Aurora – Chapter 36 (Part 2)

 

[1st of January, 2740 AD; Royal Ahnle Castle – Queen’s Quarters, North Glora, Ahnlikohn]

 

The cool air and lit room did nothing to deter the unsettling feeling Gale had. Every time she peered over to Queen Amelia, Gale could feel the queen stare with what felt like contempt for her. Gale had to wonder how much the queen of Ahnlikohn truly knew, or if this was just how Amelia reacted towards visitors in general. Still, Gale was sure that most of this was in part due to Isaac’s plentiful involvement with the Ameci government. As she, Luna, and Dustin stood before the queen, Amelia turned away from them. With the silence hanging in the air, Amos stepped forth and cleared his throat.

“Well, mother, we are all waiting,” Amos said. “I am sure that you’d like to get this meeting over with, so I will step back and leave it all to you.”

He walked over to Amelia and handed her a folded up sheet of paper. Gale was sure that there was something happening, but she could not tell exactly what it was that was bothering her.

“Did Thedam send you?” Amelia asked.

“No, not at all,” Luna said. “This was all my idea!”

“I’m not an idiot,” Amelia said. “I can see that man standing by you. I’d like to think that you’d give a royal like me much more credit than that. I know well enough to know that whatever Queen Thedam has planned, it will end up being a complete disaster.”

“Come on now,” Dustin said, “We came all this way just to talk to you, you know. You think we’re doing this on Her Majesty’s behalf?”

“Dustin, what are you doing?” Gale asked.

“I want to ask you something, Your Majesty,” Dustin said. “Why have you been hiding from your people? Don’t the good people of this country deserve to know why you’ve remained distant towards them?”

“It’s none of your business,” Amelia replied. “However, I do recall that you are one of Queen Thedam’s advisors. Perhaps you can relay this message to her so she gets it: I want no part of this madness.”

“Excuse me, but you are very much my business,” Luna said. “I didn’t come here to be ignored and we won’t be leaving until you give us a good answer as to what you’re doing.”

“What a bother,” Amelia said. “Amos, is everything complete?”

“They are,” Amos replied. “It seems as if that tip proved to be quite useful for us.”

“Very well,” Amelia said. “Then I’ve no need to be here any longer.”

“Unfortunately for you, you don’t get to leave as you wish.”

Amelia stopped and looked around. From the back end of the room entered Crawford Bradley and several Blood Ravens. Gale, Dustin, and Luna were caught off guard by the sudden turn of events, though Gale could see that both Amos and Amelia were not surprised. What did surprise Gale, though, was the scowl upon Amelia’s face as she set her sights on Bradley.

“Explain yourself, commander!” Amelia ordered.

Bradley chuckled. “May as well,” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to leave a mark anyway…”

“What are you doing here, you cackling freak?” Luna asked.

“That’s pretty simple, actually,” Bradley said. “I had a small hunch about our queen here and headed to the castle a day prior. Turns out it was pretty easy to secure my men here while I waited for the rats to show up. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, my hunch turned out to be true!”

“What were you hoping to gain from the queen?” Gale asked.

“You should know how influential Isaac can be,” Bradley replied. “It took a few hours, but we got all the cooperation we needed.”

“That didn’t answer my question,” Gale said. “You clearly came here for a reason and you won’t let Queen Amelia go because of it. What’s your endgame in doing this?”

“Control,” Bradley said. “Complete control of this region.”

“You deceived us!” Amos exclaimed. “How dare you!”

“Are you trying to make me laugh?” Bradley asked. “Because that was the funniest thing I’ve heard yet.”

Amos said not another word, instead opting to go straight for Bradley and strike him down. However, Bradley saw his punch coming and moved to the side. He then subdued Amos and dropped him to the floor.

Amelia gasped. “Amos! Soldiers, ready your guns!”

“I wouldn’t count on shooting me,” Bradley said, pressing his foot right on Amos’s chest. “Besides, ‘Your Majesty,’ do you want to put even more bloodshed to your name?”

“What… What are you talking about?” Amelia asked.

“Don’t you dare give me that bullshit ignorance,” Bradley replied. “You and I both know what atrocities Gerhardt Harring pulled on the people of this land. Do you really want to claim ignorance to that?”

“You’re no better at all,” Luna said. “How many people have you and your soldiers killed?”

“Everyone dies,” Bradley said. “The only thing that differs between us is the winner and the loser. That’s all that matters here!”

Dustin turned to Gale and whispered to her. “We have to leave.”

“I know that,” Gale said, “But it’s not like we can go unnoticed.”

