Gender: Male Age: 53 Location: Las Vegas, Nv
|Introduction: A visit from another shadow|
There was still talk of the gangs the next day but at noon the talk of war swept it away. I was back in my plain stable boy clothes and heard a lot more. The Emperor was calling for soldiers from every kingdom in the empire. I also heard rumors that it was because one of the kingdoms was rebelling against Imperial rule. What concerned me were the whispers about Duke Toffel and possibly others.
I finished all the chores and waited until dark. For a change business was slow and the Inn went dark shortly after it got dark. I slipped over the wall and started to make my way toward Duke Toffel’s. I was planning on a visit to his study for a look around. I hadn’t gone far before I felt someone following, which was all it was, a feeling.
I moved into an alley and the darker shadows. I waited but whoever it was stayed back out of sight. In the next street I crossed and went down the block, looking back I only saw movement in the shadows. I tried to lose him several times, but when I started towards the Duke’s he was always there. I drifted through the alleys and darker streets with a ghost of a shadow behind me.
I finally had enough and headed for Judgment square. I walked down the middle of the streets, no longer trying to hide or slip away. The shadow followed me as if he expected this. I waited in front of the Speaker’s Stand and he came out of the night as if he was my shadow. He was older, with grey hair and weapons as serviceable as my own. It was as if his face sang in my blood. I knew him even if I had never met him, “Brother.”
He smiled faintly, “I thought you would play for awhile longer.”
I smiled, “I decided to get it over with.”
He nodded and took a breath, “You are like your mother.”
I took it as a complement but he shook his head, “We can’t just execute nobles.”
I went still, “That is what we are charge to do if necessary.”
He shook his head, “It makes us look like judge and executioner.”
I kept watching him, “We are judge and executioner. We are the Empire’s honor and protectors from those within.”
He sighed and looked away, “Those are your mother’s views.”
I nodded, “Yes they are. They are also the vows each of us made to the gods.”
He looked at me sharply, “There are times when doing our duty in that way make it harder for all of us…”
I frowned, “You’re talking about my mother and the Emperor’s son.”
He nodded his face set, “If she had just let the Emperor’s court handle it we wouldn’t have been hunted by his followers.”
I snarled, “You know the plot was already in play. If she had waited he would have been Emperor!”
He jerked as if struck, “Would that have been so bad?”
I growled, “Yes! He dishonored himself by killing the heir in the tournament. His plan to kill his father was another stain. Do you really think an Emperor that could do that, would rule wisely?”
I had heard enough and held up my right hand with the silver ring shining bright as if it knew this moment would come. He stared at me and then my hand before raising his and placing it against mine. There was a bright flash and we were no longer standing in a dark square. We stood in a bright glow and we weren’t alone. Nine semi transparent and one solid figure stood around us in a circle.
I looked around at the men and women, “My brothers and sisters, our brother has said my mother acted wrongly in taking the Emperor’s son.”
There was a whispered murmur and the solid looking woman walked closer, “Elizabeth acted as a Peacemaker should. She didn’t have to challenge the noble brat, she should have just cut his heart out. Instead she made him speak his crime before all and then gave him a clean death.”
She looked from me to the other Peacemaker and disappeared. A huge looking man walked forward, he looked like he had been a blacksmith. He looked at the other Peacemaker, “Elizabeth did as a Peacemaker should. The Imperial family is Peacemaker business.”
He looked at me and something made him grin. He pulled off his ring and it flared with a life of its own. When it flared, I could hear someone screaming in agony. He held the ring out to me and my left hand came up automatically, “My honor is yours now youngling.”
He looked at the other peacemaker as his ring dropped into my open hand. As he slowly faded, his ring felt warm and some how right. An old woman walked to us grinning, “Our life is one of strife. Elizabeth acted as her honor and oath demanded. Our allegiance isn’t to a ruler, it is to the Empire. We hold it as our honor and our trust.”
