Chapter 10: The Puzzle's Final Piece

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‘Van Joss!  That bastard is still alive!’ Longspear thought wildly as the slender human let his hood fall loosely around his shoulders to gaze defiantly into Ryahd’s stunned face.  ‘But ... how?  Nobody should have survived the fall of Ven Devisol.  Not even van Joss!’

A soft chuckle beside her drew Longspear’s attention to Kelly.  Looking over at the big elf, she was surprised to find him smiling.  And just in time to hear him mutter in Tranalo.

“If anybody could have done it, it would be him!”

Yet, as Longspear returned her attention to the defiant human agent, she quickly saw that van Joss hadn’t escaped the battle for Ven Devisol unscathed.  Although they could only see his face, it was battered and bruised.  A multitude of cuts crisscrossed the haggard-looking face and his eyes were once again sunk deep into their sockets.

But the fire that drove the slender operative burned out of those eyes like balefire, a cold green intensity that pushed even Ryahd back.  Not for long, however.

“A human?” the big prince snorted, quickly recovering his haughty composure.  “You know a human, Father?  One of the most disgraced and abused creatures on the face of the land?  And one that looks like he has just stepped out of his own grave at that!  Indeed you have fallen far.  I was right to question your authority.  And your state of mind!  You are no longer fit to rule the Golden Kingdom.”  Ryahd spun to face the advisers.

“All of you are witness to my father’s final madness.  Proclaim him unfit and make me king!”

Fizel, however, wasn’t about to concede to such a weak attempt.  His face abruptly a mask of anger, he stepped forward to take his son by the arm.  Spinning Ryahd around, he jabbed a stiffened forefinger into his son’s chest.

“Don’t play the fool, Ryahd,” he hissed tightly.  “There’s no time for it!  We have more important issues to deal with than your pitiful ambition.”

Snarling soundlessly, the Ryon Crown Prince lashed out with a clenched fist, his canines bared.  But Fizel had anticipated his son’s move.  Easily ducking under the wild swing, he spun lightly on the balls of his feet to come around and drive his palm into Ryahd’s chest.  There was a hollow thumping sound that echoed through the entire chamber, followed immediately by Ryahd’s brief but speedy flight backwards.  The big Ryon royal landed heavily on his rump three metres back, blinking his eyes in shock.

Slowly Fizel stood erect, his eyes hard as they hammered their gaze into Ryahd’s face.

“I have tolerated your foolishness for your mother’s sake, Ryahd,” he snarled, abruptly every inch the powerful war king that he was.  “But I will not tolerate a move against me such as this.  If you want my throne, cub, you best bring your entire army!  Or I will cut you into pieces.  Very, very small pieces.  Do I make myself clear?”

“Perfectly, old cat,” Ryahd hissed in return, his anger congealing around him like a cold fog.  Coming slowly to his feet, he straightened his ornate tunic with a jerk.

Thinking the matter done, Fizel began to turn to face van Joss, the anger slipping from his face to be replaced with one of thoughtfulness as he made to speak.  It was as the king turned away from him that Ryahd’s hand dipped to his belt to come back up with a long bladed dagger.  Face contorted with rage, he charged forward at full speed, his long legs and powerful muscles quickly accelerating him across the intervening distance.

The abrupt attack caught everyone by surprise, freezing them in place and holding their tongues with its speed.  And Fizel, with his back to Ryahd, had no idea that his son meant him harm.

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