“You there,” Bradley said to Dustin. “Don’t think I’m not paying attention to you two! Me and my men aren’t going to let you out of our sights!”

“So you finally noticed?” Dustin asked. “Hey, Your Majesty, are you going to let this guy and the rest of the Ameci military just boss you around like this?”

“You’re asking a stupid question,” Bradley said. “Amelia trusts us not to tell everyone Ahnlikohn’s darkest secrets! And that means that we can practically do what we want!”

“I’m willing to bet that there was a lot going on between Harring and Isaac behind the scenes,” Dustin said. “The way you talk to Her Majesty here, you let on more than you realize, bucko. Like maybe she knows some of the trade secrets and could be willing to help us out here…”

“Think Amelia’s going to speak out?” Bradley asked. “There’s way too much on the fucking line for her legacy to even consider telling everyone what she knows about them!”

“That’s a shame,” Dustin said.

“You know what happened, don’t you?” Gale asked Bradley. “You know all about who killed Harring and what they did to ensure they wouldn’t get caught. I can see it on your face.”

“What isn’t there to know,” Bradley said. “You’re Sorin’s little mistress, you should have heard it from the man himself! He shot the chancellor straight in the heart!”

Amelia glared at Bradley. “How do you know about this?”

Bradley grinned. “You told me, didn’t you?”

“I said nothing about how Chancellor Harring was killed,” Amelia replied. “I’ve not once disclosed that he died of a gunshot wound.”

“You… You’re the assassin, aren’t you?” Amos asked, grabbing at Bradley’s leg. “That’s why you said it so proudly! You did it!”

“Wait, did he really just blurt it out and not expect the queen to catch on?” Luna asked. “Is he that careless?”

“Turns out he’s as reckless as his friend Korbin,” Gale said.

Bradley cackled, then stopped. “Okay, let me get a few things straight here for you all,” he said. “Since it doesn’t matter anyway, Isaac was the one who shot and killed Harring.”

“I knew it,” Gale said.

“Second of all, and this is very important, do you really think I care about what happens to that shit-for-brains psycho?” Bradley asked. “Did you honestly believe that Korbin Mars and I are friends? The thought of having to deal with him on a day-to-day basis makes me want to laugh my ass off!”

“You’re just using him, then,” Gale replied.

“All he is is a useful tool,” Bradley said. “That’s what most people are, as a matter of fact. The only thing I do differently from the others is that I make that lowly cretin feel like he has someone to rely on in this world.”

“What an upstanding person you are,” Dustin said. “I’m sure that Korbin would love to hear that.”

“It’s not as if anyone likes him,” Bradley said. “Shit, if it weren’t for me, he’d be lying dead in the dirt somewhere.”

“That’s awful,” Luna said.

“What’s truly awful is the stuff that happened between him and his father,” Bradley replied. “I don’t know the entire story, but let’s just say that there’s a good reason why Harold’s known as ‘The Ruthless’ and keep it at that.”

He looked down at Amos and shook his leg out of the prince’s grasp. With a single turn, Bradley looked to Amelia and pulled out a gun.

“I think it’s about time I get to the point,” Bradley said. “The Blood Ravens have no intention of keeping anyone here alive, least of all you, ‘Your Majesty.’ It’s about time we burned this place down, am I right boys?”

The Blood Ravens took out their guns and cocked them, but at that moment the window facing the east gate broke open. Glass shattered and fell inwards onto the floor as Pekka leapt into the room.

“Pekka, what are you doing here?” Luna asked.

“I had a bad feeling about this,” Pekka said. “Looks like I was right. Let’s get out of here!”

Bradley scoffed. “You want to crash in on my fun? Well, fuck you! Ready and fire, boys!”

“I don’t think you understand, soldier,” Amelia said. “You’re the one who’s out of luck here. Now that I know what you’re after, you don’t get a chance to get out of this one!”

The royal guards raised their guns and pointed them at the Blood Ravens. As this happened, Pekka turned to the group.

“Our priority is to get out of here,” Pekka said.

“Agreed,” Gale said. “We’ll have to run fast.”

“But what about the queen and her son?” Luna asked. “We can’t leave them behind, can we?”

“You shouldn’t worry,” Amelia said. “These ruffians chose the worst time to mess with us. The time has come to shed light on everything!”

Amos stood up and looked at Amelia. “Mother, you don’t mean what I think you mean, do you?”

“If I get out of this alive, I will tell everything,” Amelia said. “Now go, Amos! You’re the last hope of Ahnlikohn!”

