Update Schedule & Announcements

Chapter 14: Revenge

David Grimdark
Mar 15, 2024

69 Reads

"Did you really think I'd let that fly?"

-Admiral Sparrow after pillaging the Empire coast in retaliation to the Empire building a navy

Anna sat on the small cot in her cell, her hands resting in her lap. She stared at the wall ahead of her, her eyes distant. I leaned stiffly on my cane as I stood in front of her cell wondering why there were no goddamn chairs in the dungeon.

It had been three days since she had finally decided to make a batch of Brute’s Brew, she hadn’t given up the recipe fully though only the ingredients. It had been a long and expensive list of mostly lethal compounds. I remembered reading about dozens of them inside books of poison and assisination, how they combined to produce Brute’s Brew was a mystery and something Anna guarded closely, insisting to make it herself, on this she would not compromise. It made sense, I’d kill her if she gave me the recipe. 

Getting Brutus to consume the brew had been simple. I had it spread over food and he ate it. The guards had to serve him with a pole and even that was a risky job.

I remembered Brutus in that cell. His body was covered in wounds and bruises, most self inflicted. He was marked by a wild and frenzied look in his eyes, as if he were consumed by a primal rage. His pupils were dilated, making them seem like bottomless pits, and they seemed to dart back and forth erratically, unable to focus on any one object. The whites of his eyes were tinged with red, giving them a bloodshot appearance. His brows were furrowed and his jaw was clenched tightly, making his features seem even more distorted and menacing. He seemed almost possessed, his gaze intense and relentless, as if he were searching for something to consume.When he had reached out from the bars straining attempting to grab me I saw his flesh squirm under the skin. He looked like a monster.

At that moment I could tell he was on death's step, his mind was gone and he was driven by primal urges, ones not fully his own. Anna knew it too.

“How did you know?” her voice sounded weak, tired.

“Know what?” I asked.

She cast a glance that suggested she wanted to slap me “That I would make Brute’s Brew before he died.”

I studied her for a moment, trying to read the emotions behind her question. Her eyes were red rimmed and tired, her normally confident posture slumped in defeat. I wondered what the right words were to make her mine.

"I didn't know for sure," I admitted, "but I had a feeling you would. Based on what Brutus told me."

Anna let out a bitter laugh. "And what do you know of me?" she asked, voice brittle.

I stepped closer to the bars, ignoring the sharp pain in my leg as I leaned in. "I know you're a cruel woman who knows things. I know you want everyone to know that too. I know that the strength Brutus exhibits has never been seen, it goes beyond human, his feats will draw attention. I know that if he died no one else would get to know his feats, what or who made him so. I gave you a choice between both you and Brutus dying nameless or both you and Brutus living. In your shoes, I know what choice I would make."

She looked up at me with a mixture of sadness and fury in her eyes. "You made me betray him."

Still dangerous. Good.

I leaned back. “Yes, and from what I hear the Emperor is not a forgiving man. There will be no way back to him after this.” 

Anna met my gaze for a long time before finally getting up and walking close to the bars, the shadows flew across her face like a crows in the sky. “So then cripple, if you were in my shoes now, what would you do?” I could tell from her voice this would not go forgotten, one day she would try to kill me… but not until her legacy was secured. 

“I would hand over the cure recipe for Bart Riley.” I said with a grin.


“You have an odd way of requesting help,” Bart said.

Bart was a sickly man, held in the crooked claws of a sickness that he could not escape alone. His eyes were sunken and pale, deathly looking compared to the flushed and rosy hue that should have painted his cheeks. His body looked feeble, like the wind could blow him away at any moment. 

His finger shook with fear as he pointed at Brutus, who towered behind me, a statue made of black metal and violent intent. 

“Bringing the monster who murdered my cousin-” his voice quivered with fear but was cut off by a coughing fit that shook his entire body.

