Chapter Four


Niek's eyes fluttered open. The room was warm, lit by the fire in the hearth. She was snug under the comforters of a massive and luxurious four-poster bed. Four-poster bed? The assassin sat up quickly, not knowing where she was. She had never been in the room before. Its walls were painted steel blue, and the hardwood floors were a dark walnut. She jumped out of the bed, and frantically ran to the large window, and pulled open the curtains. The sun shone through the cloudy sky, and the garden below was filled with beautiful flowers. The garden, unlike the room, was familiar. It reminded her of the Eshl'ton castle garden. The Eshl'ton castle garden had a stone bench, with the same ornate carvings in it, and a fountain with the same two mermaid statues in the middle of it. Then she opened the window, to stick her head out to get a better look at things. To her left, she could see a trellis, with ivy creeping up it. The trellis… the trellis was broken at the top.

"I am in Eshl'ton castle!" screamed Niek. She remembered her last attempt to kill Queen Yelaina was a disaster waiting to happen! Niek had climbed up the trellis to go into the room that the Queen was in, but the trellis broke, and Niek had went tumbling into the fountain where the guards had found her. She barely escaped.

It all slowly came back to her. The man, the creature market, the quicksand, the Thoralka, she remembered it all. The thorns. She touched her neck where the thorns had pierced her to find bandages. Niek thought, Why am I still alive? I thought they would have killed me, or put my in the dungeon! That is what I would do. But give me a nice room?

She closed the window and the curtains back. "Now to find out what the heck is going on." Niek left the room, and came into a narrow hallway with paintings of the former Eshl'ton queens. Each queen had the same solemn expression, some old, and some young. Twenty paintings lined the hall. Niek felt like retching when she came to Yelaina's portrait. The painting was done in the same room that Niek had slept.

She quickly walked down the corridor, to come to a grand room. Many hallways conjoined with it. In the center was a statue of King Niscus, King Morpheus's father, holding a purple pillow tousled with gold. Upon the pillow rested an ancient blade. The assassin had heard stories about the sword. It was enchanted, and if one were as much as scratched by it, they would die within a day, unless the sword's wielder wished otherwise. If one was stabbed, immediate death fell upon then no matter where they were stabbed. Niek was envious that she could not wield such a weapon.

Envy. Such a funny little thing it is. Envy could cause a person to do rash things that one might regret. Though two other emotions have the same trait: rage and infatuation. Niek had not felt love for a very long time, and she often thought it was best left that way. She would think, Love could corrupt an assassin's mind. It can make them softhearted. It is not good. Not good at all. She could not say the same about rage. It was an emotion that came upon her more often than she would like. She had found herself in terrible positions because her anger had led her astray. She thought the emotion to be a curse instead a sign of her humanity.

Her eyes remained fixated upon the blade. It seemed to call to her. She wanted it. Slowly her hand snaked its way up to the pillow where it rested. So close….

"I see that you are awake, Niek. You have been out for two weeks," someone calmly said.

Niek jerked her hand back and then her eyes met who had addressed her. It was Yelaina. "You!" Niek was infuriated and went to draw her sword from the baldric on her back. It wasn't here. Her sword and her baldric were gone! Niek paused, and then went for the dagger in her boot. It was also gone.

"Do not even attempt it, beast. We have taken the liberty to remove all of your weapons. Do not expect to see them anytime soon." Yelaina smirked. "You are in the Eshl'ton castle, if you have not already figured that out. If it were up to me, you would be dead, but it was not my choice. My husband felt that it was best to show you hospitality, maybe to change you mind about us. I would be thanking him if I were you." Yelaina stood in a doorway that led into one of the many hallways. She wore a simple maroon dress with gold trimmings. She wore her circlet and sandals. Her gray hair was in a braid, adorned with gold hairpieces.

Niek went at a gait toward the queen. "Tell me what business you have with me, or I swear, I will tear you limb from limb with my bare hands!" Niek was now so close to Yelaina now that she could smell the perfume from the Queen.

"No, I do not think you will be doing such a thing Niek." The queen turned away from the assassin and began walking down the hallway. She said, "Follow me."

Niek cocked her head confused. Who does this old lady think she is? Oh, I will show her! Niek went to the Queen and threw her against the wall. Nieks hands were enclosed around Yelaina's throat. The queen did not seem really worried.

"E- enoch al bynd," strained Queen Yelaina. Niek fell to the floor, clawing at her own neck. Yelaina rubbed her throat and smiled.

She cleared her throat and said, "We also put a slave collar upon your neck. Behave and I will make it stop." Niek sputtered and squirmed, but managed to nod. "Well then, enoch al retilyse."

The collar returned to a metal ring, and Niek lay upon the floor, using much effort to breathe. "Fine," she croaked. "I will follow you."

Yelaina led the defeated assassin down a corridor, up a flight of stairs, and finally into a room. The room was decorated with the Eshl'ton code of arms, a golden eagle clutching a sword in its talons, soaring through a purple background. The room was painted crimson and the floors were a dark walnut wood. Two other doors, besides the one that Niek had just come from, were there as well. A long mahogany table situated itself in the center of the room, while many chairs lined its ornate sides. Filling those seats where faces she recognized all to well. When she walked in, those faces turned to stare at her. They were the nylks, the elf, the shifter who was a dog curled up in the corner of the room, and the wis. She also saw King Morpheus; the old heathen is what Niek called him, and a woman she had never seen before.

