Lord William stood on his balcony. His wide, green estates stretched out to the horizon. Small hovels with dark smoke puffing from crumbling chimneys squatted near dying patches of trees. Lord William turned his back on his rich fields and poor tenants. His mind lingered on a subject far away. It lingered on things lost to mankind, things lost to him.
“He has hidden them away, Lord.”
“Witch!” Lord William shouted. He slammed his fist on rough table, which had suffered under all his ancestor’s blows before him. “Do you think I do not know this?”
The old woman stumbled backwards, falling from her stool. With a scream she landed on the rough wooden floor, something cracked.
Lord William grabbed the crystal ball from its stand on the table. He raised it far above his head as he towered over the old woman. “He stole them from me, from my family.”
Crouching down, Lord William held the crystal ball before the old woman’s face. He sneered, his thick brows drawing together, his bone white teeth shone in the torchlight which cast shadows across his dark brown eyes. “Do you even know his name, Witch.” He hissed, spittle flying into the old woman’s face. “Can you see that in your ball? Can you even tell me where he is?”
“Lord,” the old woman whispered through her pain. “He has shrouded himself.”
Lord William stood again, glowering down upon her. “Then I thank you for your services to my family, but it seems you have outstayed both your welcome and your usefulness.”
“Please, Lord, no!” The old woman’s eyes widened in fear as Lord William brought the crystal ball down upon her head. Lord William laughed as he brought the bloodied orb down again and again. His black hair lashed his face as he came down and then, as he rose again for another strike, it would fly back to reveal a face speckled with blood, framing eyes filled with savage madness.
Lord William stopped, frowned down upon the bloody, broken corpse on his floor, and turned toward the table. “What a mess.” He picked up a book from the table. A drawing of a pair of eyes stared at him from the word pages, coded, flowing scripts surrounded the eyes. Lord William placed two fingers on the eyes. “Where are you?”
Striding back to his balcony, Lord William cast the bloodied crystal ball down into the moat below. He looked up and stepped back in shock. There, only a few hundred yards from him, sat a rider clothed in dark blue and purple robes. Despite the shroud which covered the riders face, Lord William knew the rider’s eyes watched him in an unwavering gaze. He was of the Order of Aelra. He knew they were watching him; they had been since the eyes went missing, but this was a boldness he had not seen before.
“Guard!” Lord William shouted, never taking his eyes off the rider. He heard the commotion behind him, heard the slight gasp when the guard saw the old woman’s body, then waited for the guard to stand silent, before speaking. “See that rider?”
“Take a group of riders out and bring him to me.” Lord William leaned forward, clutching the balcony railing.
Lord William heard the door shut and waited, counting his breaths, until he heard the drawbridge fall and the sound of hooves pound across it. He then straightened and smiled as six of his best riders galloped across his estates toward his prey. Soon he would teach those arrogant warrior-priests what it meant to spy on him.
As Lord William watched, the Aelra rider dismounted. Lord William’s guards bore down on the man, but never did he show any intention to flee. A glimmer of steel shone as the man drew his sword and fell upon it. Lord William jumped back from the balcony railing, turned, and ran down the curving stairway that led from the tower to his central hall. His son ran toward him smiling and laughing, but he shoved the boy away. Out of the corner of his eye, Lord William saw the boy’s tutor, Henry, grab the boy by the shoulders and draw him away into another room.
“Jacob!” Lord William shouted, his voice echoing in the empty hall. “Where is that boy?”
“Here, lord.” Jacob said as he bowed toward Lord William, his shaggy blond mane falling in front of his handsome face.
“Ready my horse.”
“Aye, lord.” The boy bowed several times before scurrying off.
Lord William moved to the main door and was about to lay his hand on the handle when it was cast open. He raised his hand to strike down whoever came through, but when he saw the dark blue and purple robes he lowered it.
“What is this?” He demanded as his guards carried the bleeding man into the hall.
“He is still alive, sir.” One of the guards said as they set the body down.
“Not for long.” Lord William knelt down, drew his dagger, and slit the man’s throat.
“Sir!” One of the guards began.
Lord William turned on him and placed the dagger tip right between the man’s ribs, pushing it in, smiling as the life drained out. He turned back to the rest of his guards. “He is of the Order of Aelra, he would not have told us anything in the few short minutes he had to live.”
