Story Posts from The Royalty For A Week Thread

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Ambrosia

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The queen walked the empty halls of the castle, her silk slippers making nary a sound. She might appear a wraith to someone peeking out a door, if any were up at the witching hours of the morning. Her white, gossamer robes floated around her as she moved down the corridor. Her thoughts were on the threat to the Realm, and she could not still her mind to catch even a wink of sleep. Thus, she walked the corridors, seeking answers that would not come. Her face was on fire which gave her one more reason not to attempt sleep. The poison in her cheek had sent out spider veins of green across the entire side of her face. I'm hideous, she thought, for the hundredth time.

What the queen couldn't see was the green tinged light glowing from the crown she still wore, the crown she couldn't set aside for even a second of the night. She continued to walk through the castle while its inhabitants slept. The Royals remained blissfully unaware of the danger in their midst.
 

Ambrosia

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The queen walked the empty halls of the castle, her silk slippers making nary a sound. She might appear a wraith to someone peeking out a door, if any were up at the witching hours of the morning. Her white, gossamer robes floated around her as she moved down the corridor. Her thoughts were on the threat to the Realm, and she could not still her mind to catch even a wink of sleep. Thus, she walked the corridors, seeking answers that would not come. Her face was on fire which gave her one more reason not to attempt sleep. The poison in her cheek had sent out spider veins of green across the entire side of her face. I'm hideous, she thought, for the hundredth time.

What the queen couldn't see was the green tinged light glowing from the crown she still wore, the crown she couldn't set aside for even a second of the night. She continued to walk through the castle while its inhabitants slept. The Royals remained blissfully unaware of the danger in their midst.
 

Ambrosia

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The queen sat sipping her coffee. Where had everyone gone? Where was Prince Welcheren? Where was Prince Daniel? Where was Princess Tiddlywinks? Where was Princess EFB? Where...well, where was everyone? The castle was quiet as the grave. Could the locusts have carried the Royals away? Ambrosia sat bolt upright. She hadn't seen the attack force from the catacombs emerge. She had sent Prince Welcheren after the guard to prepare. She hadn't heard from the guard. Where had her mind gone that she had forgotten everything?

A sickening feeling hit Ambrosia in the stomach. She still wore the crown. All day and all night she had worn the crown. Taking it off was beyond difficult. It was as if the crown had control over her. Reaching up, she yanked it off her head and threw it.

Just then, the head gardener walked into the room and the crown hit her in the stomach. The gardener grabbed the crown before it could hit the floor. "What have we here?" she asked. She held the crown out toward the queen.

Ambrosia leaped from her chair and started backing away.

"Your Majesty. Your crown. Somehow it wound up in my path." The gardener stopped and stared at the queen, puzzlement on her face.

Ambrosia stopped backtracking and stood still, the beginnings of an idea forming in her mind. "Why yes, it did wind up in your path. What is your name?"

"Shakeysix, Your Majesty."

"Shakeysix. Yes, I remember now. I will have the maids bring you the appropriate attire. It can be altered as needed. Come here." Ambrosia tapped her finger against her lips as the gardener cautiously approached.

"I don't understand, Your Majesty. But here is your crown."

Ambrosia gingerly accepted the crown from the gardener's hands. "No, don't leave. Stand there."

Raising the crown above the gardener's head she intoned the words that would transfer the power of the Realm into the gardener's hands and make the gardener queen. Then, she securely placed the crown onto the gardener's head. A smile played across Ambrosia's face as the crown settled into place.

"There. That should confuse the Realm Locusts for awhile." Ambrosia stepped back and dusted off her hands.

"Realm Locusts, Your Majesty?" asked Queen Shakeysix.

"No longer your majesty. I'm only the grand duchess now. You are our new queen. Enjoy your reign." Ambrosia turned away and exited the room.




All Hail,
Her Royal Majesty
Queen Shakeysix!
 