From what Brutus had told me he was sick with some poison Anna concocted. Considering how Anna was currently stuck in a cell. Bart hadn’t received his required dose of antidote in some time and it showed.

I studied the room as he continued coughing, I could tell the Relly family had been run by a woman. The decorum had taste, it didn’t try to display power like Varga’s had. And thankfully the sofas were soft. 

Eventually a servant girl came up and served a glass of water to Bart who drank it cautiously. Studying the servant girl I realized I had seen her before, her name was Slyvie and she had been one of the survivors from when Reji took this place. She looked at me and I smiled at her, she smiled politely but it disappeared when her gaze went to Brutus, her face was filled with fear and anger, Lady Relly had been her savior.

Her gaze returned to me and for a moment the hate slipped through, directed at me, I felt the smile on my face grow thin as she left with a bow.

An enemy today was a friend tomorrow.

It was what my father had taught me.

I returned my attention back to Bart, he had finally finished coughing. He wasn't willing to work for Reji, they wouldn’t have had to poison him he had been. It would be easy to tell him I was his new master, that if he wanted to keep receiving the antidote he had to serve me, that would have been what my Father would do.

Instead I grabbed three vials of his antidote and a parchment placing it on the table between us. His eyes went wide with recognition and he grabbed one of the vials popping the cork and swallowing it all in one gulp. A look of relief passed over his face and some level of tension seemed to leave his body.

Eventually he remembered where he was and he opened his mouth to speak but I held up my hand cutting him off. I slipped the parchment forward towards him. He picked it up and began reading it, his eyebrows went up and he eyed me with suspicion. I would too, it was the recipe for his antidote afterall, and for free.

“The witch?” he asked, putting down the parchment.

“In my dungeon.” I replied.

“She is an agent of the Empire.” he said, voice low, as if he wasn’t the leader of the best information gathering family in the City. As if mention of the Empire was blasphemy. “I know.” I said sizing him up “Is that why you didn't help Reji?”

He gave out a weak laugh “The Empire would never stand for someone else controlling the information within their territory, the Relly family would cease to exist under their reign,” his eyes flicked over to Brutus briefly.

“And besides, he killed my cousin,” he said with a shrug.

I could tell that Bart was telling the truth. When I had met Lady Relly while she was still alive she had come across proud and more importantly smart. She had forged their own path and could see when it was threatened, it seemed she had instilled that on her whole family.

I leaned back in my chair, studying Bart carefully. His loyalty to his family was admirable, but it could also be used against him.

"I can promise you protection from the Empire," I said, watching as his eyes widened in surprise. "But only if I'm on the throne."

Bart's expression hardened, his voice doubtful. "Can I be frank with you my Lady?” Brutus grunted behind me and the sound alone chilled the room “My Queen.” Bart said after a moment. I waved my hand “I like frankness best.”

Bart leaned forward, his hands resting on the table. "I've been in this business long enough to know that promises are easily broken. When it comes to the Empire there's only ever been two options. Join them or die, and while that big bastard behind you is strong, him and every able body in the City won't be enough to stop the Empire if it comes knocking."

I nodded, understanding his concern and told him of my plans, of the City deep under the desert and how I could stop the Empire. I told him it all piece by piece and his face filtered between shock and pale faced fear.

You’re mad,” he said. 

No. Madness is the vortex that sucks in all logic and draws out irrationality. It is an uncontrolled force that grips the mind, twisting and distorting reality until it becomes unrecognizable. Like a dark cloud that hovers over everything, it casts a shadow that consumes all reason and replaces it with chaos, delusion and hate. Madness is a giant who kills and kills until there's nothing left. Madness is a woman who cuts and breaks hoping for admiration. Madness is a father who beats his child.

After a long time he spoke again “What do you need from me?” 

I leaned forward, “I need information, all of it.


Castle Ironhold was a fortress. 

Surrounded by high stone walls and guarded by fierce soldiers, it was a formidable sight. As I approached the main gate, I could see archers perched on the battlements, their arrows ready for any potential threat. Their infamous ballistas lined the battlements, a few turned towards me.

