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by Jotuun
Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Fantasy · #1264635
Sword and Sorcery tale of a young thief sworn to avenge her mentors execution.
                                      Lord of the Hidden Places

         The darkness inside the cavern was almost absolute.  It was so black that the absence of light hurt Taniel's eyes, it felt as if they were being pulled into the darkness and she had a horrific fear that at any moment something sharp and deadly would fly at her and cut her down before she could make a movement.  Of course, such dangers came with the job, and one did not become a successful thief without dealing with darkness once in awhile.  Still, Taniel had never quite grown used to such incredible darkness, no matter how much it had been drilled into her head by her master that darkness was the ally of those who prowled the homes of their betters and liberated their possessions.
         She smiled at that, it was something Teig liked to say.  He always was a romantic at heart, considering their vocation “liberation” instead of outright thievery, of course the authorities would never see it his way, which is one of the reasons he saw his last day just over three years earlier at the end of a hangman's noose.  Her smiled turned grim, and had anyone been able to see her in the unbearable darkness, they would have seen her eyes narrow in anger.  Her anger made her determined, and she slowly walked forward, her short sword prodding at the darkness in front of her as she made her way further and further down the tunnel.  Her feet squelched in something wet and slimy, she preferred not to think about what it could possibly have been.
         Teig had not been a bad man, he had never been cruel to her, he was generous, and he was honest in his own way.  Taniel had always considered him her father, and for all she knew, he could have been, though they had never had a real father and child relationship, it had always been apprentice and master as far back as she could remember.  He taught her everything she was and it was because of him that she found herself here in this darkness underneath the castle of the mighty King of Renn, finding her way through these sewage tunnels preparing to kill him as he slept.
         Taniel had never killed anyone before, usually one started with more modest targets than the King, but she could think of no one else who so deserved death, at least in her eyes.  Her master had been executed, by special decree of the king himself in an attempt to pacify some of the more rebellious segments of the populous.  He had been charged with treason, and with encouraging armed rebellion against the crown.  Of course, this was far from the truth, Teig was not a political man, but he was an easy scapegoat.  And so he, a simple thief guilty of nothing more than having nimble fingers had been tortured brutally and drawn and quartered before the ravening bloodthirsty mob as an example of any who stood against His Majesty King Hirut.  While she regretted that she would not have the opportunity to destroy the King in the same barbaric fashion the Teig had been murdered the death of the King in any fashion would give her some small measure of justice.  Though she fully expected to die during this venture, at least she would drag that monster down into death with her.
         The narrow corridor opened into a much larger room.  She was expecting this.  The sound of her breathing echoed off the stone walls was her only evidence that she had reached the room she had been told about.  It had taken all of her abilities to learn the layout of this subterranean world underneath the castle but it had finally paid off and here she was. Above her head was a trap door which led into the kings own privy chamber, and from there, only a short unguarded passageway led into the private quarters of the King himself. There he would die, surrounded by his guards and his army who would be unable to protect him.  Her joy at that thought was boundless.
         She looked up.  Her darkness-adjusted eyes picked out a slightly less dark square where light from the privy chamber shone down into the darkness.  Taniel sheathed her sword and swung her rope up toward the light, the claw on the end of it finding purchase among the rough rock wall.  The smell in this room was nearly inhuman but Taniel had smelled worse in her life, but her revenge was worth it.  She began her climb up the rope, pulling herself up higher and higher until she found herself climbing through a small opening in the ceiling into the dark room of the Kings chamber.  Her eyes were well adjusted to the darkness below ground that the starlit room seemed as noon to her. 
         She must have been a horrific sight at that moment, a fierce bloodthirsty warrior covered in grime and filth pulling herself out of the ground, her sword glinting in the starlight and her eyes filled with rage.  She remained as silent as a cat as she unsheathed her sword and began her short trip down the hallway into the Kings chamber proper.  The door that separated her from her target was a magnificently carved oaken door, it was at least 8 foot tall and inlaid with woodland scenes of rustic country life.  She paused before it and contemplated her next moves while her eyes rested on a scene of a rabbit unaware of the hunter who stalked him from behind a tree.  The image seemed bitterly ironic and she focused on it, allowing herself to gain strength from its simple tableau of predator and prey. 
