TOWER OF THE LORDS
Nesto aspires to
become an exceptional hunter, like his uncle, but, because of a strange mark on
his body, he ends up becoming the hunted one, instead.
That was why his
elder brother, Almar, decided to join the Order of the Lords, so that he could
earn the same title as the heroes who were bestowed with the fiery power of the
ancient gods and slew the vicious dragons. To gain the power needed to protect
Nesto from the unknown forces that wanted him dead.
Or, at least,
that’s what his uncle claims – his brother never actually returned to their
village. Under Almar’s instructions, Nesto is to follow in his brother’s
footsteps and undergo the ritual to accept the flame of the gods inside his
body. To learn how to control that burning power – capable of reducing his body
to ashes – and overcome the impossible trials in order to obtain the title and
the protection it grants. Oh, and all that, while he keeps his mark hidden, of
begins when he finds out that the unknown force that wants him dead is actually
the Order of the Lords.
1 - TRUST NO ONE
The torch the
old man held could barely cast its light on the winding stairs of the tower.
The livery he wore was now too tight for him, although he had been wearing it
throughout his life. He had yet to convince himself of what he intended to do.
He clambered down the stairs with difficulty, making sure he didn’t trip over
anything and, when he reached the last level, headed towards the third cell.
His boots grated on the rough stones and, although he heard drops of liquid
splattered across the floor, he paid no heed. He leant the blaze towards the
rails, and whistled through his teeth. “Young master…”
A skinny boy lay
coiled up in the corner of the cell, dressed in rags, his black hair greasy and
filthy. The servant took a bunch of keys out of his pocket and, picking one,
opened the gate. “Young master,” he repeated, this time in a somewhat louder
voice. The boy opened his eyes and jumped up, clenching his fist, ready to
attack…but he stopped as soon as he realised who stood before him.
The boy breathed
with difficulty, as if he had just woken up from a nightmare, and now that he
stood closer to the fire, he could make out the dried blood across his face,
and his wounds that hadn’t healed yet. “Quick, young master. Follow me. I’ll
help you escape.”
futile. I’ve tried it so many times before, and I’ve failed. Wherever I go,
he’s going to find me and drag me into one of these cells again.”
His face was
inscrutable, but pain and disillusion was painted across his eyes.
this time. Your father…”
“He’s not my
father, he is a demon!” His teeth gritted, and dark red rivulets of blood oozed
from his lower lip.
isn’t in the castle right now, and I don’t know when he’ll be back. Young
master, you know that there is a place where not even your father will be able
to track you down.” The boy was hesitant for a while, until there were some
heavy steps going down the stairs. Velmar grabbed him by the hand. “Hurry up!
This is your only chance.”
The old servant
walked as fast as he could, he almost ran, while the boy was following him with
ease. “We’ve got to get back,” the boy suddenly said. “The stairs are on the
other side. There’s only a dead end ahead of us.”
secret passage at the end of the corridor that only I know, young master. Trust
me.” When they came up against a wall, the servant brought the torch closer,
and began to grope the bricks with the other hand, while the footsteps behind
them grew louder by the second. All of a sudden, a dragging sound was heard,
and under their feet appeared a new flight of stairs. “Hurry up, young master.
We’re almost there.”
A strong, cold
wind blew inside the passage, making the flame flicker and sway, while the boy
shuddered with cold. Their feet waded through puddles of water, and Velmar was
out of breath from running. At the end of the tunnel, far from the castle, a
carriage with two impatient black horses awaited them. “We made it,” the man
wheezed. Thick droplets danced overhead, making the torch useless. He threw it
to the ground, and took a change of clothes out of his black mantle. “Take
these and go. Now! May the three ancient gods favour you.”
The boy’s face
froze. “What do you mean?” he grumbled. “Aren’t you coming? He won’t forgive
you if he learns you helped me. He’ll punish you. Come with me.”
“I can’t do
this. I have taken a sacred oath. No matter how harsh he is, I will serve
Master Jenon for the rest of my life. Go now, before it’s too late.” The boy
balked, but then obeyed.
watched the carriage leave, and got back. When he reached the top of the tower,
he was already out of breath, his back was killing him, and his knees cracked
from ascending so many stairs. Another two towers loomed behind him, vying with
each other in piercing through the clouds that engulfed them. Further below,
wild waves, like frenzied monsters, were doing battle for supremacy.