The same infamous ballistas that killed Chunnly. 

I stood impatiently on the drawbridge waiting for one of the guards to carry my words to Lady Eliza. The expression he had made when I told him left a smirk on my face. My conversation with Bart and the information he provided left me everything I needed to know. All that was left was to act.

Behind me I heard mumbles of the crowd that was gathering, a collection of slaves and the lower class who had seen my uniform and crown and knew who I was. I was supposed to be dead and yet I was clearly alive. Word would spread like wildfire, servant to servant, slave to slave, slave to Merchant and Merchant to Reji.

I tapped on my walking stick wishing that damn guard would show up already.

Not many moments later he did.

“Lady Eliza will see you.” he said gruffly.

Of course she will, she’s a greedy traitorous cunt. I flashed him a smile and motioned for him to lead the way. 

I followed the guard through the winding hallways of the castle, my mind racing with plans and scenarios. Lady XYZ cared about profits most, so I told the guard to tell her I had an offer more lucrative than whatever Reji's was. From her perspective it was unlikely, not much could match the Empire's coffer, but she was shrewd enough to hear me out. Without a doubt she planned to capture me and sell me back to Reji.

We entered a large room, richly furnished with tapestries and furniture. A woman sat on a throne-like chair at the end of the room, her shrewd gaze taking me in. She let out a shrewd cackle that grated against my ears and reminded me of a dead man.

I approached her with purpose, my walking stick tapping against the polished stone floor. "You're tough to kill, girl," she said with a sneer. "I must say I'm surprised."

I smirked, "You shouldn't be. That's just the kind of Queen I am. Unkillable, unstoppable." Lady Eliza narrowed her eyes, clearly not amused by my confidence.

"You've always been a little too ambitious for your own good," she retorted, "But I must admit, I'm intrigued. What is this offer you speak of? I should warn you, the Empire girl's offer was quite large."

I leaned in close, making sure to keep my walking stick in hand. "Did they deliver?"

Her lips curled into a smirk, "Just yesterday, I would've killed that scum Reji if it hadn't. I have assurances my family will remain under Empire rule as well."

I scoffed internally, as if. The Empire would take back that money from Lady Eliza cold dead hands after taking the city. "Well, I have a better offer." I stated confidently,

Lady Eliza raised an eyebrow, her interest piqued. "Oh? And what might that be?" she asked, leaning forward in her seat.

I straightened up and looked her directly in the eye. "Help me kill Reji and in return I'll let you live." I said, my voice low and steady. Lady XYZ blinked a few times before bursting out into manic laughter, her twisted frame convulsing with each hacking laugh.

Lady Eliza took a moment to compose herself before speaking. "Let me live?" she asked in a mocking tone. I leaned in closer, my voice now a dangerous whisper. "Yes you traitorous hag, help me and I'll let you live." I stated simply.

Lady Eliza leaned back in her seat, humor draining from her face. She tapped her chin for a moment before speaking again. "You want to know what I think?"

I smiled and titled my head motioning for her to continue.

"I think you're desperate," Lady Eliza said with a sly smile, "And I think you're full of shit. You have no troops, no money and no influence." I maintained my confident demeanor, refusing to show any sign of weakness. "Do you accept or refuse?" I asked.

She sneered at me “I refuse stupid girl,” and then snapped her fingers “Olgar, put her in the prison and send word to Reji that I have the fucking Queen he told me was dead.” she paused putting a finger to her chin “And tell him he’d better pay good to get her back.”

Olgar nodded and moved forward a few other guards. They came up to me ready to put me in chains but stopped as they felt the earth quiver under them. It was distant at first, barely a tremble, but it grew louder and louder eventually shaking dust from the very walls. They looked around in confusion which only grew at the sounds of fighting and yelling that came from outside the door.

