Xander Doesn’t Believe In Destiny
The screams of the chambermaid filled the hallways of the castle. Seconds later the hurried footsteps of the guards echoed off the walls.
Xander sat up in his bed. His heart was beating wildly in his chest. This is it, he told himself. Today is the day.
The door slammed open and one of the castle guards burst in. He looked around wildly before his gaze settled on Xander. “Are you alright, my Lord?”
“I’m fine,” Xander responded. He swallowed hard before continuing. “I will be out shortly.”
The guard stood there in the door opening, one hand on the hilt of his sword, and stared at Xander.
It took Xander a moment before he realized the guard was waiting for more orders. What could he tell him to do? It was hard to think with all the screaming happening. “Um…Calm the servants, please. Give them a drink or something…” A drink always calmed his mother down. “And make sure no one enters the room. No one is to touch anything. I will need to…investigate?”
“Yes, sir, at once!” the guard acknowledged the order with a bow and rushed off down the hall.
Xander jumped out of bed. He could hardly believe the day of succession was here already. He would have liked another week or two to prepare. But that couldn’t be helped. He was ready. He had to be.
He pulled a box from under his bed and opened it. Inside were the treasures he found in a secret compartment in the abandoned tower room; a purple robe made from crushed velvet, a silver ring with a black stone, and an old, handwritten book.
The robe was too big for Xander. The sleeves fell well past his hands and the hem dragged over the floor when he wore it. The ring felt loose, even when he put it on his thumb. Neither of those things mattered. There was power in the items, he could feel it. The thing that worried him slightly was the book. Xander only understood parts of it.
Dressed in the purple robe, Xander stepped out into the hallway and nodded to the guards stationed outside his doors. Xander ignored the confused looks he got and calmly walked down the hall to his parent’s chambers. He passed a few softly sobbing chambermaids who were being led away by sympathetic guards. At least the screaming had stopped.
There were more guards outside his parent’s bedroom. One of them respectfully pulled open the heavy door for Xander as he approached. Inside the room he found the bodies of his parents, still untouched, laying in slowly spreading pools of crimson.
Xander kneeled next to the body of his mother and gently swept the hair out of her face. She looked peaceful and beautiful as ever. Xander felt his tears rolling down his face. He touched his wet cheeks, surprised he was crying. His parents had not been bad parents. They had been a bit too set in their ways and a bit dumb, but Xander did love them very much. Of course he had expected to be sad. He just didn’t think he would cry.
Xander averted his gaze from his mother’s face to his father, laying right beside her. His father’s lecture echoed through his head. “One day, my boy, you will find mom and dad lying in a pool of blood and you will have to go on a long and perilous journey to avenge our deaths.”
Xander was six years old when his destiny had first been explained to him. It was one hell of a story to spring on a young child to ensure he ate all his vegetables. For a long time Xander had been terrified to lose his parents. That was, until he grew a little older and started realizing how incredibly stupid the whole concept was.
Xander had begun to think that maybe his father had made the whole story up; that it was one of those strange grown-up jokes he didn’t understand. But the captain of the guard, who had been tasked with teaching the young lord the basics of sword fighting, slowly convinced him his destiny was real.
It had been the same for his father, and his father’s father, and his father’s father’s father, all the way back as far as anyone could remember. The Lord of the castle and his wife would be slain and the Lord’s son would go out and seek revenge for the death of his parents. Along the way the young Lord would find his fortune and his bride. After this quest, the young Lord and his Lady would return to the castle, wed, produce an heir, and live their days until the cycle repeated itself. Everyone appeared to be just fine with this ritual regicide because it was proper tradition. Xander had come to the conclusion that adults were all completely insane.
Find his fortune? For what? The castle’s treasure rooms were overflowing. Xander could wage a hundred wars for a hundred years and not deplete the amount of gold his family had amassed over generations of pointless quests for vengeance.
Find his bride? Ew. Girls were so gross. Xander was sure he would never want to marry. Regardless of what the guards told him after they had some wine, he didn’t want to see any breasts. Nor make any babies.
