Here’s part 7 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy for your afternoon ride home!
Bran the Betrayer Pt. 7
The three of them were taken down into Canran’s Council Chamber. Bran had only been there once before. It was easily the largest space in Canran’s Eyrie; a massive rounded room, designed much the same way as the Council Chambers in Malvern and Eagleholm, with a stepped gallery overhead where minor griffiners and others could watch Council proceedings. Below, on the floor, a carved stone platform in the shape of a sunwheel provided a place for the Eyrie Master to stand. A ring of smaller platforms around it were reserved for Council members. A magnificently painted domed ceiling covered everything.
Now, the chamber was crowded. Captured griffiners stood just outside the ring of Councillor’s seats, while ordinary citizens sat up in the gallery. Everyone was surrounded by enemy soldiers and griffiners, and aside from the occasional angry outburst nobody tried to fight back. Canran had surrendered.
Its conquerers stood up on the platform – two men clad in fine armour, whose partners wore decorative gold and silver rings on their forelegs. Eyrie Masters, both of them.
Lord Holm himself stood below the platform, with Dekrak beside him. Both of them were visibly angry and humiliated.
Bran and Kraeya were sent to stand with the other minor griffiners, and they waited there in silence to see what would happen next. Finally, one of the two conquering griffins – Bran didn’t know who was who – started to speak. Fortunately she spoke loudly and clearly so that everyone there could hear, so Bran found it easier to work out what she was saying. But he could have guessed anyway.
‘Dekrak!’ she crowed, tail held arrogantly high. ‘We have conquered your territory here today, and you have surrendered to us. Now our humans will talk, and you and your own human will obey them.’
Dekrak snarled, but said nothing. Beside him, Lord Holm’s face was full of barely concealed rage. But he too stayed silent, while one of the two victorious Eyrie Masters spoke.
‘I am Lord Kyron, Eyrie Master of Wylam,’ he said. ‘And this is Lord Ruel, Eyrie Master of Withypool.’ He raised his voice to address everyone there. ‘Today we have conquered Canran, but as you can see, we were merciful. Together our forces could have destroyed this city completely. But we spared your lives, because we did not come here to slaughter. Lord Holm – you and your council will agree to our demands, or our mercy will be withdrawn. Is that understood?’
‘Perfectly,’ Lord Holm growled.
‘Good. From this day on, Canran will answer to us. Your lands to the South as far as Potter’s Bay will now belong to Wylam, and all its taxes will be paid to my Eyrie. Meanwhile Canran will also pay tribute to Wylam.’
Cries of outrage came from the gallery where the Canran civillians and minor griffiners listened. Lord Holm and the Council, though, stayed sour-faced and silent.
Now Lord Ruel of Withypool stepped in. ‘Simultaneously,’ he said, ‘Canran’s lands to the East as far as the village of Herbstitt will now belong to Withypool, and all its taxes will be paid to my Eyrie. Canran will also pay tribute to Withypool.’
‘But we have come to offer mercy as well as demand payment,’ Lord Kyron resumed. ‘As a show of our goodwill, any Canran griffiner who wishes to do so may swear himself to Wylam or Withypool. We will accept you as long as you are loyal.’
Several griffiners there immediately stood up and called out that they would accept the offer.
Kyron waved them into silence. ‘Our officials will speak to each of you personally once this meeting is over. First – Lord Holm, you and your councillors will stay here in the Council Chamber. You will be told when you can leave.’
‘This is an outrage!’ Lord Holm finally shouted. ‘How dare you come here and speak to me this way, in my own city!’
Several of the soldiers and griffiners the conquerers had brought jeered and laughed at his humiliation. Most of the councillors, though, started to shout in agreement with their leader. Bran pulled back cautiously, holding onto Laela, sensing a fight.
Lord Kyron and Lord Ruel were quick to take control of the situation, though. Both of them snapped some quick orders, and in a moment the griffiners standing guard over the council stepped in and subdued them again, with threats or even a quick blow or two.
Bran was not one of those who flared up. He listened in disgust as other griffiners continued to shout out to their conquerers, promising to transfer their loyalty. Loyalty! As if griffiners had ever understood the meaning of that word!
Griffins certainly didn’t know the meaning of it; at that moment, Kraeya lowered her head to his ear and said; ‘We must choose a new Eyrie, and quickly.’
‘No we don’t!’ Bran hissed back. ‘We ain’t leavin’.’
‘We cannot stay,’ said Kraeya. ‘This Eyrie has just lost almost all its territory. Soon it will fall into ruin just as Eagleholm did.’
‘No, it’s better,’ said Bran. ‘No-one’ll think to look for us here. Lots of people from Eagleholm went to Withypool; you wanna get recognised? Someone’ll figure out who Laela’s real dad is, an’ then we’re all dead.’
‘Then we will go to Wylam,’ said Kraeya. ‘There is no future for us here.’
‘No, there’s no future for Laela if she goes where anyone pays attention to her,’ Bran argued.
‘We were safe here before,’ said Kraeya. ‘And I can protect you and the child.’
Bran knew that this was a bad place to argue, so he nodded vaguely and let the matter drop for the time being. They could decide later.
But later never came.
The minor griffiners were allowed to leave the Council Chamber then, shuffling out past their conquerers with either deference or open dislike. Bran went with them, intending to return to his room and wait until the situation changed. But as he passed a junior griffiner near one of the entrances, she called out to him.
‘You! Yes, you with the beard – stop there!’
Bran stopped and looked up. ‘Yeah, what is it?’
The woman peered at his face. ‘You look familiar. What’s your name?’
‘Lord Branton Redguard,’ said Bran. ‘An’ this here’s Kraeya.’
The woman tensed. ‘From Eagleholm?’
‘Yeah, that’s us,’ said Bran. ‘Why, are you from there too?’
‘Wait here a moment,’ said the woman. She hurried off.
Bran waited. ‘What’s this all about?’ he wondered aloud.
‘I do not know,’ said Kraeya. ‘But I do not like it.’
They waited anyway, watched by the woman’s partner. Bran tried to watch out for the woman, but she quickly disappeared into the crowd, which thinned out as people left.
Finally, just as he was starting to wonder if it would be a better idea to be on his way, the woman returned. There were two other griffiners with her now.
‘Branton Redguard?’ one said brusquely. ‘Former guard Captain of Eagleholm?’
‘That’s me,’ said Bran. ‘What’s this all about?’
The woman and one of the other griffiners she had brought advanced on him, while the third answered.
‘You’re under arrest,’ he said. ‘For high treason.’
We’ll post up Part 8 next Friday 13th April!
K.J Taylor is the author of the Fallen Moon Trilogy: