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Miguela arrived at room seven, finding Caecilia waiting outside. Caecilia wore a modest yellow blouse with wide black trousers, her hair in the same buns as yesterday.

"Good morning, Scryer Miguela," she greeted. The child-like excitement in her voice did not match her formal greeting.

"Good morning, Scryer Caecilia," Miguela said, failing to mask her excitement. She flashed Caecilia a wide grin as she pulled the key to the room from her pouch. After unlocking the door, they hurried in and lit the torches in the room. Backlit by ethereal torchlight, Miguela turned her attention to the table in the middle of the room. On the table sat a gold chain with a worked medallion, a copper pitcher, two copper mugs, some sheets of parchment, two quills, a jar of ink, and a rolled missive with her name scrawled on it. She picked the missive up, untied the twine that kept it from unfurling, and read aloud.

Dear Miguela,

As I said in the canteen, I need you to look into the death of Maximus Cato's bastard son. Pay attention to all of the details. Maximus Cato received the official report but would like to know exactly how his son met his demise. You will be doing the Scrying Project an excellent service if we could put my colleague's mind at ease.

Remember, any detail could be critical information.

Be safe, and good luck.

Archmage Belvi

Caecilia poured two mugs of water after settling into her oversized seat and arched an eyebrow when they made eye contact.

"Is the Archmage pitching woo?" Caecilia asked, chuckling at her wit.

"No. The Archmage wishes that we record all that I encounter in great detail," Miguela explained, feeling defensive.

"It must be important for him to send a handwritten message. Let's not waste any more time then," Caecilia said as her demeanor changed from playful to business in the blink of an eye.

Miguela nodded. It was time to begin.

Miguela sat down, took a long drink from her mug, then went through the motions of casting her spell. She squirmed in her seat as the spell established a runic connection with her ley. Several uncomfortable moments passed as the tugging sensation in her stomach rose to a climax. Then, just as the pain was about to become unbearable, it stopped, the spell's framework snapping into place. After taking a deep breath, she shifted her focus to the medallion. This time, Miguela was ready. Just as before, the world lurched, spun, then righted itself just before a torrent of information slammed into her mind.

She was Philo Filimaxi, the bastard son of Maximus Cato TerLactic. Her life as a child was always in danger because Maximus Cato's wife was always working to preemptively eliminate her husband's bastards. After somehow surviving her childhood, her father arranged for her to join the military, and she became a member of the Ramon cavalry. She was in constant trouble with the command and often used her relationship with the Maximus to stay out of the brig.

The surge of energy struck her just as it did last time. It still felt like lightning coursed through her body, but she did not feel as panicked as before. Once more, her world went black.

 


 

Philo blearily blinked his eyes, trying to figure out where he was and why someone was yelling at him.

"Cavalier Philo! What is the meaning of this?" a voice bellowed.

Philo's head throbbed in pain, but the memories of last night were beginning to materialize in his mind. Then it hit him. He must have passed out in the merchant daughter's tent after their evening together. He sat up to see his good friend, Commander Marc. Marc was the tenth son of some Maximus. The poor man was almost as much a bastard as Philo was.

Commander Marc was thick and bulky with a flabby, protruding midsection. He was well on his way to having a triple chin, and he had troubling breathing while only standing. Philo often worried about his friend's health.

Behind Commander Marc was an older Arzan. His blue face was scowling bitterly at Philo. He assumed the Arzan was the sleeping young lady's father.

"Well, what do you have to say for yourself?" Commander Marc asked.

"It looks as if I overslept, commander," Philo said, standing up and tightening the drawstrings on his trousers.

"Get out here, now," Marc snapped. Philo pulled his shirt over his head and followed orders.

"This man defiled my daughter!" the Arzan merchant shrieked.

Commander Marc turned toward the man and said, "The Ramon Empire will take care of the situation. You have my word."

The promise seemed to appease the merchant because he backed down and headed into the tent, closing the flap behind him. Philo was sure that the man caught plenty of other men in bed with his daughter as memories of his truss resurfaced in his brain.

"Come, cavalier," Commander Marc ordered, turning on his heel and heading back towards the Ramon part of camp.

"Philo, what in the Seven Hells am I going to do with you?" Marc said after a few moments of walking in silence.

Philo shrugged at the question for his response. Marc sighed before continuing.

"You are a great horseman. You wield a broadsword as well as any soldier I have seen. With your background, you could have a fine military career."

"I have heard bastards do quite well in the military," Philo quipped.

"Oh, boohoo! You are my mate, Philo, but this tired woe is me, the bastard act, is getting old. Get your head out of your arse and make something with your life," Marc snapped.

"Do you see the look on the merchant's face? I thought he was going to turn darker than a blueberry," Philo joked, bringing a small chuckle from the commander.

"Seriously, your antics are going to get us both into trouble. That fool Arzan is no simple merchant. He is in good standings with every member of the Consul of the Five and a personal friend of the First Chair, so you better hope he takes me for my word and does not flex any of his influence, or else you may have problems," Marc explained.

"That makes the look on his face even more priceless, doesn't it?" Philo asked, and they both laughed as they returned to the Ramon section of the camp.

The following two days were uneventful. Philo did his duties, ate, and slept. However, on day three, while eating breakfast, a young Ramon runner approached him. The boy saluted in Ramon fashion with arms crossed and a bow before speaking.

"Cavalier Philo?"

"That's me, lad," Philo replied.

"Maximus Kravious summons you to his command tent immediately," the boy said his practiced lines.

Philo purposely ate a few more spoonfuls of porridge before standing.

"After you," he said, gesturing for the boy to lead the way.

