The Darkness of Leilaora
Orion sat at the table in the main room of his chambers and gave a sad smile as he looked at the luxury all about him. Provenna had seen to it that his chambers were the most lavish rooms a man could want. Almost everything possible had been done for his comfort, and, had he chosen to make requests or commands, his every whim would have been answered. But he still had not his freedom, nor did Mystia have hers.
He heard noise in the corridor, and the door to his chambers was thrown open. Provenna walked in; he did not rise, but looked unmoving up at her.
"Leave us," Provenna ordered the slaves who had followed her in. Silently, they turned and left, closing the door behind them. Without a word, the queen advanced to the table at which Orion sat and looked down at him. Her face was hard and unmoving and her green eyes filled with intensity.
"Orion," she began, her voice as hard and intense as her expression, "I need you to stand by my side and become the prince of Jocthreal again."
"And what care I for your need?" asked Orion.
"Youíll be greatĖthe greatest man in the whole of Lairannare. Youíll have power and wealth and everything you could possibly desire. When I die, youíll be the king of the Realm of Earth, if only you return and become my son once again."
"What is power and wealth to me?" demanded Orion as he rose and looked down upon her. "I was once the prince of Jocthreal. I was once your son. I once had everything that any man could possibly have, and what did it gain me? Nothing!
His shoulders sagged. "Nothing save anguish, guilt and no reason to live. The only reason I didnít kill myself was because I feared death more than I feared life. But now, for the first time since I was born, I have a reason to live. I serve Princess Mystia, and Iíll not forsake her that I might return to you."
"Orion, you need not forsake her to return to me."
"But I do!" Orion cried, his blue eyes filled with emotion. "'Tis not a game we play where all we must worry about is whether we win. Here, in this life, the path we take is as important as the end we seek. I will not forsake Princess Mystia."
"Forget that Shallean girl!" Provenna cried. "What is she? Nothing more than a pig to be sacrificed upon Kozan's altar. Or nothing more than a ring upon my finger." She held up her hand.
Orion looked in shock upon the ring so suddenly almost within his grasp. The crystal stone glowed and pulsated with soft, red light.
He jumped toward her and grabbed her wrist. "Give that to me!" His chair went crashing to the floor, and Provenna screamed as he twisted her arm, trying to pull Mystia's ring from her finger.
"Guards!" she shrieked. The door to the chamber was thrown open, and four guards rushed in. Orion growled as he tried to pull Provenna to him and use her as a shield, but she managed to yank herself away.
He gave a snarling cry as the four guards descended upon him. He grabbed one by the head, but even as he snapped the man's neck the other three took him by the arms. He fought against them, but they held him fast. Finally, he stopped struggling, and simply stared up in anger at Provenna.
The queen walked around the dead guard and stood in front of Orion. She was breathing heavily, and her eyes were filled with fury as she drew back her hand and struck him hard across the face. "I can find you twenty women as beautiful as Mystia. Now join me!"
Orion laughed a scornful bitter laugh. "Think you love is why I serve her?
"You fool!" he cried. "Be as noble and virtuous as she is, then Iíll serve you! Be as innocent and merciful as she is, then Iíll serve you! Follow after Joretham as she does, then IĎll..."
ďBe quiet!Ē Provenna shrieked, striking him again with all her might. Orionís head snapped to one side, and a sharp cry escaped his lips as her fingernails dug into his skin.
Provenna, trembling with fury, pulled her hand back and stood staring down at him. Slowly, he turned his face back to her. Blood trickled down his cheek. For a moment all was silent. With a howl, he lunged forward.
Provenna gasped and jumped back. Orionís fingers brushed the cloth of her dress but closed on air. The guards held him back with all their might, yet still he nearly managed to escape them. One of the guards drew back his fist and slammed it into Orionís head. The blue-eyed warrior groaned and fell limp.
His hand twitched as he struggled for breath. He raised his head and glared at Provenna but was too stunned by the blow to do her harm.
Provenna gazed coldly down at him.
"Take him to the dungeon,Ē she order, furiously, ďand torture him until he turns!"
Orionís face twisted with hatred. He opened his mouth, but, even as he did so, one of the guards struck him again. With a gasp, he fell unconscious.
Provenna watched two of the guards drag him from the room. When he had disappeared, she turned to the third guard.
