ONE AND A HALF HOURS AGO

What the Argent Tower lacked in ornamentation it made up for in size. The silver tower scraped the heavens with a needle-point top and a widening base from which the City of Silver extended all around it. The tower had unnaturally smooth edges made from a metal that rippled with light. It was said that the tower breathed with each gust of wind, sang with each rolling stream, and died with each citizen’s death. It was not simply the center of the City of Silver, though it was that, too. It was the center of Turrim, the source from which all shardlight originated and returned. To many, it was a silver, slumbering god. To Eitan, it was a beacon of corruption, the cause of his home’s ruin.

The Argent Tower’s influence could be felt for miles outside of the city and its power only grew the closer Eitan got to the center. The City of Silver was so-named for the leylines of shardlight that ran between every cobblestone and shimmered between every brick like veins from the beating heart of the tower. Every insect glowed with silver shardlight; every thread of silk shimmered in the sun. The food tasted better; the wine richer. The portions of the Alpha and Omega rivers running on opposite ends of the city were said to have healing properties and merchants would come from all over Argos to trade for even the smallest trinket.

This made the city even more dangerous, as far as Eitan was concerned. Acts of religious zealotry were common in the City of Silver, with more and more cults cropping up every year. Each one claimed to commune directly with the Argent Tower, vowing to wield its power to increase harvest yields, to heal the sick, to reshape the world in their image.

No merchant living in the City of Silver went hungry. No citizen lived on the street or went unclothed in the winter months. The harvests were always full and sickness short-lived. Nowhere else in Turrim did such prosperity rein, despite the other five towers of power taking their shardlight directly from the Argent Tower. Each of the other five tower’s leylines met at the top of the Argent Tower and gained their power from it. The top of the tower was made from a prismatic shard that broke shardlight into the five different elements, providing each district with the energy needed to grow crops, to feed its people, and to summon miracles through channeling. The light shone on all of Turrim and kept the forces of the dark from running free.

Unencumbered, the Argent Tower’s shardlight should be more than enough to keep each of the districts flourishing. And yet, harvests were lessening with each passing year. Sickness grew more frequent and more deadly. Monsters struck at night, killing any that happened across their paths.

There could be only one reason for the misfortune befalling Turrim. Someone was interfering with the flow of shardlight. Someone was poisoning the tower.

Or someone’s.

No formal government existed within the city, but that didn’t stop those with power from manipulating events in their favor. Shielded by obscurity and shrouded in darkness, the Silver Kings ruled.

Spoken of in rumors and largely relegated to myth, the Silver Kings were the ancient body responsible for stewardship of the Argent Tower. They were nameless. Faceless. And yet they were everywhere. Nothing happened in Turrim without their influence. Not the Treaty of Accordance nor the very harvests that fed the people.

Eitan knew the Silver Kings existed. How?

He was once one of them. Now, he was coming for them.

It would not be without risk. No Silver King knew the identity of the others. His walking into the City of Silver was like walking into a dragon’s den. He was at a total and complete disadvantage. And yet, he must atone.

As a Silver King, Eitan believed he was creating a better world. Commands were issued through shards and followed without question.

But what had his loyalty led to? What kind of world had he helped to create? One of war and destruction, a world in which the very earth revolted and turned to dust and sand. A world torn apart by a scramble for resources, for shards and shardlight, of which there was plenty. He knew the truth. The shortage that kept the flames of war burning was artificial, created to fill the Silver King’s greed. Unfortunately, he did not realize this truth until it was too late.

His shame for his actions as a Silver King led to his exile. Led to his wandering the wasteland he helped create. It led him here, now, to the City of Silver where the Treaty of Accordance would be signed by the end of the day if he did nothing.

Eitan instinctively gripped the daggers at his sides and adjusted his face shroud. He could not let that happen. The Treaty of Accordance could not be signed without the consent of the Silver Kings and if they had consented, then it was no treaty at all but a new level to the war they had manufactured. Keep the districts isolated from each other and they would fell themselves. The Argent Tower would stay theirs forever and with it, shardlight. It was a cycle, carried on through generations of district champions and Silver Kings. It was the true war, carried out in secret without bloodshed or armies, but with whispers and rumors.

Eitan would end it. He would find the Silver Kings and kill them. He would have his revenge for what they tricked him into doing and he would free the districts from their false war. He would free the Argent Tower’s shardlight, providing each district with the resources they needed so they would no longer have to fight over the Silver Kings’ scraps.

He would save the world.

And yet, as he walked through the massive triangular archway and into the great hall of the Argent Tower, in lockstep with dragoons from District Rao on his right and mages from District Stormheld on his left, he felt a creeping chill crawl up his back. The Silver Kings knew he was there. He gripped his daggers again.

They would not give up the tower without a fight.

To be continued...

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