Outsider Within: Web of Deceit - Part Five
“Lord!” shouted Henka as he realized that an attack from inside the Chambers was imminent and darted in front of Darigan as a shield.
Lord Darigan stepped back in reflex.
Sir Redik unsheathed his sword.
General Galgaroth ordered his guards around Lord Darigan.
Out of the hallway next to Vosh’s desk charged armed Darigani. All went to chaos. The Meridellians did not ask questions as to why or how; they were soldiers, they fought. Guards rushed around Lord Darigan into a living bulwark. Henka drew his sword, looking for the leader. Among the last of the two dozens attackers to emerge out of the hall, Henka found his target: a purple Mynci with a graying moustache, wearing the seal of The Three’s reign on his cloak. In Hadrak’s clutches sagged Vosh’s body, groggy from being drugged, with a dagger at her throat.
Within moments, the invaders were hopelessly outnumbered by Chamber guards, but a Techo standing beside Hadrak held Redik against his dagger. A cut marred Sir Redik’s cheek, weariness his features. Two hostages--an innocent and an ambassador.
Where was D.A.? Henka glanced around and saw her standing at the front of the Darigani’s line of defense. She stared thoughtfully at Hadrak. Henka drew slightly closer to her, close enough to get her attention, but out of sword’s reach. She turned her eyes to him. He hoped for more of her than treachery. She smiled slightly at him, a glint of triumph in her eyes.
“D.A.,” said someone. Henka saw it was Hadrak. “I did not know I had your allegiance until the incident in the tavern. I am most pleased.”
D.A. strode between Hadrak’s soldiers and stopped in front of the Mynci. She turned around and faced Lord Darigan.
Shock was on his Lord’s face. Shock and pain. Darigan trusted D.A., and Henka pitied him for it. One should never trust the unknown.
D.A. raised her sword, and Henka knew the battle began now. D.A.’s stance was flawless. The position of her feet, legs and arms were precise and comfortable, her eyes stayed focused. Her blade was of a short and sleek design that Henka had never seen before, but it appeared well-made.
Henka took a sharp intake of breath. Why did her sword tilt towards Hadrak instead of the Darigani guards?
D.A.’s sword sliced to her right, knocking Hadrak’s dagger out of his grasp, away from Vosh’s throat. The Techo’s body tensed in anticipation to harm Sir Redik, but D.A. knew what she was doing. She kicked the back of his knee so that his right leg crumbled and he lost his balance. Sir Redik took advantage and grabbed the Techo’s dagger out of his claw. D.A. trusted the Meridellian Knight to care for himself and pulled Hadrak in front of her, instantly returning her feet under her weight to preserve her balance. She kicked Vosh’s frail body behind her into the hallway where Vosh would be beyond the reach of Hadrak’s invaders. The Techo quickly stood up, and Redik pointed the Techo’s own dagger against him. Before blood could be drawn, D.A. bludgeoned the back of the Techo’s head with the hilt of Hadrak’s sword and he fell forward. Redik stood next to D.A., frail but armed.
D.A. stood before them with Hadrak in arms, her sword against his throat, and his hostages free. Around her Hadrak’s men fought the encouraged Darigani Guards, though the invaders were without a leader. Some faced D.A., unsure of if or how to attack the woman who had their leader’s life in her hands. In the silence of Hadrak and D.A., the fighting around them fell silent, and all eyes turned to Hadrak the Rebel.
“Hadrak,” whispered D.A. into the Mynci’s ear loud enough for most to hear, “you have known me a long time. You are intelligent enough to not doubt me when I say I will end this here and now if you don’t tell your men to surrender.”
Hadrak flinched as D.A. pressed her sword closer to his flesh in warning. Disillusionment clouded his face; anger, defeat.
Chief Henka’s jaw had nearly dropped--how could she do such things with a sword? He had never seen a Darigani guard or a Meridellian knight move with such speed. Her blows had not been powerful, but her thin sword allowed for far greater maneuverability than any sword Henka had seen before. And yet... she seemed to be placing a good deal of her weight on her left leg.
