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04 November 2008 @ 11:04 am
NaNoWriMo Entry: Prologue  




The day could have been caught in a painting, one of those that lifted spirits and thanked the gods for another day of life, forever and ever. It would catch the endless blue sky, broken only by the occasional faint, white clouds, the forest looming in the distance, green and intimidating yet alluring at the same time, and the valley between the two, with yellowing grass and flowers scattered all over.

Perfectly peaceful, by all rights. Picture perfect. A wonderful day.

A bloodcurdling scream pierced the air, and two figures emerged from the forest in a mess of leaves. A man and a woman, innocent-looking enough, probably people in the business of farming and staying out of trouble’s way. The woman screamed again, and a demon burst out of the forest behind them, hot on their trail. It was a massive thing with black scales that sucked in light and slime running down its haunches; it had talons the size of a person and terrifying fangs, slick with venom. It was distracted by the sudden lack of trees in its way, but not for long.

The woman was half-eaten and the man cut down to the earth in mere seconds.

On the other side of the forest, a family rotted in their humble shack as they ate dinner, their flesh green and their bodies consuming themselves alive. Three rivers away, two towns fought for reasons that none of their townsfolk knew. Up in the sky, a hawk dived down to its death. A baby in its mother’s arms screamed.

------

“We have to do something, Father,” Kalien said, pacing briskly back and forth, back and forth, in front of his parents’ throne. The young prince stopped at his declaration, tossing his shoulder-length blond hair out of his face to gaze up at the King with urgency.

“Yes, my child,” the King agreed, worry lines deepening at his frown. The large jewels on his crown glinted dully from the sun filtering in the hall’s many windows, looking as worn out as its wearer. “But what can we do? Elsith has slain Roderick, yet the situation in our kingdom has not improved at all.”

Kalien resisted the urge to tug at his hair but continued pacing, looking the very picture of agitated grace. “The evil mage may be dead, but he could not have been the only one in this conspiracy. We must find the rest. I refuse to believe that a single man can bring the downfall of a whole country, let alone our Autopia! If this goes on, Father, not only will our lands wither and our people perish, but elder brother Elsith’s sacrifice would have been in vain!”

“Silence about your brother,” the Queen pleaded, speaking up for the first time in an hour and giving out a pained sob. “He has suffered much from this ordeal. After facing Roderick Twilight of the… the Sullen, we should let him be a while.”

He looked surprised for a moment, before nodding agreeably. “Yes, of course, he has accomplished a lot. But we still face this rather difficult problem, do we not? We must find a way! The drought is slowly killing our land just as the demons and diseases and wars are killing our people! The warlock may be gone, but the damages were not undone!” Kalien finished passionately, wiping his brow with the back of his hand.

“I understand, Kalien,” his father spoke again, aggrieved, looking helpless in his seat. “I have sent word to the neighboring countries to ask for aid, but they have all closed their gates to us. They accuse us of playing with the Devil, and now we are being destroyed. Shelters and armies are currently being built to protect against demons as we speak, but without provisions, they will not last very long. It is not easy, my son,” he ended with a slight lilt to his voice, “to clean a wound that insists on being infected.”

“As the members of the Royal House of Summorn, I think it is our duty to keep on trying!” Kalien cried out, throwing his hands up. “I may be young, father, but even I am aware that we cannot let this continue! According to the scribes, we will be decimated in just one or two years if our situation does not improve!”

“Kalien! We are going around in circles!” His father had stood up, grand robes falling off his frame in a way that made him seem larger than he really was. It only served to emphasize the new, gaunt hollows on his pale cheeks.

“With all due respect, father---”

“Please, Kalien. Pray tell, what do you think we should do?”

He remained silent for a minute, drawn to his full height, back rigid.

“Something better than nothing,” he wanted to say, but someone else said it first, in a deep, rumbling roar more appropriate for a giant than any human. The three members of the Summorn Royal family looked up as black clouds burst in from the entrance, flinging the massive doors aside, accompanied by lightning and the roar of thunder. It was the shadow monster dreams were made of, and Kalien had never been so terrified in his life.