Ambrosia

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The queen sat sipping her coffee. Where had everyone gone? Where was Prince Welcheren? Where was Prince Daniel? Where was Princess Tiddlywinks? Where was Princess EFB? Where...well, where was everyone? The castle was quiet as the grave. Could the locusts have carried the Royals away? Ambrosia sat bolt upright. She hadn't seen the attack force from the catacombs emerge. She had sent Prince Welcheren after the guard to prepare. She hadn't heard from the guard. Where had her mind gone that she had forgotten everything?

A sickening feeling hit Ambrosia in the stomach. She still wore the crown. All day and all night she had worn the crown. Taking it off was beyond difficult. It was as if the crown had control over her. Reaching up, she yanked it off her head and threw it.

Just then, the head gardener walked into the room and the crown hit her in the stomach. The gardener grabbed the crown before it could hit the floor. "What have we here?" she asked. She held the crown out toward the queen.

Ambrosia leaped from her chair and started backing away.

"Your Majesty. Your crown. Somehow it wound up in my path." The gardener stopped and stared at the queen, puzzlement on her face.

Ambrosia stopped backtracking and stood still, the beginnings of an idea forming in her mind. "Why yes, it did wind up in your path. What is your name?"

"Shakeysix, Your Majesty."

"Shakeysix. Yes, I remember now. I will have the maids bring you the appropriate attire. It can be altered as needed. Come here." Ambrosia tapped her finger against her lips as the gardener cautiously approached.

"I don't understand, Your Majesty. But here is your crown."

Ambrosia gingerly accepted the crown from the gardener's hands. "No, don't leave. Stand there."

Raising the crown above the gardener's head she intoned the words that would transfer the power of the Realm into the gardener's hands and make the gardener queen. Then, she securely placed the crown onto the gardener's head. A smile played across Ambrosia's face as the crown settled into place.

"There. That should confuse the Realm Locusts for awhile." Ambrosia stepped back and dusted off her hands.

"Realm Locusts, Your Majesty?" asked Queen Shakeysix.

"No longer your majesty. I'm only the grand duchess now. You are our new queen. Enjoy your reign." Ambrosia turned away and exited the room.




All Hail,
Her Royal Majesty
Queen Shakeysix!
 

DanielSTJ

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Princess E.F.B! Prince Welcheren! Noble LadyV!

:hi:

I have a late-night addition once more:

==​

The bird of prey looked at Daniel with its eyes. They were beaming with enough luminescence to give a glow to the room. It seemed to bask it eerily-- almost sublimely. It tapped its claws on Daniel’s shoulder and then pointed its other foot towards the sarcophagus.

“Trap there,” it said in Daniel’s ears. “Be careful, Bard. I do believe that it’s deadly.”

Daniel nodded and looked around the room. “Any others?”

“There will be a few on the way out of here, but for now you are here. Remember that.”

“Is there anything else?”

“You need to consult me before you leave the room. There is much that needs to be said, but your ears are not ready to hear the details yet. It is key to remember that there is a timeline for everything. One needs to be cognizant of that.”

Daniel nodded.

“There’s a chest underneath you, hidden by all the dust on the floor. It is small. Open it, Bard.”

Daniel did not hesitate. He went down on one knee and began to wipe away the dust that seemed to be everywhere, hanging like webs that were attempting to smother everything in the room whole.

It was a small chest. On it was a simple lock. That was nothing that Daniel could not handle.

He pulled out one of his fine tools from his inner pocket and, in a few moments, the lock clicked in just the right spot.

“Ah, yes, the mark of a scoundrel,” the raven whistled.

“Quiet you,” Daniel said, opening the chest.

Inside was a dagger with a curved hilt.

“It’s for throwing,” the raven said. “It can slowly decimate anything with a single bite, for it is enchanted with poison.”

Daniel ran his fingers along the edge of the blade. It was sharp, despite lying in this room for who knew how long. He saw that, even in the darkness, it glowed with a mild greenish tint. Daniel grabbed it and balanced it on its hand and noticed that it was feather-light.

“Intriguing,” Daniel said, tossing the dagger from one hand to the other. “Do you want a lick, bird?”

“I’m not a bird,” the raven cawed.

“I bet you it’s real tasty,” Daniel teased, slowly bringing the dagger in front of him. “Maybe it tastes like maple syrup if you just want to give it a....”

