slipped through the narrow gap and was soon airborne. The crash in the moat hit him hard in the chest, but he survived. He soon ushered himself up back to the surface of the water as he drew in the cold air in his lungs. He quickly swam across. There were rumors that crocodiles and poisonous snakes swam freely in such moats. And even though he knew that it wasn’t true, he cared less to stop and watch it for himself. In no time he reached the shore and climbed up. He looked behind him at the giant building of the Imperial Dungeons. He also heard the men of the town watch marching into the building. A large cloud of grey smoke was rising out of the fifth floor. Perhaps it was fire. Aarav didn’t care any longer. Aarav rose up and dashed hard under the cold night sky. The city of Kohrbath seemed to have woken to the drama happening in the middle of the night.

Aarav soon saw more than fifty horse carriages bundled in the street, a few men loading cargo, who had now stopped to look at the chaos happening around the Imperial Dungeons. Aarav sneaked into one of the loaded carriages and hid himself deep in behind big brown sacks filled with commodities. He suddenly felt a tickle in his nose and tried controlling his sneeze but couldn’t. He sneezed again and again and again as he realized what he was surrounded by. ‘Damn the spice traders’, he mumbled to himself as he closed his eyes and heaviness surrounded him.

Sailara was a bustling town in the middle of the Alherian Kingdom. It was the eighth hour of the moon and all the men were out of their homes to attend the daily night prayers offered to their god, Xores the savior, the merciful. The savior had a special place in the hearts of the men of Sailara. According to the popular belief, Sailara was the town where Xores had imparted his sacred blessings for the first time. It was the town which contributed the first messengers to Xores’s campaign to spread his message of love across the entire kingdom, within a short span of time. The people were charmed, humbled and blessed that it was their town which was a stepping stone for a revolutionary man, a god. The god lived in a small, tattered hut but once the news of his wisdom had spread across the kingdom, a magnificent monument was contributed by the Sailarans to show their respects towards him. No one had seen Xores personally; all that they heard was his voice, his old, deep, mysterious voice.

All the men of Sailara had gathered before the same sandstone monument. It was huge, built of mighty proportions; it stood stoutly, a forty feet tall from its square base and ending in a triangular arc at the top. A mammoth bust of Xores was erected at its foot, before which a colossal fire burnt in a goblet. The bust was new, made of bronze and covered by a golden sheet. Similar busts were commissioned on the order of King Mikrav, who then had them constructed, as he was the only man to whom the god showed his face, and had it distributed across all the major towns of the kingdom. The bust was situated in the middle of the town, surrounded by green gardens and fountains where the men stood tall, their head bowed low and their right hands raised above with index fingers pointing to the zenith. The women stayed in their homes. They weren’t allowed to attend daily night prayers, as was commanded by the god himself.

The prayer began soon, with the men chanting verses to acknowledge the greatness of their lord. They spoke in old Alherian dialect, which had lost its popularity earlier but resurged with the rise of Xores.

‘Yena onomusa , lowo unesihe , thina bakhothamele kuwe umvikeli wethu , umsindisi wethu . Umholi us o nkosi yakha izikhathi mnyama ukuthi yayehlele phezu kwethu , usisindise iliphi iphutha ukuthi thina singase sibe sibi , ubusise abantu besifazane ngoba izono baye commited usithethelele labo abadelela igunya lakho . Shower izibusiso zakho phezu kwethu , o nkosi enkulu. Criole et Xohruus’

‘He who is kind, he who is merciful, we bow before you, our protector, our savior. Guide us o lord from the darker times that had fallen upon us, save us from any wrong that we might encounter, bless the women folk for the sins they have committed and purge those who defy your authority. Shower your blessings upon us, o great lord. Long live Xores’

The men stood there quietly, with their arms still raised and eyes closed in devotion. But as soon as their chanting silenced, noises of horses rushing towards them increased. Many men who were standing in the back, by the periphery of the gardens turned hurriedly to face the impending doom which came behind them in the form of dark horses. The panicked men dived to protect themselves, rushed forward desperately to remove others in their path and shouted mercilessly to evade the congestion they were stuck in. But by then it was too late.

