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The Dark Prince and the Wayward Daughter (Story)

Discussion in 'UO White Stag Inn' started by WarderDragon, Jan 18, 2010.

  1. WarderDragon

    WarderDragon Babbling Loonie
    Stratics Veteran Alumni BRPA

    Oct 9, 2008
    Likes Received:
    Part 1: Shadows and Knightmares

    A cold breeze swept across an evening sky; across the snow-covered metropolis where the Britannians had been celebrating for more than three nights. The chill draft beat slowly against the walls of the ancient city, breaking upon the lone swordsman that now walked its empty streets. He was a tall figure, dressed in a tight-fitting but otherwise plain black shirt and leather leggings; the heavy belt he wore crossed diagonally over his hips. The broad shoulders and barrel chest suggested a warrior, while that face, made of stony planes and angles, appeared weathered but unlined despite the grey in his hair.

    The air was crisp, if not so icy as Nicholas would have expected for this time of year. It was still enough for a mist to form at his lips when the bittersweet draft did not whip it away. A gust plastered the northerner’s black shirt to his chest, and streamed the crimson scarf he wore around a muscled neck out behind him like a standard. The chill would have sent other men shivering. He did not seem to notice, and if he did, he showed no outward signs it.

    The blackness in the sky was just beginning to form as he approached the Town Guard Office in New Britain, the multitude of stars like thick-scattered sapphires beginning to brighten in the heavens above. The slender sickle of an argent moon hung low in the twilight, casting barely enough light to illuminate the dimly lit street and the entrance to the small brick building he sought.

    Nicholas paused in the doorway, leaning against the antique stonework arch. Empty, he mused sourly, folding his arms across a barrel chest. All this way and no one’s home. Figures. He shook his head. What cannot be helped, must ultimately be endured. It had been almost three months since the last time he visited the small office, seeking Corporal Brackus and his retinue. Three months since Captain Aino Nystad, Commander of the Town Guard of Britain, lost her life defending the young Queen Regnant.

    “Let me finally mention that envoy’s arrived this very morning.” Dawn’s eyes swept across the crowded throne room, her unblinking stare meeting supporters and dissidents alike. The Queen realized that she did not entertain the support of many of those she had been fighting beside during the past couple weeks, that she knew. But Lady Aino had assured her that one day, she would earn their trust. “Flying heralds, representing Queen Zhah of the Gargoyles.”

    Those trained eyes failed to see the shrouded figure that entered the chamber from the tapestry-lined corridor. “It appears that our deeds have, not surprisingly, done more than we had anticipated.” The man snaked through the throng of bodies, his ominous footfalls reverberating across the polished marble with increasing speed, bearing him ever closer to the dais and his prize. “With the turmoil caused by the destruction of the Gem that slew Casca and violently removed the Shadow Lords from his Plane, a rift appeared into the underworld beneath Fire Island, not far from where we conducted our ritual with the Bell of Courage.”

    The hooded stranger shoved a courtier aside, reaching to the deep folds of his ebon shroud, producing an obsidian blade. “A sprawling City of Gargoyles dwells in this place. Queen Zhah is their leader, and she has requested a meeting with myself according to proper custom.” He was almost there. He could taste her sweet perfume on his lips. “I will not refuse her. I only ask that those amongst the Guard that are able to present themselves when the time comes for the meeting, to please do so, as my personal honor guard.” He could not wait any longer. The stranger sprung, somersaulting over the press of men and women, landing on one knee before the Queen and Lord Elladan.

    “Halt,” Corporal Brackus barked loudly, pointing the blade of his halberd towards the intruder. He could hear Sir Calyndrell beside him, fighting his blade from its stubborn sheath.

    “What is this?” Dawn maintained her regal posture, but her knuckles became white with fury. “Who are you?” she demanded.

    It all happened to fast. The screams. The cries. A single shout. She thought she heard someone order the figure to stop. Aino leapt before her, spreading her arms aloft. Saius snapped his finger. A burst of energy. A deafening thunderclap. She felt herself being thrown through the air, her head hitting the marble dais.

    The world spun. The Queen blinked her eyes, trying to shake off the temporary blindness. The walls groaned as if they would deny what happened. Scorch-marks spread across the floor. And there, lying on the steps before the throne was Aino, her lifeless eyes staring up at the vaulted ceiling.

    And now another hooded stranger haunts our lands,
    Nicholas thought bitterly as his eyes swept across the Corporal’s desk. A fresh report from the Office of the Queen. It stirred in the arctic draft.

    The northerner shook his head. I’ll come back tomorrow. He began to turn from the small chamber, his thoughts on his home and who awaited him there. Before he could take another step, however, a sound brought him up short, and alert: the sound of running. Nicholas’ hand drifted to his sword hilt, half-consciously easing the blade in its sheath. A faint rasp of steel on leather. He did not fear attack; New Britain was much safer than it had been during the reign of Lord Casca, and a pick-pocket would have known better than to make so much noise. But only an outlander would risk slipping on a patch of ice to run in this weather. Or someone in trouble. And it was an evil moon. Nicholas rarely entertained such idle superstitions, but the Universe had been a fickle creature of late, and his Eyes and Ears suggested something was about to happen. Something.

    “Nicholas,” she breathed in an upset voice, stumbling into view. He almost didn’t recognize the voice, or her.

    “Great Mother,” he intoned softly, releasing the hilt of his weapon to catch her before she collapsed. Lady Fazhnjell was legendary for her calm. She rarely showed any hint of what she might be thinking or feeling; a sort of otherworldly calm not unlike the emotionless façade he erected between himself and others. But this was different. Dark, panic-stricken eyes stared up at the tall swordsman behind a mess of iron-grey curls. The hem of her black gown had been torn and burned in places. She had been in a struggle. Nicholas’ eyes took on a more dangerous aspect, searching the blackness for any sign of pursuit. Nothing.

    “My son,” Fazhnjell caught her breath, swallowing hard. “They stole it. All of it.”

    Nicholas’ brows furrowed, wolfish blue eyes searching the woman’s smooth, ageless face. “They stole what? Whom?”

    “Cymidei Fier, Aldagar Morr,” the Prophetess looked over her shoulder in askance; worry and anger tinged in her voice. “They invaded Castle Britannia. They found the Treasury. They took everything.” She looked as though she was about to crumple over. “I was so frightened.”

    He reached a hand out to steady her, the coldness in his eyes at odds with his gentle manner. “Catch you breath.”

    The woman shook her head. “Hilda,” she murmured bitterly, the anger rising in her voice. “She tried to light me on fire. If not for my wayward daughter, Proserpina…”

    The coldness in his eyes became blue fire. “Show me.”