The Chill

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Eimerado, 22nd of 10th, 1392 ANS

The forge's heath caressed Thalbas' face but, just like the hands of the many whores he was forced to visit since the Darkest Night, it couldn't chase out of him the coldness left by Darina. It sapped through his clothes and taunted the surface of his skin, but couldn't or wouldn't go beyond. Even then and there, while visiting the forge with his Lord Father and elder brothers, Thalbas had to clench his chattering teeth and pretend that the heath affected him.

His Lady Mother had done everything in her power to give him time and space to grieve Darina, going as far as suggesting to meet a priest to free him from it since the archiaters couldn't drive the chill out of his body. Certainly, someone had cursed her favourite son. It could be an unjust curse—the Curse. After all, didn't the Sacer Heramai prophecy that the Holy Twins and the Sacred Maid had cursed the royal family for the profanation of the Darkest Night? However, the gods would see that Thalbas had been forced to partake in the killing, that all he had gotten from it was pain and the blood of the one he loved on his hands.

Thalbas would rightly deserve the divine punishment. He wasn't as innocent as his Lady Mother wanted to believe. He killed in cold blood Darina, an innocent maiden who had loved him dearly and wished for his happiness—their happiness. He did deserve to be cursed, to spend the rest of his life with chills running through his body and a coldness into his soul.

His Lord Father had already told him thrice to get over it, to kick the wench out of his foolish heart. He had made his desires clear with harsh words and by sending in Thalbas' chambers the prettiest slave girls of his household and the most renowned whores of Eimerado. There would be no fourth warning, his Lord Father would use the cane and the birch to beat Darina's death out of him.

A hand grasped the nape of his neck in an iron grip.

"Are you listening?" his Lord Father hissed, narrowing his eyes at him.

The answer he wished to hear was 'yes Father, I was', but then he would question Thalbas to ascertain he was telling the truth. Thus, he lowered his eyes in shame.

"Useless youth!" his Lord Father hissed in his icy anger, pushing Thalbas as the other youths snickered at him. He tilted his head to one of his eldest sons in a commanding gesture. "Erelbas?"

His second-born sneered at Thalbas, puffing his chest out, arrogant with his Lord Father's favour. Erelbas was his portrait in looks and battling skills.

"Soon, foreigner guests shall arrive to celebrate the three hundredth anniversary of King Saril the First's crowing: it would be profitable to tighten our ties with them. However, if the First and Fifth Prince, our uncles, are planning to ally with our neighbours, our concern shall be the Kwelkotai representatives. Not for the sake of an alliance, rather for gleaning their craftsmanship and science, which shall provide our Lord Father with an advantage."

Lord Father nodded, as a proud sharp smile cut through his visage.

"Yet they have rules," said Ghelbas, the eldest. "They are known not to share their secrets, per agreement with the Faith. If by chance they do, it is nothing useful."

"The usefulness shall be mine to decide," Lord Father hissed, then scoffed in amusement. "Those coming from Tirzawail have brought children with them: a boy of ten-and-seven, I have heard. Some Òrumje wine and a skilled whore shall loosen his tongue: make sure to be there, all three of you, and not to let anyone else hear."

Ah, so the Fourth Prince Adalfeo Gabirai had decided to defy his brothers for the throne, as if the Purge of the Darkest Night wasn't enough. After all, the death of the Third Prince and his sons had moved his Lord Father up in the succession line. Only the First Prince and his sons stood before him and would pose a threat.

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