The strong, angry horses broke into the crowd mercilessly, their riders slashing sharp curved swords on any soul in their sight. Blood dripped, heads flew away and shrieks encompassed the entire grounds, as the mad crowd started rushing ahead to evade the onslaught. But they were caught by surprise when another fleet of dark horses came from the right, killing everyone in their path. The helpless souls couldn’t even duck as their own men rammed over them. They were surrounded badly and didn’t have any weapons to protect themselves. A few managed to escape from the sides and rushed to their homes, a few alerted the town watch, some even went to the guards protecting the Sailaran armory, but none came ahead to stop the manslaughter happening in the middle of the town.

Yurhis, Nikithir’s confidant, kicked his horse hard and uttered a loud ‘Hayaah’ as he turned his horse around and dashed again for another bout of bloodbath. He swung his curved sword madly and ran amidst the crowd. The Shilthranian curved swords called Strakhs, brought dread to even the mightiest of warriors in the Ancient Lands. They were primordial swords made of a strong alloy whose secret method was only known to the men of Shilthran. The swords were heavy, thicker towards the hilt but fine as a needle towards the frontage. The specialty about Strakhs was a gradual curve which ran down towards the front, making them one of the most lethal weapons. They weren’t made for penetrating strong armor but to cleave them apart. A slightest swing at an unprotected body part was enough to slash it. And the Shilthranians were busy displaying the might of their Strakhs with pride. Yurhis swung hard to his right and managed to decapitate three Sailarans in a single strike. He pulled the reins and made his horse come to a halt. He swung his Strakh backwards and struck at the temple of a man’s head, ripping his skull in half. He suddenly tossed his sword into his other hand which he swung with the same precision, killing four more men in two strikes. He suddenly stopped the massacre as he saw the guards and the men of the town watch approaching close. Just then his friend rushed in.

Nikithir drew out another Strakh from the scabbard hooked at his back, to accompany the one he was already holding in his right hand. He rolled both the swords in the air as they made a pleasing sound to his ears and then dug his feet into his horse which leapt forward like a lion. Two necks were simultaneously ripped apart as soon as his horse ran into the guards. It leapt in the air and revolved on its hind legs to let Nikithir slay six more men attacking at him. The horse then kicked the guard before him as it assumed its prior position. Nikithir understood there to be around sixty guards right before him. He quickly turned and barked at his men, ‘THE GUARDS.’ His men also came barging in as Nikithir calmly kept both his Strakhs low and hit both his heels on the dark, fluffy mane of his horse. The beast’s neigh was a roar in itself. It ran again at a great pace as Nikithir’s swords smacked into the guards one by one.

One had his right eye sliced in half as the sword entered his eye socket and escaped from the back of his skull. The next one brought up his shield on time, which flew out of his hands nevertheless. Nikithir’s blade struck the forearm of another man, which was slivered off cleanly, spraying warm blood onto Nikithir’s face. He also swung the Strakh in his other hand with might and didn’t pay much heed as to what action was going on there. The faster his horse dashed the more carnage Nikithir left behind. From eyes to brains, from limbs to bones, everything and anything that Nikithir’s Strakhs touched, it magically ripped off.

Nikithir pulled the reins as soon as his horse crossed the guards. He turned back lazily to gaze at his men, who were following his footsteps, ripping off the guards and tearing them apart literally. Nikithir dismounted from the saddle and proceeded back on his foot. He carried a devilish smile all across his face while his emerald eyes got stuck at the guard running towards him with his spear. Nikithir bent backwards, balancing himself easily and swung his Strakh swiftly which broke the thick wood, while the other one went across the guard’s heart, killing him instantly. He pulled himself up and moved ahead carelessly, as if killing people was too easy a task for him. Another one came at him with a sword. Nikithir bent low and swung his Strakh up, which clashed with the guard’s sword. But he swiftly swung the other one at his unarmed leg. It dug deep, slicing off one leg completely and got stuck in the knee of the other one. The guard cried as his body went down but Nikithir wasn’t able to get his sword out. Yet another guard leapt at Nikithir’s back, who was blocked with equal might. This guard was tall and powerful, and even Nikithir found it hard to overpower him. The guard took another jibe as Nikithir ducked, striking off his black turban smoothly, and missing Nikithir’s skull by inches. Nikithir was finding it hard to fight with just one Strakh; the other one restricted his movements greatly. To save his efforts, Nikithir’s swayed his sword at the agonizing guard’s leg, slicing it clean. He quickly swung it upwards, hitting the tall guard’s face with the other ones leg, while slicing his cranium diagonally. He quickly went down on his knees and rotated furiously with the only Strakh in his hands, swiping at the abdomen of three guards, whose intestines were slashed out and then dangled like pendulums while their bodies fell down to incur a slow, agonizing death.

