SEE ALSO THE LILITH GALLERY, THE ART HISTORY ARCHIVE & THE LILITH EZINE.
Nebonex, and his son emerged from the crowd, and climbed onto the top of their carriage. "Great warrior," yelled Nebonex in his great baritone voice. "May I ask that you, and your comrade join me for the remainder of this parade as a show of gratitude for saving my son's life?"
"Emperor," shouted Wynic, struggling to achieve some form of flowery speech. "Myself, and my comrade would be more than overjoyed to join you!" he yelled back, in as formal a tone as he could muster. Climbing over the side of the roof, the assassin climbed down with all the skill of a Kinian mountain climber.
For once a path cleared through the crowd so Redhawk and Wynic didn't have to push their way to the carriage. Using a window as a step, the assassin scaled up to join Redhawk and the Emperor.
The Emperor shouted to the driver, and with a jolt that left Wynic's stomach churning, the parade resumed with renewed vigor. The incident all but forgotten.
"Warrior, you fight with the skill and ease of a great knight that my son speaks of, but you're obviously not a knight or even a soldier of some form either because of your lack of armour!" said Nebonex the IIX. "May I ask your profession?"
"I kill people your Imperialness," Wynic genuflected with a flourish.
"A mercenary? questioned Nebonex's son.
"Assassin," Redhawk corrected, bowing.
"What?" Nebonex cried, somewhat startled.
"May I ask how an assassin, and a knight became comrades and friends. It seems unlikely to have such a fighting pair?" asked Nebonex's son not showing a hint of surprise, but rather a knowing smile.
"Emperor Nebonex, may I have the honour of introducing my friend, Wynic Doxon, the only assassin to become a hero," said Redhawk. He eyed the Minotaur Prince, finding it interesting that someone from the Minotaur capitol of Evicoth far to the east would have heard of Wynic Doxon.
"You're Wynic Doxon!" Nebonex the IX only half exclaimed. "I've heard stories of you far away in Evicoth!"
"Indeed, Wynic, we have heard great tales about you! My son has developed a passion for finding tales about you, and has been looking forward to this day so that he may meet you!" Nebonex grinned. His son blushed, a strange expression for a minotaur.
"I do believe I see the palace ahead," noted the Emperor.
"King Willium, and I must discuss trade routes between Arthian and the Minotaur Empire, Wynic," said Nebonex, excusing himself from the parlour. "Perhaps, you would enjoy a game of droughts with my son?"
"I'd be happy to milord," replied Wynic, glancing at Redhawk.
"Good. I'll be in King Willium's study," said the Emperor, closing the parlour doors behind him.
Redhawk turned to King Willium's ancient retainer, Gith. "Do you know where we could acquire a game board?"
"Yes, sire. Is there anything else you would desire?" asked Gith. He glanced around at Prince Nebonex and Wynic.
Redhawk scratched his chin, and tugged on a mustache. "How about a bottle of Kinian Red, if you got any?"
"Of course sire. We'll never run out of that. His majesty is quite fond of that, especially the brandy," chuckled Gith, opening the doors and silently closing them behind him.
"Could you tell me the story of how you killed Lord Hitlot of Jaton?" Prince Nebonex asked. "There are many versions, and I'd like to hear the true story!"
Wynic was quite flattered. "Well, you see I didn't kill him, Lord Redhawk did!"
Nebonex stared at Redhawk. "How?"
"Well, um, you see Hitlot wasn't very good at swordsmanship, that's what his renegade knights were for! His talents lied in the field of strategy. His plan for the siege of Jaton was quite extensive, and more advanced. The Field Marshals and generals of the western kingdoms never could have dreamed up some of the strategies he had planned. A prime example is his never-ending cavalry charge he had planned for Death Canyon," explained Wynic, starting to warm to the subject.
"A never ending cavalry charge? That's impossible!" exclaimed Nebonex.
"You're forgetting it's inside the canyon which will prevent attacks from the flanks. It was quite a shame he was corrupt, he was the greatest military mind ever, just think of the lives we could have saved if he hadn't been power hungry. I believe King Willium has copies of the plans Hitlot made in his study," explained Redhawk.
Gith returned with the game board, and a bottle of Kinian Red. Redhawk eyed the bottle greedily.
"How did you kill him?" asked Nebonex.
"He tripped on a rug, and impaled himself on my sword," shrugged Redhawk, filling his goblet with wine.
