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Authors: Robert Cely

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Arnulf the Destroyer

BOOK: Arnulf the Destroyer
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by Robert Cely

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Robert Cely 2014

All Rights Reserved

Published by
Bard and Book Publishing


Cover by Julius Broqueza.

Arnulf the Destroyer

Jenna felt naked without her tiara.  Even though she knew how ridiculous she would look with the zirconian gems sparkling in her brow as she walked the busy streets, it was still a source of comfort.  Kind of like the way a policeman took confidence from the badge he wore, so Jenna felt strength when she wore her tiara.  She remembered who she really was.  And when you went to meet Arnulf the Destroyer you needed every bit of confidence you could muster.

For what seemed like the hundredth time, Jenna took a deep breath to still her trembling nerves before walking into the high-rise.  She hoped desperately he wouldn’t be angry with her.  Despite his insistence she not come see him, that they have no contact outside the Kingdom, Jenna knew, just knew, deep in her heart that this was right. 

Love was like that, she thought.  It could only be hidden for so long.  Like a seedling that yearned to break out into the open sun, so love desired its own revealing, its own growth, its own showing of its glorious petals in the splendor of the day.

Convinced, she walked through the revolving glass doors and into the marbled lobby of the Spencer Building.  The touch-screen directory told her that Tritech Industrial, and her destiny, waited on the twenty-second floor.  A smile crept across her face as it finally felt real.  He was here, just twenty-two floors above her.

The elevator’s mirrored doors slid open to admit Jenna and she stepped in as its only occupant.  The smooth, flawless motion of the machine belied the wealth that the building had been invested with.  The companies that were housed here must be very successful.

It made sense that Arnulf worked at a place like this.  Such a powerful man needed a powerful place to foster his talents.  As the elevator speakers played an instrumental version of “Eye of the Tiger,” Jenna hummed along and thought how appropriate this was too.  She giddily wondered what title Arnulf had with the company.  Vice-President?  Director of Operations?

Those really didn’t fit Arnulf.  He was that rare breed of man that demanded respect.  Just walking into a room he arrested the eye’s attention, aroused curiosity.

It had been that way from the first with Jenna.  The moment she saw him storm the field, she knew he was special.

The battle had raged back and forth for what seemed like hours.  Jenna watched with mounting anxiety.  For such a small house as hers the outcome was crucial for her security.  Little Tyria could ill afford a defeat, or even worse, knights captured that would need expensive ransoms.  She turned her head as the forces of the North pushed the Southern host back.  This time they didn’t rally.  This time they looked to be lost.

Then, as if sent by God himself, a soldier waded into the fray with sword brandished above his head. 

“I am Arnulf the Destroyer!” he cried out to the massing hordes.  “All tremble ye who look upon my blade!”

With that he fell upon the Northmen, hacking, slashing, without heed to his person or safety.  Bolstered by this show of courage, the South rallied and pushed back with renewed strength.  The opponents faltered, stricken by the entrance of the wild, new warrior.  They fell back, further and further, dogged by Arnulf and the South.

Jenna should have been elated at the rout, but she only had eyes for the dashing figure that dominated the field.  His long, blond hair, waved free as he danced a dance of war.  His sword flew with swift and cunning command.  Like a god among men Arnulf strode through the carnage.  He owned the battlefield.  He was the battlefield.

It was only after the cheers had gone up that Jenna realized the battle was won.  She had to unclutch the hands which had been gripping her dress in breathless fascination, watching that one masterful warrior among the enemy.  Even then she only half-cheered, keeping her eyes fixed on the savior who was retreating hastily from the victory celebration.  A chorus of female voices called out to him, pleading in their soprano screams for him to return, to even glance their way.

Jenna alone didn’t scream.  She only watched; watched with the precision of the infatuated.  Taking in every detail of his figure, a smile broke out across her face when she noticed he wore no crest.

Such a man was not suited to be a mere director or vice of anything.  CEO, Jenna decided.  That was the only position suitable for the dashing energy of Arnulf.  Perhaps he wasn’t there yet, but she felt certain he had to be close.

The elevator dinged, bringing Jenna back to herself.  Unfortunately, there was always something to bring her back.  This thing they called the real world, real life, always waited outside the boundaries of the Kingdom, beckoning her to the drudgery of vain responsibility.