I didn’t panic and only smiled deeply, sometimes revenge just felt so damn good.

Lady Eliza's eyes widened in fear. "What have you done?" she hissed, her voice trembling with anger and fear.

I simply stood there with a self-satisfied smirk on my face as the sound of battle grew louder and closer. "I may not have troops or money," I said calmly, "But I have something much more powerful: Brutus."

Lady Eliza's face paled and I knew I had struck a nerve. She had heard reports of Brutus first hand from her troops, she understood the might and brutality of him. She had underestimated me, thinking that I had come to bargain. But she was wrong, and now she would pay for it.

"Enough of this, capture her!" she screeched at her guards. Awaking from their panicked trance they reached out towards me but it was too late.

The great door behind me burst into splinters as a flailing Ironhold guard was flung into the room. He hit the post near the throne with a wet thump and slid down, not moving. The guards backed up from me dropping their chains and reaching for their swords as I felt the ground tremble as something took heavy steps behind me.

“Took you long enough, a moment later and I would be in chains.” I said without turning my head.

Brutus grunted in response “Had to take out the ballistas first.” He stepped up beside me and I saw him. Brutus had a distinct smell of metal and I couldn't tell if it was his armor or the blood covering it. In both hands he held a mis-matched pair of axes he had most definitely stolen from some poor bastard. Despite the violence and aggression that emanated from him, there was also a hint of primal joy in the way he spoke and carried himself. There were some scratches on his armor, most likely from the ballistas but he seemed otherwise unharmed. I shook my head in disbelief.

A single man sieging a fort.

“Guards! Kill them both!” screeched a very fearful Lady Eliza returning my attention to the room. Around us the dozen or so guards in the room glanced at each other hesitantly, none of them wanting to have to go first.

“We don’t have time for this Brutus, please kill her.” I said with a wave of my hand.

A vein popped on Eliza’s forehead and she bent forward in her seat “Why you little rat-” she was cut off by an ax piercing her chest pinning her to the chair. My hair fluttered in the breeze caused by Brutus’s throw, he is deathly good at that.

I pointed at a wide eyed guard who I had seen before, Olgar Ironhold was his name. “Hey you, congratulations, you're now head of the Ironhold family. Do you agree to help me?” he took a moment to comprehend before scowling and pulling out his sword “Scum! The Ironhold family will never-” his voice was cut off as a whirling ax took his head clean off and embedded itself with a ringing thump into the sandstone wall. His headless corpse collapsed to its knees and fell to its side.

I cast a glance at Brutus “We have to leave some of them alive.” I said in hushed tones, he shrugged apologetically. I sighed and pointed at another fellow “You there, what’s your name?” he went wide eyed realizing the attention was on him “G-Grimly Ironhold.” I smiled at him, “Perfect, well Grimly by royal decree you are now the leader of the Ironhold family, do you agree to help me?” he stammered to himself looking between Brutus, me and the corpses that littered the room.

“Yes.” he said with a gulp.

I raised my eyebrows at him motioning for him to continue, tapping my black crown to give him a hint.

“Yes… your majesty?” he said hesitantly. I nodded and walked up to him putting my arm around his shoulder “Excellent! Do me a favor Grimly and close the drawbridge, also get me a couple pikes and have those two traitorous bodies delivered to the battlements." He saw me up close and his face went pale but he nodded.

I smiled back patting him on the shoulder before leaving the room with Brutus, we walked towards the battlements. 

They should be arriving any second now.

“How’d you get them to lower the drawbridge anyway?” Brutus asked as we walked. I flashed him a toothy smile “Lies and violence.” he let out a low chuckle. It wouldn’t last forever, violence and threats never did, but it would for now while the memory was fresh, I could pad it later with profits and actual benefit, for now this would have to do.

“It's time to show everyone I'm not so easy to kill,” I said, my voice loud enough to carry across the courtyard. “Eliza thought she could betray me and get away with it. She was wrong.”