The raven bit Daniel on the ear and then flew to his other shoulder. “Watch it, Bard. I’m not a fool and you’re behaving more than one for the both of us.”

Daniel smiled. The bite on his ear was a decent one, but it did not draw blood. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Now, the sarcophagus is going to be troublesome,” the raven began. “Do you have any bread? I’ve got a hunger craving.”

Daniel looked into his seemingly never-ending pockets and rummaged up a piece of bread. It did not look the most appealing, but the raven snatched it out of his hand and began to gobble.

“How tasty is it?” Daniel grinned.

“Quiet, Bard. I’ll be up there watching and ready to give a hand. I will watch you open the sarcophagus. It is the only way that you have a chance of getting out of here.”

With that, the bird of prey flew and perched himself up on a broken part of the stonework that was surrounding the room. He directed his eyes towards the sarcophagus to ensure that Daniel would have enough light to see what he was doing.

Daniel took a deep breath and moved forward. The lid was adorned with inscriptions from various languages and a royal crest that he had never seen before. It was obviously the tomb of someone from long ago. Yet, before he took too much time examining it, Daniel knew that he would have to disarm the trap.

“Where is it?” Daniel called up.

“At the ridge where it opens. It’s a thin wire that spreads out in all directions. The wire is razor sharp and could even cut through its fair share of armour. Control those shaky hands.”

Daniel focused his eyes on the ridge and noticed the wire. It had been lying in wait for a long time. Daniel had an idea and whims of fancy were the only things that served him in his times of need. He jumped on top of the sarcophagus and the wire sprung across the room. As it did, he threw the dagger and cut the wire so that it loosened and caved onto the ground.

“Well,” the raven called out from above. “That’s one way to do it.” He cawed in recognition.

“Now,” Daniel said. “Let’s look inside.”

It was a heavy lid and he had to push hard to even move an inch of it, but he managed. All the years of toil in the fields, when he had been growing up, had paid off in more times than one.
When it was moved enough, Daniel stopped what he was doing. The raven paused, not shining the light inside.

“Raven?” Daniel asked. “Let’s see what’s inside.”

“You’re not going to like it. I can tell you that much.”

“Just shine.”

“Sometimes, in the darkness. The light is your enemy,” the crow said. Then, slowly, it moved its eyes to shine inside the sarcophagus.

Daniel looked inside and all colour left his face.
 

DanielSTJ

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Princess E.F.B! Prince Welcheren! Noble LadyV!

:hi:

I have a late-night addition once more:

==​

The bird of prey looked at Daniel with its eyes. They were beaming with enough luminescence to give a glow to the room. It seemed to bask it eerily-- almost sublimely. It tapped its claws on Daniel’s shoulder and then pointed its other foot towards the sarcophagus.

“Trap there,” it said in Daniel’s ears. “Be careful, Bard. I do believe that it’s deadly.”

Daniel nodded and looked around the room. “Any others?”

“There will be a few on the way out of here, but for now you are here. Remember that.”

“Is there anything else?”

“You need to consult me before you leave the room. There is much that needs to be said, but your ears are not ready to hear the details yet. It is key to remember that there is a timeline for everything. One needs to be cognizant of that.”

Daniel nodded.

“There’s a chest underneath you, hidden by all the dust on the floor. It is small. Open it, Bard.”

Daniel did not hesitate. He went down on one knee and began to wipe away the dust that seemed to be everywhere, hanging like webs that were attempting to smother everything in the room whole.

It was a small chest. On it was a simple lock. That was nothing that Daniel could not handle.

He pulled out one of his fine tools from his inner pocket and, in a few moments, the lock clicked in just the right spot.

“Ah, yes, the mark of a scoundrel,” the raven whistled.

“Quiet you,” Daniel said, opening the chest.

Inside was a dagger with a curved hilt.

“It’s for throwing,” the raven said. “It can slowly decimate anything with a single bite, for it is enchanted with poison.”

Daniel ran his fingers along the edge of the blade. It was sharp, despite lying in this room for who knew how long. He saw that, even in the darkness, it glowed with a mild greenish tint. Daniel grabbed it and balanced it on its hand and noticed that it was feather-light.

