Castle Roland

Sword of Kings: Forged Out of Necessity

by Bill W



Posted: 28 Sept 15

Sword of Kings: Forged Out of Necessity

by Bill W
Copyright © 2014 by billwstories

AUTHOR'S NOTE The prologue contains graphic scenes of violence and gore, which some readers may find upsetting.
I would also like to thank E, Andy and Donny for helping me to hone this story into its present form.

The Prophecy's Demise

King Orthilue labored in the midst of the battle, swinging his great broadsword at one onrushing foe after another. His powerful physique was straining beneath his hauberk of chainmail and his silvery hair flowed gracefully behind him with each masterful stroke. The scars on his body, souvenirs from past battles fought along Tarolia's borders, shone in relief upon his bronzed skin and bore silent witness to his experience as a warrior. As the fighting continued, dark crimson blotches accumulated upon his skin and clothing. Some of these stains were from freshly made wounds upon his body, while others were the result of the splattering of his opponents' life juices. These deep scarlet splotches merely accentuated the fierceness of battle.

With a mighty downward blow from his broadsword, Orthilue dispatched one of his attackers by rending both his opponent's helmet and skull with a fearsome stroke. As the king regained his balance, he noticed a tall dark skinned warrior charging at him with the ferociousness of an outraged bull. Orthilue braced for the forceful assault and skillfully parried the first energetic stroke. When he did this, he used the aggressor's momentum against him and sent his off-balanced assailant awkwardly stumbling by. As the warrior wheeled about to resume the attack, the king swung his sword in a giant arc and carved a lengthy gash across his enemy's abdomen. The foeman stood momentarily, as his entrails spewed forth and his body virtually exploded through the widening gash.

No sooner had this most recent victim's body hit the ground than the king found himself occupied with yet another attacker. Orthilue exchanged several vigorous blows with this new foe, as the pair took turns delivering potentially fatal swipes at each other. This went on until the king spied an opening in his opponent's defense and propelled his mighty sword forward.

In the blink of an eye, the point of the king's sword sliced through the attacker's body and exited between his shoulder blades. As the impaled victim's lifeless corpse slumped to the ground, the king found his blade trapped by the weight of the deceased body. Orthilue struggled to free the blade for further use and instinctively used his leg to push the latest victim backward, so the dead warrior was sprawled out on the ground. The king then gave a mighty heave and pulled the weapon free from the vise-like grip, before turning to look for another combatant.

The fierceness of the fighting was taking a toll on the monarch and he was becoming weary from the extreme physical exertion. As he looked around his surroundings for the next attacker, he took a brief respite to catch his breath and mentally reflect upon how this situation had begun.

Less than an hour before, he had been feasting in the Great Hall of the castle, merrily conversing with his guests and enjoying the entertainment. It was an elaborate social gathering, which was attended by many of the most prominent and influential of Tarolia's nobility. This banquet was being held to honor the hard work they were doing on behalf of the kingdom, as well as their unwavering dedication to Tarolian values. In the midst of these festivities, an agitated young page burst into the Great Hall and announced the Castle of Leander was under attack.

At first, the guests were unable to fathom the gravity of the situation, since the mighty fortress had never been breached before. Since the days of the mighty King Ethelbert, the builder of the edifice, and for several generations since, hostilities had never taken place within the castle's walls. Leander had always been an impenetrable tower of strength; both friend and foe agreed on that point. Therefore, it was nearly incomprehensible that such an unprecedented and bold assault could be taking place in the courtyard of the fortress.

The castle had been purposefully designed with many features to protect it from falling into enemy hands. The outer walls were constructed from the hardest stone available and at least three meters thick at the base. Each major opening into the fortress was protected by great oaken gates, which had been covered in heavy iron plating. Behind these gates loomed a massive iron portcullis, which could be lowered in an instant to further block admittance to unwanted visitors. Both the portcullis and gate were operated by a series of gears, which were locked in a gatehouse and kept under constant guard. These gears could be activated at the first sign of trouble and would immediately seal off the gaping openings into the fortress.

The battlements were equally well equipped. They were lined with slots through which archers and spearmen could release their weapons, yet remain protected. There were also numerous ports high up on the castle's outer walls through which boiling water or oil could be poured over the attacking troops, siege engines or other large weapons of war. All of this helped to make Leander one of the most renowned and best protected structures in the entire world.

