UPRISING: THE TYRANT KING
PROLOGUE: TRIAL BY FIRE
The sun was setting in the city of New Ryllon, the cobbled streets cooling as shadows claimed sunlight. For many cities in Duriel, the setting of the sun heralded the end of a day’s commerce; but not in New Ryllon. The web of intertwining streets were not so busy as they would have been at noon, but large numbers of Low Durians still trod the many pathways, heads lowered as they went about their masters’ bidding.
The occasional High Durian punctuated the throng, their gaudy livery a striking contrast to the mottled greys and browns that all Lows wore. Without even looking up, the slaves were always sure to move out of the way of the tell-tale clopping of hooves – for of course, no High Durian would be caught walking the streets on the same level as their inferiors.
One Low, an old man with a gnarled leg that made it difficult to move any quicker than a shamble, was not quick enough to get out of the way of a passing noble. He did not even have time to cry out before the hooves of the steed drove him into the ground. The mount’s rider did not even seem to notice the life she had just extinguished.
One man standing in the street stopped in his tracks as he witnessed the event, his eyes boring into the back of the woman atop the horse as she rode away. His clothing, though the same dull tones as all the Lows around him, seemed to be higher quality, thicker material – but who would notice such a thing? Who even looked at the Lows in the first place?
He was broken out of his reverie by another man, one whose attire also seemed to be above the average worker’s. “What do you think you’re doing Lee, standing still in the streets? There’s no faster way for the King’s men to pick us out!”
The one who had been called Lee allowed the other to pull him back into motion, but the smouldering anger did not fade from his dark eyes. His voice was as harsh as his expression when he spoke. “I read that in the Past Ages, the infirm were cared for, not expected to uphold the same level as work as everybody else. I particularly don’t recall them being trampled into the ground for being too slow to get out of the way.”
His companion, small and wiry where Lee was tall and broad shouldered, gave a loud snort as response. “I don’t believe you read even half the things you say you did. Sickies being allowed time off? Pfah!” He gave another rather undelicate snort, followed by a thick wad of spit hitting the streets.
“Perhaps one day you’ll see it as I do,” responded the first, obviously used to his companions less-than-graceful mannerisms. “Perhaps if we succeed today. Here we are.” The two had stopped in the shadowy corner of an intersection, their only company those Lows truly too unwell to move, consigned to the short life of a beggar. “Are the men in position?”
Another snort. “I can do my job. You know they are.”
Lee did not say anything, but looked into a window a storey above them across the street. The tall, wide window revealed a pale-haired, slender young woman with the obvious poise of a High Durian. The one they had been tracking for so long.
“Can’t believe we’re risking our necks for a bloody High,” the smaller one muttered. This time, Lee reacted.
“Signal the men. It’s time –“
Whatever the man had been about to say was interrupted by a sharp crack ringing through the air, like the clap of a god. Lee’s eyes immediately turned back towards the window; he had heard that noise once before, and would never forget what it heralded. Sure enough, he could see the back of a tall, red-cloaked figure where a moment before there had been empty space.
“We need to move. Now!” The sharp command brought the smaller one out of his shock at witnessing the impossible, but even as he started signalling Lee was using his long legs to push through the milling, confused mob on the street.
They might already be too late.
---Inside the house, the quiet calm of whatever Amara had been doing was shattered by the deafening clap. Impossibly, a figure had appeared in the room, one that was terrifying to behold. Its blood red cloak, covered it entirely from head to toe, the only visible contrast the black leather boots and gloves it also wore. But it was what was beneath the hood that truly set it apart.
A metal mask, carved in a way that hurt the eye to attempt to follow, gave a grotesque representation of a human face in complete agony.
A kindly Low serving woman in the corner of the room whimpered at the sight. The figure raised a hand, lazily flicked a finger; the woman crumpled to the ground. Then it turned its attention towards the girl, its focus strangely apparent despite the fact its eyes were covered.
It extended one black-gloved hand towards her. It spoke, and its voice was more chilling even than its appearance: cold, lifeless, and inherently wrong.
“It is time for you to come.”
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