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As Morathi had predicted, there was much rejoicing when news of Malekith’s victory
spread across Ulthuan. Once Anlec was firmly under his control the prince rode to
Galthyr to lift the siege there. The Naggarothi commanders threw themselves on
Malekith’s mercy and swore new oaths of loyalty to the prince. By secret command
from Morathi, many of the cultists vanished into the wilds and their leaders hid
themselves amongst the folk of Nagarythe. Prince Malekith sent word to the other
rulers of Ulthuan that some measure of order had been restored, and feasts of
celebration were held across the isle.
Malekith escorted Morathi south to Tor Anroc, accompanied by the three
Sapherian mages Thyriol, Merneir and Eltreneth to guard against any sorcery from
the seeress. With great show of humility, Malekith went incognito through the towns
and villages, sparing his mother the spite of the elves she had all but enslaved.
Many days after leaving Anlec they came to the citadel of the Phoenix King, now
an immense palace with a hundred halls and fifty spiralling towers. Swathed in black
cloaks, they rode through the gate and were met by Palthrain. No words were said for
all had been prearranged. The chamberlain ushered the small group through the long
corridors and vaulted galleries to the heart of the palace, to the throne room of Bel
The floor was paved with white gold and the walls hung with six hundred
tapestries picturing landscapes from the wide realm of the elves. Magical dwarf-
forged lanterns bathed all in a pearlescent glow as Malekith pulled back his hood.
The prince and his companions strode along the hall to stand before Bel Shanaar,
who was sat upon his throne deep in thought. Imrik was there, as were Bathinair,
Elodhir, Finudel and Charill.
“My king and princes,” said Malekith. “Today is a portentous occasion, for as I
vowed, I bring before you the witch-queen of Nagarythe, my mother, Morathi.”
Morathi cast off her cloak and stood before her judges. She was dressed in a
flowing blue gown, her hair bound up with shining sapphires, her eyelids painted
with azure powder. She appeared every inch the defeated queen, dejected but
“You stand before us accused of raising war against the office of the Phoenix
King and the realms of the princes of Ulthuan,” Bel Shanaar said.
“It was not I that launched attacks against the border of Nagarythe,” Morathi
replied calmly. Her gaze met the eyes of the princes in turn. “It was not the
Naggarothi who sought battle with the other kingdoms.”
“You would portray yourself as the victim?” laughed Finudel. “To us?”
“No ruler of Nagarythe is a victim,” replied Morathi.
“Do you deny that the cults of excess and luxury that blight our realm owe their
loyalty to you?” said Bel Shanaar.
“They owe their loyalty to the cytharai,” said Morathi. “You can no more
prosecute me for the existence of the cults than you can impeach yourself for
assuming the mantle of Asuryan’s chosen.”
“Will you at least admit to thoughts of treason?” said Elodhir. “Did you not plot
against my father and seek to undermine him?”
“I hold no position in higher regard than that of the Phoenix King,” Morathi said,
her eyes fixed upon Bel Shanaar. “I spoke my mind at the First Council and others
chose to ignore my wisdom. My loyalty is to Ulthuan and the prosperity and strength
of her people. I do not change my opinions at a whim and my reservations have not
“She is a viper,” snarled Imrik. “She cannot be allowed to live.”
Morathi laughed, a scornful sound that reverberated menacingly around the hall.
“Who wishes to be known as the elf who slew Aenarion’s queen?” the seeress
said. “Which of the mighty princes gathered here would claim that accolade?”
“I will,” said Imrik, his hand straying to the silver hilt of the sword at his waist.
“I cannot condone this,” said Malekith, stepping protectively in front of his
“You swore to me in this very chamber that you would be ready for such an end,”
said Bel Shanaar. “Do you now renege on your oath?”
“No more than I renege on the oath that I would show mercy to all those who
asked for it,” said Malekith. “My mother need not die. Her blood would serve no
purpose but to sate the Caledorian’s vengeful thirst.”
“It is justice, not revenge,” said Imrik. “Blood for blood.”
“If she lives, she is a threat,” said Finudel. “She cannot be trusted.”
“I cannot decide this,” said Malekith, addressing the princes. He then turned his
eyes upon the Phoenix King. “I will not decide this. Let Bel Shanaar decide. The will
of the Phoenix King is stronger than the oath of a prince. Is the word of the son of
Aenarion to be as nothing, or is there yet nobility enough in the princes of Ulthuan to
show compassion and forgiveness?”
Bel Shanaar gave Malekith a sour look, knowing that all that had passed here
would be reported by means both open and secret to the people of Ulthuan. Malekith
tested his judgement, and there was no course of action that would not damage his
reputation with those who wanted to see weakness.
“Morathi cannot go unpunished for her crimes,” Bel Shanaar said slowly. “There
is no place to which I can exile her, for she would return more bitter and ambitious
than before. As she enslaved others, so shall she forfeit her freedom. She shall stay in
rooms within this palace, under guard night and day. None shall see her save with my
The Phoenix King stood and glared at the sorceress.