The shifter lifted its head when Niek came in, and barked. The dog became a man, and walked up to the assassin. Kayle grinned and smartly said, "Oh look who it is. It is Niek. Not so tough now?" He laughed at his own remark.

Niek shoved him out of the way to stand in a corner. "You are lucky," she whispered, "that I have this collar on, or you would be dead." Kayle scoffed at her threat and returned to his dog form and curled back up, every now and then glancing at the Niek.

King Morpheus cleared his throat. "As you all have been told, you are needed for a quest. You do not know what for, where, and all of those minor details. But I will give you a choice. You can remain a creature of bondage and work for my family and me till you die. We will not treat you badly, though. Or you can do this quest, and if you survive, will be granted freedom and reward. If any of you here would rather work for me, please come forward." Yelaina took her place next to her husband.

Niek spoke up and said, "Why I am here? Do you expect me to do this quest of yours?"

Morpheus was about to speak when Yelaina stopped him. Her Majesty the Queen, smiled and said, "Niek, you have done so many wrongs to our family. I wanted to see you dead, but my husband had the idea to make you do the quest, get your freedom, or stay as a slave and work for us for the rest of your wretched life. It is completely up to you, Dearest."

"I would rather rot than to spend my life here. I will do your little quest as long as I have your word that I will be free." Both royals nodded.

The King had a satisfied look. And to all the beings in the room he said, "Very well then. It is your choice. But this quest does not have a guarantee of coming back…alive. As you all know, I am sure, that Piscen has waged war upon this whole country. No kingdom within is safe. My wife and I have grown sick of this useless bloodshed, but we have not the forces to fight Fezir. We have alliances with other kingdoms, but because of Piscen's troops just a few miles away from our city, we cannot send messengers out. Just one human cannot overcome enemy camps. But a creature with abilities can. We have done some thinking. Handisen will be the hardest to convince. Thanks to our mage, Tasara, we have learned that Handisen is trying to make an alliance with Piscen to save themselves. We need to send more of you there than to the other places because we hear that Piscen is playing dirty, and setting up troops to attack Handisen. Five of you will be sent there. Two of you will go to Temptacle, two of you will go to Norisys, and we are sending our mage and—"

Morpheus was interrupted when a man came into the room. It was the same mage that had helped Balthazar and the creatures escape from the market. "Sorry about that. I could not find my way up here." The mage took his seat next to Koda, the fire nylk.

Yelaina pardoned him and the king continued. "What was I saying? Oh, yes. Two of you to Temptacle, two of you to Norisys, and we are sending our own personal mage and this mage that just walked in, to Emestar. This fine mage goes by the name of Brombyn. I trust you all remember him from the market? Anyway, he heard about the quest, and contacted us. He has volunteered for the quest. Yes, and the wis, he will be doing it on unusual circumstances, but still yet he will go."

Yelaina spoke up and said, "Now, let us tell you who is going where. Brombyn and Tasara are going to Emestar. Koda and Aedan are going to Temptacle. Ren and Oren are going to Norisys. Ania, Lysander, Niek, Venus, and Kayle are going to Handisen."

Ania, the earth nylk, had been sitting there the whole time quietly. But she screeched, "Handisen? No! I won't go! Send me to Temptacle, or some other place! Just not there!"

The King and Queen glanced at each other and said, "We are sorry. But the arrangements have already been made. We cannot all pick and choose."

Ania's fists tightened, but she did not say anything else.

"Does anyone have any questions?"

Kayle shifted to a man and asked, "When we all go, what will prevent us from running away? We may just go where ever we please and never go to whatever kingdom we are supposed to go."

A woman all of the sudden appeared sitting on the edge of the table with her legs crossed. She appeared to be in her twenties, and she wore a long white and silver gown, with long, curling silver hair, and tanned skin. She was the picture of beauty.

Yelaina spoke up and said, "Ah, here is Tasara. She is the mage that we spoke of."

Tasara smiled at Yelaina, then spoke up and said, "I have taken the liberty to fix the collars. The collar can read your mind. Whenever you even consider running, it will send a shockwave through you, not major, but enough to stop you from it. Even if you you think about doing things other than this, the collar will know what you want to do. As long as you have the intentions of going, and you do go, there will be no problem." The female mage grinned.

Koda asked, "How old are you? You can't be over twenty-five! Most mages your age are just now harnessing their abilities."

Tasara continued to sit on the table as she talked with Brombyn. She said that her age was four hundred-sixty-eight. Tasara's mother had been an elf, so she inherited the long life from her mother, and her father had been a powerful mage. Tasara had been a mage for the Eshl'ton family for many generations.

"Now then," the king said, "to help you on your journey, we have a weapon for each of you. These weapons are designed for you specifically, and most of them will not work for anyone else but you."

"Follow us please," Yelaina said. Kayle shifted to a white stallion, and everyone filed out of the room. Kayle would nibble on Niek's braid, or shove her forward. Niek said nothing, but she was screaming inside. The creatures were led outside into the courtyard. From there they went to a large heavily guarded stone building. The guards waved them in, and then went back to their posts. The building was the armoury. Weapons upon weapons lined the walls and the floors.

Kayle stared in awe. He whispered, partially to himself, "Holy mackerel!"

A/N: I'm sorry for not updating in so long guys. I've had a death in the family and I haven't been... up to writing. So, I'm sorry if this chapter isn't the best.