Tarr of Tarrs

This story takes place in the same world as The Horned Scarab, but follows the Tarr and one of his bodyguards trying to evade an assassination attempt. Other than sharing a secondary world, the two stories don't connect in any way. Although, in theory, Tarr of Tarrs takes place while Arn and Rohqim are dealing with the Horned Scarab.

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Tarr Oben, Tarr of Tarrs, regarded the land of his empire from a balcony of his temple fortress. Green fields spread before him, cut by mountain ridges and deep valleys. The mighty swing of the river Rund touched the horizon.

Eldara watched from behind silken curtains. Light from the noonday’s sun gleamed off her bronze cuirass. The Tarr had power, a power that was unseen to the eye, but heard in the depths of his voice, and perceived in the stride of his gait, the set of his shoulders, the pits of his eyes.

Tarr Oben turned from the balcony and strode into his chamber, robes embroidered with gold and silver trailing behind him. His necklaces and bracelets sang a soft clangour. Eldara followed, silent, and stood at the study’s entrance with Dula, another guard. 

“Eldara, come and look at this.” The Tarr’s voice resounded deep in Eldara’s chest.

Eldara obeyed, approaching the Tarr’s side, peering at the maps on his desk. Eldara gave the Tarr her counsel, in a soft, quiet voice. Her lips brushed the Tarr’s ear. He nodded to her, and without another word she returned to the doorway and stood alert. She noted Dula’s sideways glance.

Eldara’s eyes darted to a flicker of movement near the balcony. She took a step forward, and the first arrow flew. Her shield was up in time for the arrow to ping against its hardened bronze. Guards lurking in the shadows leaped forward. Four assailants in black cloth stalked into the Tarr’s chamber, bows at the ready. But the other guards did not engage them.

“What are you waiting for?” Dula said as he charged forward, shield upraised. But before he could reach the black clad men, a guard sliced open Dula’s throat. Dula fell to his knees, blood pulsing from his throat.

Their eyes alighted on Eldara.

She dashed into the study, swung the heavy oaken door shut, and slid the deadbolt into place. The Tarr was on his feet.

“What has happened?”

“We’ve been betrayed.”

He ran a hand over his beard. Then, he regarded her with a questioning gaze.

Eldara said, “the secret passage, it’s the only way out.”

Tarr Oben nodded, and together they moved the large desk to reveal the trapdoor beneath.

They darted through the secret corridor. They came to a barrack’s door. Eldara opened it just enough to peer through the gap. Her heart froze, a pile of bodies was all that remained of the fifth quarter guards. Their weapons and armor stolen.

Tarr Oben lightly touched her arm. “Whoever did this will suffer the Tarr’s justice.”

She turned from the gruesome sight.

Eldara continued down the corridor. “I know an unused passage to Counsel Orla’s chamber, there you will be safe until we learn how deep this betrayal’s roots are.”

“I trust Orla, but I will not hide. Together we will weed out the scum that mean to mock the Tarr.”

A side door opened, and a guard adorned as she was stepped into the passage. Her grip tightened on her sickle-sword.

“Hail,” the guard called. “We’ve trapped the traitors in the Tarr’s chambers.”

How long had they been walking for? This passage cut through complex networks of rooms and servant-ways. Would the guards in this quarter of the temple fortress know what had happened in the Tarr’s chamber?

“Have you notified the fifth quarter?” Eldara asked.

The guard hesitated, “yes.” His hand drifted toward his belt.

A dagger twirled through the air—not at Eldara, but at the Tarr. Eldara leaped in the way and felt the force of the dagger slam into her cuirass. She reeled into Oben’s arms.

He gasped. “Eldara…”

The man lunged. Eldara deflected a strike with her shield and used the deep curve of her sickle-sword to hook the man’s ankle and pull it out from under him. He went sprawling. She struck with the edge of her shield, and the man’s skull crunched and squelched under the force of her blow.

She turned to the Tarr. He leaned on the wall, rattled, but unharmed. Eldara pressed a hand to Tarr Oben’s shoulder. His eyes danced for a moment, and he gave her a weary smile.

She led the way, her shield dripping brain matter.

They came to the door of Orla’s chamber. Eldara opened it slightly and peered through. Orla, hunched and gray bearded, spoke quietly with one of his personal guards. Instinct held her back. Instead, she strained to hear the Counsel’s words.

“Is it done?” Orla asked.

“He escaped into a secret passage. Below we found a dead man, and no sign of the Tarr. He must have turned to a passageway unknown to us.”

“This damned place is hollow with rat holes. Unsurprising he would hide in one.”

Eldara’s heart thrummed. It was Orla who had killed her companions and tried to murder the Tarr. Oben—who had heard Orla’s words as well—nodded to her.

It was in silence that she emerged from the secret passage, and without joy that she struck down Orla’s guard. He did not have time to draw his blade.

Orla screamed. Eldara swung swift and true, and Orla’s head was severed from his shoulders.

Tarr Oben pulled Eldara close and whispered, “bring me Orla’s firstborn so that we might learn how deep this betrayal’s roots are.” His lips brushed her ear.