Book 1 of the Majat Code
RELEASE DATE: February 25, 2014
Kara is a mercenary – a Diamond warrior, the best of the best, part of the Majat Guild. When her tenure to Prince Kythar comes to an end, he wishes to retain her services, but must accompany her back to her Guild to negotiate her continued protection.
When they arrive they discover that the prince’s sworn enemy, the Kaddim, have already paid the Guild to engage her services – to capture and hand over the prince (who she has grown very fond of).
A warrior brought up to respect both duty and honour, what happens when her sworn duty proves dishonourable?
Chapter 1: KADDIM
Prince Kythar Dorn waited for his friends at the entrance to the small courtyard. It was a perfect, secluded spot. A cool breeze wafted through the columned gallery at the far end, carrying the fresh smells of lake water and bread baking in the palace kitchens. Up above, a lonely watchtower crowned the jagged line of the battlements looming against the clear morning sky. A hawk shrieked overhead, out on its early morning hunt.
Feet rustled on dry stone and a shadow fell across the pavement by his side. Kyth turned and met Ellah’s sharp hazel-green eyes. He nodded to the girl, his gaze sliding past her to where his foster brother Alder had just emerged from the garden passage behind. He looked sleepy as he hurried toward them, straightening out his shirt.
Kyth’s smile faded as he realized that the passage behind Alder was empty. “Kara couldn’t make it?”
Ellah shook her head. “She said to start without her. She’ll try to join us later if she can.”
Kyth nodded, swallowing his disappointment. Without Kara, a Diamond-ranked Majat warrior and the girl of his dreams, it wouldn’t be the same. Her fighting skill would have allowed Kyth to test the true level of his newly mastered ability to focus the wind onto the tip of his sword. Not that he could ever hope to match her.
He glanced at his foster brother, who was rolling up his sleeves to expose the impressive muscle of his forearms. Alder reached for the axe strapped across his back, then caught Kyth’s gaze and grinned. “We don’t need Kara – let’s first see if you can handle me, brother.”
“Just don’t lose your axe.” Kyth drew his sword and moved into position.
Ellah’s eyes darted across the yard and to the top of the wall. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
Kyth inhaled a full breath of the Lakeland wind, feeling it course through his body with new energy. He grinned. “You did want to see how my gift worked, didn’t you?”
“Yes, but suppose someone sees us.”
“No one’s going to see us.”
“What about the guards on that watchtower?”
Kyth narrowed his eyes, glancing at the massive stone structure overhead. “Empty. This one overlooks the lake, so it’s rarely manned. Besides, even if anyone saw us they’d just assume we are out for weapons practice.”
“With a sword against an axe?”
“Come now, it’ll be all right. Trust me.”
Ellah pursed her lips, subsiding into silence.
Kyth edged further into the yard–
– and froze.
A sense of foreboding, just at the edge of consciousness, held him in place. He hesitated, feeling the small hairs on his neck stand on end.
Ellah frowned. “What is it, Kyth?”
“I’m not sure.” He strained his senses to penetrate the corners of the courtyard, all the way into the deep shadows under the columns, but couldn’t detect anything out of place.
“Well,” Ellah said. “Why don’t you get on with it, then?” She shielded her eyes against the sunlight and swept past, heading for the shade by the far wall.
A warning cry caught in Kyth’s throat as he finally realized what was wrong.
There were no sounds.
He could no longer feel the wind. Morning air wavered over the smoothly hewn stones of the ancient pavement with the rising heat of early sunbeams. Ellah’s short brown hair and the folds of her dress hung limply as she strode across the yard.
She paused and glanced at Kyth with question. Alder lowered his axe, his eyebrows shooting up in surprise.
Kyth’s skin crawled. An invisible blanket of power descended onto the small courtyard. It rolled over his head, smothering sounds, absorbing all movement into its blunt softness.
Someone nearby was using a strange sort of power. A Gift, strong enough to penetrate the entire area.
A lot stronger than Kyth’s.
Great Shal Addim.
“Ellah, get back. Now!” Kyth locked his eyes with Alder’s, both raising their weapons.
“Greetings, Highness.” The voice that echoed behind them crept through the yard like a snake poising to strike.
Kyth spun around.
Shadows by the wall shifted and became a hooded shape, wrapped in a black priest-like robe.
