A J Thompson | Andrew Thompson, Rockhampton Australia

A Lion Roars, a short story by Andrew Thompson

A Lion Roars is an excerpt from my novel, "Kingdom of Ice".

©2013 Andrew Thompson

King Andraes watched the Guardsmen lift the corpse onto the raised stone dais. The sheet was soaked with blood, a sword thrust directly to the heart. He gestured the guards outside and lifted the sheet away.

Dead eyes stared up at him, perhaps in accusation, perhaps with forgiveness. He would never know for sure.

"It's him, Tam. I'm sorry."

Ten feet away, Tamaq leaned against a pillar for support, his grief all-consuming. He needed to wail, to scream, but only a strangled whimper escaped his lips. He couldn't hear Andraes' soothing words nor feel the strong arms that held him. It wasn't real – none of it, for Jai, his beloved, his soul mate, could not be dead.

His senses shattered, Tamaq pushed Andraes aside and ran to the dais. He lifted Jai into his arms but stumbled beneath his weight and they both fell crashing to the floor. He cradled Jai's body to his chest, and finally, his desolate scream broke free.

In the field tent across the snow covered plain, Bataq attempted to focus on the unfurled map to no avail. He glanced aimlessly at his Generals then grasped the table to stop himself falling. A dozen voices raised in concern but he barely heard them. He stumbled into the nearest chair. More voices, this time urgent.

"Fetch the Medic! Water, quickly! My liege, are you alright?"

The room slowly stopped spinning and Bataq looked anxiously around the drab walls. A glass of water appeared before him and he drained it. The faces of his men came into focus and he realised he was clutching his chest.

"It's alright - I'm fine."

His jupa knelt before him. "You gave us quite a scare, Master."

Bataq rose unsteadily and looked out the tent's lone window. The gothic Palace stood in the distance, a sentinel, dark, proud, and impregnable. Its flag was lowered, Tamaq's flag, the flag of his brother, the flag of the Young Lion.

"The brand of exile ..."

"Master?"

Bataq stared at the youth for long moments.

"I felt like this when Tamaq was sent into exile, when they beat him, when they ... branded him. But this time there's more - I sense his rage as well."

"Then it's true Master, what they say of twins."

Bataq resumed his vigil of the lifeless fields. Beyond the Palace, smoke still hovered above the burning timber hulks in the bay. The fighting was over, treaties signed. No winner, no loser, new peace forged through long and bloody war. Yet still the fires burned.

"It is said that when the lion roars, the bravest warrior runs."

"I've heard that too, Master."

Bataq exhaled faintly, his gaze unmoving and faraway.

"I imagine I shall not see another sunset."

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