“Intriguing,” Daniel said, tossing the dagger from one hand to the other. “Do you want a lick, bird?”

“I’m not a bird,” the raven cawed.

“I bet you it’s real tasty,” Daniel teased, slowly bringing the dagger in front of him. “Maybe it tastes like maple syrup if you just want to give it a....”

The raven bit Daniel on the ear and then flew to his other shoulder. “Watch it, Bard. I’m not a fool and you’re behaving more than one for the both of us.”

Daniel smiled. The bite on his ear was a decent one, but it did not draw blood. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Now, the sarcophagus is going to be troublesome,” the raven began. “Do you have any bread? I’ve got a hunger craving.”

Daniel looked into his seemingly never-ending pockets and rummaged up a piece of bread. It did not look the most appealing, but the raven snatched it out of his hand and began to gobble.

“How tasty is it?” Daniel grinned.

“Quiet, Bard. I’ll be up there watching and ready to give a hand. I will watch you open the sarcophagus. It is the only way that you have a chance of getting out of here.”

With that, the bird of prey flew and perched himself up on a broken part of the stonework that was surrounding the room. He directed his eyes towards the sarcophagus to ensure that Daniel would have enough light to see what he was doing.

Daniel took a deep breath and moved forward. The lid was adorned with inscriptions from various languages and a royal crest that he had never seen before. It was obviously the tomb of someone from long ago. Yet, before he took too much time examining it, Daniel knew that he would have to disarm the trap.

“Where is it?” Daniel called up.

“At the ridge where it opens. It’s a thin wire that spreads out in all directions. The wire is razor sharp and could even cut through its fair share of armour. Control those shaky hands.”

Daniel focused his eyes on the ridge and noticed the wire. It had been lying in wait for a long time. Daniel had an idea and whims of fancy were the only things that served him in his times of need. He jumped on top of the sarcophagus and the wire sprung across the room. As it did, he threw the dagger and cut the wire so that it loosened and caved onto the ground.

“Well,” the raven called out from above. “That’s one way to do it.” He cawed in recognition.

“Now,” Daniel said. “Let’s look inside.”

It was a heavy lid and he had to push hard to even move an inch of it, but he managed. All the years of toil in the fields, when he had been growing up, had paid off in more times than one.
When it was moved enough, Daniel stopped what he was doing. The raven paused, not shining the light inside.

“Raven?” Daniel asked. “Let’s see what’s inside.”

“You’re not going to like it. I can tell you that much.”

“Just shine.”

“Sometimes, in the darkness. The light is your enemy,” the crow said. Then, slowly, it moved its eyes to shine inside the sarcophagus.

Daniel looked inside and all colour left his face.
 

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New addition:

It was a book, but it was not any ordinary one. Daniel had seen his fair share of dark things, but this was bad. It was a tome, all right, but even from the get-go Daniel could see that it was made of flesh.

“What....?” escaped Daniel’s lips. He paused and a hand went up to scratch at the stubble on his face, a tick that he had never mastered. “Why?”

The crow cawed. “I don’t know.”

Daniel pushed more of the lid off of the sarcophagus. There was a skeleton here that was arrayed with a crown that was broken in the middle. Daniel assumed that he was a king from long ago, but he had never heard of him in his lifetime. The crown had lettering and Daniel peered over it, trying to gain some semblance of the words that were before him.

It was a Latin name: Tarquinius. Daniel was only able to recognize the lettering because of the basics that he had been taught in the private schooling that his parents had enrolled him in. Certainly, that had been something that he had only assembled a few years of and was, for the most part, now considered a waste.

“What does the crown say?” Daniel asked on a whim. He knew that the raven was well-versed and he hoped that the bird of prey would be able to read the Latin. For some reason, it just seemed to make sense to ask.

The raven swooped down and gracefully landed on the top of the sarcophagus. He looked into it and peered at the crown, moving his head in one direction and then the other-- scanning the words that were formed.

“Tarquinius of the North-- Philosopher King,” the raven said. “Hmm.”