How, then, could this unknown force have found a way to elude the multiple protective barriers and go unnoticed by the guards that defended them? How was it possible these interlopers were able to slip inside the fortress and conduct this bloody spectacle in the vast expanse of the Outer Courtyard? Regrettably, there was no simple answer to this question, but surely deceit had played a role in this debacle. So had the lack of vigilance on the part of the Royal Guard, which was a direct result of an apathy produced by the many peaceful years they had enjoyed.

The strategy of this hostile force had been brilliantly designed, flawlessly planned and well executed. It had allowed them to gradually gain admittance to Leander, which they did over an extended period of time, and now placed the kingdom's future in jeopardy.

This assault had actually begun when several small groups gained entrance to the castle prior to the attack, one band at a time. This included several Merropites, who masqueraded as merchants from their distant cousins' city of Akikta. Then, a handful of gnome smiths, who disguised themselves as dwarfs from the Amber Mountains, followed. Secretively, they entered the city over the span of several weeks, but once they were entrenched into the castle's daily life, they merely had to wait for nature to give them the deep nighttime shadows they needed to execute their plan.

These groups had been in Leander for many days before the appropriate conditions finally occurred. Not only was there a new moon, but a heavy cloud cover also blocked out the light from the stars that dotted the evening sky. With nature's unwitting assistance, the well-timed execution of this daring scheme ensured the attacker's success.

The previous afternoon, a small party of conspirators slipped into the gatehouse before the evening guards had been posted. Once inside, they managed to jam the gears with heavy iron bars and made the apparatus totally inoperable. It had been a risky move to sabotage the controlling devices without knowing precisely when the invasion would begin, but it paid off. The indifference with which the guards performed their duties had allowed the deed to go undiscovered.

Now that the conditions were right, the conspirators' comrades loaded onto immense log rafts and traveled down the Shadow River. Utilizing the blackness of night to mask their trek past Cassander, a smaller city upstream, they rode the current until they reached the capital city. The troops then disembarked from their vessels just west of the castle's barbican, which protected the Great Gate. Almost noiselessly, they made their way to an area between the river and the massive bulwark of the fortress and waited for the others to join them. Once the entire force had been assembled, they crept stealthily along the outer wall, until they reached the entrance to the castle.

Archers quickly and quietly dispatched the two outer guards and the remainder of the contingent crept steadily forward. As the foremost of the attacking soldiers neared the opening protected by the gate, one of the inner guards perceived movement. He immediately shouted out a warning and alerted his companions, before a feathered shaft took him down too. Seeing this, the gatehouse guard spun around and raced into the small room containing the controls. He latched the door behind him and then attempted to release the gears. He knew this would close both barriers to the attackers and deny them admittance, but nothing happened. Confused, he sought to understand what was wrong. It was only then that he discovered the damage that had been previously perpetrated upon the machinery.

Keeping his wits about him, the soldier grabbed the battle horn that hung on the wall and blew a warning blast to awaken the sleeping men-at-arms. The shrill note it produced aroused the officers and foot soldiers alike and they began bursting through their barrack's doors, in hope of discovering what caused the disturbance. Most were still trying to gird themselves as they stormed out of their quarters, but none of them were prepared for the severity of the alarm. Although their efforts were swift and fairly orderly, they could not react forcefully enough to stem the tide of intruders entering through the disabled gate. The battle had now begun in earnest.

One of the pages managed to slip away and raced to the Great Hall, so he could issue a warning. Upon receiving the initial news of the attack, King Orthilue commanded his servants to mount the walkways connecting the battlements and light the torches that hung along the inner walls. Those devices would illuminate the courtyard and allow his forces to more easily see and recognize their opponents. It would also reduce the chance that they might fell one of their own troops in error.

Orthilue also took a moment to see that his guests were escorted from the Great Hall and taken to a place of safety, before he attended to his own concerns. As soon as he felt these other issues had been addressed, the king hurriedly departed from the rear of the Great Hall and raced to his bedchamber. Once there, he quickly donned his chainmail and helmet, before retrieving his battle-worn sword.

Now, the king stood knee deep in bodies, some lifeless and others still writhing in pain from recently received wounds. He continued to do battle and desperately fought to defend his home from this unprovoked and unprecedented assault. In the process, Othilue was sending more than his share of souls to their eternal rest. As the raw carnage continued, the king apprehensively searched the area around him again, as he sought out his next opponent. After finding and engaging another adversary, the monarch lifted his sword to deliver yet another fatal blow. Before that happened, however, everything suddenly went black.