She smiled and looked at her own hand as she pulled her ring off. At first it looked blackened and cracked. It flared and I looked at it as she held it out to me, it was bright and whole. She placed it gently in my hand, “My honor is yours now, guard it well.”
As the other had, she faded slowly away. A short brisk woman with long black hair walked to us. She bowed slightly, “It is a Peacemaker’s duty to protect the Empire even from one who would be Emperor. Elizabeth acted as a Peacemaker should.”
She looked into the other Peacemaker’s face, “You need to think of your own commitment brother.”
She turned her head to me while pulling what looked like a piece of melted silver off her finger. It flared and she dropped her ring in my hand before covering it with her own. “My honor is yours, do not forget it.”
When she raised her hand she faded away. A short man walked to us. He looked even younger then me, “Your mother acted as our honor demanded that day. She wasn’t the only Peacemaker there, but she was the one chosen to protect the Empire.”
He pulled his ring off as he bowed, a scream echoed through the brightness and he grinned as he reached out to drop the ring in my hand, “I wanted to do that for a long time.”
He clasped my hand with the rings in it, “My honor is yours now, may you have better luck then I.”
The next to walk to us was a tall thin man with a long mustache. He only glanced at me before looking into the other Peacemaker’s eyes, “I was wrong. What happened to us wasn’t Elizabeth’s fault, it was ours. You don’t hide from back stabbing nobles. You face them and slap them in the face with it.”
He looked at me and jerked his ring off to a flare. He dropped the ring in my hands, “Bring honor back to it brother.”
He faded away and a woman walked to us, she was short but very stocky, “Elizabeth was the best of us and she did what our honor demanded.”
She dropped her ring in my hand before looking at both of us, “Our honor is the Empire, if it fails so to will the Empire.”
She faded away and I turned slightly as a man our height was suddenly beside us. He looked at the other Peacemaker, “I was as you before the end, but Elizabeth was right in what she did. The Empire would have suffered long in the traitors hands.”
He pulled his ring off and only hesitated before setting it in my hand, “It deserved better then me. Bring its honor back Peacemaker.”
He faded and only two spirits were left. The first, a young woman with long white hair walked to us. She pulled her ring off to a bright flash and another scream. She set it in my hand and kept her finger on it, while looking at both of us, “Peacemakers must stand together. In your heart you both know this.”
She looked at me, “Keep my honor safe brother.”
She faded and we were left to watch a richly dressed man walk to us slowly. I knew this man, he was the Imperial Peacekeeper to the central kingdom and had been a distant cousin to the Emperor. He smiled at both of us, “Our time is coming once more and the Empire needs us and our justice. We are the guardians of both the high born and the low. We judge only on actions done to protect the Empire. Our honor is the honor of the Empire and judgment is ours to give.”
I felt his ring drop into my hand as it flared with a bright light. He looked at me, “I won’t say my honor is yours because it isn’t my honor, it is the Empire’s.”
Unlike the others his form brightened until we couldn’t look at him and then he was gone and we were standing back in the darkness of Judgment Square. I dropped my right hand and looked into my left. In the palm of my left hand were nine silvery rings, each with a different crest. I looked at the other Peacemaker and he was staring off into the distance.
I carefully put the rings into my belt pouch and he shook his head as if to clear it. He smiled wryly, “I was wrong. Good hunting brother.”
He turned and walked into the shadows as two guards walked out of a street. They glanced at his back and then turned to look at me but I had drifted into darker shadows. They looked at each other and made a point of turning back into the street they had just come out of.
I drifted through the streets and alleys after that thinking and remembering what had happened. I slipped into the Inn courtyard and the stable to sit on a low stall fence. I wasn’t surprised when Master Hoard walked in and looked at me. He leaned against the stall beside me and I don’t know why but I pulled the other rings out and showed him. He took one look at the rings and smiled, “I hope you find a girl willing to have a lot of children.”
I looked at him startled as I realized what he meant. The ring of a Peacemaker is normally passed from parent to child.
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