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August 15, 2022

The Council of Nine: Part I

By Kevin Landis

The room was silent, bathed in soft candle light. Nine chairs encircled a large round table, nine men filled them. The men all wore dark cloaks with hoods. They were old men, not by years but by deeds. Their faces carried hard lines of hate, rage, slanderous words, and murderous actions.

"There is another matter to consider," one said, a burly man whose black hair and neatly trimmed beard was now streaked with white and gray. He let out a long stream of smoke from his pipe and continued, "We must come to a decision. Who will handle the matter of the king's son."

"I wasn't aware that we had decided a course of action." A thin, red haired man across from him said.

A third man answered, his hands folded calmly on the table. "The young prince cannot be allowed to continue in his present course, this we agree on. How it shall be handled is irrelevant, someone must neutralize the situation. The only question is who."

"Neutralize?!" The thin man with red hair said, standing up dramatically, he quickly collected himself, "Is that necessary?"

"Essential," Another man said, standing also and picking his sword up off the ground, sliding it into the sheath on his back. "and I will do it."

He then turned to address the thin man with red hair.

"You, Malcolm, deliver this letter to the prince," He said, pulling a folded paper from his coat and sliding it across the table, "This will give him one last chance."

"It is decided then," The black haired man said, standing up, "then we shall adjourn."

:

"What's the first thing you'll do?" David asked, releasing his grip on the arrow and letting it fly toward the target.

"I don't know." Saam said, releasing his arrow also. "There is so much this kingdom needs, so much to do."

David's shot hit the bull's-eye and Saam's hit the left rim of the target.

Saam pulled another arrow from his quiver. He examined it for straightness.

"I worry of the lords, will they be willing to turn over their power? We could be headed for a war."

Saam frowned, confronted with the thought of meeting with the lords, discussing so many problems and solutions. Saam was a simple young man, sixteen years old and tall. He had fire red hair and green eyes, just like his father, the late king. The king died almost six months ago, assassinated by an unknown killer.

The king was a good father but a bad ruler. He lacked the courage to address the serious issues, he knew this. Everyone knew. He was labeled a coward, and a poor diplomat. Toward the end of his short rule he started improving.

The planet of Eiraithia had not be at war with another planet in four centuries. Peace reigned in the galaxy, most crime was under control. Most disputes were handled peacefully.

Saam was troubled. There was a nagging feeling inside him. Like a terrible itch that he couldn't seem to scratch. He knew why. Rumors were circulating the kingdom, through the towns and provinces, like bees around a hive.

The council of nine.

Most call them myth, some believe there is some truth behind them, Few believe they are a powerful entity. The rumor names the council as the king's assassin.

"Who do you think killed my father?" Saam asked, notching an arrow and taking aim at the target. Then lowering his bow again and turning to David, awaiting his response.

David paused, tilting his head sideways, He always looked funny when he was thinking.

"Perhaps," David lowered his voice to almost a whisper, "The council of nine." He didn't sound too certain.

"You believe those stories." Saam said, not sure himself.

"The council must exist," David concluded, slinging his bow over his shoulder, "How evil and powerful they really are is the question."

Saam descided he was finished with archery practice for this morning. He picked up his belongings and the two started the walk back to the palace.

Morning archery practice was a highlight in Saam's day. His instructor and friend, David, was a pleasure to spend time with. They met every morning at dawn. Saam was two years his senior but no where near his skill with the bow.

They hiked up the steps of the palace, a white piece of paper lie folded on the doorstep.

"Mail isn't delivered this early is it?" David asked, looking inquisitively at the paper, "More fan mail for you perhaps?" David joked.

"You seem more interested in it than I, you read it to me."

David picked up the letter and opened the seal.

Prince Saam, You are ordered by the council of nine to take no action against us. In the position of king you will increasingly become aware of our presence. Our actions often fall under what your laws call crimes. We adhere to a code much older than you or this government. If you seek to investigate us, slow us, or destroy us you will meet a bitter end. We have operated for hundreds of years how we now do. No king has yet chosen to oppose us. Support us and your rule will be one of content, peace and security. Oppose us and we will destroy you and all you hold dear.

We give you your first task: You meet with the lords of Eiraithia tomorrow, make no peace with them or between them. -

The council of nine

David finished reading and there was a thick silence. Saam took the letter, and reread it. He sat down on the steps of the palace, going over the words again and again.

"The words will not change, no matter how many times you read them." a voice said.

David and Saam looked up, a man in a dark cloak and hood stood at the bottom of the palace stairs.

The man reached up and took his hood down, revealing red hair and a familiar face.

Saam stared a moment, "Malcolm?" he said, questioning.

"It is I," Malcolm said, walking up the steps and coming to a stop a few feet away.

"I was instructed to deliver that letter and then leave."

"Who told you to deliver this letter?" Saam asked.

"What I will tell you I cannot tell you in open daylight." Malcolm replied, darkly.

David opened the door to the palace and followed Saam and Malcolm inside.

The palace was a modest one, it had 35 rooms, not counting the open roof and several gardens. David and Saam seated themselves in the large dining hall. Malcolm walked quickly around the room closing all the blinds one by one, finally he took a seat also.

"As you know," He began, "I am a member of the interplanetary security agency. My assignment for the past seven years involved the infiltration of a certain well known group."

"The council of Nine!" David nearly shouted, amazed.

Malcolm nodded.

"Please, don't speak their name aloud." Malcolm continued, "In that time I have seen much corruption, much murder. They are moving to control you kingdom and much more." He said to Saam.

