Star Stepping Anthology
The Honorable Lady by Kim Knox
Royal officials are vanishing and Evia-ben-Thiak doesn't intend to be one of them.
As a high-ranking member of the court, she fears for her life. So, she takes the only option open to her. She hides on a boat sailing to her home-island.
However, the boat is not the sanctuary she hoped for. A friend from her childhood, the now-feared sorcerer, Makovik is also onboard. To be seen with him could end her career; have her thrown in the deepest dungeon. But more than that, she finds he has a plan.
And his actions will change her life forever...
© 2008 Kim Knox
"Do you know why I'm hated?" His voice was soft, almost to himself. "Why Silan foams at the mouth whenever my name is mentioned?" His shrewd eyes fixed on me, expecting an answer.
Rumours ran that Kear-al-Makovik practised blood magic, a form forbidden by the Crown and the League of Sorcerers for five centuries. Other tales told of sacrifices, that he butchered animals...babies...women. His estate had become a haven to all the evil in the Islands. But then he thought me ignorant of his true reasons. I could never believe my childhood friend would commit such atrocities, so quietly--carefully--I'd had him investigated.
Makovik had contested, in writing, every decree the emperor had issued. The first minister had recorded them, but the evidence against the emperor he'd burned into so much ash. He had to, to preserve his own skin.
"You question imperial law," I said.
His eyes narrowed. "And why is that, private secretary to the First Minister?"
I held his dark gaze, showing no fear, even though my heart pounded and my hands grew clammy. "Because it's wrong."
He shook his head, and his eyes closed. A heavy sigh escaped him. "Yet you happily work with and within the Court." Makovik shifted his gaze back to the sea.
I stared with him. I had no way of changing the madness of the emperor and his family. They had all been insane for three generations, a fact acknowledged by all Royal Officials. Yet, we could do nothing. The army and the imperial guard stood as solid supporters of their excesses. The emperor and his brother saw slights behind every glance and whisper. They issued orders, demanding the army crush any imagined resistance or raze some village or town to the ground.
Soldiering had turned into a lucrative profession.
Makovik became a lone voice against their rule. Open voice.
"The Court is a dangerous place. No one who's a part of it has ever considered themselves happy."
"And be replaced by someone worse?"
"Oh, I was forgetting the high principles of the Lady Evia-ben-Thiak," he said, his voice thick with sarcasm. "The woman who ordered ten men have their tongues cut out because they were talking on duty--"
"And would you rather have them dead?" My face flushed with an angry heat. I pushed at his shoulder, making him look at me. "Silan could hear them from his room. Whispering, plotting, joining with the voices in his head. He wanted them all decapitated."
I closed my eyes. Silan's image burned into my memory.
His heavy frame lurched about his room, eyes rolling, white foam flecking his painted lips. Ranting, he demanded the duty guards were talking, talking about him. He wanted them dead, their heads on pikes, their corpses hung from gibbets in the market square....
"Those ten guards still have a position in the palace, far away from Silan. Their families won't starve." I willed down the surge in my blood. "So why are you on this boat?"
"Him." Makovik jabbed a thumb back to the fat-jowled councillor who lectured his guards by the main mast. The wind-chaser had finished with her fun, and his bright blue robes hung loose over his large body. "Ran Lucian. I've a bone to pick with him."
"What are you going to do?"
Makovik smiled. Sly. Almost wicked. The knot in my stomach tightened. Had he given up on the legal path? "Don't ask that sort of question, Evia. You might get an answer you don't like."