Stalking to his chair at the back of the hall, Lord William slunk down into it, running his thumb along the bloody blade of his dagger. His guards followed him. He watched in amusement as they glanced at each other, at the wall behind him, shifting on their feet, but never daring to look him in the eyes.
His thoughts wandered back to the eyes illustrated in the book. They were the same shape as his own, same color too, but they had seen things he had not seen, things he wanted to see. He had spent long years searching the family crypt, only to find, on the night of his son’s birth, a night that should have been glorious that they had been stolen. From that day he had been searching for them, scouring the land for miles around, his agents lurked in every city. The witch lying dead in his chamber was just one of many he had employed and killed, the only difference being that this one had served his father before him. He did not regret her death; he only feared her fate would become his if he could not find those eyes.
“Lord,” one of the guards asked, jerking Lord William from his thoughts.
“What?” Lord William growled.
“Your agent has arrived from London.”
“Bring him to me.”
The agent was led in. He was a small man clothed in a long coat and a worn top hat. “Lord,” he said, bowing. “I bring word of the things you seek.”
“There is a legend among the Order of Aelra, whom I see you are acquainted with, of a boy with eyes that contain the secrets of lost technologies.”
“Are you certain it is a boy?”
“That is what I am told, lord.”
“You have been helpful to me. If I find what I am looking for I will make sure you receive your reward.”
“Thank you, lord.”
“Take him to the dungeon,” Lord William said with a flick of his hand toward the guards who then grabbed the man and drug him down into the depths below the castle. “Kill him when you get down there.”
“No, lord!” The man yelled. He struggled against the guards. “Please, please, spare me!”
“I do not enjoy groveling.” Lord William stood. “Kill him now.”
A guard drew his sword as his comrades stretched out the unfortunate man’s neck, baring it for the severing blow to come.
“I know who the boy is with the eyes!”
“Do you now?” Lord William walked over to the man, picking up the man’s fallen top hat along the way. He stabbed it through with his bloody dagger and held it in front of the man’s face. “Who is it?”
The man managed to smile as the guards loosened their hold. “Not until I am on a horse and outside your gates.”
“Are you bargaining with me?”
“Not a good idea,” Lord William placed the dagger blade to the man’s cheek and drew it slowly down. Blood welled and ran down the pale skin.
“You kill me and you will never find out who has the eyes.”
The guards did as they were bid.
“Thank you,” the man said, taking his torn hat from Lord William and placing it upon his bald head.
“I am not giving you a horse, nor am I letting you out of my sight until you lead me to the boy with the eyes.” Lord William said. “I give you my word as a lord that you will be free and rich besides.”
“I do not need to lead you anywhere, lord. The boy lives here, under your vary roof.”
“How is this?”
“Did you ever wonder why the Order Aelra was watching your castle?”
Lord William frowned and nodded. “Guards, bring all the servant boys to me.”
“It is not a servant boy, lord.”
“No!” Lord William snarled. It made sense, the theft on the very night of his son’s birth. The rumors afterward that his son had been born blind, but miraculously received sight only a few hours later. The tutor, he was the one, it was rumored he was a wizard, only he would have had the power to veil himself and the boy from a witch’s spells. He threw open the main door and rushed out into the courtyard.
“Hold!” Lord William roared. His eyes widened in anger and panic as he saw the tutor and his son sitting on his prize steed, ready to ride.
“Now you know, Lord William.” The tutor said. “But I cannot allow you to know these secrets. You are unworthy.”
“Guards! Kill him!” Lord William shouted, pointing toward the tutor.
“Call them off.” The tutor said, his voice even, a crossbow pointed at Lord William’s chest.
“Stand down,” Lord William motioned to his guards who lowered their weapons.
“I shall give you one more chance to put aside your obsession. Answer me truthfully, I warn you, else I will end you here and now.”
“I will answer in truth, traitor, make sure that your own words are honest.”
“If you could obtain the secrets of the eyes only through the death of your son, would you kill him?” The tutor asked.
“I would.” Lord William said without hesitation, his body shaking in rage.
“Then you will never see your son again, Lord William.” The tutor raised his hand and smoke obscured him and the boy from Lord William’s vision. When the smoke cleared they were gone. Lord William turned, his heart filled only with anger, not regret.
By Joshua A. Spotts
Copyright 2013 Joshua A. Spotts