“What?”

“It’s almost as if I’ve read this before, but I know I haven’t. Just a trick of the brain that remains as an image long after the words have formed on your lips, er,” he paused, standing on one leg. “-- beak I suppose.”

Daniel looked down at the King’s body. It was deformed. There was obviously something wrong with the skeleton. Even though the bones were well preserved, the legs were too long and the torso too short. In addition, the skull’s eyes were not even and the nose was long and there were depressions in the skull that were not from blows.

Daniel titled his head, looking more at the king. How did he die? The bard looked, instinctively, at the torso. It did not take him very long to see the answer. The spine was broken at its base. He broke his back.

The bard looked at the skull one last time before moving on. There was something about it that sent a shiver down his spine. Although the deformities spoke of challenges throughout the king’s life, there was something powerful about him that transferred itself even beyond the mortal coil. What exactly it was, Daniel could not say. Yet, it was there, lingering below the contours of the fragile world.

His eyes went back to the book. The cover was a mix of tan and different shades of red. Daniel did not want to touch it, but he was inherently curious about what was inside.

“I do not recommend opening the book,” the raven said, hopping onto Daniel’s shoulder. “There are certain things that are best to remain dead. This is one of them. I have heard of this book.”

“Tell me about it,” Daniel took a step away from the sarcophagus.

“Tarquinius,” the bird said, as if the word could transmit information itself. “It rings a bell. I think I know where I heard it from, but it’s going to be a little sloppy the history that I know of it. Are you willing to listen?”

“Absolutely, go right ahead when you are ready.”

The bird’s eyes glowed brighter for an instant and then their light petered out. “This is a story that is best told in the dark.”

“As you will.”

Daniel felt a slight breeze on the back of his neck despite knowing, for a fact, that there was no way that such a thing was possible.

“Tarquinius is a name that traces back to the Etruscans. I am remembering the story now. It is almost a legend. He was the first king in reign when the castle was finally completed. In-fact, it was done so on his birthday. The king was an odd one,” the raven continued. “-- he preferred to spend his days alone in his study going over the works that his court philosopher brought him. Scrolls, tomes, books and pamphlets from all over the lands. They were all brought to him with due haste. He believed that building the mind was widening the soul and that, for a king, such a thing was of the utmost importance. At first, this worked so well. He was able to think of things, to almost see things, that others could not. Massive projects were planned and things, for a time, were plentiful.”

Daniel closed his eyes, listening.

“Tarquinius became obsessed with knowledge. He began to ignore his kingly duties. This is where things began to spiral out of control. When his advisors scolded him, he had them flayed and imprisoned in the tower. As his subjects rose up, he demolished them with mercenaries. He thought that he knew best of all kings and that his knowledge was guiding him towards some destiny that only existed in his own mind. This “knowledge” that he preferred to keep to himself was driving him to ruin. Everyone could realize it but him. You could see it in his eyes, but he did not allow even the most trusted to meet his gaze as time wore on.”

Daniel took a breath. Something had formed in his mind. “How is his name remembered in the history books?”

“Tarquinius the Mad,” the raven whispered. “Though that is something that has not been said in a long time.”

And then something in the room moved.
 

Snitchcat

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The Queen of the Locusts snarled silently at the now-shiny carapaces of her subjects. "So, that pygmy of a princess thinks glitter will immobilise me?" She hissed. "Subjects," she clicked, "the crown is no longer with the Duchess, but it still sings for us! Devour the stone and anything you find in, on, under, or next to it. And if it's squishy, liquidise it!" The Queen burrowed into the ground. Her entourage followed, glitter exorcised from their exoskeletons. It was time to visit someone familiar with the Underlair of the Castle. Someone who had long been thought dead, and it wasn't the mad king Tarquinius. Oh no, there was a far more devious individual who owed the Queen a rather large favour.
 