Nikithir stood up again as he looked at the havoc his men had brought upon the unsuspecting disciples of Xores. Almost all the guards were killed, the men of the town watch slain and the Sailarans slaughtered. It was a complete massacre in the square. The stone laden roads had turned to scarlet as it absorbed the river of blood. Entire gardens were covered in limbs, scattered around like the aftermath of an apocalypse. The green grass blades dripped red. A cold breeze flew silently only to be overshadowed by the merciless cries of the injured. Nikithir’s men quietly moved their horses to come close to him. ‘We… We lost twelve of our brothers today’, Yurhis also came up, bringing Nikithir’s horse alongside. Nikithir didn’t flinch. His green eyes pondered around for a bit and then furiously got stuck at Xores’s bust, which still stood erected. Nikithir trotted ahead while his fellow men just gazed at him. He started pacing as he neared the bust, almost ran forward as he let out a loud growl before striking his Strakh vertically at the temple of Xores’s bust. The impact was powerful. It made a piercing noise and left a remarkable dent. But Nikithir didn’t stop. He hit the bust with back to back continuous strikes before rendering it unrecognizable.

‘Burn this town’, he shouted at his men. ‘Reduce this place to ashes. Pillage the armory and seek supplies. No one hurts the women. And to any men you run into, you know it best what to do.’ He moved his eyes at the bottom of the bust, where the glorious Alherian chant was carved in gold, ‘Criole et Xohruus.’

‘Huh!’ Nikithir spoke putting his Strakhs back in their scabbards. ‘I am born to prove this chant wrong.’

‘What is the meaning of this charter? This is madness’, a plump, bearded man barged into Queen Aaliyah’s court followed by ten strong protectors. He was perturbed; his face gleaming like a cherry. He was tall and strong, his chest was wide as if swollen badly. He was donned in a burgundy robe studded with exquisite blue gems. He carried a paper in his hand, which he squashed wrathfully into a crumpled ball and threw it into Queen Aaliyah’s feet. ‘Take back your orders by the morrow, else you shall face my fury’, he stared grudgingly into Aaliyah’s eyes.

‘And what shall your fury bring upon me? Will you match your personal guards against my army? I hope you are not forgetting that you speak to the queen of this kingdom?’ Aaliyah replied calmly, the new found power bringing out her confidence.

‘You think winning a silly bet and fancying that belittled crown over your head gives you power over me? Perhaps they forgot to mention my name while you were holding yourself under Hadharen’s fat belly. The crown might make you the queen, but outside the strong walls of your castle, I rule the people. I own the people’

‘Of course they mentioned your name, Lord Elliyah ‘GoldentoothSelle. They also mentioned the names of your businesses. Your brothels came up in one particular conversation, and even though I am saddened by the reports of your goons vandalizing shops in the city upon being unable to pay you, what you call your surcharge, and your hooligans making the streets unsafe for women; freely functioning brothels are a blotch upon the dignity and glory of my kingdom. So as the charter states and I quote- any business remotely related to trading of humans as slaves or any business or its ancillary, being involved in promotion of slavery and prostitution, is as of the moment this charter being stamped, termed illegal. All such businesses falling under the purview of the above limitations are being sealed on the orders of the crown. I hope that I have justly clarified your doubts’

‘You fool. Don’t sink into the power of your newfound gold. It will only take a snap of my finger, to take all of this away. And when I do that, I will own you. I won’t kill you, but that beautiful face of yours will be the head attraction in my largest brothel. You get that?’ he lowered his hoarse voice, his jaw twitched while sweat broke over his head. ‘I want the doors of all my brothels unlocked by tomorrow morning. You want to restrict slave trade? It is up to you, but be sure that in the future none of your petty policies come in the way of my business, else Swarneth won’t have a queen’

‘Of course Lord Selle, I will also make sure that when any of your customers approach your brothels, they will be greeted by the gleaming swords of my men. I will also make sure that after tomorrow morning; no Swarnethian will ever look forward to going to such a disgusting place’

‘If I find the doors of the brothels still locked by tomorrow morning, I will personally come here and stick a blade through your heart, then I will draw it out and stick it in again. I will puncture your lungs, I will make you grasp for the last breath, I will see you close your eyes and beg your god to save you, and then I will slit your throat. Speak to your Principal Minister. Ask him who I am and what I am capable of’

‘Are you threatening me, Lord Selle?’