         She reminded herself that she was a predator, the King simply something to be destroyed, and that his status meant nothing to the nature of things, his life could be taken as easily as one killed a rabbit, high birth did not make one immortal.  Taniel pushed at the door and it swung open silently on well-oiled hinges.
         The scene before her was one of infuriating luxury.  The King's bed stood in the center of a massive room, it was a huge thing of cushions, silks and fur the like of which could have kept dozens of  her people out on the street warm during this cold winter.  The floor was covered in rugs made from many beasts from around the kingdom, their hides looking soft and plush and so very, very, warm.  A fire roared at one end of the room and the other was covered from floor to ceiling with massive mirrors, which reflected back the light of the fire and magnified it in a way that was uncomfortable to her light starved eyes.  She stood there looking around the room, looking for any hidden traps or dangers she was unaware of, she saw nothing, obviously the King felt secure in his bed, and that would make her job as assassin much easier.

         She walked gently across the furred floor, keeping her sword at the ready and her senses all around her, ready to spring into action at the first sign of danger.  The sound of the Kings snoring filled the large room and as she got closer, the smell of the man, a horrific mixture of alcohol and sweat assailed her nostrils.  She was certain that after her journey through the sewer she smelled much worse, and hoped her odor didn't wake him up before she was ready.  She looked closely at the man lying before her.  He had the look of muscle gone to flab, in his youth he was undoubtedly an intimidating presence, but now, he was just an old drunk and she almost pitied him.  His long beard was the color of ashes and the wrinkles of his face cut deep in what for many men would be symbols of age and wisdom but in him were only signs of approaching death.  She raised her sword above her head, preparing a quick strike to destroy the foul creature and achieve her revenge.  Footsteps from the hallway halted her, and when they stopped before the door, she looked about for a place to hide as the guard struggled with the lock.  The door opened just as she threw herself underneath the Kings massive bed.
         A well-dressed man in his middle years walked with smooth authority into the room.  A motion of his long fingers instructed the guards to close the door and he stood beside the bed looking down at the King.  He sniffed haughtily at the air.
         “Have you soiled yourself old man?” he asked disdainfully, “have you no sense of decency anymore?”
         The King stirred and rolled over, not yet awake, but disturbed by the presence of the younger man.  Taniel saw nothing of him save his shoes, which were richly brocaded and buckled, made of the softest leather and completely unscuffed.  They were the shoes of a man with no concern as to what he may step in.  He certainly wasn't a man apt to get himself dirty in the grime and dirt that assailed the common people out on the street.  Looking at those shoes made her hate this man, and she had no doubt that he deserved hating.
          “Wake up you drunken lout!,” He leaned over and slapped the King as he lay there sleeping, “I've something here which requires your signature After that you can lay in your filth as long as you want, unfortunately I still have some use for you.”
         The King stirred with a sound that was halfway between a whimper and a moan.  He came awake slowly, as if unwilling to release the sweeter world on the other side of sleep.  At length he sat up and looked at the younger man bleary eyed.
         “Why do you waken me?  I was just dreaming of my own death, and my release from this horrible prison,” he gestured to include all of his surroundings, “You delight in torturing me.”
         “Torturing you?  Oh come now Your Highness, I do enjoy Torture, but you have not been tortured at all, in fact you have been kept in absolute luxury lo these many years, and I, your humble Advisor have kept you safe and sound.”  He unrolled a scroll that had been carried in an inner pocket of his tunic, and held it out to the old king.
         “What is this parchment you wave at me Dylius?  What am I to sign?”