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If my posts are annoying, just tell me to tone it down. :poke:

==​

The raven’s eyes darted to the direction that the noise had come from. The catacombs seemed to take on a darker light, bathed in a miasma of grey and black. Daniel’s eyes widened as he saw that the sarcophagus lid was now completely off-- located on the floor. There seemed to have been no noise coming from the sound of the heavy object that was supposed to thud to the floor. Daniel was anxious and he noticed that his hands were shaking. His fingers felt odd, as if they were tingling. Slowly, but surely, he walked over to the sarcophagus and he looked inside.

The king was missing.

His eyes widened further.

“I’ll be back. Be calm, but be ready,” the raven said, departing from his shoulder and swooping high up above.

Daniel was left with silence. He grabbed his short sword from its scabbard, slowly. Its blade glittered in the dark. In his other hand was the throwing knife. Now, he felt as if he was ready.

He looked down. The book was missing as well.

Something moved behind him. Instead of spinning, with a slight motion he rotated his feet until he was in the other direction.

“Dark,” something said. “We’re in the dark.”

He closed his eyes, using his other senses-- other than his eyes, to gain a semblance of the room. The figure, whatever it was, was a meter away from him. It was not moving at the moment.

“Who are you?” Daniel asked.

“Mage,” the voice said, a rasping whisper in the blackness. “You can’t see me and I cannot see you. It looks like we are at a standstill.”

“How did you get down here?”

“I’ve been imprisoned in these walls for years on end. Tell me, does the sun still shimmer with the faint glow of the morning each time it rises?”

Daniel frowned, getting his knees in position to strike. He did not like the tone of the form. The bard knew that he had to be ready to strike, or to dodge, at any instant. At least his failure in becoming a knight had taught him how to evade blows-- quickly too.

“It rises and it sets.”

“Then all is well in the land,” the voice said, lingering for an instant when it should have parted.

“What do you want?”

“What do YOU want?”

“I don’t know why I’m down here,” Daniel started. “And I’m keen to get out.”

“No one has escaped here in years. You die down here.”

“Is that a threat?”

The form began to walk, not towards Daniel but to the side. The bard lightly rotated his steps so that it was in line with the form. It seemed to drift seamlessly rather than take steps in the direction that it was heading. That made him uncomfortable. He was obviously dealing with someone that had been tampered with by magic. Daniel’s knowledge of the arcane arts was limited at best. He had never been able to fully understand, let alone conjure, anything from the scrolls that Welcheren had brought him.

“No,” the voice said. “Just an observation. You’re a curious fellow, aren’t you? Do you really think that I cannot see that you have two weapons in each of your hands. They will not take you as far as you believe they will.”

“I keep my weapons as taut as my words,” Daniel gritted his teeth. “Be careful lest they find your throat.”

There was a laugh that turned into a cough. It sounded like that of a dying man. “Do you really think that they’re going to help you down here?”

“I do,” Daniel said. “Do you really think it’s wise to play chess with your words like it’s a game?”

There was a pause. Daniel closed his eyes tighter, using his mind to feel around for where the form was. He had to make sure that he followed its course of movements. If he was caught unaware, it could be fatal.

“Do you want to know what happened to the king?” The tone was flat, harsh.

“I do.”

“He started off well,” the voice said, moving further away from him-- back towards the wall behind him. “He would dream at night of all the great things that he would accomplish throughout his reign. Tarquinius truly cared for his people at the beginning. He gave out food for those that had none, clothed those who could not do so themselves and even funded the building of a cathedral near the town square. It was a beacon of hope for all the people, who believed that their troubled times were behind them and that there were verdant pastures ahead in the horizon.”

Daniel listened carefully. His arms were stiff, but he kept them in place-- just in case.

“It was when he heard his advisors whisper behind his back that things began to go wrong. They laughed at his infirmities. Tarquinius had tried so hard to be normal and had struggled all his life. Before his reign, his brother attempted to take the throne. He had planned Tarquinius’ assassination. It failed and his brother was guillotined for his actions. Tarquinius watched and did not shed a tear, not publicly. I saw him in his chambers late that night. He looked like a child, tears streaming down his cheeks and neck, his hands in his face. When the nobles laughed at him, he realized something. You see,” the voice coughed again and this time it was violent. “-- the nobles reminded him of his brother’s attempt at his own death. Worse, they chided him for his infirmities. They called him a freak and a Quasimodo. I take it you’ve read that one, yes?”