“Know this, Morathi,” said Bel Shanaar. “The sentence of death is not wholly
commuted. You live by my will. If ever you cross me or seek to harm my rule, you
will be slain, without trial or representation. Your word is of no value and so I hold
your life hostage to your good behaviour. Accept these terms or accept your death.”
Morathi looked at the gathered princes and saw nothing but hatred in their faces,
save for Malekith’s which was expressionless. They were like wolves that had
cornered a wounded lion; knowing that they should slay their prey while they could,
yet still fearful that there was fight left yet in their enemy.
“Your demands are not unreasonable, Bel Shanaar of Tiranoc,” she said
eventually. “I consent to be your prisoner.”
With Morathi in custody, Malekith returned to Anlec, to secure his lands against the
cultists that still held sway over some parts of the kingdom. On the surface, a
measure of order was restored, though in truth the agents of Anlec were now spread
wider and further than ever before. Over the passing years a sense of security grew
on Ulthuan once again; but it was a false sense, fostered by the machinations of
In ones and twos the cultists began to gather again, now more careful than ever.
Their leaders sent messages to each other by their secret ways, and the heads of the
dark priesthoods emerged in new guises in Anlec. As councillors and advisors,
Malekith masked these magisters within his court, holding over them the threat of
exposure to ensure their loyalty to him.
For two decades relative peace prevailed. Often Malekith travelled to Tor Anroc
to consult with Bel Shanaar, and ever the prince of Nagarythe would decry his own
failure to capture all of those who had been henchmen to his mother. He offered what
help he could to the other kingdoms, and spent as much time in the palaces of his
fellow princes as he did in Anlec, fostering harmony and friendship.
On these travels he would also visit his mother, supposedly to check on her
wellbeing and to accept a repentance that was never offered. On the twentieth
anniversary of his mother’s imprisonment, Malekith rode alone to Tor Anroc and was
granted a private meeting with his mother by the Phoenix King. They were brought
together in the majestic gardens at the centre of the palace of Tor Anroc. High hedges
hid them from view as they walked across the plush green lawns, their soft words
masked by the splashing of fifty fountains.
“How is the hospitality of Bel Shanaar?” asked Malekith as the pair walked arm-
in-arm down an avenue of cherry trees laden with blossom.
“I endure what I must,” replied Morathi.
She led Malekith to a bench of ornately carved pale wood and they sat beside
each other; the mother’s hand on the son’s knee, the son’s hand on the mother’s
shoulder. They sat in silence for a while, both with their faces turned to the bright
sky, the sun bathing their skin with her warmth. It was Malekith who first broke the
“All is well in Anlec also,” he said. “My mercy is now legendary. The cytharai
worshippers captured by the princes demand that they receive the same opportunity
for repentance as you were granted. They come to Anlec and I hear their confessions
“How many hide beneath your shadow?” asked Morathi.
“Many thousands, all utterly loyal to me,” said the prince with a smile.
“So you stand ready to move soon?” asked the seeress.
“Not yet,” said Malekith, his smile fading. “Imrik yet resists me in the court of
the Phoenix King.”
“Imrik will never be won over,” said Morathi. “Not only is he jealous, he is
shrewd. He guesses our intent, but cannot prove any wrongdoing.”
“Nagarythe also is not yet united,” said Malekith with a solemn shake of his
“How so?” asked Morathi.
“There are some princes and nobles who are still fearful of my power,” said
Malekith. “Eoloran of the Anars is chief amongst them. They wish to impose self-
rule upon their lands in the mountains.”
“Then Eoloran must be killed,” said Morathi briskly.
“I cannot,” said Malekith. “Since your fall, his influence has grown considerably.
Not only do some Naggarothi nobles hold him in high esteem, some commanders of
my armies are under his sway. His lands overseas are highly profitable. Before I can
eliminate him, I need him to fall from grace.”
Morathi said nothing for a moment, her eyes narrowed in thought.
“Leave that to me,” she said. “Word will come to you when you can act.”
“I will not ask what it is that you plan,” said Malekith. “Yet, I do not understand
how it is that you can do anything from here, right under the eyes and ears of Bel
“Trust your mother,” said Morathi. “I have my ways.”
The skies were greying and a cloud obscured the sun. Now in shade, the pair
stood and walked back to the palace, each lost in thought.
As Morathi had predicted, Imrik of Caledor remained steadfastly suspicious of
Malekith’s motives, and shunned the prince’s overtures of alliance and comradeship.
It mattered not though, for through subtle rumour and devious innuendo, Malekith
spread the idea that Imrik was jealous of Malekith’s popularity. The prince of
Nagarythe never spoke out openly against his opponent, and was always ready to
praise Imrik’s deeds and the calibre of his lineage. He even went so far as to say that,
but for the grace of fate, Imrik’s father would have been Phoenix King instead of Bel
Shanaar. While appearing to be a great compliment, this had the desired effect on the
other princes, who had always harboured envy of Caledor’s status. Such comments
flamed the embers of rumour that Imrik felt wronged that his father had not been
chosen by the First Council.
