Red Serpent_ The Falsifier - By Delson Armstrong

Darkness eclipsed all of Migra and its people as they waited. “This is a damn waste of time!” said the beefy man, as he looked up at the window of the highest tower of the castle.

His wife was three feet shorter than him but almost as plump. She looked at him, her eyes widened and glistening with relentless fear. “Don’t say such things, Kalev,” she scolded him.

“Good riddance to the wretch,” he said, continuing his steady gaze.

The surrounding crowd pushed and shoved, awaiting news. Some hoped for good, but most for bad. The ones who wanted him to die waited eagerly for the word. They looked up to the window, wondering when the hour of his death would arrive. Those who supported Anaxagoras XXIX wept, praying the king would escape from this fate.

A man nearby, skinny and fraught with a noble arrogance, said to Kalev, “You’re wrong, you know. Mind your tongue or I’ll report you to the commander.” His beady eyes pierced at Kalev.

“Will you now?” the large man said. His fuzzy mustached face reddened. “Do you know what he’s put us through? We’ve suffered four deaths in the family.” He boldly pointed to the castle, “He threw my son into the dungeons. It’s been thirty years since we last saw him! Not a day goes by that we don’t think of him.”

The scrawny man scrutinized Kalev’s wife and then turned his eyes back to Kalev. “What does it matter,” he scoffed, as people shoved harder to hear what news would arrive from outside the castle. The crowd almost pushed the man and those in front to the filthy edge of the moat. The man gesticulated, “Look around you. The majority here wants him alive and we’ll stand by him.” His vicious smile revealed dirty yellow teeth. Kalev said nothing and kept his eyes on the tower. His frightened wife stood closer to him and looked at this stranger, so loyal to the crown.

Suddenly the three of them turned their heads as the crowd made way, separating in two halves. Kalev and his wife walked to one side, while the noble ran across to the other.

A cloaked figure appeared on the middle path between the crowds, his face hidden within the shadow of his hood. He glided through the air towards the castle, where he demanded with a gesture of his hands to be let in.

The bridge dropped over the moat with a loud thud. On the other side, where the spectators stood, the large gates opened, making a deep and hollow moan. Hushed whispers and gasps erupted from the crowd. From inside the walls of the castle, came the sound of stamping feet. The marching amplified by the moment until shadowy figures could be seen. The shadows formed into men with spears and shields. Their armor shone silver and gold.

This small militia was led by a portly commander, bearded and bald except for a few oily black wisps of hair that sprung out on the back and sides. “What do you want?” the commander barked. The figure remained silent and the commander asked him again, this time more impatiently. Again, the figure remained silent. “I think,” said the frustrated commander, “I asked you a question. What is it you want?” Suddenly, he stopped in his tracks. The figure raised his right hand and snapped his fingers and the commander and spectators froze in time.

A moment passed and everyone snapped out of the trance. This time the commander spoke in a softer tone, “Let this man in; he wishes to see the king, and says the king orders it done. So be it!”

Inside the king’s room, the cold dark walls seemed to express death. A little light flickered around the room, from the dancing flames of torches, and yet darkness seeped through everything.

The king slept fitfully. As the hour of his demise drew near, he felt the haunting presence of his surroundings. He felt it in every ounce of his soul.

The large wooden door croaked open and the cloaked figure sashayed across the room. The king opened his eyes. He looked up at the intruder and frowned. “Don’t you know I want to be alone? Let me die in peace. Don’t tell me you are my blood for I have no one left–”

“You, my dear king, will soon be of my blood,” the figure said in a frosty tone. He faced the king, the darkness of his hood still hiding his face.

The king was sure that the intruder was the