He nearly fell asleep during the monotonous droning of his Advisors and their boring subject matter. The business wrapped up with a discussion concerning the state of the kingdom, finances and politics. At last, they moved into the open area of the throne room.
Now seated on the more comfortable, cushioned throne, he was ready to dismiss the Advisors until next week. He didn’t look forward to these regular meetings but understood the necessity of them. He compared the boring sessions to the snakes in the fields surrounding Avendis. No one really liked them but without serpents the countryside would be overrun by vermin. Such were these weekly meetings – a necessary evil.
When the Advisors left, King Yadin called for the messenger boy on duty. Yadin didn’t know the lad’s name – Divine Creator, there were too many of them for that. More often than not, he couldn’t tell one from the other in the identical, light blue messenger uniforms they all wore. The boy stood ramrod straight, saluted with a balled fist across his chest and asked how he could be of service.
“Summon Master Wizard Ladien for me. I wish to hear his progress report on the new apprentices.” The lad repeated his orders verbatim and then waited for the King’s nod of approval to verify that the instructions were completely understood. With that, the boy turned and darted out of the throne room, stopping only long enough to close the door behind him.
King Yadin approached a different door. This one opened up to his favorite balcony overlooking his beloved Avendis. He yearned to step out and enjoy the panoramic view but hesitated to do so. The last time he attempted to enjoy the balcony, something unpleasant came along to ruin it. Perhaps he was being foolish but, nonetheless, he stood unmoving in front of the open door.
He felt a gentle breeze flowing in and saw the indirect sunlight reflecting off the polished marble floor. It wasn’t the same as actually standing outside but, for the moment, Yadin denied himself any luxury of leisure. Merik would be up to see him soon anyway.
Merik! The very thought of the man made his scarred palm itch. The Master Wizard was clever, no doubt about that, but something about the man unnerved him. Perhaps it was his smile, the one that never reached his eyes. Or perhaps it was the eyes alone that bothered him. Merik’s eyes silently spoke of dark secrets, shadowy plans and a private agenda that no one else would ever know about – until it was too late.
Yadin’s mind divided, each side warring with the other. His logical half saw the appearance and performance of the wizard. Merik spoke all the right words, gave answers to questions as though he were a saint. Based on appearances only, Yadin should be thankful for such a selfless healer at his command.
But then there was the other half of his mind, the emotional side that ran on instinct and gut feelings. This half screamed at him to replace the healer with someone – anyone – else. His emotions weren’t rational, he knew that, but he couldn’t simply dismiss certain feelings. For instance, why was it that, after talking with such a “holy” man, he felt so filthy and impure, as if he’d spent the time shoveling out a mastodon stall?
How could the appearance of what he saw so strongly contradict what he felt? Why did he feel something less of a man when in the presence of this wizard? Why was it that he found himself agreeing with this healer when every fiber of his being screamed to oppose him? As Yadin thought about it, he realized Merik’s manipulative ability had been present from the start.
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