Kyth gasped and backed off. He could have sworn there was no one there when they first arrived. Too late, he noticed the deep protrusion of the wall by the arched courtyard gateway. He had never realized the niche was so deep. How the hell did he get in here?
The hooded man chuckled. He clicked his fingers, answered by movement beside the columns at the far end. At least a dozen men stepped out of the shadows and fanned out, blocking the way to escape. They were dressed for action, folds of their black robes tucked into their belts, loose pants girded at the ankles by the tall cuffs of their leather boots.
Kyth recognized their weapons, spiked balls hanging on long, thin chains. Orbens – powerful, but extremely hard to master, banned for centuries after the fall of the Old Empire. A sword was all but useless against them, at least for someone with Kyth’s limited skill. Pits of hell. He edged further away, keeping as many men as he could in his line of sight. They idled, holding their weapons but not attacking.
The hooded man stepped forward. Sunlight fell onto his face illuminating gaunt features, his eyes of such pale brown that they looked yellow. Animal-like.
“So, we finally meet, Prince Kythar.”
“Who are you?” Kyth demanded.
The man’s smile wormed over his thin lips. “You may call me Kaddim Tolos.”
- The strange title echoed in Kyth’s mind with a half-memory. A blend of opposites in the old tongue, Kadan – Destroyer, and Addim – Creator. Where had he heard this before? His skin crept. “What do you want?”
“You.” The man raised his hands, palms downward.
A silent thunder rolled through the courtyard. Waves of smothering force pounced onto Kyth’s head. Alder and Ellah gasped and doubled over, sinking down to the stone pavement.
Kyth rushed to his friends but the attackers closed their ring, forcing him to a halt.
“Ah,” Tolos said. “I can see your gift has grown strong enough to resist our power, Highness.”
Kyth clenched his sword. How does he know about my gift?
The attackers drew closer, spinning their weapons with a short leeway. Spiked metal balls blended into gleaming circles. Kyth felt the wind on his face as he edged around their line searching for a possible gap.
“They will not harm you,” Tolos said. “Unless I order them to. All in all, we would like to capture you alive, but if we have to injure you in the process–”
Kyth swept his eyes around the group. Too many to face by himself, but he would be damned if he gave in without a fight. He concentrated. As the attackers neared, he feinted at the closest one and countered the anticipated block by shifting the other way. He aimed low. His sword ripped through the cloth with a satisfying crack, but didn’t graze the flesh as the attacker twisted out of the blade’s way with snakelike speed. Damn. He crouched, trying to keep as many attackers as possible in sight.
Too late, he noticed more shapes sliding in from behind. Where the hell are they coming from? He yelped as hands gripped his elbows with a numbing force. Their clammy fingers once again made him think of snakes. Constrictors, judging by the way his arms were rapidly losing feeling. His sword clanked on the stone pavement, an oddly loud sound in the smothering stillness of the windless air.
Kaddim Tolos chuckled. “There, Highness, see? No need to trouble yourself with pointless fighting.” He nodded to his men. “Let’s go.” He headed for the outer castle wall, but a new sound at the courtyard entrance forced him to a halt.
A lithe, muscular figure burst into the yard. A woman, moving so fast her shape blurred as she darted toward Kyth’s abductors.
- Kara. Despite the danger, warmth rushed through Kyth’s body at the mere sight of her. Slim and neat in her closely tailored black outfit, she wielded two narrow swords as if they were a natural continuation of her hands. Her short blond hair gleamed against her dark skin, the ranking diamond in her Majat armband shining in the sun.
The air exploded with steel, Kara’s blades hacking through the hooded men’s line. The grip on Kyth’s elbows eased. He dropped to the pavement, searching for his sword.
Kaddim Tolos raised his hands again.
Waves of smothering force pounced onto the courtyard. Kara stumbled, hovering like a tightrope walker losing balance. Then, to Kyth’s horror, she swayed and collapsed onto the stone pavement, swords sliding out of her hands.
No one in the world should have the power to disable a Diamond Majat.
Great Shal Addim.
The attackers regrouped, fanning out among the bodies of their fallen comrades.
“Finish her off.” Tolos held his hands steady to maintain the flow of force.
No! Kyth’s mind raced. He would be damned if he stood by uselessly, watching Kara die. He would fight for her to his last breath.