         “It names me, dear king, as your official and legal heir, in the event of your untimely demise, your sons are have all met unfortunate ends you know, and we wouldn't want the kingdom to be plunged into the turmoil of a power struggle.  Would we?”  Dylius's voice was smooth, like a lover enticing a maiden, or a merchant closing a deal.
         The king seemed to ignore the paper, “Are they happy Dylius?  Are my people happy?”
         Taniel's eyes opened in surprise at this question, she always imagined King Hirut to be an evil despot, intent on living in luxury while his people starved, keeping rebellion away not by making his people content but by ruthlessness and fear.  This simple question, had changed the whole image of the king in her eyes, and her anger grew even greater Hirut wasn't an evil man, he was simply a tool used by evil men, as much a victim of their ambition as Teig had been.
         “Happy?” said Dylius, “They are whatever we tell them they are.  They fear the Guard and will obey.  Their obedience is all that matters, does it really matter if a slave is happy.  If he does as he is told then what matters his emotion?  They are broken and that is all they need be.  Regardless, sign the proclamation now, and be done with it before your odor makes me ill.”
         Pure hot rage suffused Taniel’s body and, heedless to her own safety she rolled herself out from under the bed on the far side away from the pompous advisor.  She leaped into a fighting stance, her sword gleaming death in the firelight, “You need not fear illness,” she said, “for death has come for you instead!”
         With a cry of battle lust, she lunged over the bed her sword slicing through the air where Dylius stood a moment before.  The man moved with preternatural grace and speed avoiding the sword, coming under Taniel’s guard, and punching her hard in the stomach.  She stumbled back, surprised that the man, who seemed such a pompous ass had moved so quickly and with such self assurance.  Obvious this man was no stranger to combat, or else his ability came from somewhere else.
         “Who are you?” he asked, his eyes twinkled in amusement, “who are you to throw yourself at me in such a manner?  For an assassin you have much to learn.  Tell me my dear, did you come to kill this pitiful lump?” he nodded at the King who lay wide-eyed in confusion watching the confrontation.
         Taniel said nothing, her eyes flicked to the king, and in that instance, Dylius sidestepped her guard and kicked at her knee.  She buckled, the pain in her leg causing her to cry out as she fell.  Dylius moved in for the last blow, it may have been just a trick of the light, but his eyes seemed to glow in the flickering light of the fire.  His hands twisted in a strange way, tracing arcane shapes in the air while he intoned in a language that seemed familiar to the primordial part of her brain that commanded her to run, to escape, to do anything she could to get away from this horror.  She remained unmoving, like a rodent trapped by the unrelenting gaze of a serpent.
         An eerie red light suffused the room and her body seemed to grow heavy and sluggish.  Dimly, she heard the clank of her sword as it slid out of her hand and crashed against the floor.  She did not even feel it as her body fell onto the ground, her head slamming against the fur-covered floor.  The darkness had already taken her.
         She saw a sky as blue as any she remembered, the clouds in it wisps which promised rain, but did not threaten.  The air was abuzz with the insects of summer.  She smiled and walked through a field of perfect green; ahead of her a forest loomed, dark and forbidding, but here was peace, here was joy and here she could stay forever if she wished.  A voice spoke to her, one that was both familiar and unknown, “Taniel, you cannot defeat him as you are, but you do have it within you.”
         Taniel was annoyed, she did not want to leave this land of perpetual summer, but she knew the voice called her to her fate, however dark that may be.  She turned and walked toward the dark forest.  Each step toward that place of nightmares brought with it strangeness and pain, the very grass beneath her feet was hard and unnatural and walking upon it was like walking over nails.  She left behind her a trail of blood from the souls of her feet.
         The pain itself strengthened her, her blood sacrifice to whatever dark god called her forward.  The trees loomed in her vision, reaching toward the sky dead, white, like the bones of a monster from the nightmare time before humanity.  Between the dead white branches, she saw spectral visions of the dead, and gritting her teeth with forced courage she walked on into the shadow of the forest, and further, into the darkness itself.
