The Amulet (Chapter 2)

April 3, 2011
Footsteps echoed through the darkness. Torchlight revealed a small party of armed men surrounding a man dressed in velvet, purple robes. His long, white beard almost obscured a golden amulet hanging around his neck. The amulet itself gave off a glow to rival that of the torches. The man’s features stood out in the golden light. His eyebrows were knotted together in intense concentration. A bead of sweat dripped off his hooked nose.

The passageway began to descend steeply. Each step stirred up a plume of dust, and cobwebs clung to the stone walls. The skittering of insects across the floor could be faintly heard. It was obvious that this corridor had not been used in decades.

Finally, the passage leveled out. An elderly man, the one in robes was wheezing. He gripped the armored shoulder of the guard next to him for balance.

“We’ve arrived, my king,” the guard said, breaking the silence. A massive, oaken door with a tarnished brass keyhole stood before the party. The robed king fumbled about in his robes, finally pulling out an ancient key of the same tarnished brass as the door’s keyhole. He pushed it into the keyhole and turned it.

There was a click, and then the great door swung inward, accompanied by a discordant squeal. The room was completely dark, so two guards took torches from the walls and led the way in. The king shuffled after.

The torchlight revealed a myriad of treasures. Prodigious amounts of gold coins and gems sat in immense heaps. Jewel studded goblets occupied shelves. A thick layer of dust coated the piles of wealth. The only empty space in the room was a pedestal embossed with gold leaf. At its top was a depression, seemingly meant to hold a necklace of sorts.

The rest of the guards filed in, forming a circle around the king and the pedestal. It dawned on the king that the group expected him to say something. Nervously, he cleared his throat. He removed the amulet from his neck and held it aloft for the gathering to see.

“Recently, men, our kingdom has faced an even greater threat than the constant war against the Tyrannax Empire. One of you, one of my most trusted advisors, has committed treason. Look about. Who is missing?”

The gathering did so, but they all knew who it was. Nobody wanted to speak the name of the man who committed treason against the Bailiwick kingdom. Silence was a thick blanket smothering them. At last, one brave man spoke up. “Draco, sir. Draco Avaricus is missing.”

The king sighed sadly. Hearing the name of the man who had turned on him made the betrayal final. “Correct. Draco Avaricus has betrayed our order. He has betrayed his kingdom. He has betrayed his family. And he did it all for this amulet!” The men’s eyes widened as the amulet’s power took hold of them.


“You all desire it, right? You want to grasp it in your hands, to taste its power. You want others to obey your commands. You want to be invincible,” he said bitterly.
He placed the amulet on the pedestal and took a few steps back to admire it. He wouldn’t see it again. All of the trouble it had caused was over once he locked away in this room. “This is the last you’ll see of this cursed artifact. My only regret it that I ever picked it up.”

“Sir, if do you mind me asking how you first came upon the amulet?” a guard asked.

A mental dam broke, and King Lucius Overrule was flooded by memories.

*
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Towering, umbrageous trees sheltered a small forest path. Along the path walked young Prince Overrule. He was gazing at the rushing waters of a chortling brook to his right. A golden stone bounced along the riverbed, standing out from others, colored bland grays and browns.

Curious, the boy chased after the stone of gold, twigs crackling beneath his boots. As he got closer and closer to the floating object, his curiosity became yearning. His yearning became necessity.

It was then that his clothes became saturated with icy water and a dull pain in his arm throbbed. No longer on the path, he was lying in the middle of the quickly-flowing stream. Tightly clutched in his hands was the golden stone. As he gazed into its swirling depths, he was overcome by a strange euphoria.

Upon closer inspection, what he held in his hands wasn’t much of a stone at all. The golden object he had seen at first was attached to a golden chain. He put it around his neck, and climbed out of the river.

He looked at his elbows that had been scraped on the river stones when he dove in. The scrapes had been bleeding, but the flow of blood slowed and then subsided. New flesh grew over the wound until all evidence of the abrasion had disappeared. I’ve found a magical amulet, he thought to himself in awe. What else could it do? If only he were dry…

The wind gusted violently, whipping his tunic about and tousling his hair. But when the wind stopped, he was totally dry.

In a tangled mass of confused ideas and emotions, one thing was certain, this was no ordinary rock. He set off for the castle, eager to learn more about his discovery.
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After a brisk walk, the castle, an immense fortress, stood before the prince. Although he had seen it many times before, the structure never failed to be impressive. It was constructed of massive marble blocks imported from a faraway, mountainous land. Sculptures of the same marble, depicting ferociously realistic dragons, flanked an enormous wooden door. It was slightly ajar. Before he stepped inside, he thought he saw a rope dangling from the castle wall…


“My prince,” and armor-clad man greeted him, bowing.