The mass of mist and cloud whirled as if alive and settled on the rug next to Kalien, right at the foot of the Queen’s throne.

“Don’t,” the mass said in a more normal voice as the prince drew his blades. “I mean no harm, you can put that away.” The whirl violently convulsed and abruptly faded away, leaving a man in black robes in its wake.

“Name yourself,” Kalien demanded, the blade of his short sword resting against the man’s throat. The stranger was a grizzled, rather stocky thing, in simple, stiff black robes usually worn by magicians, armed with a staff and nothing else. The total opposite of how the members of the Summorn monarchy dressed themselves, in soft, luxurious fabrics of mostly white and gold. The stranger in black gave him an intent, perusing look, and Kalien glared.

“I wish to speak with the King.”

“Name yourself, trespasser!” the prince repeated, blue eyes flashing in anger. Perhaps fighting a magician with nothing but a blade was not a wise decision to make, but the fellow had barged into the throne room and was now threatening his parents. If Kalien had been more impulsive, he would have slit the man’s throat already.

The dark-haired man tilted his head. “Cairre Stormbringer, former apprentice of the late Roderick Twilight of the Sullen. I assume that you are the famed Prince Kalien of the Royal Summorn Family. A pleasure to meet you, I am sure, but I have urgent business with your father, the King, and require and audience immediately.”

“Apprentice of Roderick--”

“Kalien!” the King roared, clutching at his ornate cane with a hand and holding his wife’s sleeve with the other. “Let the magician speak.”

“Father!” he protested, but obediently backed down. Cairre Stormbringer gave him an inquiring look once again, eyes the color of olives in the light.

“Explain this intrusion into our castle,” the King demanded, resuming his seat gracefully. His agitation was barely noticeable, if not for the light blush on his ears.

Cairre respectfully gave the King a short bow and took a minute to peer around and inspect the throne room. The brightness of the decor did not seem to impress him; Kalien wanted to demand to know what was wrong with gold.

“As I said earlier, I am the former apprentice of the now-deceased Roderick Twilight of the Sullen,” the magician started, leaning his staff loosely against his hip. “I had nothing to do with the current situation, of course, since my master had been anything if not zealous about the confidentiality and integrity of his plans.”

“If you knew what he had been planning, then would that not make you a conspirer?” Kalien cried, grip tight around his weapon, though making no move to draw it once more.

“Perhaps. That does not bear much significance in what I will propose to your Highness, however.”

The King raised one bushy silver eyebrow. “A proposal?”

“I will help save Autopia, but on one condition.”

Kalien let out a deep, growling sound from the back of his throat, enraged that anyone would even try to bargain for the safety of a kingdom. He was quelled, however, by a look, not from his Father but from his Mother. If the man asked for a portion of their kingdom, or even the throne itself, Kalien was going to…

“I want you to give me ownership of your magical horse,” Cairre continued.

They stared at him.

“We have no magical horse!” Kalien thundered after a beat, body straining against the urge to stalk forward to shake this stranger by the collar. A portion of the land would have been better!

“Of course you do,” the magician replied mildly. “It can talk. I want it.”

The Queen looked faint, skin pallid and the color of ash. She reached out a trembling hand, but the King did not take it. Instead, he gripped his cane until his hand shook and rose to his feet. “And how do you intend to save the kingdom with this magical horse?”

Cairre shrugged. “The horse does not have anything to do with it. I have other skills that will be of use.” The Queen looked relieved.

“And what skills are these?” the prince demanded once more, nearly hissing. His cheeks were tainted red and his blade was halfway out of its sheath. “If you are tricking my parents, I swear that I will slay you—“

It was then that the outsider gave him a vaguely irritated look. “If you’d let me finish, I would be able to explain. I have the ability to bring myself and one other to the Dimension Witch. Surely someone in this castle apart from myself has heard of her?”

“The Witch of Dimensions,” the King breathed, earning himself a questioning look from his son and a relieved look from the stranger. “I last heard her name uttered nearly two thousand years ago. I did not think anyone could still have magic intricate enough to reach her.”

“Not so intricate,” Cairre muttered, looking away. “So much as puzzling.”