Jenna knew full well the Kingdom wasn’t real.  At least not real in the sense that kingdoms were once real.  She knew the swords were wooden, the armor mostly padded plastic and the casualties fake.  The kings and nobles wielded no power outside of game time.

But the magic was real.  The wonder, the fascination, the bravery and chivalry were as real as mortgages and power bills and insurance premiums.  Most of all, the romance was real, perhaps even more real, because it contained all the breathless passion of a lost age.

Jenna stepped out of the elevator.  The lobby of Tritech was guarded by a semicircular desk that arched along the far wall.  A secretary smiled without warmth from behind the desk as Jenna approached.

“May I help you?” the woman cooly asked.

“I’m here to see…” Jenna paused.  The name sounded strange to her.  It wasn’t his real name.

“Randy Yarbis,” she managed to finish.

The receptionist made no attempt to hide her irritation.  With pursed lips she stared at Jenna for a moment, obviously debating within herself.  Jenna immediately pegged her as one of those girls she had never managed to get along with.  Pretty in a conventional way, more from artifice than nature, the secretary looked like one of those girls who wielded considerable social power.  She was of the breed that always made Jenna uncomfortable.  From elementary school on they had branded her an outcast for no apparent reason she could discern.  It could have been because of Jenna’s more natural beauty – dark hair, large, blue eyes, a natural flush to her pale features.  Or it could have been some unconscious social cue that divides kids, and even adults, into distinct camps of the cool and uncool.  For whatever reason Jenna was not one of them, and those who were one of them could always detect her outsider standing as clearly as if she had worn a badge of status.

“What would you want with Randy?” the secretary finally asked.

“Just tell him Jenna is here to see him.”

The secretary took another moment to stare wordlessly at Jenna, as if to say that she didn’t have to comply if she didn’t want to.  Finally she pushed a button on her console.

“A visitor for Mr. Yarbis,” she spoke into the headset.

Mr. Yarbis? Jenna noticed the title with pleasure.  He must be important to be referred to as Mister.

“Okay. Thank you,” the secretary replied to the voice on the other end of the headset.

“I’ll have to find him,” she told Jenna irritably.  “He’s not at his desk.”

The secretary pushed herself up.  Jenna watched the perfectly put together figure; flawless hair, navy blue skirt and high heels, walk through the clear, glass door and into the maze of cubicles beyond.

Jenna stepped up to the door to watch the work of commerce, to take a peek at the business of real life. It looked dull, boring.  She found herself thinking that if this was the work of the real world then she wanted no part of it.  Who wanted to be stuck in a square of fabric walls and metal frames, like a cell in an insect colony?  Compared to watching warriors fight in the open field – even if they were wooden swords – the sight of men with handfuls of paper and Blackberries made them seem puny by comparison.  Less somehow.

A figure startled Jenna as it walked by on the other side of the door.  She started and looked just in time to see a man’s retreating figure walk down a row of the cubicles and then turn out of view.  Her heart thumped with recognition.  He seemed so different, but it had to be him.  He didn’t walk with that same masterful stride that she was used to seeing, but the blond hair, pulled in a ponytail instead of flowing free, told her all she needed to know.

His hair seemed to embody all he was.  Like his hair, Arnulf was beautiful, strong and free.

For the next two convenings of the Kingdom, Jenna only looked with admiration at Arnulf.  Of course he excelled in the lists, standing out in battle as he stood out in any crowd.  Ladies threw themselves at him, offering tokens and promises.  These he politely refused as he refused every lord’s and prince’s plea to enlist him.

Arnulf was independent.  In every way he refused to be bound.  It was an essential part of his nature.  Free.  Unbound.  Like the wildness that carried him into battle.

Then their eyes met.

His face glistened with exertion.  His chest heaved in deep breaths.  Striding from the field from which he displayed his mastery, he turned and their eyes met.

Jenna could feel something in that gaze, could feel him drawing her, but also felt him drawn as well.  When they spoke she offered no tokens, she asked no favors nor tried to enlist him in her service or the service of her house.  Even though Tyria was vulnerable and could flourish with such an ally, she dared not ask.  She wanted Arnulf as he was, wild and free.

They shared a love that those in the outside world do not know.  It was a love of moonlight and forest, of soft whispers in the dark.  Their love basked among the aromas of unseen flowers and enjoyed the delicate consummation of tender flesh touching tender flesh.

