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Chapter 18: Interlude Varga

David Grimdark
Apr 9, 2024

69 Reads

"The headsman axe is the only cure for madness."

- Jargal, the Wandering Executioner

As I sat in my opulent home, sipping on a glass of expensive wine, I couldn't help but feel a sense of excitement and anticipation. The news should be coming any moment now. The news that will change everything for me.

In the City, betrayal is second nature to me, it's how I've survived this long and it's how anyone who's anything has gotten ahead. And now, with the Queen's impending death, I see an opportunity to finally rise to power.

For too long, I've been a mere pawn in the game of others. That fat bastard Ulgar and then his crippled daughter, even Reji viewed me as nothing more than a resource. He would see, they would all see. With the Queen out of the picture, I can make my move. Reji will be busy bending over for the Empire and would need someone to manage the new artifact mines. Oh how my head had swam with joy when that idiot girl told me about it, riches just lying there! They would expect it all back but if I was the overseer I could take my own cut.

I wouldn't be Varga the scavenger anymore, nobles and princes everywhere would send word for me asking to see my wares. I could finally rid myself of this dusty desert and get out before the Empire stamped it into the mold. I drank deeply from the glass feeling a tingle spread throughout my body and snapped at the slave girl serving me.

“More.” I said and waved her off, she bowed deeply showing her ample cleavage and I grinned. With new wealth I’d be able to afford the higher quality slaves, I licked my lips in anticipation. 

Alas, I’d have to bid my time for a bit.

Reji was still quite upset at my betrayal when I helped the Queen, as if the bastards wouldn’t have done the same in my shoes. He hadn’t told me of the Empire’s involvement let alone that his freak knight was now licking the heels of the Queen. What was I supposed to do? Say no and find comfort in my loyalty as the bastard crushed my head in his hand? I scratched my chin staring at the sofa where Queen Azeal Ulgar had sat and shrugged. 

It wasn’t as if her plan hadn’t had promise. In fact she had almost killed Reji and would’ve been safely back on the throne with me in a better position if it hadn’t been for that massacre by the Empire. I shuddered at the thought of living in an Empire ruled land, the options where either conform, or die. And even if you did conform, it was likely you’d still die as a foreigner. No matter, now that I had collateral to give to Reji it was easy enough to negotiate back into good standing. Soon enough I would transfer over the wounded traitors and that odd woman in my dungeon.

I sighed but bolted upright when a knock came from the door.

I straightened my top and nodded “Come in!” but as the door opened I was disappointed to see the servant girl from before, not the messenger of good news I had been hoping for. I grumbled something and told her to put the drinks on the table. It had already been nearly a day since three hundred Empire troops marched out into the sands after the Queen. I had told Reji he might as well send them all but apparently the Empire captain was a prideful one and ‘didn’t see the need’. Classic Empire pride, it only stung more because it was true, Emperor Gristle was expanding his borders from coast to coast, swallowing up kingdom after kingdom and holding them. He was mad by all accounts but it seemed he was smart enough.

The sound of glass shattering broke my thought and I looked on in growing anger as I saw the servant girl from before pitifully trying to clean up spilt wine which had fallen onto my expensive silk rug. I walked up twisting the ring on my finger casting a shadow over the girl, she looked up beginning to apologize but a backhand sent her flailing.

“Stupid girl! This rug cost more than you! Do you want to be sent to the brothels? Do you?!” I spat and she cowered, I raised my hand to strike her again but another knock at the door stopped me.

Finally, the messenger!

Forgetting my anger I took a deep breath composing myself, already I was beginning to feel pleased again, with my new wealth I could buy better serving girls and use this one for sport till she breaks. I nodded with a faint smile and opened the door.

‘Tell me! Is the Queen dead-” I began but the words fell from my lips as I looked up and kept looking up until my neck was craning. In the door frame was a hulking dark figure, all wriggle black metal with dull gold outlines, he was dirty, covered with gore and smelling faintly of corpses but undeniably strong. He stood nearly seven feet tall and his head was nothing more than a mass of metal with two slits, angry orbs peering through.


The instinct to call out for my guards died on the tip of my tongue as I took in his blood stained visage, I doubted anyone would answer. Brutus took a large step into the room and I backed away whipping the sweat off my palms. I watched him in trepidation as he stalked closer, every step causing the floorboards to creak in complaint. The man had always been an impressive specimen, no matter how savage or twisted his mind was. With that cursed armor of his he was more akin to a demon. A new large poleaxe rested on his back, it glistened with malice. But he wasn't the one who had instilled this fear in me, rather it was the knowledge of his survival that had me quaking in my boots. If Brutus was alive, that meant the Queen was too.