"I want Zenas brought to me," she ordered, "and I want him brought as soon as possible." With that she walked from the room.
She stormed through the corridors of her palace until she reached her throne room. It was completely empty, and the sound of her feet striking the stone floor echoed off the walls. The warriors of old stared down from their stained-glass pictures and watched her as she walked up to the dais and took her seat upon the beautiful, crystal throne.
She looked down upon her hand and the ring she wore on her finger.
"Fool," she hissed. "Thief. Not for the whole of Deithanara would I save you from the hands of Kozan. Let him torture you, rape you, murder you; I care not. You stole my son from me."
She held her hand tightly over the crystal stone and whispered again, "Demoness."
* * *
It was the midday meal, and Kozan and Rolfaren sat in the banquet hall where they ate. There were a few others scattered throughout the room, but all was relatively peaceful. Mystia stood beside Kozan and held a pitcher of wine in her hands. Thankfully, Kozan called upon her far less than he had during the feast.
She suddenly groaned in pain. The pitcher fell from her hands and tumbled to the floor where the red wine spilled out and seeped into the cracks between the stones. With a sharp intake of breath, she clutched at her heart and sank to the ground.
The two kings turned and looked upon her in surprise and confusion.
* * *
Provenna looked out across her empty throne room, her face clouded with a dark, brooding expression.
"Mother," a voice broke into her thoughts.
She started and turned and found herself looking at Aeneas.
"What?" she snapped.
"I came to ask a favor of you," he said as he bowed his head.
"What?" she asked more gently.
He hesitated. "It is true you have cast Orion into the dungeon until he agrees to serve you?"
"Yes," Provenna answered darkly, "it is true."
Aeneas took a deep breath and said, "Let me be the one to...drive out his rebelliousness."
She looked at him, surprised at first by his request, but, as she thought about it, his request pleased her, and she chuckled. "Torture him if you will; I care not. But see that you donít hurt him beyond his power to heal himself. I want him turned to my will, not crushed beneath it."
"Yes, Mother," he said, trying to hide a smile. "Thank you."
He turned and walked from the room.
* * *
Orion strained to break the chains that held him to the wall. He had been stripped to the waist and already was covered with the dirt and slime of the dungeon. He pulled with all his might, but the bonds held fast. Terror welled up within him at the thought of being tortured once again. He wanted to run or hide, but the bonds would not break. He strained against them as he screamed out curses against his mother, his voice carrying through the dungeon where it mixed with the cries of the other prisoners.
The door to his cell was suddenly thrown open. Aeneas, followed by a black clothed torturer, walked in. Orion lunged toward him but was held in check by the chains.
"Hello, dearest brother," Aeneas said with a sneer as he watched Orion struggle. "You know not how long Iíve waited for this day."
Aeneas' eyes may have been green like his motherís, but at that moment they looked exactly like Kozan's.
* * *
Tnaka ran through the halls of the palace, not caring about those who stared at him. He stopped only once to demand of a slave-girl where Provenna was.
"The queen is still in the throne room, Your Majesty," the girl answered. Scarcely had the words left her lips before Tnaka was running again.
He burst into the throne room. The queen, startled from her crystal throne, rose in surprise. "Tnaka!"
He walked quickly across the empty floor to her and mounted the dais. "Provenna, is it true youíve ordered Orion tortured?"
"Why do you not simply go to the dungeon and learn for yourself?" she asked coldly.
"Is it true?" Tnaka demanded.
She looked at him, startled by the intensity in his voice. "Yes."
"What do you think youíre doing?" he cried. "This is madness!"
"Who are you to tell me what I should and should not do?" she asked, her voice cold and her eyes filled with fury. "I am the Greater Power, not you. I torture who I will when I will. If I were you, I would simply be glad 'twas not me."
"Provenna, this is not the way to turn him."
"He tried to kill me!"
"Provenna! Heís your son."
"I care not if he be Joretham himself! He tried to kill me, and he will suffer!"
"Provenna, listen to me. This isnít right."
"And what care I for right and wrong?" she spat. "He chooses to serve a Shallean wench over me! Heíll turn even if it kills him, and when he doesĖif Mystia still livesĖIíll make him cut her down in front of me."
"Provenna..." Tnaka began.
"Leave me," Provenna ordered. Her green eyes flashed with such fury he dared not disobey. He bowed stiffly, turned, and left her alone with her anger.