Wynic shook his head and grinned. "You drink that stuff like water. You're going to drink yourself to death some day!"
"Nah, I'll probably get killed in a fight, so spare me will you?" laughed Redhawk. He downed the goblet's contents in one long pull.
"Your move," said Nebonex.
Wynic studied the board for a second, and then moved a piece into the center most square.
"How did you get to Hitlot anyway? Wasn't he in a huge citadel?" asked Nebonex, moving a piece to oppose Wynic's.
"Redhawk led a band of Stornium knights to a cave that connected with the citadel's basement. We stumbled around in some secret passageway for about four days until we found a stairway that led to Hitlot's study. It took us another six days to get out of the blasted citadel, that's how lost we were!" replied Wynic, taking the opposing piece. "We never would have gotten out of the stupid passageway if I hadn't been raised in such a castle, and knew how they were designed," said Redhawk, pouring himself his third goblet full.
"Your turn," said Nebonex.
"Yes," said Wynic, moving a piece to oppose one of Nebonex's. "Well, a drunk man must have designed that citadel, so logically a drunk man could get us out!"
"You were the one leading!" accused Redhawk.
"Your turn," said Nebonex.
"Only after you fell down a flight of stairs, broke your leg, and we had to carry you," replied Wynic, taking another of Nebonex's pieces. "Then one of the Stornium knights gave you some Kinian Brandy to 'ease the pain'. So following that drunken logic, we listened to you, drunk and barely coherent, we some how got out of that damn citadel," said Wynic, pouring himself a goblet of wine.
"King me," said Nebonex.
"What?" cried Redhawk, snorting wine and staring at the board. Nebonex had captured four of Wynic's piece's, and as soon as he was Kinged, he could finish his move by capturing another three. "Where did you learn to play like that? Did Hitlot teach you?," he cried, standing up to get a better view of the board.
"My tutor back in the University of Evicoth taught me. I led Wynic right into a trap, more of an ambush really," explained Nebonex proudly.
"Your tutor must be damn smart," exclaimed Redhawk.
"Not really, but then again, we minotaurs are a superior race," said Nebonex.
"Says who?" spoke up Gith.
"Minotaurs may lack a bit in cunning, skill and speed, but we more than make up for it with knowledge and strength," boasted the Prince.
"Have you heard of the tale of Sir Alart and Lord Watene?" asked Gith.
"Yes," replied Nebonex. "I have a degree in folk lore-"
"Then you know that skill is far more important, but a blend of all is even more important, because without one the rest stagnate," explained Gith.
"Hitlot was one of the highest trained warriors with a background in the slums of Jaton, he was also very strong, but he was clumsy and lacked skill," added Redhawk, crossing his arms.
"Gentlemen, gentlemen. Who cares who's superior? The Stornium Knights far outrank both northern knights and minotaurs," cried Wynic, interposing his body between Redhawk and the towering Prince.
"You're right, as usual Wynic. One Stornium knight could take on ten northern knights with his swordarm tied behind his back, and still win," agreed Redhawk, sitting down, and pouring another goblet of wine.
Nebonex snorted furiously, and sat down. "Storniums are barbarians."
"Tell that to Lord Blackaxe, he'll be at the banquet tonight. Which reminds me, I really must check on the cook and make sure everything is going as planned," said Gith, and quietly excused himself.
"How did you kill Lord Apen?" asked Nebonex, changing the subject.
"Interesting," noted Wynic.
"What?" asked Redhawk.
"We were invited to this banquet by King Willium, and invited again by Emperor Nebonex, does that mean we have two seats each?" Wynic wondered aloud.
"Don't be ridiculous Wynic! Although the prospect of drinking two goblets at the same time does sound interesting!" said Redhawk, looking around the banquet hall and waving at Sir Dillard, a fellow knight. Large elaborate chandeliers hung from the ceiling. The room was circular, and had a mural depicting a herd of beautiful unicorns in a meadow. Stepping into the room, the two warriors felt as if they had just stepped through a portal and into a grassy meadow.
There was a huge rectangle table running the length of the room with two crescent moon-shaped tables on both sides of the main table.
So far present for the feast was King Willium, the Queen and their daughter. Chancellor Adams was discussing military matters with Lord Blackaxe of Stornium. Wynic wondered briefly if the topic of Redhawk's earlier argument with Prince Nebonex would be brought up. Lord Magter and Lady Stephanie, two of the few nobles Wynic recognized from previous banquets, were in their usual seats, arguing as usual. Lady Bardelias was flirting with a group of young (too young) male courtiers. The men practically swooned when she talked to them directly.