         She came awake suddenly.  A scream of rage ripped from her lips and reverberated off the damp stone walls.  She was in a different room now, one decorated not with silken tapestries but with the skulls of the dead.  She lay upon a cold stone table, which seemed to pull the very heat from her body, as if it was hungry for her life.  Her arms were bound above her, and her legs bound to each corner of the massive table.  Her clothing was missing; her flesh covered in complex runes, which radiated an evil red light in the darkness, and seemed to burn wherever they touched. 
         “I must admit, child,” said a voice from somewhere in the darkness, a voice she recognized as belonging to Lord Dylius, “You are not nearly so repulsive when scrubbed clean of all that filth.”
         She twisted wildly on the table, searching wildly for the source of that hated voice.  “I will kill you, Dog!  I am not your plaything!”
         Laughter echoed from the darkness.  “You are correct on one thing girl,” said Dylius, “You are not my plaything, but rather the plaything of my master who waits for you.”          
         The table she lay upon began to move, great gears grinding against each other as it slowly and mechanically slid toward the far wall.  The wall itself opened on a hidden seam and she felt as if she were being pulled into the horrific maw of some great beast.  “What, what’s happening?”
         “Beyond that wall girl dwells the demon Kanaa, Lord of the Hidden Places, whose power has enabled me to hold dominion over the king and over this kingdom, and now, with your sacrifice my power will be complete.  Not only this kingdom will I rule, but any that I decide to turn my army against will fall like so many weeds before my scythe.”
         “What of the king?” ever closer to the wall she moved.  She struggled madly against her bounds, but they were solid iron bands, which held her securely to the stone.
         “What of him?  You saw yourself that he is nothing but a drunken fool, he has named me his heir, and even now my most trusted servants are going to destroy him, we will blame his death on a dangerous female assassin and use the opportunity to decimate those who would prove a danger to my rule.  You have proven to be very helpful, and I thank you.”
         The bottom half of her body was now completely through the opening, she turned and focused her eyes on Lord Dylius in an intense stare, “We will meet again,” was all she said as the darkness swallowed her up,  And the sliding wall slammed shut with a bang which seemed to reverberate through her soul. 
         Lord Dylius stood there for quite some time, looking at the place where the wall had swallowed up the thief.  His thoughts were untroubled, by dawn the king would be dead, as would the girl and the throne would be his, finally after so many years of sycophantic behavior he would now rule.  Not from behind the throne, but seated firmly in it.  He turned and walked out of the dark underground layer, a smile on his lips, and a song in his heart.
         The runic designs, which covered Taniel’s body in red ink, glowed faintly in the blackness behind the wall.  With the help of that eerie crimson light, she was able to make out the chamber in which she was imprisoned.  It was not quite square, every angle and corner from ceiling to floor seemed only slightly off and the overall effect was one of insanity, as if the builder himself had been mad.  A corridor led off into the blackness to her right and from that dark unknown a horrid stench wafted in, an unholy mix of fire and flesh and decay, her stomach roiled at the smell.
         The shackles that held her arms and legs tight suddenly loosened and fell away with a clank and crash against the floor.  Slowly, with great caution she pushed herself up to a sitting position on the stone table.  She touched the red glowing rune that decorated the back of her hand and found it to be raised, raw, and hot to the touch.  She attempted to wipe it away, but it remained stubbornly a part of her.  She was thankful for the light it provided however, and she pushed herself off the table and carefully crept around the not quite square chamber.  The walls themselves were slightly clammy to the touch, and felt as if they were not made of stone, but a material somewhere between flesh and stone, a material not of this earth, and not meant for mortals.  Feeling around at where the seam in the wall she had entered through should be yielded nothing and she concluded after making a couple of circuits around the room that the only exit was down the corridor, toward the evil stench and whatever caused it.
         She searched the chamber for any weapon she may be able to find.  Finding nothing usable, she pulled against the very chains that had held her fast against the stone table.  Now, with better leverage, she was able to pull one out of the stone to which it had been joined.  She took an experimental swing with the chain, it cut through the air with a satisfying whoosh.  With the manacle still attached to one end it made a passable flail.