Certainty lit Lord Darigan’s face; he knew he had won. If he was shaken, he did not show it.
Hadrak looked around him, and with utmost dignity announced, “I surrender, but only so I may escape to fight another day.” He nodded as best as he could in D.A.’s grasp to tell his followers to drop their weapons.
The clanking of metal echoed in the marble lobby, and it was over. General Galgaroth’s men took the would-be rebels away.
* * * * *
Though severely shaken by the ordeal, Lord Darigan realized that it brought Sir Redik and him closer together, the way only a common enemy could do. The next three days went exceptionally well. Sir Redik’s lack of diplomacy went over very well with Lord Darigan, who had never been fond of the politics of diplomacy. The two quickly agreed upon straight shooting talks, and trade agreements were made, a visit from Lord Darigan to Meridell discussed, and goodwill established. When Sir Redik left, Lord Darigan could relax knowing that Hadrak was in the dungeon with Warden Vex.
He leaned over the railing of his private terrace to look at Meridell anew; its landscape now welcoming, its resources within his people’s reach. He heard a knock on his door. “Come in, D.A.”
The Zafara woman walked onto the terrace and stood next to him to look down at Meridell. “You called me, Lord?”
“D.A., there has been little time while Redik was here, but you are owed the thanks of all of Darigan Citadel, and of me personally.”
She smiled warmly and bowed. “Thank you, my Lord. It is a privilege to serve you.”
“D.A., there is an award that I am at liberty to bestow upon anyone I feel has protected the security of the Citadel beyond the call of duty. It is called the Royal Medal of Thanks.”
“I will accept your thanks, Lord, but not the medal. I have done nothing more than should have been done, and besides, to accept this award would bring attention to myself. For now, the people of Darigan feel that the guards of General Galgaroth saved you--”
“And I want them to know what you have done!”
She shook her head. “My Lord, if I were well known among the people, I would no longer be able to keep an eye on them, on the underworld. If I am to protect you and the Chambers and the people of Darigan Citadel, I must remain anonymous.”
Darigan was silent for a moment. “Is that why you will not tell me your name?”
The warmness in her face cooled to sadness. “No, Lord. That has another reason entirely.”
He should not have brought up her name. She always darkened when he mentioned it. He wished he could help her. “Very well, D.A. You may have what you wish.”
“Thank you, my Lord.”
* * * * *
Henka and D.A. had danced around each other during the week of Redik’s visit. They had a newfound mutual respect for each other, but neither wanted to discuss the webs of deceit they had woven. Now the time had come.
D.A. came into his office early on the afternoon following Redik’s departure. He could just perceive under her loose clothing the outline of a bandage around her knee. Her swordfight had not been intense enough to cause a new injury. Her knee must be chronically injured from another battle, but when?
“Thank you for coming, D.A.,” said Henka after she sat down. He was genuinely surprised that she could sit and stand without betraying pain. “As you know, I need a record of all the major goings on in the Chambers, and this certainly qualifies.” Amusement lit his face. “Tell me how all of this came about.”
D.A. grinned a little. “Chief Henka, I am the only member of the Chambers who was active both during Kass’ rule and Lord Darigan’s second rule. Though I am not at liberty to discuss why that is so, it is obvious that this gives me a unique advantage in protecting Lord Darigan’s rule. I know who The Three’s friends were.
“As soon as the article announcing Redik’s coming was printed, I knew that someone was trying to upset the populace. The only reason to do that is to subvert Lord Darigan’s authority. I did some digging around at the ‘Chronicle’s’ offices and got a look at the letter the reporter received that led him to the story. It was Hadrak’s handwriting--I’d know those rigid caps anywhere. Hadrak is both a great strategist and hungry for power. I had no doubt he was planning an attack. So, I made him believe he had my support--something he would not have a hard time believing, for... when he knew me... you could say that my loyalties were negotiable.”
Henka cocked his head.
“They no longer are, Chief Henka. You can trust me on that.”