• nicolasakmakjian

6: Assassins From Shanaar - Part Two

The crow flew onward above this wall and over some rocky, empty ground further up the mountainside; then a second wall, even more massive, and a third wall that dwarfed the other two. The crow flew on to what was protected by the walls: a castle.

The edifice seemed less a castle than a baroque monstrosity. It looked as if it had grown on the side of the mountain rather than been designed. From a foundation that rose up from the earth appeared turrets and gatehouses and battlements. Sections rose out of the main structure and went in different directions, built wildly this way or that and gave rise to further offshoots and higher towers. Some battlements formed the base of new battlements and towers and walls from which sprang even more additions. Some of the towers had connecting walkways built toward other sections until the whole building took on the appearance of an interconnected mass designed by an architect gone mad.

Towering above the walls that were designed to protect it, the building was made of the same dark rock. Plants and fungus had long ago taken hold and overgrown some of the isolated, far-flung sections of the structures. A few towers had fallen into neglect and tumbled down onto other sections where they lay, crumbling in decay. In the midst of the chaos, however, was one central section that showed a semblance of maintenance, an area of order in the surrounding shambles. It was to the peak of that section the crow flew.

Reaching the highest tower above the uppermost battlement upon the furthest part of this central section, the crow slowly circled around and landed on the ledge of a window carved into the rock of the wall. Far, far below lay the city, now tiny in the distance. The bird turned and peered into the gloom of the inner room, lit only by torches on opposing walls. It was the throne room of the castle. A throne sat on one side of the large room forty feet from the entranceway. No other features could be found within the stone room, other than a balcony leading to an outdoor ledge that overlooked the city below and a long animal-skin rug stretching out from the entrance to the throne.

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