I strode up to the edge of the battlements, looking out over the city. It was a beautiful sight, filled with bustling streets and majestic sandstone buildings, in the distance rose the elegant palace its arched roofs piercing the horizon. This was my kingdom, and I would not let anyone take it from me, especially some rat who would sell it to the Empire.

Brutus stood next to me, his arms crossed and somehow I knew there was smirk on his face under his dark helm. “Reji will be pissed,” he said.

I turned to him with a smile. “And that is exactly what I want."

I returned my gaze to the crows, they were watching, looking and pointing at me as much as Brutus. The crown on my head was hard to miss and the hulking mass next to me called Brutus was even more of a sore thumb. 

The crowd gathered in the courtyard was a diverse mix of people, each one displaying a unique reaction to the scene unfolding before them. Some stood with their mouths agape, shocked at the sight of their queen standing on the battlements, wearing a black crown and flanked by a massive, imposing figure in dark armor. Others whispered to their neighbors, their eyes wide with curiosity and fear. There were those who pointed and gossiped, their voices carried by the gentle breeze that blew through the courtyard. Some stood in complete silence, watching with apprehension and uncertainty.

They were a motley crew, made up of all walks of life - merchants, peasants, soldiers, and slaves. They wore a variety of clothing, from simple rags to the finest silks. While they all had some emotion on their face I could sense the growing dread within, not from today's event or yesterdays but simply the neverending slope that the City was going down. Their futures were uncertain, some supported Reji for sure, they were fools. Reji was a fool. The Empire would chew up the city and spit it out after sucking it dry of anything valuable. 

Gods I could make them rich, I could give them all a future to die for. My hand gripped the battlements, I could protect them.

Suddenly, a loud commotion broke through the courtyard. People began to push and shove each other as the 'city guard' arrived, their armor clanking and weapons drawn. There were at least a hundred of them decked out in artifact gear stolen from the palace guard. My head swam with anger as I thought of my soldiers, dead and looted. I scoffed, these were no more than hired thugs.

Reji Ourlous strode out in front of them before the moat.

Reji Ourlous was a man of average height, with a stout and sturdy build. His hair was hidden in a turban. His face was adorned with a well-trimmed beard, giving him an air of authority and sophistication. He wore a fine black tunic, embroidered with gold thread, and a matching cape draped over his broad shoulders. His eyes were angry and calculating, darting around the courtyard as he walked with a confident stride. His side was adjourned with a scimitar of artifact nature and without a doubt he had many more on his person. He held his head high, a symbol of his pride and ambition, and his movements were smooth and calculated. He exuded an aura of power and control, as if he was born to rule.

At least he tried too. 

Underneath all the posturing I could see the cold sweat on his forehead, the bloodshot tinge to his eyes and the slight furrow of his brows. He was surprised, upset and most importantly, unsure.

“My Queen, I am glad to see you are well.” he shouted out the words scratching against my ear. I said nothing, casting him a cold glare. His eyes left me and gazed at Brutus beside me, “I see my knight is at your side.” he said flatly. I could feel the tension within the hulking figure beside me and for a moment wondered if he would launch himself from the battlements to kill Reji but the moment passed and Reji continued “I have been managing the Palace in your absence and have come to escort you back.” he continued managmously.

I smirked, so that’s what he was going for.

I grinned casting my gaze across the crowd letting the silence fester, it was only when I finally heard the soldiers behind me begin to raise the pikes that I spoke, my voice echoed across the crowd “Reji Ourlous is a traitor to the crown, he seeks to replace me and enslave the people for his own gain.” I left out mention of the Empire, it would cause mass panic, citizens would flee. 

Reji’s face twitched and he opened his mouth to speak “Nonsense-” he was cut off as the bodies of Lady Eliza Ironhold and Olgar Ironhold were hoisted up behind me. “Let this be an example to all who would betray the crown, betrayal will be met with death. That is all.” I said with a wave of my arm and began my descent down the battlements as the gasps and worry began to spill our from the crowd.