If only Kaddim Tolos didn’t smother the wind. Without it, Kyth couldn’t use his Gift. There was no power he could focus.
Could he use Kaddim Tolos’s force?
He opened up his senses, absorbing the smothering waves rolling through the courtyard. The dark power felt strange, bitter as it entered his body. He steadied himself, letting it flow freely into his calm center, out to the limbs.
New strength coursed through his veins. He focused, concentrating its flow on the tip of his sword.
It wasn’t the same as the wind, but it would have to do. Grasping his sword, he took a running leap through the hooded men’s line. They met him with spinning orbens, but he was faster this time. He side-stepped the figures rushing at him without really seeing them, his entire senses focused on Tolos standing motionlessly by the wall. He had to get to this man, take him out before he did any more damage. Before his men killed Kara, sprawled helplessly on the courtyard stones.
A spiked metal ball whizzed by Kyth’s ear. He half-saw the surprise on his enemy’s face as he danced around the weapon. Ducking and jumping, diving and rolling over the ground, he broke through the attackers’ line and launched himself on Tolos, using the momentum to thrust an upward blow straight at the man’s chest.
Tolos moved with unexpected speed. Kyth’s sword harmlessly brushed the black robe and the man’s fingers caught his wrists in an iron grip. The sword slid out of his hand, but the pressure stayed, until he could no longer feel his hands.
He slowly raised his head and looked at the sharp features framed by the hood. The man’s yellow eyes hypnotized. Kyth felt like a fly trapped in a web.
The attackers surrounded them.
“No more distractions, I think,” Kaddim Tolos said with a smirk.
“Think again,” a deep female voice echoed through the yard.
- Kyth’s heart pounded. Was the delay provided by his attack enough to give her the advantage she needed?
“Blast,” Tolos said through clenched teeth. “Didn’t I tell you men to finish her off?” He raised his hands again. A new wave of force hit the courtyard.
Kyth’s eyes locked on Kara’s.
This time she remained upright, caught in the onflow of force, her violet eyes shining like amethysts in the setting of her dark skin. Her face became hollow, ashen gray with the strain. A streak of blood oozed down from her nostril. The attackers closed in on her like vultures.
Kyth groaned, uselessly struggling in the hands of his captors. He couldn’t bear to see her die. If it wasn’t for his stupid, careless wish to sneak out to a remote place to practice his forbidden gift–
Resist them, Kara, he prayed. Please, don’t let them win.
He held her gaze.
Fight them, Kara, he thought, sending the feeling toward her with such force that he was sure she would sense it even without words. Fight, for I cannot bear to lose you.
Her eyes widened. She hovered for a moment, then slowly steadied herself, straightening against the oppressive flow. Her muscles rippled, a barely perceptible wave that ran down her body, restoring her graceful, confident posture.
The attackers sensed the change. They raised their weapons with renewed urgency, but none of them could possibly be fast enough to match her. She slashed into their line, her shape a blur as she swept through like a human whirlwind. Men fell to her blades left and right, their blood painting the stones dark crimson. Others backed off, their faces showing fear as they kept their distance.
In mere moments the impressive attack force was reduced to a disorderly group, huddled together in a fight for their lives.
“Retreat!” Kaddim Tolos commanded. His yellow eyes sought out Kyth’s and fixed him with a chilling stare. “We’ll meet again, Highness.”
He turned and darted toward the castle wall. A small grappler hook shot out of his sleeve. He flung it up to catch on the edge of the wall high above his head and flew up the rope so fast that he looked like a grotesque black bird with his wing-like robe flapping in his wake.
His men followed. In a blink of an eye they were gone, leaving their fallen comrades, black heaps on the bloodstained pavement of the courtyard.
The smothering blanket of power lifted as the attackers disappeared. Sounds of the outside world filled the courtyard, chirping of the sparrows in the palace gardens, a high shriek of a rivergull out on the lake, distant hacking of an axe chopping wood by the kitchens. A fresh morning breeze gently touched Kyth’s cheek.
A group of Kingsguards poured into the courtyard.
“Your Highness!” The guard captain looked badly shaken.
“I’m fine,” Kyth snapped. “Help Ellah and Alder!”
But his friends were already getting to their feet, looking dazed. Kyth rushed to their side.