One thousand, six hundred and sixty-eight years after first bowing his knee to Bel
Shanaar, Malekith stood ready to make his claim to be Phoenix King. He needed a
catalyst that would act as a spur to action on the princes. With a carefully
orchestrated series of events, Malekith planned to plunge Ulthuan into brief turmoil
once more, so that he could arise from the flames of conflict and claim his birthright.
It began innocently enough, with news that Malekith’s warriors had arrested
Eoloran Anar, when evidence had come to light that the lord of House Anar had been
corrupted by worshippers of Atharti. Cultists rose up out of hiding all across
Nagarythe and elsewhere in Ulthuan, supposedly in response to the persecution of a
prominent leader. Those who disbelieved the charge against Eoloran were incensed
and they too spoke out against Malekith.
Confusion reigned in Nagarythe, as claim and counterclaim spread from town to
town, and violence soon followed. None could say for sure who started the killings,
but soon there was bitter fighting between those loyal to the Anars and the cultists.
The other princes looked on in disbelief as Nagarythe quickly descended into
anarchy, where loyalties were so fractured that families were divided and brother
fought against brother. Amidst the chaos, Malekith appeared to be doing what he
could to restore order, but even his armies seemed fractured by the factions now
contending for power.
The battles that had begun in Nagarythe rapidly spread to other parts of Ulthuan
as the cults came out of the shadows and struck at the princes. Palaces burned and
citizens were killed on the streets as Ulthuan erupted into bloody infighting. Malekith
fought hard to restore his rule in his own kingdom, but the populace had turned
against him, for one reason or another. He was forced to quit Anlec with a few
thousand loyal troops, and he called upon Bel Shanaar to give him sanctuary.
So it came to pass that in the autumn of that year, Malekith dwelt in Tor Anroc, and
came before Bel Shanaar with a plea. The two were alone in the Phoenix King’s
throne room, for the princes of the court had returned to their realms to restore what
order they could.
“I would make right my mistake,” said Malekith, standing before the Phoenix
King, head bowed.
“What mistake have you made?” asked Bel Shanaar.
“In my desire to seek accord with the worshippers of the forbidden gods, I have
allowed them to spread unseen and unchecked,” Malekith replied. “I have allowed
myself to be lured into a web of deceit, and was fooled into believing that House
Anar were my enemies. Nagarythe now burns with hatred, and I am cast out.”
“What would you have me do?” said the Phoenix King. “I cannot command your
subjects for you.”
“I would have peace restored, so that bitter enmities might be settled and wrongs
put to right,” said Malekith, raising his gaze to meet the inquiring stare of Bel
“We all wish that, I am sure,” said Bel Shanaar. “However, I cannot grant it by
simply wishing it so. I ask again, what would you have me do?”
“We must be united in this,” said Malekith earnestly. “The cults flourished before
because we each acted alone. All of the princes must speak with one voice. All of the
kingdoms must come together to defeat this dark menace.”
“How so?” said Bel Shanaar with a frown.
“The oaths sworn here many years ago to stand against the cults still hold true,”
said Malekith. “The princes of Ulthuan are still of one purpose on this matter.”
“I do not yet see what you ask of me,” said the Phoenix King.
“As one army we must fight, under one general,” said Malekith. He strode
forwards and grasped Bel Shanaar’s hand in both of his, falling to one knee. “As did
my father, the army of Ulthuan must be wielded as a single weapon. Each realm in
turn shall be cleansed, and no traitor will go unpunished this time.”
“The armies of Ulthuan are not mine alone to command,” Bel Shanaar said
slowly. “I have already pledged the support of Tiranoc, and that has not changed.”
“All have pledged support and even now muster their forces for their own wars,”
Malekith said. “Though perhaps our need has grown greater, more princes than not
swore in this chamber to lend their aid.”
“Yet, it is the very magnitude of the situation that will force them to have second
thoughts,” Bel Shanaar said. “It is one thing to ask them to send a few thousand
troops to quell cultists and malcontents. To mobilise the militia, to gather their full
armies now, on the cusp of winter, is a much greater undertaking. What they have
promised and what you now ask is not the same thing.”
“We do not have time to stand idle,” Malekith growled. “Within a season, civil
war could engulf this island. I cannot go to each of the princes in turn and ask for
their renewed pledges. You must call the rulers of the kingdoms to a council, so that
the matter can be settled.”
“That is within my power, for sure,” said Bel Shanaar. “For some, the journey to
Tor Anroc will take some time, though.”
“Then call them to the Shrine of Asuryan upon the Isle of Flame,” suggested
Malekith, standing. “Thirty days hence, all princes will be able to attend, in the place
where you were accepted by the king of gods to succeed my father. We shall consult
the oracles there, and with their guidance choose the best course of action for all.”
Bel Shanaar considered this in silence, stroking his chin, as he was wont to do
when deep in thought.
“So shall it be,” the Phoenix King said with a solemn nod. “In thirty days we
shall convene the council of princes in the Shrine of Asuryan to determine the destiny
of our people.”
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