I let the stale old bread they fed me soak up as much saliva as I could muster. My rights were that of a political prisoner: two meals a day, one consisting of bread and cheese, and one of fowl and leek soup, both with watered down beer. Additionally I had access to any book from the royal library, a bed, a lamp, a fireplace and one bottle of wine to last a month's time.
I wasn’t a political prisoner though. I was a Wyrm, a murderer, branded with the ancient elven letter, W. I should have been given death. Oh, sweet, numbing death. If the trial had been made public, I would have burned. If it had been up to the captain of the guard, I would have hung, and if the King gave his ear to the dear Queen, I would have taken the sword. But the draked trial was not any of theirs. It was the King’s, and His Royal Majesty had declared that I was a political prisoner.
I hated him for it. I wouldn’t have been so lenient on myself. Maybe he would have killed me if I had not admitted to my guilt. Maybe if I had yelled at him that it wasn’t my own damned fault, he would have done it, but no. I had wept at my crime, and I had wept hard. I begged to be sentenced to death. So perhaps the King hates me more than the public, the captain of the guard, and even the fat Queen herself. Perhaps he let me live because he hated me with a passion so great that it broke his rage and left only cold cruelty.
At least that was what I believed before his Majesty had me brought before him.
“Gavin of Wheat’s Plenty,” he said.
“Kafle Kontar, King of Alfmeria,” I said.
“You’ve lost weight.”
“Five years in prison will do that to a person.”
I thought in all that time that the King had never visited my cell because he feared he would change his judgement and charge me sword drawn. I believed that one day, I would see a soul-consuming hatred in him, and then I would be allowed to die. The day I was brought to the King, I learned I was not as scorned as I believed.
“The light in your eyes is gone,” His Majesty said. “Rumors of your corpse-like stare had reached me but I didn’t take it so literally.”
“Have you also heard of my being a half dragon?” I asked, mocking the rumors spread about me. I knew that for all the stories and lies spread, nothing was worse than the truth.
“Not yet, I’m afraid. Does that one also hold water?” King Kontar said, humoring my mockery.
“Kafle, is there a reason I was brought before you aside from jesting, or am I to return to my cell now?”
For a moment the king was taken aback. A select few in his life, I assumed, were allowed to call him by his first name. Those people were his parents and wife. All in private as well, I imagine.
Then his Highness relaxed slightly. “I have changed your sentence from life imprisonment to banishment, conditionally.”
I raised an eyebrow. “On what condition?”
“Two years ago, a curse was lain on my people, the Pink Rot. It is a plague my highest priests cannot cure, only postpone death, but we are running out of time.”
“Why? Have you caught this Rot?” I asked, to which King Kontar averted his eyes.
Dear Tirma, he has! I thought, What is to happen? The throne...the throne is without an heir.
Normally, with his guards and myself present the king was a hard man, when I saw a thin, wet stream running down his dark face it unnerved me, in that moment I was disheveled. He took a moment, which was used to regain his composure.
“Some months before the Pink Rot first started appearing, the head of a small village came before me and demanded that I lower taxes that were well established since before my grandfather took the throne.”
“And when you refused, he claimed some local god or demon would curse your land as you curse him with taxes,” I guessed.
“More or less,” King Kantor said. “Every member of my court and all of the soldiers caught the Rot before they made it to the village, but there are no reports of travelers or slaves ever getting the Rot. I can’t send in a mercenary or some slave to do it. With your training and lack of citizenship, you might be able to enter the village and stop this whole mess.”
“If you're wrong about non-citizens being immune, I could die a painful death,” I said.
“I know,” the king said, “If you do this, I would be eternally in your debt.”
I sighed, “I suppose that would make us even.”
The village was quiet enough and the people did not seem the least bit concerned about a painful plague. If anything, I was the most startling thing they saw: shorter and more stout, my skin a sandy complexion was quite the contrast to the spotty green of working class Altum.
“Dwarf,” one said in slight wonder. I had half a mind to call them Dark Elves but I was on a quest and personally did not like the idea of being run out of town.
I made my way towards a sturdy-looking building near the center of the village, marked ‘Town Hall’ in the old elven tongue.
“I seek the mayor of this settlement,” I said to the aged man resting in a chair on the town hall's porch.
“I am he, and my name is Philip.” His voice was deep. “Who are you?”
“I am Wyrm.”
The Mayor put his hand on his blade. “We have no use for murderers here, Wyrm. If you have gold, I will have supplies fetched for you but no more. Buy what you will and leave.” He stood, perhaps as a display of dominance.
The thick hair above my lip lifted as I half smiled, “I am The Wyrm of Wheat’s Plenty.”
“The Prince Slayer?”
“Yes.” I had to play the role that would decidedly work in my favor.
“You are supposed to be locked away”
“I am now. Haven’t you heard? I am Half-Dragon; I have terrible magics,” I lied out my ass.
Philip took a step back, “Why have you sought me out, dwarf-drake?”
“Tale be told that you stumbled upon some magic yourself,” I said with a scowl at the name. “And dwarf-drake? It doesn’t fit right. How about Wyrmdrake? I like that better, but tell me. You’re no wizard; which god did you sell your soul to for this Pink Rot?”
“Lord Arcane!” He let out in a frightened display, and dropped to his knees. All his show and bluster gone. I had to wonder how deeply the people believed I was some sort of Dark Lord.
“Get off your knees and quit crying like a child!” I ordered. No wonder the priests could not cure it. The Rot is of divine means. “Now listen, you’ve caught me in a good mood. You are to live and speak well of my mercy and power, but you have to end this disease.”
Philip looked back up to me with startled hope in his eyes. “Oh thank you. I did not mean for this to get as far out of hand as it did.”
He pulled a medallion from around his neck and handed it to me. “I haven’t the will to stop the storm, only aim it at the people of Alfmer to protect my village.”
Just another fool and plaything of the gods, I thought, taking the coin in my hand.
“A new mortal wields my power? And a clever one at that,” said the voice that rang in my mind. I did not yet know why the presence felt so familiar, and why it filled me with disgust.
“Who?!” I called out, looking around frantically for the source of the voice.
“The voice of the medallion, the God, Arcane.” Philip said meekly, “He taunted me for weeks.”
I stared down at the coin. “Arcane?”
“Present.” He was mocking me.
My eyes widened, though I wasn't sure if it was out of fear or anger. “Magic God! End this Rot.”
I heard a laugh in my mind, “How silly. I spend my valuable time making useful relics for you mortals, and when you foolishly misuse them, make weapons out of a legendary cure-all enchantment, you come crawling back to God asking to fix your problems. Well, Wyrmdrake, why don't you use your terrible magics to use a coin as intended.”
I stood there, motionless. A coin as intended… “Arcane, I offer this coin as payment. Lift the Pink Rot from this land.”
“Not really using magic there, but, I mean….works. I shall lift that idiot mayor’s curse.”
The coin faded from my hand and I looked back at Philip, “Your demented misuse of magic is over. Provide me with lodging and wine. And parchment, I need to send a letter to the man you committed high treason against.”
“Yes, Lord Wyrmdrake,” he said as he bowed, fearfully. “What about my village?”
“I shall tell him to spare it.”
“And…” he seemed hesitant,” What about me?”
“What about you?”