The fragile, glass goblet shattered in his hand.
Blood and water intermingled as they dripped onto his heavy, oaken desk. Pieces of glass were embedded in his flesh. Blood trickled into his sleeve. A burning pain had erupted in his palm and fingers, but Balthazar did not stir. He sat alone and unmoving in his dimly lit study. If a person were to see him they would have thought him a statue, cold and lifeless. They would not know the pain, anger and frustration that this broken statue felt. Everything that could have gone wrong had gone wrong. People had died, money had been spent and time had been wasted yet he was no closer to a solution then he was before.
A war with Ascerai will ruin Liandor.
Tallon's words resonated in his mind. You are dragging us into an unnecessary war, Balthazar. You are sending tens of thousands of men to their needless death. I will have no part of this.
Balthazar clenched his jaw at the memory.
"Unnecessary war? Needless death?” He had roared in reply. “I am securing our borders! Ascerai have never been friendly with us-”
“So you started a war with them.”Tallon had cut in icily. “No, what you really want is their metal mines so that you can forge more weapons, make war on even more countries and add them to your Liandorean Empire.”
Balthazar slammed his injured hand onto the desk, and grimaced as pain shot up his forearm. Things could have been so simple! If only the stubborn man had just put away his pride and his useless conscience. Now Ascerai was slipping from his grasp. He had been relying on Tallon's brilliant mind to save the war but... Tallon was dead. Tallon, his trusted advisor, his greatest ally, his-
My friend. My only true friend and I killed him.
Balthazar was breathing heavily. His chest felt like it was on fire. He hadn't planned on killing Tallon. Just scaring him into submission.
Clocktower was situated at the heart of the Rocky Ranges, close to Jiandri's Teeth. The march had been long and treacherous, and they had finally reached it to find a small army waiting for them. The siege had lasted three days and two nights, and too many men from both sides had perished. Balthazar had forced his way into the ancient castle, found Tallon and put him to trial.
“I am the Emperor!” he had thundered. “My word is law and writ in stone! If you defy me, you commit treason.”
The fool of a man had just looked at the floor.
“I am giving you one more chance Tallon,” he had hissed, “join me in my pursuit of Ascerai. Give me the advice that I will need. Design more of those ingenious machines that helped me to defeat Rissen, and I will spare your life and your family's.”
I have him now. Balthazar had thought smugly. He will bend for his family.
“No.” The word had been like a slap to his face.“No more Balthazar, I am done.”
It was then that Balthazar knew he had no choice but to kill him. Insolence such that as Tallon had displayed could not go overlooked. Could not go unpunished.
“ You are Tallon Darr the Fourth. You are the Averence, the Architect of the Clock and the Keeper of Time. You were my most trusted adviser and my closest friend. Yet you still chose to betray me, therefore I hereby sentence you to die.”
Tallon had just looked at him with those grey eyes and nodded in acceptance.
“Since you have made vain use of you head I will let you keep it,” he had declared. “Your heart though, has been your weakness thus it shall be your bane.”
The blow had been a swift one, straight through the heart. The hardest part had been looking into Tallon's eyes as he thrust the blade into his chest. Balthazar wasn't even allowed a moment to contemplate his deed because that old servant of Tallon's had started wailing, “The Averence is dead!” It had turned out that the Keeper of the Birds had been hiding in the castle rookery the entire time . He had heard the old man's cry, recorded the time of death and sent birds out to various tower clocks in Liandor. Thanks to the old man, Balthazar couldn't even keep the Averence's death a secret. Now none of tower clocks were working and acted only as a reminder of Tallon's time of death.
A knocking at his door brought Balthazar back to the present.
“Yes,” he growled.
The door opened slightly and a tall man in a long, dark cloak whose cowl covered his face entered. “Gareth has been killed as you ordered, sire.”
Balthazar looked at the man. “Good work, Edrian, did you kill all of his family as well?” He saw the man hesitate.
“We managed to kill his wife, sire.” he replied.
“Was his wife all of his family?” Balthazar saw the man flinch.
“No sire. He also had a daughter, she... got away.”
Balthazar was silent for a minute then he said quietly, “Edrian, when I tell you to kill a man and all of his family I expect you to do as I say. I'm sure you do not want me to demonstrate my meaning using your own family as an example,” he restrained a smile as he felt the other man stiffen with fear.
“Y-yes sire. She will be found and killed immediately.” Edrian bowed deeply before hurriedly exiting the room. Balthazar flexed his wounded hand. So many men had betrayed him. So many good men that he had to have killed. It was all such a waste. Gareth had been his best assassin, but in the end he had chosen to pledge his loyalty to Tallon. If it wasn't for Gareth, he would have the next Averence in his grasp now.
There was a light knock on the door.
"Come in," called Balthazar.
The door creaked open and a tall, old man with white hair and pale blue eyes slid inside.
"Sire," he said, bowing deeply.
"What is it Warwick?" demanded Balthazar.
"Sire, a well reputed singer has come requesting, insisting in fact, that he be allowed to perform for you tonight." replied Warwick eyeing Balthazar's injured hand, he knew better than to mention it. Balthazar frowned at his manservant. He had no love for music and an intense dislike for singers. "What is said singer's name?" he growled.
"He goes by Lucair, sire."
"Well tell this Lucair that I have no need of his services tonight or any other night. If he even tries to "insist'" on performing, you are to stick a knife through him."
"Yes sire." Warwick bowed again, he turned to leave.
“Warwick,” he called.
“Yes sire.” replied his manservant.
“Bring me Edrian's family.”
A/N Hey all! Silver here. Just wanted to say that I hope I got all the italics right because I kind of got confused with where I had to and I didn't. Thanks for reading. :)