         Naked, armed with a makeshift weapon, and with the only light emanating from her very skin, she started down the close hallway.  The crimson glow of the runes cast strange shadows against the walls.  The shifting light made the walls themselves seem to breathe with a demoniacal life as she inched her way carefully down the foreboding hallway.
         The hallway seemed to go on and on for miles as she moved down it, time and distance seemed irrelevant in this place of crimson light and black shadows.  She came at length to a bisecting tunnel that cut across the main path at a ninety-degree angle.  She sniffed experimentally at the air.  A sulfurous wind blew from the right pathway, it was the only moving air in the place and her instincts told her that air had to come from somewhere so she followed it.  After what seemed like days of walking down this new path, she noticed up ahead a slight flickering light against the wall, as if from a fire.  The glow became stronger and stronger and Taniel began to run toward it, heedless of any danger just exhilarated to finally see something in these hideous depths.  As she neared the light, she noticed that it came from a doorway along the hallway.  As she neared it, she slowed down and with her back against the clammy wall; she slowly eased toward the opening.
         Peering around the corner, she saw a small room, about the same size as the one the table had slid into in its center a fire raged, the smoke drifting skyward toward a hole in the ceiling and from there she assumed toward the surface.  An impossibly pale-skinned man sat with his back to her and his head in his hands in front of the fire, his shoulders were massive and from them to great wings protruded, their entire surface covered in feathers that glittered in the firelight like pure silver.  His entire frame seemed almost impossibly huge, but unlike the giants she had seen in the past, those sad creatures whose freakishness amused lesser men, he was not in any way malformed, but simply a perfectly formed, incredibly huge man.  His hair hung down his back in waving gold tresses and he was completely nude as far as she could see, but as she studied him, he seemed perfectly comfortable in his nakedness.  He was like an animal to whom clothes were a foreign concept, and nothing about his nudity was in any way lurid or obscene.  He seemed to her to be the primordial man, almost godlike in his perfection.
         He stood with a grace she had never before witness and walked to a pile of timber in the corner.  At least she thought it was timber at first glance, but as he shuffled through them she was horrified to discover that it was not wood at all that was piled up in the corner of the room, but instead the dried and desiccated limbs of corpses.  The white giant selected a piece, a leg that was the color of dust, the toes curled in, and he carefully placed it in the fire.  The flames licked at the flesh, fueled by the oil in the skin it burned bright and hot.  Taniel had to cover her mouth and look away to stop the vomit, which rose unbidden to her mouth.
         “There's no reason to hide girl,” said the giant in a voice, which was both authoritative and soothing, “I know you're there.”
         Taniel's heart seemed to stop momentarily at the sound of his voice, the fear, which she had long suppressed, seemed to overwhelm her at that moment.  The feelings that enveloped her were what she imagined an animal must feel at the moment of slaughter.  It was the feeling of resigned terror.
         He laughed, his voice reverberating around the room, “Come girl, sit with me by the fire, talk to me, I so seldom get a chance to talk anymore, I miss it.”
         Almost in a daze, she came out from her hiding place, and walked slowly over to the fire, she stood there enjoying the warmth against her skin despite the revulsion that the fire invoked in her.  It was only now that she saw the man's face; it was the face of a great cat.  Once, in the city's great arena she had seen a animal show, where to great Lions from the southern wastes had been forced against each other in a fight to the death.  His face reminded her of those creatures, though the intelligence behind these eyes was fierce and powerful.  There was an air of sadness about him though, similar to that of the great cats that had bled for her entertainment.  It was the sadness that hung around the enslaved like an invisible cloak.  It covered them, and every action that they made.  His cat-eyes watched her with amusement.
         “W-who are you?” she finally managed to stammer, her voice seemed small and insignificant when compared to his.