Daniel felt increasingly uncomfortable. It was like the possessor of the voice knew things about him that he had not said or even thought.

“Yes, they made him feel small when he had tried to appear so formidable. It ate at him. He imprisoned them at first, merely wanting to make an example. But then, wherever he looked, he saw their eyes and their laughs. He heard their laughs in his sleep. It haunted him and mocked him. Also, it made him paranoid.”

Daniel slowly let down his arms-- they had begun to grow sore. He opened his eyes. Maybe it would be better to accustom them to the darkness?

“He went through his reign of terror. Nearly everyone was imprisoned and then he began to pick them off, one by one, for execution. By the end, there were nearly none of the original caste left. It was Arall that ended it.”

“Arall?”

“You will find out about him, sooner than you think.”

The voice dissipated. Daniel felt an absence in the room.

He was alone.
 

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He was in the dark.

There was the sound of something dripping. Each drop felt like it was reverberating in Daniel’s ears. He decided to strike another match and view the room around him.

Crack. Crack. Hiss.

A match was lit.

Daniel peered about the room. There was a hole in the wall where before there had been none. It appeared as if something heavy had shattered its way through. Above, and below it, there were cracks in the other stone blocks. The bard worried about the integrity of the foundations, but he cast those aside. There was a dim light coming from the hole.

Should I wait for the raven to return? Or should I go ahead?

Daniel walked over to where the opening was. It was almost as if someone took a knife and cut around the perimeter in order to fit itself through-- it was that intricate. Furthermore, it had the impression that it was a giant being that had made its way through.

The king.

Before him was a long hallway. However, instead of being similar to the other rooms that one might expect from the catacombs, it was as if it was taken out of a mansion. The floor was covered with a long burgundy carpet and there were lanterns that seemed to be elegantly lit. On the walls, although Daniel was barely able to see, he could tell that there were long murals with majestically painted scenes. He did not know the origin or inspiration behind these images, but he could tell that they had been commissioned by professional artists-- it showed in the colors that nearly soared out of the murals to meet his eyes.

The match went out. Daniel knew he would not have to light another one-- the light before him was sufficient for whatever he needed to do. He could still hear the dripping and, for some reason, he visualized a well in his mind. That worried him and he frowned. There was an unsettling feeling beginning to spread over him.

Traps. Check for traps.

He used the practices that the thieves had taught him in the guild before he was banished. That had been one of the first formulations of his lessons. The nobles tended to like their possessions, just not as much as thieves usually did. To this effect, traps were common and it was not out of the ordinary to see thieves trudging around the guild with intense scars or missing fingers. Daniel had done well at lock-picking and they had been convinced that he would bring more revenue into the guild. The taste of copper was never quite far from their mouths and the lure of gold between their fingertips the same.

Picture the opening in your head and rotate around it in your mind. Look for all the nooks and crannies and do not rush. There is time. There is always time, even when it looks like it is running wild away from you like a wild dog. Inspect the area and then go into the details. Use the different areas of your brain to process all the information. Revolve it over and over again. It is best to be prepared rather than to make critical mistakes when quick-witted action is required the most.

He maneuvered around it, searched it for hidden crevices, everything that he could possibly think of. Daniel still remembered the punishments that the guild had inflicted on its members for not being able to find the trap properly. They used canning and, if that did not work, whips. If that did not suffice, they let the thief find out for themselves just how dangerous the trap that they were trying to disarm could be.

Some had died.

As far as Daniel could tell, there were no traps. That was suspicious, but everything about the catacombs was turning out that way. He suspected that such a fluid tendency would continue.

Nothing down here will be ordinary.

He opened his eyes. There was nothing-- he was convinced. Daniel walked, gingerly, into the hallway. The carpet on the ground was soft, even though he was wearing riding boots. He walked a few paces and then looked to one side.

It was a mural of Dante’s Inferno. The scenes depicted were gruesome and graphic in nature. People meeting their eternities in the underworld that awaited them.

He looked away and, then, to the other side.