Brutus took in the room his eyes glanced at the maid crumpled on the floor and she whimpered in fear, he continued on without pause, methodical and efficient. Finally he grumbled something and a sharp clack on wood followed.

Clack. Clack. Clack.

Each one struck my ear like a nail in a coffin, then she entered.

Queen Azeal walked into the room, her presence commanding and intimidating all at once. She was a slender young woman, yet her frame was lined with scars and burns, giving her an almost sinister appearance. Her right eye was milky white and that only added to her eerie demeanor. She limped slightly, her crippled leg slowing her movements but not diminishing her power.

She wore a black tight uniform, dark and ominous with its sharp lines and intricate designs. The fabric was designed in a way with folds and creases that could have hidden important items or daggers. A black twisted iron crown adorned her head, a symbol of her ruthless reign over the kingdom.

As she approached Brutus, her expression was cold and calculating, her one eye fell on me and I felt my throat tighten up, her gaze soon turned over to the servant woman and I felt my breath return to me. I sat in my chair grabbing my glass with a shaky hand but stopped realizing there was no more. It was all spilled on my carpet.

Azeal limped over to the servant girl and helped her up, then called in some of her guards from outside and told them to take care of her, then she sat across from me, massaging her leg with a satisfied sigh. I watched with a mix of fear and curiosity as the Queen settled into the chair across from me. Her eyes flicked up to me, and for a moment, I felt as if she knew everything about me.

“So, Varga,” she said, leaning back in her seat, “it seems you are not as loyal as I had hoped.”

I swallowed hard, my mind racing for some sort of defense. "My Queen, please-"

But she held up a hand to silence me. "No need to explain yourself. I already know what you did and why. I should be thanking you," a twisted smile grew on her face. "It is afterall, exactly as I wanted you too."

My eyebrow rose "I'm not sure I quite understand..."

She bowed her head hiding a chuckle and pulled out a small, intricately designed pipe. With a flick of her wrist, she lit the pipe and took a deep inhale. The smoke curled around her head like a sinister halo, and I couldn't help but feel a sense of unease, the acrid smell of wakeleaf stinging my nostrils.

A dangerous drug for a dangerous woman. 

“I’m sure you don’t.” she said and my face twitched at the casual insult. I took a deep breath, no time to get upset Varga. I glanced at the hulking violent mass behind her and wondered if he could catch me if I tried to leap from the window, the eyes that stared back told me he certainly could. I chuckled “Pardon my ignorance my Queen, could you please elaborate.”

She nodded, eyes studying me “You told Reji where I was going after we left, you saw my side was losing and wanted to switch over to the winning side. Reji sent out Empire troops to finish us off and secure the mine,” the way she said it made it clear there was no way to persuade her otherwise “but I didn’t tell you about the dangers of the mine, or the fact I was expecting pursuers. So I set a trap and now there are three hundred dead Empire troops under the desert.”

As she finished speaking, Azeal leaned back in her chair, taking another drag from her pipe. I sat there, stunned by her confession. Beating the Empire? I hadn't thought it was possible... but she did it. She could actually do it, actually win! I needed to be on her side.

I flashed my most convincing and confident smile at her and nodded "Excellent my Queen, simply excellent. I had predicted this is what you wanted when you told me about the ruins but I could not expect it to go so well. I am pleased to have been able to aid you." Azeal chuckled, her eye's narrowing at me. "I must say, Varga, I am impressed. Are you saying you knew about my plans and went along with the betrayal to in fact serve me?"

I felt a surge of hope at her words, this was a rope, a lifeline, one I could climb up on. "Of course My Queen, I would never betray you if it was not your wish for me to do so."

Azeal nodded, seeming pleased, she stood up with a sigh "I could ask for nothing more from my subjects Varga." and she put out her pipe turning to leave, I felt my skin tingle and pride at playing my cards right, seems this bitch was no different from all the others. Puff up their ego a bit and they roll over, stupid girl.

She paused just in the door frame knocking on it and shaking her head "There is just one thing that bothers me though." she turned and her face was somewhere between cold and amused, as if there was some sick joke I wasn’t aware of. “If you would never betray me without me wanting you too, why did you help Reji in the first place?” 

My mouth went dry and as I met her eyes I realized what the sick joke was.

It was me.

I stood with panic and stuttered trying to regain control “My-my Queen, Reji forced me to-” but she held up her hand “Some advice Varga, when you try to play both sides, you lose.” she then turned and walked out of the room, the clack of her cane echoing as her last words reached my ears “Make sure to heed that in your next life.”

A dark shadow fell over me as the feeling of dread set in, I turned and felt a gush of wind. Then I was on the ground staring at my headless corpse. Then I realized I was dead.

Then there was nothing.


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