Curse of the Severns - Book 3
In the dying days of his rule, King Razen was a desperate man.
The baron uprising spread despite the king putting many to the sword. Although invincible in battle, the fighting still took its toll on his ageing body and soul, and he was running short of loyal knights.
Razen was the last of the eternal Knights of Yore. He was the first son of a first son and so on down the line. The one of the most robust blood, so the bards said. Upon his expiration, only a son of his blood could inherit his magic armour. As had happened in past generations of the Yore Knights, if there were no heirs to continue the line, the magic armour and weapons would vanish into thin air.
Queen Leanne bore Razen three daughters, and when she died giving birth to her third, many saw it as an omen that Razen’s reign would be the end of the Severn’s Dynasty. Driven mad by this curse, Razen took many maidens in the vain hope of seeding a son and heir. Alas, his worst fears were confirmed.
It was Desirae, the Druid Oracle who proposed a solution. She foretold that although the end of the reign of the Severns was nigh, not all was lost. Should Razen seed Hannah, his youngest daughter, she prophesied that a Severn would again rule the lands.
So, it came to pass that with each battle won; a victorious Razen would return to Maálox Castle and take his daughter. Each act became more desperate than the previous until finally, she was with child. To her two older sisters, Hannah became strangely withdrawn and melancholy. All attempts to humour and lift her spirits, including the wild parties and gruesome fight contests that her sisters were famous for holding, didn’t seem to help. Eventually, Hannah accepted her role in the prophecy and focused on having the child. It became her sole purpose and motivation in life, albeit one she kept secret.
When not off fighting in the Baron Wars, Razen and Hannah often took a stroll in the noonday sun to visit the rose gardens inside the keep walls of the Maálox Castle. It was on one such an occasion the king confided in his youngest. “Time is not our ally, my Princess. I cannot carry the Armour of Yore much longer for it weighs too heavily on my soul.”
Hannah gazed at her father and read the lines of strain on his weary face. Although well into his fifties, Razen retained a fitness and robustness of a mid-thirty year old. He had the physical build, fair hair and reddish beard of his highland heritage. As on most occasions, he wore a breastplate and carried Grainger, his legendary sword sheathed in its scabbard.
“Even Grainger becomes heavy to wield in battle,” Razen added. “I am the last of the Knights of Yore, yet I fear the time approaches when I will leave this world, and the majik that sustains me will consume my armour and weapons.”
Seeing her father like this alarmed Hannah. She needed him to remain strong to protect her child. “Father, you have lived a long and glorious life. So much fighting and killing must take a toll. I expect your soul yearns for release. Please don’t fret, for I am with the child as you hoped, and all goes well with my pregnancy. Perhaps Desirae’s prophecy will ring true, and I can break this awful curse.”
Let’s hope you are right, my daughter. For it is for you and the hope I hold for our child that keeps me going.”
Hannah feigned a smile and upon further reflection, asked, “If Maálox falls, do you think the people will grieve our passing?”
Razen gave his daughter a sad look. “The hate is strong, my dear. I take the life of those who believe they are righteous. With each passing death, I feel my soul drain.”
Hannah wore a crestfallen frown. “The watchers no longer look out for us?” she said.
Razen grimaced and shook his head in resignation. “The Frey squabble amongst themselves. They don’t openly say this, but I see the divisions. The Lord of Shades supports us, but the Lord of War incites the barons. He spreads the word that I tire and will soon expire. Even though we kill many, they still come believing victory isn’t far away,” said Razen, staring at the ground. “I have become their plaything. Perhaps I was all along; what a fool I’ve been.”
Razen caught Hannah’s gaze before continuing. “This is why we speak in this place at noon when there are minimal shadows. For in the shadows, the Frey dwell in hiding, listening to all that goes on. Remember that my prettiest; the safety of our child depends on it.”
Hannah brows knitted in confusion. “But Inanna is Freyen. Can we trust the Goddess of Love?”
“I trust Desirae’s judgement. Besides, only a member of the Frey can do what is required to keep your pregnancy a secret. Inanna has offered to hide you in the Mists of Time. There, time stays still. When you return after birthing and suckling the child, only a few glass falls will have lapsed back in Maálox. No-one will believe you could have been with child. Yes, if she goes to all this trouble, I think we can trust the Goddess.”
“Where will Inanna take my baby after I have finished suckling her?”
Razen looked sorrowful and shook his head. “My dearest Hannah, this you don’t want to know. It will be a secret I must take to the grave. It is the only way to ensure our child’s safe upbringing. Can you live with this decision for your child’s sake?” Razen implored, searching her with wild, manic eyes.
So many horrible things. So many lies and so much killing, Hannah privately lamented. Perhaps it is time for the Kingdom of the Severns to come to rest. I see little good left in this world, she decided.