"Impossible!" Saam said, fingering the letter, "Nine people against all my forces."

"Eiraithia is not united," Malcolm pointed out, "The lords do what they please, no king yet has be able to control them. They can easily play into the Council's hands."

"They command me to not make peace in the letter," Saam observed, "But it warns me not to defy them."

"A council member will be present at the meeting banquet," Malcolm said, "If you seek peace with the lords you will be killed."

Saam thought a moment, he stood up and began pacing the room feverishly.

"There are only nine of them, correct?" Saam asked.

"Nine cold blooded killers, Trained in the ancient arts of combat and possessing much technology." Malcolm said.

"I will have the nine men arrested, and imprisoned," Saam said, "They will be tried for their crimes, you will testify against them."

Malcolm shook his head.

"You just don't get it do you? You can't try to treat them like everyday criminals, no jail can hold them."

"What do you mean by that?" David asked.

"You will see," Malcolm said, "I risk a lot by coming to you here. I will be at the banquet tomorrow; Find a way to unite the lords."

"What is the extent of the council's power?" David asked Malcolm.

"It knows almost no bounds." Malcolm said, "The council has held the strings to every king and lord that ever ruled, Except you," he turned to Saam, "You have the power to stop them."

"How?" Saam asked.

"I don't know." Malcolm replied.

David looked confused, "Then how do you know he has the power to stop them?"

"Because they fear him." Malcolm replied.

:

Goblets of wine lined the table, noisy conversation, hearty laughter, and whispering engulfed the banquet hall. The meal was over, superficial toasts had been made and the mood was, generally speaking, one of nervous anticipation.

David and Saam stood in a corner.

"Have you spotted Malcolm?" Saam asked.

"Earlier, but I don't see him now." David replied, head down, more than a little nervous himself.

"Any idea who the council member that is here to kill me might be?" Saam asked.

David let out a little nervous laughter.

"Maybe him." David said, nodding toward the tall figure in the opposite corner.

The tall figure was wearing a dark cloak and hood, he stood rather consciously in the far corner of the room. There was a bulge on his back, undoubtedly a sword or crossbow.

"You should begin." David said, "But I think it would be safer if you cleared this room out a little bit."

Saam nodded.

"Ladies, Gentleman. If I might have your attention." Saam shouted stepping forward. "I would like to meet with you all but, tonight, I must meet with only a few of you."

"If each lord would select one attendant or advisor and join me in the next room." Saam said, emphasizing the word one.

Most of the lords were born into their positions, they had no real leadership ability. For this reason they were always surrounded by a plethora of advisors. Saam usually found himself talking more to the advisors than to the lords.

The next room contained a long wooden table. Twenty-eight chairs were set just sufficient for Saam, David and the 13 lords and their respective advisors.

Two people, besides those expected, entered the room, they stood in opposite corners. If you weren't looking for them you definitely wouldn't see them. One was Malcolm, the other was the tall figure, both wore loose-fitting black cloaks that could easily hide a weapon.

"My friends," Saam began, gesturing them to sit, "I will called you all here for a reason."

The lords and their advisors responded with skeptical looks. It had been many centuries since a king had been able to satisfy all the lords at once.

"The way I see it, we want the same thing." Saam tried to scan the room, looking for the man in the cloak, "You, lords of the kingdom, want your cities to prosper. I want the whole planet to prosper."

Saam paused, unable to spot the man in the black cloak.

"That is why I propose peace, between all of you and-" Saam's words were cut short, he felt cold steal against his neck.

"You had to defy us!" A voice hissed from behind him.

Saam turned his head slightly and caught a glimpse of the man in the dark cloak holding the sword that was brushing his neck.

"Hold!" Malcolm cried from across the room, he revealed a crossbow pointed at the man in the cloak.

The man in the cloak was not at all surprised, he huffed and nodded to one of the lord's advisors.

"We knew there was a traitor among us," The advisor said, "The Council decided it was you and sent me to make sure nothing stopped our mission."

The advisor pointed his own crossbow at Malcolm. A wicked smile spread across his face.

The Lord whose advisor held the crossbow looked confused, "What is the meaning of this!" He shouted.

David silently strung his bow and slipped two arrows out of his quiver.

"The council of nine," Saam said, giving a very slight nod to David. "They don't want me to make peace with you."

The lords all look quite shocked, and afraid. Tension was high, no one moved. Not the man in the cloak, not Malcolm, not the lord's advisor who held the crossbow. Only David moved, ever so slowly, notching his arrows, removing some feathers and gripping the bow tightly.

"The council made an error, though," David spoke, all eyes slowly turned towards him. "They sent only two members." David pulled back his bow, still carefully concealed under the table.

The advisor who held the crossbow laughed, "It appears two is plenty, the traitor and the prince will be dead in moments, our world will be rid of two weak-minded fools!"

"Your right about one thing," David said, standing up. In a flash he raised his bow pointed between the two council members and released. The arrows diverged paths skimming apart each striking a council member in the chest.

A sword clanged to the floor, followed by the dull thud of a crossbow. The advisor and the man in the dark cloak each lay in a heap on the floor. Dead. The room let out a breath of relief.

"The world has been rid of two weak-minded fools." David finished setting his bow down.

:

The room was silent, bathed in soft candle light, nine chairs encircled a large round table, six were filled, three empty. The men all wore dark cloaks with hoods. They were old men, not by years but by deeds. Their faces carried hard lines of hate, rage, slanderous words, murderous actions, and fear.

Article © Kevin Landis. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-02-07
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