“I’m all right,” Alder said. “I think.” He rubbed his face, smearing the drying nose blood all over his cheek. Kyth reached past him to help Ellah, struggling upright. She looked pale, her hands shaky as she smoothed her dress with a nervous gesture. “Th-thank Shal Addim Kara arrived when she did.”
“What kind of a power did this man have?” Alder wondered.
Kyth shrugged. No power he had heard of, for sure. No power any man should ever have.
“Their leader called himself Kaddim,” he said. “It sounds familiar, but I can’t remember why.”
“The Keepers would know,” Ellah said.
Kyth nodded, watching Kara coming up to them.
“There was a boat waiting for them on the other side of the wall,” she said. “They took off before I could catch them.”
Kyth shivered with relief at seeing her alive. If his attackers had been faster carrying out their leader’s orders; if she hadn’t recovered when she did –
“Thanks,” he said quietly.
She merely nodded. Her full lips quivered as she glanced at the bodies scattered over the yard. With a quick movement she flicked her blades into their double-ended staff-like sheath strapped across her back. Then she slowly raised her hand to wipe the blood off her face. Kyth had never seen her so shaken before.
Gasps from the far end of the courtyard caught their attention. Kingsguards crowded over one of the bodies.
“This one’s still alive, Highness,” the guard captain said as Kyth approached. “And he has – this…” He pointed.
The fallen attacker was slowly coming to, pale eyes dazedly watching the people leaning over him. A gash on his left temple oozed over his closely shaved scalp. But these details swept by as Kyth’s eyes fixed on the man’s left shoulder, bared by his ripped shirt.
A black brand mark, a triangle with elongated corners, marred the man’s skin. The shape resembled an arrowhead pointing to the ground. It also looked vaguely like a head, with a pointed beard and long, protruding horns.
The sign of Ghaz Kadan.
Kyth’s eyes widened. Did his attackers worship the Cursed Destroyer?
He suddenly remembered what he knew about the Kaddim. An ancient brotherhood, rumored to play a key part in the fall of the Old Empire. As far as he remembered, the Kaddim cult had been outlawed centuries ago, all its followers hunted down by the Church.
Maybe he remembered wrong?
We’ll meet again, Highness. Kyth shivered. Who were these men? What did they want with him?
Chapter 2: BAD NEWS
“What the hell were you doing in that courtyard?” King Evan demanded.
Kyth hesitated, glancing at the two Keepers standing beside the throne. The pristine white of their cloaks made a stark contrast with the black outfits of the king’s bodyguards, a Pentade of five gem-ranked Majat forming a semicircle around the king.
“You’re busy, father,” he said. “I didn’t mean to hold you up.”
He wasn’t about to discuss his gift in front of strangers, even if Mother Keeper and her right-hand man, Magister Egey Bashi, already knew of its existence. His eyes flicked to the table by the king’s side, holding three pieces of parchment and a throwing star set with a huge diamond in its center. The token symbolizing the Diamond Majat’s contract. But why?
The king pinched the bridge of his nose. He looked very tired, as if he hadn’t had enough sleep. The weary look he exchanged with the Keepers told Kyth that this meeting had been going on too long and couldn’t possibly have been a pleasant one.
“Just tell me more about these men, son,” the king said.
“Their leader called himself Kaddim. He…” Kyth paused as he noticed his father’s widening eyes and the frown Mother Keeper exchanged with her subordinate.
“Kaddim?” the king echoed. “Impossible.”
“Anything’s possible, Your Majesty,” Mother Keeper said.
“But here? Now? After nearly five hundred years?”
The older woman nodded. “Unlikely, I agree. Yet, Prince Kythar’s description of this man’s power–”
“What about it?”
The older woman frowned, her full lips twitching at the corners to set her mouth into a straight line. The stern look in her eyes suddenly reminded Kyth that this frail-looking woman commanded a power that rivaled that of the Church and extended a huge influence over the kingdom. “Kaddim brothers possessed what used to be called ‘power to defeat’. It seems possible, Your Majesty, that the power Prince Kythar described could be of a similar nature.”
“For some reason,” Kyth said, “this power failed to affect me. This man – Tolos – seemed to expect it.”
“He did, did he?” Magister Egey Bashi’s deep voice reverberated through the chamber with a startling force. The man’s piercing dark eyes bore into Kyth, the disfiguring scar across his bear-like face making him look frightening. “Did he also expect Your Highness to give up without a fight? Or did he think playing with orbens – and possibly injuring or killing you – was a good way to make you more agreeable?”