Slowly, King Orthilue slipped back into consciousness and discovered he was staring into a pale blue sky. His head was throbbing and his eyes burned, as he gradually became aware that the sun was approaching its zenith. Concluding it must be nearly midday, the memory of the battle began to filter into his brain. As he struggled to gain control over the pain in his head, he concluded the blow he had received during the fighting must have caused his discomfort. While his mind continued to clear, the mighty leader recalled the battle and began to wonder what had happened. Who had been victorious? How long had he been unconscious?

Immediately, Orthilue tried to sit up, but found his movements restricted. Confused, he forced his eyes to look lower, so he could scan his struggling torso. That's when he spied the ropes that kept him securely in place. Seeking to find an answer about how this had happened, he slowly turned his face to the right. He hoped this would allow him to locate and identify his captors, as well as determine the extent of his predicament.

As his head rolled imperceptibly to the side, the king discovered the familiar features of his wife's lovely face. Even though it was smeared with dirt and her eyes were puffy from weeping, he still found her extraordinarily beautiful. He watched her intently, as she sat unaware of her lover's observations. The queen was propped up against a wall, her feet and hands bound together, awaiting her abductor's next move.

Gabina and Orthilue had been married for nearly twenty-three years, but the sight of her still awakened something deep inside of his soul. Even in her present unkempt state, the monarch still felt the same warm glow within his breast that he experienced whenever he beheld her. This often caused him to feel, and sometimes behave, like an awe-stricken teenager who was having his first encounter with the goddess of love.

Slowly, the king released the vision of his soulmate and let his gaze move gradually along the wall until he came to the next captive form. Bastien looked much older than the nineteen years that had passed since his birth. He was the royal couple's elder son, heir to the throne and future king of Tarolia. His strong, fair features and lean, hard, muscular body accentuated his handsomeness and athleticism. His head-full of ebony hair contrasted nicely with his fair complexion and emitted a special aura about him. It let even the casual observer know he was a young man to be reckoned with.

Oh, how Orthilue loved his son and he often disclosed the extent of his pride to his dearest confidants. Bastien had an excellent mind and picked up the business of state very easily, which meant he was rapidly maturing into his role as the future ruler of his people. The king truly had good reason to be so proud of this fruit of his loins.

Next to Bastien sat Orthilina, his sister. Although she was two years his senior, Orthilina had always allowed her brother to be the unquestioned leader among the royal children. She realized it was Bastien who would be king after her father, yet she held no resentment or jealousy toward him because of this fact. She loved her brother dearly and happily doted on him when he was younger, always putting him first. For that, Bastien loved her much in return.

Orthilina and Bastien could have passed for twins. She had much the same appearance and coloring as her brother, except her features were much softer. She possessed a firm, well-endowed body, with long, graceful limbs and was beautiful in her own right. It was also the reason she found herself greatly sought after by other noblemen's sons. Even if she were not the king's daughter, she still would have attracted the attention of many eligible suitors.

Besides her outward beauty, the princess was also graced with a gifted mind. She could rival many of the king's advisors in raw intelligence and often challenged them verbally, much to their consternation. Although rebuking her publicly for these actions, privately the monarch admired her spunk and prowess. Orthilue had often pondered how he, and later Bastien, could most effectively utilize her particular talents without upsetting the patriarchal society they ruled. Try as he might, the king had not yet satisfactorily resolved this predicament.

After the sovereign looked once more upon his eldest child, he noticed his firstborn was busily whispering to one of the two younger girls sitting next to her. The king could tell Orthilina was attempting to console her sister Latona, who was sobbing heavily. Latona's maturing body was trembling spasmodically against her cousin, Adina, as she visibly vented her fear. The older princess patiently offered words of comfort to her sibling and selected her phrases carefully, in an attempt to bring her sister's emotions under control.

Adina was also weeping, although not as violently or animatedly as her cousin. She had been able to regain her composure first and then attempted to assist the older girl in calming Latona. Although each of the girls was fifteen, Adina was much more mature and sophisticated than Latona. That was why Orthilue had requested Adina be allowed to visit and spend time with Latona. She did this while the king's youngest daughter, Tayce, went to spend time with Adina's younger sister. The sovereign had hoped Adina's influence would help Latona come to grips with her immature behavior. Unfortunately, Latona often acted more like the baby of the family than Tayce, who was three years younger. Adina had only been at Leander for two days, so no significant improvement had yet occurred.