In his next fight, and for every fight after, Arnulf fought for the house of Tyria.  He was careful to wear no signia.  It was as if he said, today for Tyria, but perhaps tomorrow no more.  And Jenna loved him the more fiercely for it.

Only he wouldn’t love her outside the Kingdom.

“Let us meet,” she begged him one day.  “Outside of here.  I think about you all the time.”

“My love,” he answered with a finger on her lips.  “Do not ruin the spell of the moment with talk of the outside.  We do not exist there as we do here.”

Every other entreaty of hers to continue their love outside the Kingdom was equally rebuffed.

Jenna felt a moment of doubt as she pushed open the glass door to follow Arnulf… Randy’s retreating figure through the maze of cubicles.  Maybe he would be different.  Maybe he was right, that they weren’t the same people outside.  Maybe he wouldn’t even love her here.  Maybe in this world he loved women like that perfectly put together secretary who stared down her nose at women like Jenna.

She forced the thought out of her mind.  It had always been her conviction, and her conviction still, that life inside the Kingdom, and especially the love found there, was stronger than what was on the outside.  If it could thrive in the Kingdom, then here it could conquer.

Turning the hallway she saw him.  With stooped shoulders he stood among three other men.  Unlike them, who wore dress slacks and ties, Randy had on a simple white shirt and khakis.  Also, unlike them, Randy seemed to be the odd man out.

Two of the men were laughing as a third confronted Randy.  He had a shaven head, though Jenna could tell it was to avoid the crown of premature balding.  A ring of stubble poked out of his head like a hastily shorn tonsure.  All the signs that marked a top-of-the-rung athlete emanated from him: the arrogant swagger, wide brow, broad shoulders and a hockey stick that he leaned on, a token from his glory days.

“Hey dumbass,” he said, brandishing an envelope.  It was then that Jenna noticed the mail cart that Randy had been pushing.

“You see what that says?” the jock continued.  “What does it say?”

“I can see, Rich,” Randy said, trying to grab the dangling envelope.  Rich pulled it out of reach and slapped Randy’s backside with the hockey stick.  The others laughed morbid enjoyment.

“What does it say?” Rich asked again.  “What does it say?” Each time he punctuated his question with a slap of the hockey stick.

Randy took an angry swipe at the stick.  Something flared in his eyes, a fire that was all Arnulf.  Jenna gasped quietly, anticipating what might come next.  Rich saw it too.

“What you gonna do tough guy?” he asked, taking a step toward Randy.  The fire that was Arnulf faltered and Randy dropped his gaze.

“That’s what I thought,” Rich chuckled.  “Now tell me.  What does this say?”

“Human Resources,” Randy muttered.

“That’s right.  And who am I?”

“Resource Development.”


“Resource Development,” Randy was forced to say louder.

“That’s right,” Rich said, slapping again with the hockey stick.  “So quit being a dumbass, bringing me mail that’s not mine.”

Rich dropped the letter to the ground.  When Randy bent over to pick it up the hockey stick flashed again.  A slap resounded as wood struck backside.  Randy almost fell forward but caught himself.  Rich and the other two laughed and disappeared down the corridors of cubicle.

Doubt flooded in Jenna again, this time for different reasons.  She could see why he didn’t want to meet outside the Kingdom.  Watching him stuff the letter back into his cart and begin to push it on, she grieved.  She could see no trace of Arnulf, only Randy Yarbis, bullied mailboy.  But in that grief she found resolve.  She decided, finally and without yield, to believe in the Kingdom.  And she wouldn’t let an idiot like Rich shake that faith.  That’s all that a bully did anyway, shake a man’s faith.  Maybe then the reason why heroes of the Kingdom were mailboys here was because they lacked the conviction to let their greatness show.

“Randy,” she called out before she lost her nerve.

Randy turned, and at first registered no recognition.  Then, as he placed her, joy flashed across his face quickly replaced by anxiety.  He hurried over to her.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, looking nervously from side to side.  He tried to straighten his shoulder, show a little bit of Arnulf to her, though he did it bashfully.

“I had to see you,” she said, taking his hands in her own.  “I know our love is strong enough for this world too.”

“You shouldn’t have come here,” he said pulling his hands away.

“Are you embarrassed to be seen with me here?” she asked.

“That’s not it,” he said, shaking his head.  “It’s just....things aren’t the same here.”

“Why can’t they be?”

BOOK: Arnulf the Destroyer
8.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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