They didn’t care about injuring me. Kyth swallowed. “I’m lucky Kara was able to resist them.” And that she showed up when she did. Against reason, the thought filled him with warmth. Kara clearly made the effort to come early, despite her numerous duties. Did it mean that she actually cared? Don’t be a fool, it’s not like she is available. Her life belongs to her guild. He swallowed again, catching his father’s intent gaze.
“What about the prisoner you took?” the king asked. “Did he have any unnatural powers too?”
Kyth shook his head. “As far as I could tell, only the weapon.”
“As I recall,” the king said, “these weapons were outlawed around the same time as the Kaddim.”
“Which makes these men fit the description even better, Your Majesty,” Mother Keeper said.
“Almost too well.”
The older woman raised her eyebrows.
“They surely made a point of letting us know their leader’s name and title,” the king went on. “Is it possible that somebody is eager to mislead us into believing the Kaddim are still around?”
“To what end, Your Majesty?”
The king shrugged. “Only one way to find out.”
The prisoner. Kyth shivered. Kara took charge of overseeing the care and confinement of the prisoner until arrangements could be made for a formal interrogation. Kyth, Alder, and Ellah were supposed to attend, in case their presence brought up any additional memories. Kyth didn’t look forward to it.
Mother Keeper bowed. “With your permission, Your Majesty, the Magister and I would like to be present at the interrogation.”
“I would be obliged, Mother Keeper,” the king said. “No one knows as much as you and the Magister about the Kaddim. Aghat Mai will accompany you. I’m placing him in charge. His methods can be very effective, or so I’ve heard.”
He signaled to the Diamond-ranked leader of his Majat Pentade. The man bowed and stood to attention. Kyth looked at him in wonder.
It was hard to imagine anyone who looked less appropriate than Mai for his high post of the leader of the Pentade. A slender youth with soft blond curls and a face of an almost sexless beauty, he seemed far too young to be in charge and much more fit to hold a lyre than a sword. Yet, a ruthless glint in his tranquil blue eyes – and the deadly rumors that spawned around him like dust around a tornado – warned Kyth not to underestimate this dangerous man.
“I’ll walk with you, Aghat,” he said. “Alder and Ellah are waiting by the dungeon.”
“In a moment.” The king gestured for Kyth to stay, waiting for the door to close behind the Keepers and Mai. “Now. Is there anything else you can tell me about the attack, son?”
Kyth glanced at the four Ruby Majat standing still beside the throne.
“I’ve been to this courtyard several times before,” he said. “The attackers must have been watching me for days – they knew exactly when and where to catch me unprotected.”
The king shook his head. “I don’t like this at all. After we’re done with the questioning, I will ask Aghat Mai to oversee the security of the grounds. It appears the Kingsguards aren’t really up to the task. And you – you should be more careful, Kyth. It is fortunate Kara arrived when she did.”
Kyth nodded. “She was able to overcome these men’s power. Quite possibly, this resistance, along with her Majat skill, makes her the only warrior able to protect us. Isn’t that reason enough to keep her at court?” His gaze faltered as he saw his father’s pursed lips.
“She can’t stay,” the king said.
Kyth’s heart fell. He knew his father disapproved of his affection for a hired guard, but Kara’s unique value was more important, wasn’t it?
“Is it the gold?” he asked. “I know her services cost a fortune, but–”
“Not quite.” The king gestured toward the parchment on the table next to the Majat token. “This letter from the Majat Guild came today. Her assignment here is over, and they want her to return as soon as possible. While I believe that eventually this could be resolved by money, for now we have no choice but to send her back.”
Kyth stared at the letter, fighting the sinking feeling in his stomach. The Majat obeyed no one except the code of their Guild. This arrangement made them invaluable as mercenaries, loyal to their contract until it was fulfilled. But it also meant that even the king had no power to keep Kara at court if she had been recalled. Not until a new contract could be negotiated.
“I know how you feel, son,” the king said softly. “But you must understand. You are the heir to the throne. The sooner you forget her and seek a proper match among the ladies of the royal blood, the better. As for your protection, we still have Aghat Raishan. When Aghat Kara leaves, I’ll send a letter along, requesting to extend his services as your personal guard.”