"Some things never change, ever notice that Redhawk? Lord Magter and Lady Stephanie are prime examples, they've been arguing with each other as long as I can remember," Wynic said, shaking his head.
"I think they like arguing with each other," noted Redhawk, sitting down next to a wine bottle. "I wonder if they keep score of who wins the argument each time."
Gith looked around, seeing that people especially Willium were getting restless to eat decided to proceed with the meal. "Ladies and gentlemen, I believe everyone is here, so if you will take your seats, we shall start the meal," he said loudly. Like a herd of buffalo the halls occupants clumped noisily across the marble floor and sat down heavily in their seats.
Wynic sat down in his seat across from Lady Bardelias trying to ignore her perfume. No wonder the men nearly swooned, he grimaced as he spread a napkin on his lap.
"Lord Redhawk," said King Willium loudly. "I've noticed how fond you are of the wine goblet, so perhaps you could give us a opening toast."
Everyone stood back up as Redhawk cleared his throat. "Ah, a toast to their divine majesties, King Willium and Mighty Emperor Nebonex, and to the Emperor's mighty son, who shows promise of a great leader of the Minotaur Empire. Here's to them," he said, raising his goblet in salute and downing the contents in one gulp.
There was the usual following toasts drawing everyone's attention from one end of the room to the other. "A toast to Wynic Doxon," said the Emperor. "For his bravery in the incident today. I am forever in yours and Lord Redhawk's debt."
"Here, here," shouted Lord Blackaxe, raising his goblet in a toast. Prince Nebonex glared at Blackaxe.
"And to all those here," said Wynic deviously. "Like Lady Bardelias, Lady Stephanie, and Lord Magter, who have continued their traditions for perhaps the last ten years of banquets. Here's to their next ten years!"
King Willium snorted wine out his nose and others laughed. The joke was lost on the minotaurs present and the offended nobles just turned an angry shade of red and pretended not to hear the joke.
Wynic sat down as the food started being served and started to eat with relish, ignoring the rebukes of Lady Bardelias across from him. Lady Bardelias looked thoughtful, seeing that her rebukes had no effect. She prided herself on knowing all the gossip and certainly knew of the rumour of Wynic's outbursts concerning his father. "You have quite an appetite Wynic. I've heard your father did too so it must run in the family," she stated.
A low rumble sounding like a cat growling came from the assassin's chest, as he set his fork down. Redhawk recognized the sound as Wynic's battle cry. If it got any louder it would be like a Kinian lion roaring, which meant Wynic would lose his volatile temper and more than likely kill Bardelias.
Redhawk saw Bardelias open her mouth to add something. "Wynic, you shouldn't keep your Lady Friend waiting," suggested Redhawk. "What's the point of staying here and talking to scum like Bardelias." He ignored the glare from the Lady.
"Ladies and gentlemen," said Wynic, standing up abruptly. "I'm terribly sorry, but I can't stay and keep you company. I have a pressing engagement elsewhere, and I do not wish to make them wait for me." With that, Wynic turned and walked from the room.
Slumping against the wall in the hallway, Wynic whispered to himself. "Damn you Lady Bardelias." He began to weep.
"Gith," whispered Redhawk.
"Yes sire?" asked Gith, leaning over to talk with Lord Redhawk.
"Do you like Wynic?"
"Yes sire. Like a father loves a son. I'm quite proud of him."
"Do you like Lady Bardelias?"
"No sire, I can't say that I do. She's arrogant and I absolutely hate arrogant people," answered Gith.
"Is she staying at the palace tonight?"
Yes sire. It takes a day to go from Castle Bardelias to Athex and she certainly wouldn't stay in an inn. Heavens to Betsy, why would she do that?"
Redhawk grinned. "She greatly insulted Wynic, that's the real reason he left. He has a good hour before that 'pressing engagement'. Could you do something to get back at her for him?" he whispered, eyeing Bardelias to make sure she couldn't hear. "Something childish that she couldn't blame on us."
"The King's daughter found a snake in the palace gardens yesterday. I could put it in Lady Bardelias' bed, no one would suspect me of putting it there," chuckled Gith.
"You're a nasty ol' man Gith," commented Redhawk, biting his tongue to keep from laughing.