The final figure Othilue could see was that of Fabrien, his younger son. Fabrien had flaxen hair, like his mother and Latona, and was by far the fairest of all of the king's children. He had always been a polite, mild mannered child and the one with whom all of his siblings got along with best. His birth had come almost exactly between Bastien's and Latona's, making him the third oldest child and the second in line to the throne. Even if he weren't destined to be king, Fabrien would eventually become a diplomat of great importance to Tarolia.

Focusing upon his second son, Orthilue could see Fabrien showed signs of having been beaten. Knowing the boy as he did, Orthilue assumed that Fabrien had put up a struggle against his captors, despite their size and numbers. The lad must have eventually acquiesced though, because he now sat quietly and motionless against the wall.

In an attempt to avoid the agonizing pain he felt seeing his family trussed up, battered and emotionally drained, Orthilue cautiously began the process of rolling his head to the other side. He was eager to see what discoveries awaited him there. The physical pain involved in carrying out this simple act was staggering and it seemed to take hours before he could scan the area on the other side of his body. In reality, it had only taken about ten minutes to complete the task, even though it seemed to take forever. As his eyes came into focus again, he gazed upon a tall, powerfully built, swarthy-skinned soldier, who was striding directly toward him. The figure bent down and hovered over the king for a few seconds, as his foul breath filtered into Orthilue's nostrils.

"Ho, the dog has awakened," grunted the captor. "Maybe now we can begin the entertainment."

"Who are you and what do you want, you cowardly vermin?" challenged the king, as he attempted to keep his voice steady and forceful.

"I see there is still some spirit in this bound cur," retorted the soldier, "but we shall soon take the sting from his tongue. Be careful of what you say, you motherless mongrel, or you shall force me to do away with you sooner than I desire." The king merely glared into his opponent's face.

"I am General Lundar, Commander of the Armies of the Lord Madumda, the greatest of all who dwell in this land. I have been sent here to dispense with your mock rule of this country and to secure the symbol of your defiance toward my Lord and Master. When I accomplish this task, it will remove the final obstacle that has prevented my liege from openly declaring himself Ruler of Tarolia."

"Scoundrel! Did you think you would so easily find the talisman that has been passed down and protected by generations of my family?" Orthilue asked, defiantly. "I will never relinquish it to you. Never shall that jackal you call your master set one finger upon it!"

"The Lord Madumda has foreseen this might be your reply, so we have made preparations that he expects will loosen your tongue," Lundar replied.

Defiantly, the king spat in Lundar's face. "You may torture or kill me as you like, but with my dying breath I will still protect this land from an evil that is even more incomprehensible than the universe itself."

"Well spoken, you braying jackass, but you shall soon change your tune. Nay, we shall not torture you, as you obviously suspect. Instead, you shall be forced to watch as my troops bring unbearable pain upon each member of your family, before they are killed. As you watch them squirm and listen to their screams of agony, then shall you give me that which I seek! Bring forth the elder male."

Two guards immediately strode over to where Bastien was sitting and gruffly yanked the young man by the arms, which hurtled him to his feet. From there, he was led across the courtyard, not knowing what fate to expect. He was merely a helpless pawn in this spectacle and the first to be used in the struggle for power. The prince was then positioned between two poles, which had been driven into the ground about two meters apart, and was tied, spread-eagle, between them.

"I will give you one more opportunity to tell me the whereabouts of your talisman," the commander snarled, as he looked the king squarely in the eyes. "Tell me now or you will soon learn what games we have planned for your family."

"Then you may wait until the netherworld freezes over," the king spat out, in an attempt to show his utter contempt.

"We shall get it sooner or later, but have your way. I am afraid, however, that you shall soon regret your stubborn boast."

Lundar then nodded to a thick-necked, pale skinned soldier who was standing near the restrained youth. The warrior then strode into position beside Bastien and ripped the youth's shirt from his body, thus revealing his bare chest. After throwing the tattered garment on the ground, the warrior took a dagger from his tunic and sliced the strings fastening the lad's trousers, along with the inner seams. As the prince's breeches fell harmlessly to the ground, it exposed the young man in all of his naked glory. The soldier then moved behind Bastien, whipped out his own massive, erect penis and rammed it up the poor boy's unprepared rectum.