“I would like see my father,” said Prince Overrule.

“Certainly, sir. Right this way.” The prince allowed himself to be escorted through the labyrinth of lavishly decorated halls. The priceless portraits and polished suits of armor were a blur as they briskly walked to the king’s chamber.

“Here you are, sir,” the man said, bowing and shuffling out of the room.

Prince Overrule looked about the chamber. The walls were painted a royal red and trimmed with gold leaf. The ceiling overhead was an intricate mosaic that depicted the first king of Bailiwick. Oddly, it seemed there were a few tiles missing from the ceiling overhead the thrones. He would have to inform his father.

“Come forth, Lucius, my son,” a booming voice called, echoing throughout the large room and bringing the prince’s attention to his father.

Resplendent in his jeweled crown and a pristine white robe, the King of Bailiwick sat in a golden throne. He gestured to a smaller throne next to him, indicating that his son should sit. The prince crossed a small expanse of velvet carpeting to his throne and sat.

“Father,” he began, “I found a fascinating object while I was taking a walk on the wooden path.”

“Oh, yes? What would that be?” The king stroked his beard in curiosity. His son held out the amulet, and the king turned towards him to inspect it.

He gazed at the amulet intently, but suddenly, his head jerked up. “Son, did you say something?”

“No, father. Did you hear something?”

“Yes, it came from-” he paused, thinking it over, “well, it came from above me.” He looked up at the ceiling, exactly where Lucius Overrule had noticed the missing tiles. His eyes widened, and then there was a resounding “THUD!”

An arrow shaft protruded from the king’s forehead, and blood dripped onto his white robes, staining them a bright red. The dying man twitched, and then fell still, slumping forward on his throne.

“Father!” the prince roared, his voice raw with agony.

Prince, or shall we say King Overrule had not time to mourn. A crack spread across the ceiling, and tiles fell in colorful clumps clattering to the ground. The room filled with thick dust, and blinded king cried out, “GUARDS! GUARDS!” He was panicking now, as the assassins would surely come for him next.

He heard the “twang” of a bowstring and flinched away in terror, the grim prospect of death handing over him like a black cloud. Yet he was still alive.

Perhaps he missed? The new king thought as he opened his eyes.

The assassins seemed to think that too, for one voice said, “Blast it, you missed. I’ll have to do it if it’s to be done right!” A second bowstring sang, and this time, there was no time for him to close his eyes. The black arrow shaft burst from the thinning smoke on a fatal path towards the new king’s heart.

Then, the arrow stopped. It was motionlessly suspended in the air before him for a few seconds before it clattered to the ground.

Overrule was absolutely astonished to be alive, but that astonishment was replaced by the same feeling he felt when he had first grasped the Amulet in his hands: Power. He was invincible! With the fear gone, King Lucius Overrule’s anger rose, boiling over like water in a pot. The smoke had nearly cleared, and he could make out the figures of three assassins.


“We’ve got to get out of here!” a frightened assassin said tremulously.

“Abort!” another called, seeming to be their leader. Hasty footsteps rang throughout the room.

“HALT!” King Overrule boomed. The footsteps abruptly stopped.

“What’s going on?” a panicked assassin screeched. The dust had settled and Overrule could now see a cluster of black-robed men. On the fronts of their robes was the image of a tightly soiled serpent the crest of the Tyrannax Empire. The men’s eyes were wide and their faces pale as they faced an assassin’s worse fear – to be exposed.

Suddenly, the guards burst into the room with an accompanying clatter of mail.

“The king!” The guards cried as one grieving voice.

“It’s true, men,” Overrule said, fighting tears. “The king, my – my father, is dead. And these men killed him!” He leapt from his throne to point a trembling, accusatory finger at the group of assassins. The guards instantly circled the black-clad men cutting off all chance of escape.

“What shall we do, lord king,” a guard asked.

“Kill them all! They have been sent by the Tyranax Empire. We will hunt the Tyranaxes like the vermin they are, until the very last one is dead! This means WAR!” Overrule’s face was ablaze with anger, and tears leaked from his eyes.

The guards called out “Hail King Overrule!” Or was it a questioning voice? Was someone trying to get his attention?
*
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“King Overrule?”

Overrule snapped back to reality. He was in the vault, surrounded by his most trusted men. The amulet was clenched tightly in his trembling hand. He took a deep breath and set it down on the pedestal.

“I found it in a river,” he answered his guard simply. “That was the day assassins killed my father. That was the day the war with the Tyrannax Empire began. That was the day the amulet saved my life.”

He stroked his beard in thought. Then, he said, almost inaudibly, “It saved my life that day, but the amulet may have ultimately destroyed it as well…”





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