Syndria didn’t hear the rest of Magen’s story for she was lost in her own thoughts. Paodin had escaped? It was impossible! Surely Magen must have heard a rumor. No one had ever escaped Tundyel Castle. Her thoughts were interrupted and Magen’s story confirmed when someone else began pounding on Syndria’s door.
“Beg your pardon, Mistress Syndria, but we must search your quarters,” the Guardsman Yaldren bowed his head slightly when Syndria opened the door. “A man from the lower west hall has gone missing, and we are commanded to search every inch of the castle.” The big man was almost apologizing and Syndria did not wish to make him any more uncomfortable.
“Of course, Master Yaldren. Magen and I were just leaving. You are more than welcome to search my quarters.” She stepped aside, letting the Guard into her room. Motioning for Magen to follow, Syndria slipped into the hallway. “All that I ask is that you close the door when you leave. I wish you luck in finding whom you seek.” With that she turned, Magen right on her heels.
Through the course of the day, Syndria heard more of Paodin’s escape. After she had left, the Wizards had been sent in to torture the man further. The King was convinced Paodin knew of some plan to overthrow him, but the physical torture had done nothing to make the man speak. The five Wizards specialized in torture of the mind and spirit, so King Simann was confident they would succeed in making Paodin reveal the plan. If not, the Wizards would simply once again torture him to the brink of death and this time the Healer would not be called in to bring him back. However, something had gone awry.
The five Wizards entered the stone room, the door slamming shut behind them. They stood facing the prisoner, filling the small room with a menacing presence. The Healer had left only moments before and the Wizards expected to see the man cowering in a corner or begging for mercy like all the others. To see him standing proudly in the center of the room threw the Wizards. Then he spoke.
“If you are brave enough, hear me. I am Paodin, a son of Tundyel. You and your king claim to serve our kingdom, yet you torture and kill its citizens. You fear nothing and no one, convinced you are invincible behind your stone walls and magic spells.” The wizards let him speak, convinced this speech would be the last words of a dying man. “You think you are all powerful, that none can stand against you. Stories of the defeat of the True Wizards have been passed down through your Order for centuries and in your ignorance you believe the lies. I swear to you, your self-righteousness will be your downfall.” Having finished all he wanted to say, Paodin looked directly at the Wizards and took a deep breath.
With that, he was gone.
The Wizards were seized with panic. Immediately they cast a barrier spell about the castle, intent on trapping the man inside. They then searched the air inside the small underground room. They were not searching for anything physical, but for a spell. The prisoner had disappeared before their very eyes--magic had to be involved. All five Wizards closed their eyes simultaneously, focusing on the colors in the air. An entire kaleidoscope of shapes and colors was present in the room, swirling through the air and tangling together, most remnants of the Healer’s gift. Hidden in the midst of the tightest coil was a different kind of magic, one none of the Wizards had expected to find, one that took them a bit longer to identify. There, woven into the deepest part of the Healer’s gift, was the magic of a True Wizard.
The True Wizards had never served one man. They chose the side of the just, sometimes with the King and sometimes against him. When Simann became king he had tried to force the True Wizards into his service. When they had refused, King Simann had ordered them all killed. During that time he had captured all the Healers in the kingdom and brought them to the castle. Simann was young when he became king, only thirty. Through the Healers he still looked youthful, as if he had aged only ten years in the past four hundred forty. Once all the True Wizards were killed over the course of three hundred years, King Simann had discovered Wizards who would serve him. They were not as powerful as the Wizards of old, but Simann didn’t mind their lesser powers because he could control them.
Before King Simann, one family had ruled Tundyel for many generations. The Rilso family had their share of bad kings, but for the biggest part of the family’s reign they had been fair. Simann’s father had gathered an army loyal to him, planning to wipe out the Rilso family and become king himself. A great war had broken out which lasted for ten long years. Thousands of lives had been lost in the bloody civil war before the Rilso family had been driven from the castle. Simann’s father Daimen had been fatally wounded in the war, so once the castle was taken Simann was crowned king.
At first, Simann was a fair ruler. He held feasts and grand celebrations for everyone in the kingdom, including the poor. Soon though, he became greedy. When he saw the finery his subjects wore to the feasts he began collecting more and more in taxes. Before long, citizens of Tundyel were starting to grumble. Small groups were forming in cities and villages across the kingdom who wanted to put the Rilso family back on the throne. That was when King Simann had confronted the True Wizards and captured the Healers.
In the 150 years since the True Wizards had been destroyed the kingdom had remained peaceful. That peace, however, was only on the surface. If King Simann was powerful enough to kill the True Wizards, the citizens of Tundyel did not see any way they could possibly defeat him. There had still been people who opposed Simann but through the service of the Wizards he had always managed to track them down. He would have them brought back to the castle and put in the dungeon where they would be tortured by the Guardsmen, then healed day after day by the Healers only to be tortured again. King Simann promised them life and freedom if his prisoners would swear allegiance to him. In the end, though, they were all killed no matter what they swore.
The years passed by uneventfully. There were no uprisings, no real threats. However, occasionally a small contingency would be found that was unhappy with the King’s rule. Most of the groups Simann’s Wizards discovered were those still loyal to the Rilso family, so King Simann had decided to put an end to the family once and for all, convinced that destroying the family would end all opposition to his rule. Just twenty years earlier, Simann had secretly razed the city of Dren, the refuge of the Rilso family, killing everyone. However, he later learned of a daughter by marriage who had been gone during the raid visiting friends in Valgrin. It didn’t take long for Simann’s Wizards to track her down, fully intending to kill the last remaining member of the family and eliminate the threat. The young bride Laidren, however, was with child. And King Simann, being an intelligent man, decided the young woman and her child could be used to his advantage.
Instead of killing Laidren, he had her brought to the castle where she was to remain until the birth of her child. King Simann planned to raise the child as his own, showing the kingdom how merciful their ruler was. After all, who would dare take his enemy’s child into his own home? He would tell of how he found Laidren wandering and took her in, how she had died in childbirth, and how he had taken her child for his own.
Simann knew that even through the Healers he could not live forever. Daily he felt the effects of the centuries he had seen. One day he would pass the throne on to the child born of the Rilso family yet reared in his own image, living on through the first years of the next ruler’s reign. Only when he was certain of his heir’s abilities would he command the Healers to stop lengthening his life. Then, his name would be sure to live forever, even though he couldn’t do so himself.
The King took every precaution to keep Laidren safe and healthy until the day of the birth. She was guarded at all times and looked after by the Healers. However, fate would not allow his plan to be fulfilled. As was custom in Tundyel, only one woman could attend a birth. To do otherwise would be to draw too much attention from the fates, undoubtedly bringing about the death of the child. King Simann chose the Ancient Healer to watch over the birth, knowing she would be the best choice to be there if something went awry.
Laidren’s labor was long and difficult. Her pain-filled cries could be heard throughout the castle for an entire day. Nedra was a constant presence in the birthing room, doing all she could to comfort the young woman. Finally, near dawn, the cries coming from the small room changed from being filled with pain to anguish and eventually fell silent. Hearing word from the Guardsmen that the birth was over, King Simann was waiting at the door when Nedra emerged carrying two tiny, still bundles. Her tears were not joyful ones, and as she began to speak Laidren’s soft sobs could be heard through the open door.
“My King,” Nedra spoke softly, “the lady bore twins, yet neither could I save. They were dead inside the womb, and not even I can work those miracles.” Quietly she stood facing King Simann’s scornful gaze.