Bastien screamed out in pain as the huge phallus tore open his anus. The agony, however, only grew worse as the burning pain from the dry fuck shot through his body. While the first soldier was busy molesting his victim, a second trooper moved in front of the restrained prince and pulled a knife out of his belt. Then, he sadistically touched the cold steel blade against the youth's chest, before making a small incision. Slowly and mechanically, he used the weapon to flay long, thin strips of skin from the boy's breast. This caused Bastien to writhe about and scream out in even more unbearable anguish, since he was still being assaulted from behind.

Orthilue instinctively closed his eyes, in an attempt to blot out the unholy scene playing out before him. He had already resigned himself to the fact that the continued safety of the only artifact offsetting Madumda's awesome power was far more valuable than anyone's life. This meant not only his life, but regrettably it also included the lives of those closest to him. As King of Tarolia, it was his duty to protect all of the people living in the kingdom, not merely his own bloodline. No matter the cost, Madumda must never possess the one item that had kept his ambition in check.

The king was quite aware of his wife's agony, because she was openly weeping next to him after observing her eldest child being tortured. Deeply moved, Orthilue tried to whisper words of support and encouragement to his queen and assuage her anguish. He hoped his well intended phrases might give her the strength she would need to endure what he knew was about to befall them and their children.

Even though he realized what was to come would be difficult for him to witness, it would be even worse for the mother of his children. She had always been extremely protective of her offspring, which would make it more difficult for her to bear. Comfortingly, he now did what he could to help her maintain the grace and dignity her position demanded.

Although he was still attempting to block this heartless scene from his view, the king discovered he was still staring at the grisly spectacle before him. He watched as the blood ran down Bastien's stomach and dripped onto the clothing piled at his feet, as well as the ground below. The prince had already come to the same conclusion as his father and realized they were all going to die, regardless of what any of them did. As best he could, he tried to stifle any further involuntary cries of pain that sought to escape his lips and was prepared to accept his fate in true heroic fashion. Despite his good intentions, he was having little success in accomplishing what he desired.

Orthilue once again attempted to close his eyes, so he could blot out the action before him. Even though he tried, he found his gaze was still glued to the debacle being carried out before him. His mind immediately began to race over the possible reasons that could explain why he was unable to ignore this horrific scene. After many seconds, he finally concluded that his eyelids must have been removed and the wounds cauterized. Obviously, one of these foul, unfeeling creatures had severed the skin overlapping his eyes while he had lain unconscious. This, in turn, made it physically impossible for him to block out the events unfolding before him.

Having just given a barely noticeable signal to his troops, the general watched as his soldiers scurried back and forth across the courtyard. As the activity continued, Lundar also began to shout additional orders. Motivated by one of these commands, a warrior ran up to the still form of Bastien, which now hung limply between the two poles, and cut him down. Then, the soldier dragged the semiconscious prince to an area in front of the stakes on which he had just been secured and left him lying motionless upon the ground. Once he saw this done, Lundar walked over to the king and spoke.

"I will give you one final chance to hand over that which I seek or you will watch your heir die." Before the king could respond, the queen cried out in distress.

"Not my son!" she wailed pitifully, which prompted the king to assuage her anxiety.

"Gabina, be still and do not pay any heed to what is going on. Even though I am asking a great deal of you, you must not give in."

Hearing this, Lundar signaled his men to continue. Reacting to this, four guards quickly approached the still form of Bastien and fastened the young man's wrists and ankles with long lengths of heavy-duty rope. Next, they secured the opposite ends of each rope to the saddle of a riderless horse. After this process had been completed, the soldiers waited patiently as the young prince was revived.

The other warriors watched in amusement as another guard doused the nearly comatose lad with a bucket of cold water. This caused the prince to choke, cough and eventually wheeze back to life. As soon as Bastien had sufficiently recovered, the villains resumed their bloodthirsty deed. Following Lundar's command, each of the four horses was whipped severely on its hindquarters at the same instant. This sent the frightened and hurt steeds bolting in four different directions at the same time. The sudden jolt resulting from the horses' actions wrenched the youth's limbs from their proper place on his body and left the ground covered in dark pools of blood. This did not kill the unfortunate lad immediately, but mercifully he passed out from the pain and did not feel the end when it came.

As the queen first shrieked out in aguish and then began to sob, the nauseated king lay back and stared blankly at the heavens. What more could possibly await him? What other foul deeds did the warped minds of Lundar and Madumda still have planned? What other gruesome spectacles were yet to be executed upon this bloody field?