‘Threatening you? Huh! I am warning you. The people I threaten are no longer capable of standing on their feet.’

Queen Aaliyah looked infuriated. She had clenched her fists and was biting her teeth. Goldentooth had really gotten on her nerves. She suddenly passed a quick smile before she turned to the commander of her army. ‘Commander Ingis, order your men to slay his personal guards.’

The commander looked surprisingly at her, his ears growing wide hearing her commands. ‘My Queen?’

‘Wasn’t I audible to you, Commander? SLAY HIS MEN.’

Even Goldentooth was taken aback by her command. He abruptly glanced at the commander, who ordered the guards to attack his men. ‘What is this? This is non-sense.’ He watched in horror as the Queen’s guards barged with their long golden swords and slashed at his ten men, who were equally shocked at the Queen’s orders. Within minutes, they were dead. The clean golden floor of Queen Aaliyah’s court was smeared in dark, vicious blood. The golden pillars with ancient engravings were dripping with redness. Goldentooth’s men were smothered. Their throats slashed, their torsos ripped, their skulls smacked and their hearts penetrated. Goldentooth’s mouth was left open at the barbarianism he just saw. He quietly turned his plump body around as he again looked at Aaliyah.

‘I hope my message was loud and clear to you, Lord Selle. Commander Ingis, please make sure that he is safely escorted back to his place’, she said as she dug herself back in her comfortable throne and a wide grin erupted across her beautiful face. ‘This is astounding!’ She thought to herself as she gazed at the dumbstruck Goldentooth.

Kravohs fell down hard as he brushed his eyes to disperse the blurriness which had suddenly surrounded him. ‘Kravohs, are you alright? ’ Dahnis shrieked as he rushed forward to pick him up. Dahnis’s had thrown a hammer at the dark entity before him, but it simply passed through it and smacked hard onto Kravohs’s head, who was standing on the other side. The dark entity turned behind and leapt towards Kravohs, who was still trying to get up on his feet. But Thranos quickly rushed ahead and dragged Kravohs away from the entity’s attack. The entity wasn’t alone though. There were four others along with it. The pack had suddenly attacked Kravohs and his champions out of the blue. The Erayu men had already been travelling back for two days straight, towards their kingdom after abandoning the mission to seek the Scarlett Stone, when two champions were killed by a dark entity, upon which even the sharpest of swords couldn’t inflict an injury. And now there were five other entities like the same, trying to slaughter Kravohs and his men.

Kravohs’s head ached badly. The hammer had struck the right side of his head with might. His vision was still blurry, only unclear sounds of his men reached him along with an irritating screech. He almost saw Thranos, who had pushed him away and kept him by the trunk of a tree. ‘Staayy heerre…’ he almost heard as he saw Thranos rushing back to help the others. His eyes suddenly grew heavy and darkness surrounded him. When he opened them again, he saw his men desperately trying to scare away those beasts, shouting hard and swinging their weapons mercilessly trying to make an impact, but only to see their efforts go down in vein. His eyelids dropped again. When he opened them up he saw a dark entity latched on top of Mur’s broad shoulders, digging its hideous teeth into Mur’s throat and heaving it apart mercilessly, cutting down Mur’s cries midway. Darkness surrounded him again. When he opened his eyes this time, he looked right at an array of sharp pointy teeth of an entity, inches away from his face. He tried to do something but still couldn’t move. The teeth approached closer as the cries of his men reverberated across the dark forest. Kravohs wasn’t able to think clearly, yet knew that his end was near as the teeth slowly crept closer to his cloudy eyes. And that is when something happened; a gleaming blue bar cleanly swiped away the entity’s head, making it fall beside Kravohs. The growling of the beast was stopped as Kravohs saw a red skinned man before him. He seemed to look at Kravohs for a moment before dashing ahead towards Kravohs’s champions. Other similar looking red men joined him, as they went ahead, swinging their shiny bars at those entities, ripping them in half with each strike. Kravohs was confused. He tried to get up but was surrounded by the same darkness. The noise and the sound from around suddenly died down as the screeches grew louder and louder with each passing second. Kravohs tried hard to open his eyes again but failed to do so this time. All the sounds faded away as Kravohs fell into a quiet, deep slumber.