         The lion-man laughed, his sharp fangs exposed to the air and she shivered involuntarily, “I am Kanaa, once called Lord, now called slave.” his face turned away from her and focused on the far wall.          
         “Lord Dylius called you demon.”
         “Demon I may be, but he is devil,” he looked at her closely, his wise eyes seemed to bore into her soul, “You are a thief,” he said.
         “Yes,” she answered, “How did you know?”
         “Your crimes are written in your soul, as are those of all mankind.  The final sacrifice is to be a thief.”
         “I am a sacrifice?”
         Taniel felt her heart quicken, this creature, who seemed so noble and reasonable intended to kill her, that was why she had been sent here and though she knew it from the moment she found herself on that cold stone table the cold fact of it spoken so plainly still shocked her.  She looked into his wise eyes and saw only death there, and the cold gaze that a man might give to a Rodent. 
         “You are a monster.”
         “A man is a monster to the insect he destroys.  I am a god, and you and your kind were created only for our amusement.  Your death will enable me to take back my power, Dylius and his petty squabbling over this kingdom mean nothing to me, but I have been cast down from my high place.  With your Soul, I will reclaim my place.”
         His eyes changed then, becoming not the cold, calculating eyes of before, but instead glowing with a red evil fire and the giant god lashed at her, his muzzle pulled back and his vicious fangs exposed, ripping toward her bare throat.  Her reflexes, honed by years of training were the only thing that saved her, she pulled back, and swung the heavy manacle around on its rusty chain, colliding with a loud crunch against the gods head, he roared with fury and stood up, his mighty wings fully outstretched, the flickering firelight throwing eerie reflections against the stone wall.  Claws, long, black and deadly spouted from his long fingers and they raked at her, she dodged them barely, and stayed low making him come down to attack her, while she kept hitting him, as hard as she could with her makeshift weapon.  Her attacks seemed to hurt him not at all, but they enraged him, and she was able to use his anger to evade his wild swipes at her.  His overwhelming voice deafened her with his roars of outrage, but still she ducked and dodged.
         “Come girl, you cannot defeat a god, stop prolonging your suffering, I offer you release from the pain of living!” he implored.
         Taniel did not reply to him, but instead retreated across the room, on the opposite side of the fire, Kanaa came at her, his attack was direct, ruthless and without art, and his claws opened a deep gash along her side and she felt hot blood poor down her leg and heard it splatter against the stone floor.
         “Your life flows out of you girl, the end has come, Welcome my embrace and it will be over quick!” he snarled.
         “No!” she screamed and came at him in a rush, her arms striking out wildly, and the makeshift flail hitting the god repeatedly.  The chain wrapped itself around his legs, and his movement pulled it from her hand and she now stood before him weaponless, panting, her blood pouring from her side as she began to weaken, her eyes seemed to pull themselves closed against her will and she had to force herself to remain upright.
         The angry god roared with outrage and charged, his feet tangling themselves in the rusty chain and tripping him.  His momentum sent him crashing forward into the fire and his roar turned into a scream that caused the walls to shake and crumble.  The flesh of the pale demon seemed to melt like candle wax, running down into the fire and causing it to flash and grow as it consumed its inhuman food.  All the time his bright eyes remained focused on the panting warrior woman who was even now beginning to collapse against the far wall, her wounds overcoming her finally.  Just as her eyes shut and the darkness enveloped her, she watched as the demons body seemed to shrink, and pull in on itself, and then, in a soundless explosion of light, he was gone.  A voice spoke, from everywhere and nowhere “Bless you girl,” and then all was black.
         With the dawn, came light, and not just the bright light of the sun, but also a kind of light of the soul that seemed to pervade everything and chase away the slight pallor that had covered the kingdom for many months.  There was something different in this day that had not been seen for some time, as the kings advisors gathered in the throne room, they were all aware of it.  Lord Dylius, felt a vague sense of apprehension, and strangely, guilt seemed to tug at his innards making him slightly nauseous.  He dismissed this feeling as indigestion due to his morning meal, but try as he might, he just couldn't seem to make it go away.