Orthilue did not have long to wonder about this, because his questions were soon answered. It was then that he heard the screams and cries of the three girls. Since he was curious to find out what was happening, the King turned toward the spot he had last seen them. He was hoping to offer the frightened girls some solace, but soon discovered he had no words that would lesson their fear or ease the pain. Several soldiers had stripped the pubescent maidens and were holding them down, as their comrades took turns sexually assaulting their writhing bodies. This carnal assault continued for what seemed like an eternity to the King, until the last of the warriors had finished satisfying his physical lust. It was at that moment the girls were deemed expendable.

Orthilina was then dragged across the courtyard to a place where a pit had been dug in the soil. As she strained to peer into the hole, her face grew pale due to what she saw. The hole was filled with the squirming forms of a multitude of vipers.

Orthilina's body stiffened, as the rabble continued to push her toward the brink of the excavation. As she struggled to keep from being thrown in with those horrible reptiles, the stricken girl grasped a hold of one of her captors, just as she was being flung forward. She furiously fought to maintain her balance and did her best to keep from falling in among the deadly snakes, while desperately clinging to her unprepared benefactor. The trooper, who had been caught completely off guard by the princess' frantic act, also began to lose his footing.

In an attempt to regain his balance, the soldier started flailing his arms violently about, almost making it appear as if he was trying to fly. It was of little use though, as he and the girl fell into the midst of the squirming forms. The deadly creatures lashed out immediately and struck each victim numerous times, injecting them with enough venom to kill twenty times their number.

Reflexively, the queen began to plead with her husband again, in an attempt to get him to save her remaining children. Once more, Orthilue did his best to convince Gabina that his duty to the kingdom came first. Although she wasn't totally convinced by his argument, the queen turned away, sobbing pitifully and mumbling to herself.

While fighting desperately to control his own emotions, the king scanned the compound and searched for the other girls. Just as he located his niece, Adina, one of the guards grabbed her hair from behind, snapped her head backwards and rapidly drew his blade across her throat. When the foul act was finished, he let Adina's body fall to the ground, while she struggled to breathe and her life juices oozed from the gaping wound.

Orthilue felt a sickening wave of nausea building deep within his core. 'What cruel beings could so nonchalantly massacre these innocent children?' he wondered, before realizing he had little time to pursue such thoughts further. He knew he must push these questions from his mind and use his time to find a way to end the bloodshed, without giving in to his captor's demands.

As the king searched the area for a clue as to what he might do to free himself and save the remainder of his family, he spied his next-to-youngest daughter, Latona. A soldier had just placed a noose around the young girl's neck and several of his mates were hoisting her skyward. As the rope tightened around her throat, she had time to think about what was happening to her.

Her body shook violently, as she tried unsuccessfully to break loose from the hangman's knot. Then, her lungs began to burn, as they craved the oxygen she needed to survive, and her face slowly turned to darker hues. Finally, after her dying throes had come to an end, the king stared at her body, as it dangled limply above the ground on which she had been standing only minutes before.

The queen was quite hysterical now; wailing and lamenting the fate of her children, when she witnessed the soldiers grab her final child. Fabrien briefly glanced at his mother, while trying desperately to control the fear he knew was clearly visible on his face. Seeing this, Gabina finally reached her breaking point and could take no more.

"Spare, my child!" she cried out.

Lundar quickly turned toward the queen, as her words slowly sank in. He knew he had won and smiled in twisted pleasure.

"If you tell me the whereabouts of your talisman, then you shall not see your last offspring die," he uttered, while his smile widened in anticipation of her response.

"Gabina, you mustn't do this," Orthilue began to protest, only to be kicked by one of the guards for his effort.

Gabina slowly lifted her eyes until they met his. They remained locked together in this manner for several more seconds, as she tried to silently communicate why she needed to do this. Before the king could object to what she intended to do, she began to speak.

"It is hidden behind the throne in the Great Hall," she muttered softly, in defeat.

Looking smug, Lundar ordered one of his soldiers to secure his prize. When the warrior returned empty-handed a few minutes later, he whispered something to his superior. This immediately caused Lundar's face to turn red with anger. The commander then barked out a command to the soldiers closest to Fabrien, which caused them to spring into action.

The warriors grabbed Fabrien and quickly stripped him to the waist. Once this had been done, they extracted red-hot metal rods from the fire and began to sear the young man's flesh. This made the prince cry out in severe anguish, as each new patch of skin was assaulted."