They arrived at the tent, and the boy saluted again, taking his leave. There were two legionnaires posted outside the entrance of the tent. They were in pristine oiled Ramon leather with crisp red capes. The one on his right opened the tent's flap so he could enter. He gave them a nod of acknowledgment as he walked past them. Inside the tent, Philo saw his friend, Commander Marc, craning his neck, looking up to the tall Maximus Kravious.

Kravious was a Grang who chose duty to the empire over freedom. He even fought against his bipedal reptilian brethren during the Grang Wars. The soldiers seemed to revere the Grang, but Philo did not know if he could respect an individual who shunned their freedom.

Kravious stood two heads taller than Philo, making him tall even by Grang standards. He was slender with ropey muscle. He wore the traditional silk robes of his station. The robes made his reptilian features stand out, especially his golden scales.

"Ah, the cavalier I have heard so much about," Maximus Kravious said, turning his attention to Philo as he walked into the tent.

"Cavalier Philo, reporting as requested," Philo said, saluting.

"I am sure you are aware of the reason why I summoned you. So, I will cut to the heart of the matter. Most times, I would not give a matter of consensual relations a second thought, but in this case, the merchant you offended has powerful friends. He wants to be sure that you are punished. I spoke with Commander Marc and came up with an appropriate solution. For the next three weeks, you will be on latrine ditch maintenance duty," Maximus Kravious explained. Philo glanced at Marc, who gave him an apologetic half-shrug.

"I know this might seem like unfit punishment, seeing that you committed no crimes or infractions. However, considering how much trouble and ducats your colorful history has cost me, I think you owe me a chance to make an example out of you to avoid interference from the Consul. If you believe I am being unfair, please speak now," Kravious said, crossing arms, watching Philo closely.

Kravious was different than he expected. The Grang's bluntness was endearing. He thought about what the Maximus said to him, and he could not find fault with Kravious's judgment. Philo did not have to like the decision, but he could respect it.

In response, he shook his head, and the tall Grang clapped his hands together. "Excellent. Now that we put that bit of ugliness behind us. Finish your duties for today and report for latrine duty tomorrow," Kravious said, dismissing him.

Philo took his leave and went about his business for the rest of the day, dreading what the next three weeks had in store for him.

The latrine ditches were as expected. It was long, dirty duty, and the smell made it feel like the Fifth Hell. Philo was not overly delicate. He has spent years mucking after horses, but whatever they were feeding the troops, combined with the cheap wine and spirits they drank made for a smell that would wake the dead. The only saving grace was that he slept like a swaddled baby after his shift every night and had not felt this well-rested maybe ever in his life.

After about a week, he found his workflow, and while the smell was still atrocious, it did not bother him greatly as it did at first. He heard the chow bell, which meant latrines would be nearly empty until the after-dinner rush. He idly shoveled some dirt into a trench they were to cover before hearing some voices. He looked over his shoulder and saw two young Ramon legionnaires approaching his ditch. They loudly laughed as they walked.

He stepped in front and stopped them.

"Hey, fellas. Would you mind using the new ditch? I got to cover this one," he said. Unsure why he cared if these two pissed in his ditch or not. He guessed he wanted control of something in his life, and this ditch was it.

"Sure, mate. Where is the other ditch again?" The legionnaire standing directly in front of him asked.

Philo was about to explain when the other legionnaire encircled his arms under Philo's armpits, locking his hands on the back of his neck. Before he could react, he felt the white-hot pain of a blade sliding between his ribs. The other legionnaire stabbed him four more times before grabbing him by the hair and yanking Philo's face upwards, making eye contact between them.

"Madam TerLactic hopes you rot in the seventh hell."

And with those words, the other legionnaire tossed him into the latrine ditch to die in a pool of human excrement. As his strength ebbed, he felt a shower of dirt hit his face. The legionnaires were going to fill his ditch. He wondered if Maximus Kravious would think he deserted his post and not think to look for his body. He felt sad that his life was so meaningless that his last thoughts were about Maximus Kravious, and with that bleak realization, his world faded to black.

 


 

Miguela gasped for air. She could still smell the human waste around her as she came through. Caecilia looked at her expectantly. Miguela leaned forward in her chair and drained the mug of water that Caecilia refilled while she was scrying. She poured and drained another before retelling the tale she had just witnessed while Caecilia listened intently, diligently recording every word to parchment.

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A note from CKJ5

If you like what you are reading, you can find more epic adventures in the Five Kingdoms universe on Amazon:

Book 1: Scourge of the Five Kingdoms

link: https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B09VK3JZ8V

Book 2: Dogma of the Five Kingdoms

link: https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B09VKC3TRR


About the author

CKJ5

  • Tokyo, Japan

Bio: Charles K. Jordan was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. He attended university in his home state, as well, where he studied Information Technology. After graduating, he decided to move abroad to experience more than what he had seen in the United States. He found his way to Japan in 2003, and since then, he has called Japan home.

Charles K. Jordan was always drawn to fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure. When he was a young child, the first novel he read was Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe, and from that point, he was hooked. Since then, he has found inspiration and heroes from various writers in all forms of media. Some of his heroes include Robert Jordan, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Quentin Tarantino, Terence Winter, Garth Ennis, and Glen Cook, just to name a few. Ever since that fateful day that led him to pick up Bunnicula, he knew his calling in life would be to create and hopefully contribute to someone’s growth and dreams.

Charles K. Jordan vowed to himself that no matter what happened in his life. He would never stop dreaming, writing, and creating.

The Five Kingdoms of Cordizal series available on Amazon:

Book 1: Scourge of the Five Kingdoms

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09VK3JZ8V

Book 2: Dogma of the Five Kingdoms

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09VKC3TRR

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