         The throne room was full this morning, all of the nobility of Renn being called by Dylius's summons early.  They all wondered what was happening, yet also vaguely knew what this meant.  The king was ill, had been for some time, and a sudden summons in the middle of the night could mean only one thing, the king was dead, and in that case, who would rule?  The king left no heirs.  They all feared that war was inevitable.  They talked amongst themselves, trying to put their worries aside by mindless chatter and small talk, and though no one directly mentioned what they all feared, it infused every moment with jittery nervousness.
         Lord Dylius walked casually into the room, flanked on both sides by tall guards who wore the royal livery.  He smiled slightly at the assembled nobility, and made his way directly for the throne, which sat empty and silent at the center of the massive room.  He paused before it, and then, with great awareness of everyone watching him, he sat in the great stone throne.  A gasp went up from the Noble's in attendance.
         “Only the King may...” started a fat Duke from one of the outer provinces, and then trailed off as he realized what he was saying, and as the import of Dylius' position began to seep into his mind, he looked even more startled.  Dylius only smiled.
         “The King may,” he smiled at the Duke, “and I do.”
         “But the King...” stammered another official.
         “Is dead,” The collected officials gasped as one and fell looked at each other worriedly.  Dylius, still seated on the throne, told his tale, “He was assassinated last night.  A thief crawled up through his privy and killed him in his bed before he could let out a cry.  We found her there, her sword still bloody as she stood over his Highness' body.  She has been disposed of.”
         Dylius stood, and with great showmanship, he walked to the far wall of the chamber, there a great tapestry bearing the Emblem of the Kingdom, a mighty gryphon holding in its front talons the dead and mangled body of a lion.  He stood facing the assembly and pulled a scroll from his robes, opening it great ceremony he read the decree contained therein, making him the official heir to the throne.
         “I will not bow down to you,” a young hawk-faced noble said, “that proclamation is coerced, I don't believe a word of it!” his anger rose as he spoke and the fierceness of it had a few of the others making supportive noises to him.  Dylius only smiled.

         “If that doesn't convince you, then perhaps this will,” he reached behind the tapestry and pulled a lever, hidden gears creaked and the massive stone wall behind the tapestry began to turn on unseen hinges, revealing a darkened room.
         “My power doesn't come from a piece of paper only,” he boasted,” but from the ancient gods themselves!  I rule by Divine Will!”
         From out of the darkness a voice spoke, not the voice of Kanaa Lord of the hidden places, but a smaller voice, the voice of a girl who has seen more than she ever wanted and will never be able to erase the truth from her soul.
         “You rule nothing,” Taniel said as she walked from out of the shadows, the runes that covered her body still shone with unnatural energy and they seemed to pulse with her heartbeat.  “Kanaa is free,” she threw an object forward into the room it landed with heavy solidity and slid several feet to rest.  With mounting horror, Dylius realized that it was the skull of the imprisoned god.  The god whose power he had hoped to use to subdue the kingdom.  He looked back and the seemingly small, naked girl who had destroyed all his mighty plans and lunged with the fierceness of a demon unleashed.  Her tattoos flashed briefly and blue fire shot out of her hand engulfing the usurper to the throne and throwing him far across the room to smack hard high against the far wall and fall down with a terrible thump on the stone floor.
         Taniel walked forward, into the great throne room where the assembled nobility stood watching with shocked expressions of horror on their face.  The guards challenged her, but one look from her burning eyes sent their courage scurrying away and they let her pass.  She walked with calm grace passed the nobles and toward the door, grabbing a cloth that covered a table near the entranceway.
         “Who will be King!” cried a voice from the assembly.  It was not directed at Taniel, but she chose to answer anyway.
         “Figure it out yourselves,” she said, “but know this:  A man rules by will of the people, not the gods.”
         She left the assembly behind and walked out into the bright new day. 
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