“And how did you come about his ability?”

“Solving a riddle in one of my master’s old tomes,” he replied curtly. “I was a bored child and he would not let me do anything but clean and organize his library.”

This discussion apparently did not interest the King, who moved forward to put a gnarled, though elegant hand, on the magician’s shoulder. “Are you certain that you can send one of us to the Witch?”

“Yes,” said Cairre, wary, “But at the price of the horse,” he added hastily.

“I will need to… have a moment to decide,” the King finally said, waving a dismissal. “Kalien, please accompany Cairre to the courtyard. I shall have someone fetch you soon.”

“But Father!” Kalien exploded the same time Cairre whirled around to stalk out the exit. “Hey, you, wait! Scoundrel!” Despite his misgivings about the possible mistakes his Father might make without his assistance in the decision, Kalien went after the newcomer.

“How do you even know that we have such a beast in the premises, in the first place?” he demanded as he caught up to the younger man’s strides. “Do you have spies in our castle?”

Cairre blinked up at him, but did not stop walking, and clearly already knew his way to the courtyard. They had passed the exit to the gardens before Kalien was aware of it, and started when he nearly ran into a rose bush, so intent was he in determining the other man’s nature.

“You obtained the beast a fortnight ago, just as the sun had risen. The beast carried my master’s head in its mouth and looked ill. It has never left the castle ever since. Would you happen to know if he is fine now?”

“Of course he is!” Kalien answered, indignant. “What do you think of our castle, plebian!”

“I don’t know, busy saving Autopia?”

Kalien glared at him in silent fury. The only thing that stopped the prince from smacking the man some was the arrival of a servant, calling them back into the throne room.

Well. That was a rather quick decision; Cairre and Kalien hadn’t even taken three steps into the courtyard yet, let alone appreciated the scenery. Cairre had already left him to follow the servant back to the main wing of the castle. Kalien caught up with him with his longer legs. “You are very rude!”

“With all due respect, your highness, that is not something I want to hear from someone who touched a blade to my neck upon our first meeting without being provoked.”

The prince sputtered.

------

“We have made our decision,” the King of the Summorn family announced when Cairre and Kalien were back at their places at the foot of the throne. He looked more tired than ever, but there was hope glittering in milky blue eyes. Kalien hadn’t seen that in three months, even when Elsith had gone off to slay the warlock. It made his heart ache for his family and his land, and suddenly, Kalien felt the edges of resignation gnaw at him. But no, his was the only passion left in the castle, for even his parents had at one time or another lost hope in the situation.

“And?” Cairre asked, face impassive, but the prince noticed the tight hold on his staff.

“We agree to your demands,” his Father said in one quick breath. “The beast is yours. But please, please take care of him.”

At this, the magician’s face softened a fraction, but only for a second that no one saw it. “Yes,” he said. “Of course. “

Kalien was busy gaping at his father, but nodded.

“Then I will honor your decision and be the one to go to this Witch,” he announced. “I do not trust this stranger, but his plan is all we have, and with your blessing, Father…”

“You have it, Kalien. Go and save us all. The horse will be ready when you get back.”
 
 
Moodses: awakeawake
 
 
 
baby, you're my forever girl: » love is a language。ficcentricity on November 4th, 2008 03:15 am (UTC)
Eeeeeeeeee yay! \o/ PLEBIAN IS THE BEST INSULT.♥
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: \o/yukitsu on November 4th, 2008 03:16 am (UTC)
SO FAST IN THE INTERNET. \o/
Lynlyn: stein snerkskye_kestrel on November 5th, 2008 07:54 am (UTC)
His agitation was barely noticeable, if not for the light blush on his ears.

My gutter mind wondered why he'd be blushing, and then I had to reread it and remind myself that you're also trying to write in a different style. :'D
.Yukeh. ( ̄‿ ̄)ノ: :3yukitsu on November 5th, 2008 08:01 am (UTC)
Ohohoho! Does the style seem different to you? 8D I'm not doing it consciously, if you thought I was. It just naturally went that way because of the nature of what I'm writing.

(Also, the King is quite gnarled. Lynffles, what are you thinking!)