"Do you think me a fool? Did you believe you could play games with me?" he spat out at the queen. "You shall come to regret that error."

"What do you mean?" Gabina responded, totally baffled.

"My subordinate just advised me that what we seek was not where you said it would be." With a non-verbal signal, several soldiers began to close in on Fabrien again.

"But it is!" she assured him. "Wait! There is more! There are two lions' heads on the back of the throne and you have to turn them until they are facing each other..."

"Gabina, my dear, don't do this," Othilue begged, as he cut off his wife's response. "They must never get their hands on the…" but his words were suddenly silenced when one of the guards placed a foot against the King's throat. His wife acknowledged his predicament and choked back a few more tears, before she continued.

"Once you do that, a panel will drop down in the back of the throne and you will find what you are looking for inside." The Queen now let her head drop toward the ground, completely ashamed by what she had just done.

Lundar immediately dispatched the same soldier to verify her new account and he returned quickly. This time, however, he came back carrying the object his superior desired. Upon discovering the Queen had indeed given him the information he sought, he gave a wave of his hand, to let those surrounding Fabrien know what they were to do next. At the same time he turned toward the queen and spoke.

"I shall now grant you your boon," he acknowledged.

Before the queen could open her mouth to speak, Lundar withdrew a long dagger from his belt and thrust it through her heart. The stunned monarch's lifeless body then slumped forward and came to rest against his hand, as it temporarily trapped the blade in place. In response to this situation, the general lifted his foot, set it against the dead queen's shoulder and pushed forcefully. This sent her body flying backward and allowed the military leader to withdraw the metal shaft from her motionless carcass. Mechanically, and without any sign of emotion, Lundar wiped the blade on the grass, before returning it to its scabbard.

Lundar's attention was now focused upon the talisman, which had been created for the sole purpose of destroying his master. He gawked openly at it, as he held it in the sunlight and admired its beauty. However, there was something even more wonderful than its craftsmanship. He now realized he would be the one to benefit from pleasing his master, when he presented him this prize. As the commander stood relishing his success, he suddenly reeled about and faced the king.

"Your defiance shall cost you dearly," he taunted the helpless figure, since he was still embittered by the resistance the king had shown. Lundar couldn't imagine how Orthilue had remained so obstinate, especially after all that had happened, but he had.

Flaunting his newfound superiority, Lundar gave a signal to the huge warrior who hovered over the king's younger son. The prince's upper body was covered with a mass of blacked flesh and blisters, from his previous bout with the torturer. Orthilue was now forced to watch, as his son was now stripped of his breeches and sexually assaulted. The former torturer eagerly rammed his thick cock up the young boy's ass, literally tearing him a new one. As Fabrien opened his mouth to scream, a second warrior shoved his ample penis down the young boy's throat and began to assault his face. Those two continued to mutually rape the lad and treated him as roughly as they knew how, until they had both filled him with their juices. Just as soon as they finished satisfying themselves, two more took their place. This continued until each man who wanted a turn had been satisfied.

When it was over, Fabrien collapsed upon the ground, totally exhausted from the grueling and degrading episode. He barely had time to think, before one of the soldiers flipped him onto his back and sliced off his penis. The prince wailed in agony and instinctively reached for the missing organ with his left hand, before another soldier moved in to deliver yet another cruel stroke. With the utmost speed and grace, he lifted his battleaxe above his head and then swiftly brought it downward. This action severed the boy's right hand and prompted Fabrien scream out, yet again. The prince then grasped the bloody stump and tried to stem the pain, but it did no good.

While the lad continued to wail in agony, the same soldier slowly made his way along the young man's body, until he was in position where he could chop off Fabrien's leg, just below the knee. This caused another scream to burst from the poor lad's throat, before the pain became too much for him to bear. Fortunately, he passed out from the overload of sensations to his nervous system, as well as the loss of blood. This spared him having to endure the agony of each successive stroke, as his body was slowly hacked to pieces.

The king began to swoon as this last ghoulish deed was being performed and he now lay on the ground like a drugged man. He didn't even realize he was being lifted and moved, as several warriors roughly carried him through the Great Gate and to an open area east of the castle. Once there, Lundar's men quickly drove four stakes into the ground, as others tied ropes around the King's hands and feet. As soon as both of these tasks had been accomplished, the soldiers anchored each limb to one of the pegs.