Kyth shook his head. He knew he should listen to his father. Raishan was a decent man, and a superb fighter whose skill and rank matched Kara’s. But to forget her, and turn his attention to other young ladies? That didn’t seem possible.
The king’s chest heaved with a sigh. “Right now, this isn’t the only one of our worries.” He handed Kyth a parchment marked with a black glossy imprint of the Holy Star. “This letter came from the Holy City today.”
Kyth’s eyebrows rose in disbelief as he ran his eyes through the parchment. “A new Reverend? But Father Boydos was elected less than six months ago.”
The king nodded. “I don’t like this any more than you do. Father Boydos’s sudden illness sounds highly suspicious. And all this business about holding an emergency election by the conclave, without my knowledge and with less than half its members present–”
Kyth looked at the letter again. “I guess we’ll learn the details soon enough. It says here that the new man, Father Cyrros, will arrive shortly, possibly even this afternoon.”
“Yes.” The king frowned. “He’s in a damn hurry to see us, that’s for sure.”
“He had to start his trip to the capital on the day of his election, as soon as he sent off this letter…” Kyth’s voice trailed into silence. Such a rush could only mean one thing. The new Reverend had pressing business at court, and Kyth could just guess what it was.
By the ancient law of Ghaz Shalan, a man with magic could never succeed the throne, an old rule that put not only Kyth’s but his father’s position into question. Old Reverend Boydos had been willing to look the other way, possibly even to speak in favor of reconsidering the law. But now that a new man had taken his place and was on his speedy way to the capital–
Will this ever end? Kyth bit his lip, glancing out of the window to where the blue haze of the lake interceded with the jagged roofline of the city. From the throne room he couldn’t see the stretch of the main road leading up to the castle, but he had a clear view of the Holy Gate and the wide street that led from there to the Fountain Plaza. People lined it as far as the eye could see, a colorful crowd carrying flowering apple branches and banners with the signs of the Holy Star.
“News travel fast.”
The king frowned. “Especially the bad ones. In any case, we’ll know as soon as His Reverence is sighted from the main gate. Which leaves me a bit of time to show you the last of the three letters I received today.” He handed Kyth the rolled-up parchment tied with a green and gold sash of the Royal House Illitand.
Kyth ran his eyes through the neat lines of writing. Duke Daemur Illitand was regretfully informing the king that due to an illness he won’t be able to attend the meeting of the High Council due in six weeks. He also mentioned that Princess Aljbeda of Shayil Yara, currently enjoying his hospitality at the Illitand Hall, found the air of the south lakes so agreeable that she may not be able to make the trip either.
Kyth lowered the parchment in disbelief. “But this – this–”
The king nodded. “Yes. This borders on mutiny and is bound to cause a major uproar. The other noble families would never take me seriously unless I can get the duke’s and the princess’s support. If I cannot change their minds, we might end up in a civil war.”
More trouble because of my gift. Kyth sighed. When his father won the contest for the crown, he thought all their troubles were behind them. But it seemed that Kyth’s cursed magic, an ungodly gift that should have marked him for elimination at birth, would haunt them forever.
“What are we going to do, father?” he said quietly.
“Change the law. It’s the only way.”
The king ran a hand through his long black hair with a scarce touch of gray and leaned back into his chair. “I know. Without the full vote at the High Council, this couldn’t be done. Which means, I’ll just have to travel to Illitand Hall and personally convince the duke – and the princess – to see things my way.”
“Why the hell not?”
The king grinned. “Beats the boredom of sitting in the royal chambers all day reading letters.”
Kyth held his father’s gaze. The merry sparkles in the king’s blue eyes showed him as he was before – not an aging man buried in the kingdom’s affairs, but a dashing nobleman and a renowned swordsman, the only man at court who played by his own rules. Against reason, this confidence caught Kyth. No matter what the new Reverend had to say about his gift, no matter what the nobles thought, they were going to have it their way. And, he was going to keep Kara by his side even if he had to go to the Majat Guild himself to talk to their Guildmaster.
He lowered his eyes to the three parchments. If he became king, would he learn to deal with bad news like his father, with a smile on his face?
“I think,” the king said, “you’d better go. The Keepers are waiting.”
Kyth looked at his torn, dirt-stained shirt. There was nothing he wanted more than a nice, warm bath. But before he did, he had to go to the dungeon and do his duty.