Boots by Rory Angus

Oct 08 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

He took another step.

The mountains of Benren faded out in their slow descent into the emerald plains of Kalanan, which were fertile and green and glowed like a field of jewels. They were crisscrossed by the scars of the tracks of the armies and war machines from Dakria, most of which were long gone on their journey to Kassia City. A web of rivers wound across the plains, and he unknowingly stepped into the waters of one of those rivers, but the river at that place was very shallow, and it did not rise over the tops of his heavy, ornate boots. The sky overhead was blue and clear, though dark clouds were gathered to the east, where the Dakrian armies feasted and made cheer in the capital.

He took another step.

The farmlands closer to the capital had been rich and brimming with a surplus of food which was sent to other lands as trade or gift or tribute. This generosity, among other virtues, had once endeared the land of Kassia to its neighbours. However, like many virtues, it was, to some, a sign of weakness. Now the farmlands were in many places smoldering – the fires still swirled together and flocked up like ugly incorporeal birds to the sky. He did not like to linger there. The contrast between what that part of the land had once been and what it was now was too painful, and he was a sensitive man.

He took another step.

Around the outskirts of Kassia city, many buildings rose. The architects of Kassia were renowned far throughout the land, and the Dakrians had not seen it necessary to slaughter all of them, nor to destroy the fruits of their labours utterly. So many of the buildings were still standing. Patrols of Dakrian soldiers ranged through the streets, and in places there were only blackened piles of char where there once had been buildings, and other buildings were only the burnt-out shells of their former selves. The man stood in the middle of a mostly-deserted street, and looked down into the ruin of the city, along a line of hastily-erected tents where the Kassian slave-girls were kept, out to a barricade set up down the street. A few people turned to look at him. He did not even know if they were Kassian or Dakrian.

He took another step.

The stairs up to the great palace of Kassia City were heavily guarded, and protected by soldiers and magic spells. The streets before the grand stairs were utterly deserted, by order of the Dakrian Empress. He looked down at the streets behind him, for a moment, even as he heard shouts from the guards who had spotted him standing on the stairs where no one was meant to be. He had only seconds to look before his death was certain. The city, being so empty, was eerily foreboding. He had been here when the streets were bustling with throngs of happy Kassians going this way and that about their lives. He had learned, of late, to make the most of moments and seconds. So, for a moment, he imagined the streets the way they had once been. It was pleasant to indulge in that fantasy, but a second later his time was up. He turned around. He saw guards with their spears and bows levelled; saw the crackle of an unknown, killing magic in the air.

He took another step.

The throne room of the palace had been greatly changed by the occupation. He had never truly been in the throne room, for even though Kassia had been, and perhaps would be again, a free and happy kingdom, there had to be limits upon everything. No one of such common background as himself had been allowed into the throne room. Nevertheless he could only be certain that before the invasion the room had not been designed in the fashion of the great sunken temples of Dakria. He stood just behind a dark, ornate, towering throne. It was nothing that the rulers of Kassia would have chosen, but their line was now extinguished and their throne was gone. A crowd of well-dressed people gathered in the expansive floor below the steps that led down from the throne. Some of them were arrayed in armor, and others in religious robes, and others in fine civil clothes. The man carefully crept forward, hiding behind the great throne, edging closer to the statuesque woman who stood on the steps above the crowd. Her back was to him; he could not see her face. Her robes flowed out from her and spread down the stairs, blanketing them in sheets of gold and black. Her form was enclosed in intricate wiry armor, but the back of her neck was exposed, and the man carried a dagger in his left hand. As he crept forward, the noise of conversation swept over him.

“No one has died in the attacks, highness. Whoever this bandit is, he seems content to cut ropes and spill oil and set fire to supplies. Inconveniences of note, certainly, but nothing that the army cannot bear.”

“It is impossible to catch the man, great lady,” another, pleading voice said. “Whatever the power behind the artifacts, their wearer appears and is gone in an instant. We have summoned all the magic we can muster. Without the means to track the bandit’s disappearances, we are forced to keep the mages ready at all times for an attack – which, may your greatness forgive me, is beyond them.”

“Excuses, excuses, excuses,” came the cold, cultured voice from the figure whose face the creeping assassin could not see. “All I understand is that a single man, and a Kassian, at that, has caused such chaos in our armies. And what great power does he possess, one wonders? Nothing but a pair of magic boots!”

“My lady! Forgive me, but he is right behind you!”

Swords and spears and arrows sprang forth from a dozen places; mages around the throne room summoned their terrible powers; figures darted up the steps, heading right for the young man who stood behind the empress and the throne. The woman herself turned around, and for a moment he was face to face with the leading power behind the ruin of his land, and perhaps he had hoped to see fear or shock on her face.

To his dismay, he saw only scorn.

He took another step.

The marshes to the east of Kassia City were wide and treacherous, but he was fortunate enough to step onto solid, if squishy, ground. Here, the land had been spared from war, for few armies could pass through the swamps. Gone was the noise and confusion of the uproar in the throne room. There was only the soft wind, and a bird crying far away, and the rustling of the foxtails in the water. He took a moment to collect himself, wondering. He had had his chance. It had taken days to learn that the Dakrian empress would be in the throne room of the palace in Kassia City at that particular time, on that particular day. From now on she would be far more heavily guarded, if she ever came to the throne room at all. He could have taken his chance to strike down the scourge of Kassia, but he had not. Perhaps he had wanted to wait for the perfect moment to end her life. Perhaps he had been too absorbed in the conversation occurring. Perhaps he had simply been unwilling, for he had not yet done so in the weeks of his lonely campaign of insurrection, to kill.

It did not matter. The moment was gone. As fast as he was, time was faster. Surely, he would have another chance, and when that chance came again, he would take it.

Perhaps it was time, the man reasoned, to cease fighting the war alone. Word of his exploits would have spread among the Kassian people by now. All was not lost. There was much work to do.

He took another step.

 

Bio: My name is Rory Angus. I am an aspiring fantasy writer from Victoria, B.C. Canada. I have studied creative writing and philosophy at Camosun College. I prefer to write high fantasy and science fantasy stories. I also write formal poetry and have been published in the 2014 “Island Magic” anthology by The Poetry Institute of Canada and Young Writers, for the short fantasy poem “Giants”.

No responses yet

Leave a Reply