He saw him standing
next to a thick wooden pole, from which hung heady chains, while his red coat
was flapping in the wind, and his white, moist hair was stuck on his face. To
that very pole, he used to tether the young master, leaving him with no food
for weeks. This was just one of the multitude of tortures that poor boy was
subjected to. “Is it done?” Jenon’s voice sounded heavy and inhuman, like a
“I helped the
young master escape, as requested.”
The man with the
white hair turned towards Velmar. Despite his hair, his face looked young, as
if he were only in his early thirties, while his right cheek was furrowed with
three slashes that stood out as they were darker than his complexion. His red
eyes that glistened like rubies turned black, as soon as he blinked. “Very
well,” he said. Just like his red eyes, his inhuman voice vanished. “From now
on, his fate is in that person’s hands—Zoloc.”
aware that I am in no position to question your decisions, but still, I think
it would be preferable for the young master to stay here, under your
He gnashed his
teeth. “We both know full well what happened last time I tried to protect
“But that place,
that horrible place…”
“I know.” Jenon
ran his fingers through his hair to pull some wisps away from his face, and
then turned his head over in the other direction. “They want to kill him,
Velmar, and I’m not going to allow this to happen. I have been planning this
for the last sixteen years. Ironically, the safest place for him, right now, is
the place that is known as the most dangerous. The Tower of the Lords.”
Small drops of
rain were raging outside Nesto’s window. It was a rainy day. He hated these
days. His father had abandoned him and his elder brother on an overcast, dull
day. It wasn't raining at the time, but every single time rain reminded him of
his tears. Several years later, so did his brother. He hadn’t cried on that
occasion, but the sky did it for him. Ever since, he hated three things: his
father, his brother and, most of all, the rain. In a way, he was relieved that
his mother was already dead, otherwise she might have dumped him, too.
He lay in bed,
groping the mark across the ribs with his fingers: three dark lines that looked
like scratches. He was trying to remember when he got it, when a double knock
on the door roused him. He put on his boots and hooded top, and went down the
stairs. The house was empty and cold; two bodies weren't enough to warm it, let
alone now that Garon, his uncle, was away, and Nesto was on his own.
His uncle was a
hunter, the best ever, or at least that’s what he was apt to say. He had been
away for the last couple of days. Hunting lasted for at least three days, and
there were times it went on for ten or more, but each time he came back with
enough kill to feed the whole village. He gave it all to the local butcher in
return for a basket of warm bread, cheese, meat and, sometimes, fruit on an
double knock, Nesto opened the door, only to see the butcher’s daughter
standing there, dripping wet, basket in hand. “You really needn’t have brought
it yourself, Lirelle,” he said to her. “I would have come over to collect it.”
Just as he did every day.
“You were late,
and I wanted to see you.” Her hair was held back, revealing her pretty face.
Blue eyes, red lips, and a curvy body. She was perfect, bar a small flaw—she
was mad and desperate. There wasn't a single boy at Grakehall that hadn’t
received her flirting. Her obsession with marriage had led her to Nesto’s door
over the last couple of days. The other boys must have surely rejected her.
Nesto had curly hair and brown eyes, while his medium height and thin hands
didn’t make him particularly popular with girls. I guess she is that desperate.
She gave him a
slight push with her hand, and walked in. After placing the basket on the table
by the wall, she let her hair down. “Garon must still be busy hunting,” she
said, having shot him a furtive glance. “Great. We are alone.”
“I’m sure he’s done
with the hunting, and will be here any minute now,” Nesto said. That was a lie.
Most probably, the first he had ever told, and apparently not a very good one.
“He won’t be
back until tomorrow, I know that. I’m the butcher’s daughter, silly boy.” She flashed
him a promising smile. “You’ll soon turn sixteen, a grown man. I know that very
well because, every time Garon visits my father, he mentions that we were born
on the same day.” Lirelle shortened the distance between them. She wore an
olive green dress, which didn’t manage to hide her cleavage, and Nesto’s eyes
always fell on it. She grabbed his hand and put it on her heart, while biting
her lower lip. “Don’t you think I’m beautiful, Nesto?” she asked, and she
instantly received a nervous ‘no’ for an answer.