Get revenge? He still didn’t understand why his parents hadn’t done something to prevent their own death. They had known this was going to happen! Why didn’t they live in a secret place? Why didn’t they surround the castle with deadly traps? Why didn’t they hire more guards? Or at least have a guard in the room with them as they slept to make sure no one was sneaking in?
“Why were you so stubborn and stupid?” Xander whispered to his father’s corpse.
“My Lord?” a voice said softly and respectfully from the door opening.
Xander nodded. Yes. He was the Lord now. All the decisions were his. He never asked for it, never agreed with it, but everything that happened from this point on was entirely up to him. Things would change, beginning with his dumb destiny.
Xander stood up and turned with his chin held high in determination. In the doorway stood the captain of the guard. His wrinkled old face looked at the boy with soft sympathy. This man was his friend, his mentor, and the closest thing to a grandfather Xander had ever known.
“The assassins failed.” Xander announced in a loud voice. “My parents are gravely wounded and very likely poisoned, but they are still alive. I will take on my father’s duties until he recovers.”
The captain looked shocked for a moment before he straightened his back and gave a slight nod. “Yes, my Lord. Shall I send for the court doctors?”
The doctors! Xander had forgotten about them. “No!” He had to think of something quick. “No…Um… I can’t trust outsiders. They…might…work for the enemy. I will tend to my parents myself. I, um, I have been trained in medicine…to…help me on my quest…had the assassins succeeded, which they have not.”
“Of course, my Lord.” the captain responded with a slight bow.
“You will move my parents to the tower.”
“The tower, Lord?” The captain asked with raised eyebrows. Gasps and soft murmurs erupted from the guards gathered outside the doors in the hall.
“Yes, the tower. It is a safe place. No one will dare disturb them there while they recover.”
“As you wish, my Lord.”
“Yes. Good. And have lots of bandages and fresh herbs brought up to the tower room.” Xander said, satisfied with his performance. “And chicken soup. I need a large pot of chicken soup.” He couldn’t pretend to tend to the sick without chicken soup, after all. “Don’t let them forget the bread and butter!”
The captain turned in the door opening and yelled at his men: “You heard the Lord of the castle. Bring the bodies…” he threw a side glance at Xander, “The living bodies of his parents to the tower room at once and have the kitchen make the best chicken soup!” At that order four guards men rushed into the bedroom and carried the old Lord and Lady of the castle away.
The captain of the guard tuned back to Xander and looked at him with the same soft expression he had when he first entered the room. “Will that be all, my Lord?”
“For now,” Xander said. He felt fresh tears stinging the back of his eyes and blinked a few times to will them away. He had to clear his throat a couple of times before more words came out. “I will send for you if I need anything else…my friend.”
The old man reached out and gave the boy’s shoulder a soft squeeze. Then he left the room bellowing more orders to his men that Xander didn’t pay much attention to. Xander took in a deep, shaky breath and followed the guard’s men who were carrying his parents to the tower room.
When the guard’s men reached the tower room, they found two low tables covered in silk cloth and pillows in the middle of the room. Xander had been keeping the space prepared for almost two years, sweeping up dust every other day and hanging little bushels of dried lavender on the walls to combat the musty smell. He had washed the windows too. The room looked barren, but bright and friendly. It was obviously not what the guards had been expecting this room to look like.
“Please place my parents on the tables and leave.” Xander said from the door.
He startled the guards so much they almost dropped the bodies. The men quietly did as they were told and left as quickly as they could.
Xander closed the door behind them and barricaded it with a heavy wooden beam. Once he made sure he would not be disturbed, he walked to the corner of the room and opened up the secret compartment that once held the robe he was wearing, and took out the items he stored there; an ornate dagger, five red candles, a pouch with odd smelling incense, and a large piece of white chalk.
With the items spread out before him, he pulled the last and most important item from the folds of his oversized robe; the handwritten book. The leather that bound it was cracked. The spine had swollen and bend with moisture and age. The pages were stained, yellowed and torn. In some places it looked like some type of vermin had eaten away at the paper. A lot of the ink had run or faded. The book looked horrible. It was the most beautiful thing Xander had ever seen.
Carefully, so carefully he held his breath as he did it, Xander opened it to the place he had marked. The header on the page read To Raise The Dead.