Amos’s eyes widened. “Okay!”

“What are we waiting for?” Dustin asked. “Let’s get going!”

“Oh no, I’m not staying here if you leave,” Bradley said. “I’ll fight every son of a bitch here as long as I get to bring you assholes down!”

The guards surrounded Amelia and aimed their guns. Not another second was wasted as Gale hurried with the others out of the queen’s quarters. However, even as the imminent gunfire faded in the background, Gale knew that Bradley would try to make good on his word. She would have to worry about that soon, as she was sure the others felt the same way.

 

*****

 

[1st of January, 2741 AD; Inside the Chancellor’s Mansion – First Floor Study, North Glora, Ahnlikohn]

 

Sorin was not sure what he expected when he arrived at the mansion with Jelka, but he was ready to find out the truth. Whatever remained of Harring and his legacy was bound to be lying somewhere in his home. Evidence that would prove that there was a deal between the late chancellor and Isaac Kunigunde had to exist, but Sorin was not sure where he should start.

“It’s best if we split up,” Jelka said. “I will take the second floor.”

“Then I’ll look around here,” Sorin replied. “Let’s hope that we’re able to find what you’re looking for, Jelka.”

“Hope is nice,” she said, “But actual proof means much more. If we want to bring down Isaac Kunigunde, then we’ll need something that he can’t deny.”

“I’ll do my best,” Sorin said.

He looked through the halls of the mansion and opened each door he came across. Sorin could not find anything that he felt stood out to him, as he passed on through each room decorated with antique furniture. Given that he had little to no knowledge of the late chancellor’s personal life, Sorin wondered to himself the reason why Harring had such a large home in the first place. The one explanation would be Isaac, who would have had enough money to ensure Harring’s complete cooperation up until his death.

“Jelka never mentioned the chancellor having any family,” Sorin said. “I’m beginning to think this was just an ego boost for him…”

Sorin opened the next door at the corner of the hall. What he saw beyond the door was a medium-sized study filled out with shelf after shelf packed up to the top with books. Right next to the window was a large map of Ahnlikohn with various locations marked down and circled out. Upon this discovery, Sorin had a feeling that he would be able to find something of note. Something that would be a helpful addition to the cause. Something that would, beyond any doubts, prove that Isaac had Harring under his control.

“Well, let’s get started,” Sorin said.

It did not take long to begin looking for information. Sorin imagined that if Johan were here right now, he would have already found the vital evidence and would have gone off with it the moment he saw it. He had to think the exact same way Johan did when it came to acquiring information and evidence. Shaking his head, Sorin decided to take a look through the nearest bookshelf.

“Damn, there’s a lot more than I thought,” he said. “And Johan can get this stuff in less than a day, too!”

Sighing, Sorin skimmed through the shelf. There was no telling what would happen if he found what he was looking for, or if he did not find anything. All he could do was keep looking.

“This is going to take too long,” Sorin said. “None of these books have much to do with what I’m here for.”

Judging from the spine of each book, they were about Ahnlikohn’s history, but Sorin did not need that. He looked down to the next shelf and found the same sorts of books. But as he turned to look away for one second, Sorin caught a look at the table in the center of the study. On top was a large box that appeared to be closed shut and untampered with, which piqued Sorin’s curiosity. He went over to the table and inspected the box and found no lock on it.

“Could he have left something in here?” Sorin asked.

The fact that this box existed made Sorin wonder why it would be left out in the open like this. Even if Harring was all by himself, Sorin had the feeling that someone would have found the box. Someone would have had to have found it after Harring had been killed, Sorin thought. But he had the box before him now and he knew that he owed it to himself at the very least to look inside.

“Here it goes…”

Sorin opened the box and placed the lid aside. Inside were two brief but vital documents, as well as a sealed envelope. The envelope was addressed to the chancellor and sent from the Ameci embassy, though Sorin guessed that was just a guise for Isaac to have Harring do his bidding. As for the documents, one of the papers covered Harring while the other had information about the Ahnle royal family. Both sheets were signed at the bottom by Isaac Kunigunde and Harold Mars, which made Sorin all the more interested in looking through the letter in his hand.

“Just what’s in this letter, anyway?” Sorin asked.

But just as he was about to open the envelope, the door slammed open and hit the wall beside it. Sorin turned towards the door and saw Korbin standing in the door frame with the light shining behind him. Looking around, Sorin saw that he had been cornered.

“It’s about time you showed up, Sorin Wilk!” Korbin exclaimed. “Now just stay there… I’m going to fucking kill you!”

 

To be continued…

 

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