A second lie,
and the fact that his hand still rested on her breast made it far less
As soon as he
realised it, he pulled his hand away and took a few steps backwards, while
Lirelle turned in the other direction, holding her body with her own hands. Her
wet dress made her shiver with cold. Nesto offered to fetch her a blanket to
keep her warm, but she paid no heed. “You like me,” she stated after a while.
“I’ve seen the way you look at me. Why don’t you marry me, then?”
The third lie came
more natural than ever. “I can’t. I’m soon leaving Grakehall. I intend to
challenge the Tower of the Lords,” he responded, then he recalled his brother.
Those were, more or less, his words when he abandoned Nesto. He wondered if his
words had been just as phoney.
Maybe it was the
memory of his brother and the rage that it incited, but Lirelle seemed to have
believed him this time. She must have been truly desperate, for she left
without saying a word, almost in tears.
His first lie
came true as Garon returned from hunting that very evening. In contrast to
Nesto, he was tall and stocky, with long black hair. He wore a dark green
hooded coat, and strapped around his shoulder was his longbow. He carried no
kill and, judging by the look on his face as he opened the door, he hadn’t left
it with the butcher. Nesto seldom saw that puzzled and sad expression; only on
those rare occasions when hunting came to naught. He said nothing. He never did
when his pride was wounded, and hunting was the only thing he was proud of.
While Garon was
washing his hands, Nesto was preparing dinner. Even at the table, his uncle
kept silent. “Lirelle’s obsession with marriage has gotten even worse. This
time, she’s drawn a bead on me,” said Nesto, in an attempt to make him speak,
while avoiding any mention of the kill. Rubbing salt in the wound would do no
“It’s not the
girl’s fault. I may exchange my kill with the butcher, but I don’t like him at
all; I never did. I’m sure the poor girl is suffering at his hands.”
For an instant,
he took pity on her, but what could he do? Marry her? No way! Ever since
he was abandoned by his father and brother, he didn’t want anyone by his side;
he trusted no one, except Garon.
again, until Nesto blurted out: “Was hunting so bad?”
“I didn’t go
“What? Why not?”
Garon huffed and
pushed his plate aside. “I was hoping we could have one last peaceful dinner,
but it seems that I can’t prolong this any more. I went to see an old
acquaintance of mine to make some arrangements. First thing in the morning,
you’re leaving for the City of Kings, Nesto. You are entering the Tower of the
He let out a
muffled laugh. Garon’s completely stern face, though, showed that it was yet
another lie of those Nesto told come true. When Almar, his brother, had
decided, six years before, to leave for the “Tower,” Garon had tried to talk
him out of it. For a whole week, they had been arguing, until his uncle gave
up. He must think that I’m just like him. “I’m not like my brother, I’m
not going to abandon you. Only a fool would try to claim the title of a Lord.”
“Shut up, you
fool!” Garon shot to his feet. “Don’t talk about your brother like that!” He
walked into his room, by the stairs, and when he got back, he was holding a
rag. Unfolding it, he revealed a small green weapon that looked like a knife,
only a little longer. “Don’t you remember a single thing of what he told you
the day he left?” he asked, as he threw the weapon to him.
Nesto used both
hands to catch it. Its handle was wooden, while its shining green blade was
made of glass. It must have been really sharp as, at its very touch, his skin
oozed blood. These red rivulets put him in mind of the rain he detested, and
the memory he had been fighting back rushed through his mind. Tears. He didn’t
want to admit it, but he had cried once again. He had begged, chafed, bitten and, finally, got hold of the weapon
his brother had always carried along, but still he didn’t manage to convince
He looked at his
hand. He cut himself in the very same spot, back then. He broke out in a cold
sweat, when he recalled his brother squeezing and pressing his wound, hugging
him, and whispering: “That mark of yours across the ribs, don’t show it to
anyone. They want you dead, Nesto. Trust no one!”