Orthilue had been stripped of his hauberk of chainmail and laid bare while he had lain unconscious earlier. Lundar now strode over to the King's side, with a dagger clenched in his fist. With an evil sneer forming on his lips and without the slightest hint of empathy, the villain bent over the bound form and began to cut deep gashes into the king's bare skin. After having inflicted several such gaping wounds, the general stood up and addressed the monarch, who was writhing in unbearable pain.

"Your destiny shall soon be fulfilled, oh mighty king, and the last of your family destroyed. Your resistance to aid us has been futile and in a few years the prophecy shall no longer pose a threat to my Lord and Master."

This final statement triggered the king to recall a morsel of Tarolian history. Slowly, Orthilue remembered the prophecy that had been foretold shortly after Madumda's initial rise to power, during the days of his grandsire, Ethelbert. Too late, the king finally pieced together the sorcerer's diabolical plan.

As his final words faded from memory, Lundar whirled about. He then led his men back to the castle and thru the main gate. This left the monarch lying where they had placed him and wondering what else they had in store. Surely this couldn't be all they were going to do to him.

The king craned his neck, so he could look about and scan the castle's walls. After many seconds had passed, Orthilue noticed the commander and his troops appearing along the battlements. The monarch was unable to make out what they were doing, but thought he saw Lundar lift something to his mouth. Eventually, the captive heard the long, shrill note that emanated from the slender whistle the commander blew. As the sound wafted over the king's securely lashed form, Orthilue realized Lundar was signaling someone or something, but he still couldn't fathom what was being summoned.

Gradually, Orthilue became aware of a repetitive, beating sound that was now filtering through the air. At first, he thought it might be the cadence of a distant drum responding to the madman's call, but then the king began to doubt it was that. This was slightly different and didn't appear to be a drumbeat, but it was also becoming louder and more distinct with each passing second.

Reevaluating what might be making this noise, the king realized there was a remote possibility the sound could be emanating from some sort of device. If it were, however, the device would have to be on the move. Was it the sound made by a type of weapon or machine being brought there by a battalion of the Dark Lord's mercenaries? Could this be the sound it made as they marched closer to the monarch's ancestral home? Orthilue listened carefully to see if this theory might prove correct, but surmised the volume was increasing too quickly and the tempo approaching far too rapidly to be the result of a military unit.

The King struggled to lift his head, so he could peer in the direction he believed the sound was originating from. He hoped he might be able to discover what was producing this rhythmic beat, so he could unlock the mystery of its origin.

After a few moments, Orthilue thought he caught a glimpse of movement in the distance, but soon found it difficult to believe what his senses were telling him. Although he wasn't fully capable of interpreting what he was seeing, he knew the object was extremely large. This anomaly was apparently traveling through the air and heading directly toward him. The King strained to discern what type of creature this might be and continued to focus on the object until there was no longer any doubt in his mind as to what it was. Above him soared a great bird whose wings seemed to dwarf even the king's noble stature. Each wing was longer than Orthilue was tall, and that was more than two meters!

The bird was now close enough for the king to recognize its species. It appeared to be a giant condor. This was hard for him to accept, since it was far larger than any winged creature that had ever been known to exist in the world. Its feathers were as black as the darkest night and its claws appeared similar to two giant, pinkish grappling hooks.

Since this bird was a scavenger that fed on the dead and dying, the condor quickly discovered the bloodied King and made its first, tentative dive toward him. This was an exploratory swoop, to see if the victim would offer a defense, but that didn't happen. As the winged giant glided over the still form of the sovereign for the second time, its claws dug into Orthilue's flesh and tore great chunks from his chest and thigh. The king's pain was excruciating, as he realized the most devastating end had been reserved for him.

Eager to enjoy the results of this first encounter, the enormous beast landed a short distance away, but only long enough to devour the scraps of meat it had torn from its helpless victim. Once it finished its first taste of royal snack, the monster began to waddle forward and gradually moved closer to its helpless victim.

Before it reached him, however, the feathered aggressor came to a stop. It now stood only a few meters from the restrained king and cautiously examined the situation. As the great adversary was assessing its next move, the hapless ruler attempted to make his final peace with the gods and atone for whatever sins he might have previously committed.

Once the condor rightfully deduced this meal would offer no resistance, it hopped clumsily nearer its target, before making its final, fateful lunge. Unmercifully, the bird's beak and claws began rending flesh and splattering blood, as it voraciously consumed the delicacy before it. This feeding frenzy continued until nothing remained of the former monarch but his bared, scattered bones.

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