*Warning: this one’s a long ‘un*
Today, you get to meet Lorcan Aelysk, Haelean prince and commander of the forces attempting to…acquire Fariel for the Emperor.
Today’s interview sees me one again outside the comforts of my office and in the wilds of Fariel. The carriage rattles along the pock marked road, jolting something fierce. I try to keep my mouth open so I don’t destroy my teeth from all the bumping together but I’m not sure it’s working , and I am sure I look ridiculous. We are somewhere near the border between Fariel and the southern-most extent of the Haelean Empire although no one is exactly sure where that border lies. It depends who you ask, really. The Haeleans will tell you there is no border between the Empire and Fariel. Fariliens will tell you precisely where it is, as if you could tell the difference between a Farilien tussock and a Haelean one. I’ve drawn the border myself, countless times, but that still doesn’t make it real.
And even if I wanted to, I can’t pinpoint our exact location. The curtains are drawn across the windows and my stern companion, blade sitting unsheathed across his knees, doesn’t seem inclined to let me peep out at the passing countryside.
I lose track of time but eventually the carriage bumps to a stop. My companion holds up his hand, a command to stay put, and leans out of the carriage. He exchanges words with someone but they are speaking too quickly for me to understand. My grasp of Low Haelean is, at best, mediocre. Something is passed through the carriage door. A blindfold, improvised from a saddle rag by the looks of it. I lean forward and let my companion wrap the cloth over my eyes. I crinkle my nose. Definitely horsey. Someone grabs me by the arm and guides me out of the carriage (none too gently, I might add). We walk a short distance and there is a short exchange of words followed by the creak of gate. I am tugged along a straight path and I hear a door opened. I am shoved through and the blindfold is ripped from my head, taking a few strands of hair with it. I wince, rubbing at my stinging head. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the dim light in the room. Or hall, I should say. It’s a large timbered thing, big enough to hold a couple of hundred if necessary. A table sits to the left of the door, flanked by two chairs. One is occupied. The man in the chair looks me up and down, his face unreadable. Is this how the others feel when they arrive in my office for their interviews?
“Prince Lorcan?” I guess. His hair is cropped close to his head and his face is clean shaven. I can’t see the colour of his eyes in the poor light – some shade of blue, maybe.
The henchman still holds my forearm in a pincer like grip. “Thank you for agreeing to meet with me.”
Lorcan seems amused. He waves his hand and my arm is released. I ignore the temptation to shake feeling back into it. My hand prickles as the blood rushes back. “I was curious,” he says. “As to why a Farilien chronicler would want to meet with me. Would dare to.”
“I’m not Farilien.”
“Then what are you?”
“Impartial,” I reply, taking a seat in the second chair.
“So why did you want to interview me?”
“With respect, Prince Lorcan, I am the one here to ask questions. You are here to answer them.”
His mouth twitches, with annoyance or amusement. He spreads his hands and then folds them on his knee. “Very well,” he says. “Ask.”
“Why are you here?”
He frowns. “I don’t follow.”
“Why are you, Lorcan of Kyn Aelys, here at the head of the Haelean forces trying to turn Fariel from an independent nation state into just another province of the Haelean Empire?”
“I was sent.”
“By who?” I press.
Silence stretches between us. His foot twitches. “My father.”
“And do you want to be here?”
“Want?” he scoffs. “What does what I want have to do with it?”
“Or who?” I suggest.
His face clouds over and he grits his teeth. “Next question.”
“Alright. What is the importance of Fariel to the Empire?”
Lorcan shrugged. “How should I know?”
“Surely you’d be clear on that before you agreed to change the lives of millions of people?” I ask, incredulous.
His lip curls. “Millions of heathens. Pagans.”
“So it comes down to religion, then?” Lorcan shifted uncomfortably. “Are you religious?” I ask.
I raise my eyebrows. “Fine. But your reluctance to answer will be reflected in the history I write. Do you want the annals to say, ‘In 878 F.A., Prince Lorcan of Kyn Aelys led an army of Haeleans against the nation of Fariel because his father told him to. There appears to be no other testifiable record. It may have had something to do with religion but as his father hadn’t prepped him on how to respond to such a question, Lorcan could not conclusively say one way or another.’?” I look him up and down. “Inspiring stuff, my prince.”
Lorcan leaned forward, his knuckles white on the arms of his chair. “When I am finished here, there won’t be a trace of your record or your precious Fariel left.” He sprang to his feet. “Your words will be forgotten, Chronicler, for I will wipe Fariel from history altogether.”
Next week, we’ll end this series (for now) with Anjez. Get keen 😀