Already I could hear Reji cursing and ordering his troops to prepare for a siege, it seems he had finally given up on the diplomatic approach, the fool should have ordered the assault from the start.

The courtyard was a mess, Brutus’s attack was vicious and destructive but there were not many dead, I had told him to keep casualties limited, they would need some able bodies to man the fort against Reji’s forces. Grimly Ironhold ran down from the battlements pale faced, poor boy was caught between an angry Queen and even angrier traitor, I could tell by the look on his face that he wasn’t sure if he should order his men to man the battlements or capture me.

“Grimly” I said tapping him on the shoulder with my cane, he jumped remembering where he was and more importantly the killer standing beside me. “We-we can’t hold them, not with our ballistas destroyed.” he stuttered, casting a fearful glance at Brutus. I nodded “Understandable, it’s only fair since I broke them that I provide some support,” I gestured my hand at Brutus “I will leave my most capable Knight with you.”

Grimly eyed Brutus warily, unsure if that was a blessing or a curse. “But what about you, Your Majesty?” he asked, his voice trembling.

“I will be in the castle study, I have allies to call upon.” I replied firmly, my eyes meeting his. “Hold for three days and Reji will be crushed, your loyalty will not go unrewarded.”

Grimly nodded, his face pale. “Three days... very well." he said, before turning to bark orders at the soldiers.  They looked at him confused but obeyed nonetheless, a good orderly bunch who respected authority, at least while that authority wouldn't get them killed.

As the men scrambled to prepare for battle, Brutus and I continued into the keep. “How long do you think they'll last?” I said, winding my way through the corridors.

Brutus scoffed, "I'd give them five hours before their first attempt at mutiny." 

“But you can handle them?” I asked.

“Oh yea,” he replied, voice filled with malice, “but eventually they’ll get smart and just drop the drawbridge. Let that smug bastard walk right in.” I nodded, opening the door to the castle study  “Buy me as much time as you can.”  The study was a grand room, filled with luxurious furnishings and ornate decor. The walls were lined with bookshelves, filled to the brim with dusty tomes and scrolls. The air was thick with the smell of old parchment and leather bound books. A large fireplace crackled in the corner, providing warmth and light to the room. It smelt familiar, comfortable, but I wasn’t here for the books.

Brutus snorted “I could hold off that rat bastard for a day by myself. I’ll get you the time you need.” Good, I needed time and this was the best way to get every eye in the City looking where I wanted them too.  I felt my way around the desk and found a small indentation, I pressed into it and a click sounded out, moving one of the carpets revealed a trap door that was now ajar. Pulling it back revealed a descending darkness that would lead down and under the moat eventually to the outskirts of the City.

“How did you get in before?” Brutus asked.

“Yep.” An escape tunnel known to very few and a secret her father had built when he allowed the Ironholds to construct it, one only the crown family knew, especially after I had burned all references to it. Knowledge was power.

I placed my crown and cane on the desk pulling a molly brown robe with hood from my pack dawning it. The cowl pulled over my face would hide most recognizable features from a far, I also had a simple stick to use as a walking staff instead of a more expensive metal cane. Now to the common folk I would look nothing more than a crippled beggar, free to move about in the shadows.

I was about to descend into the escape hatch but paused looking at the desk, I smiled as I thought of something. I pulled out some parchment and ink and wrote a message blowing on it then folding the paper.

“Who’s that for?” Brutus asked from beside me.

“Reji.” I said with a grin and Brutus chuckled. He held out a large gauntleted fist towards me “Good hunting.” he said with a smile.

I tapped his fist with my knuckles and wondered if I was asking too much of him, to hold off a hundred artifact wearing killers in the Castle of a recent enemy. 

“Try not to die.” I replied.

He snorted “I’m not so easy to kill.”

I nodded descending into the tunnel with a savage grin.

Me neither.


Leave a comment