It was the same concept. The flame seemed to bathe the entire scene in a disturbing glow. It was almost as if the eyes that were looking at him, the eyes of the damned, could look right into the deepest boundaries of his own soul.

Daniel cast his eyes towards the rest of the hallway. It carried on for quite some time. He could not even see the end of it. Along the side, at about the pace of a meter each time, was another lantern.

He began to walk. His steps were the only sounds that were in the corridor. Even the flames made no sound. Every so often he stopped, for he was certain that he heard something, but when he peered around there was nothing in any direction. His hands began to tingle and Daniel clutched them together, trying to control them.

The murals became less and less intense as he walked along. Every so often, he cast a look to both sides to witness what has happening.

You are traveling upward. Is this the path to the light?

At a certain point, he stopped entirely and grabbed one of the lanterns by its handle, shining it on the mural.

There were people everywhere. They looked sad, but also complacent. There was no suffering like he had witnessed before. Instead, they were silent. No lips were moving. The eyes were dim and colorless. It took Daniel a minute to realize it, but when he did a shudder went down his spine.

They are blind. They are all blind.
 

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Another late night addition:

===​

Daniel kept walking.

Do not let the eyes of the damned guide you.

Slowly, the walls became lighter in both color and luminosity. The light grew as he walked down and he realized that the carpet was being changed too: now it was a dark indigo blue that shimmered with a luster that he remembered the sea having from his youth-- from all the days he had sailed off to foreign lands in search of adventure and lore.

The sails had been reflections of the souls of the passengers. There were no emblems or insignia bearing nations. It was not that type of voyage. Instead, they were painted with mythology and, typically, beautiful landscapes that they hoped to reach. It seemed like the entire world was in front of them and theirs for the taking. Daniel remembered reaching up at the stars and the skyline, along with his fellow sailors, laughing. They had been passing around a bottle of wine that tasted so bitter that even the most veteran of the sailors had cringed while drinking it.

“Don’t forget us when you’re gone, Bard,” Ramon-- one of the tallest and most muscular ones, had told him. “Sometimes the greatest things that you have to take with you are your memories. Remember that above all.”

One night, they saw the wild lands of Amaron. The moon was shining over it, bathing it in the mystical twilight that only it could offer. Amaron was the fabled land that few people ventured to and that, rarely, anyone came back from. It was not a place of darkness, merely everyone who had gone there never wanted to go back. It was the paradise that many people could only dream of-- or so that was what Daniel had imagined. They told tales of it during his youth and Daniel was careful to soak up as much about the place as he could. There was a mystical beauty about the words when he had sat at the fireside with his mother, hanging eagerly on each word as if it were raindrops from the heaven that granted eternal youth: ambrosia itself.

They set anchor and the crew began to crowd around the shore. Strangely enough, there was no dock-- nor was there any sign of any other people.

“We will wait until the morning,” the captain declared. “Then we will set inland. We will leave a select few to guard the ship and then go reaping the rewards of our voyage.”

It had taken a long time to arrive at Amaron. Although it had been a smooth voyage, and not a single soul had been lost, their supplies were growing thin and the sailors had become too amped up in preparation for what they might find. It was not a wild preposition for Daniel to assume that many thought that the troubles in their worlds were at an end. They believed it was equivalent to The Holy Grail. They expected all of their sins to be dissolved and for their souls to bathe in absolution. The fervour that they expressed, and the excitement that they waited at the shore, seemed almost bursting over the seams. They could simply not wait to see what awaited them beyond the finely light shores that grew tall grasses of worth and wonder.

Daniel continued to walk down the corridor that began to widen. All the memories were beginning to take hold of his emotions and he put his shaking hands to his side. He continued to walk, looking from side to side and seeing the purgatory change to the stairway to heaven. Everyone was climbing it and many were hand in hand, smiling. It was like there was love everywhere and no one would ever be cold, sick or hungry ever again. It filled his chest with warmth and he felt a lightness that increased with each and every step that he took.

When he awoke in the morning, a little late but ready to take on the wonders of the new land, the crew was nearly entirely gone. The only remnants were those who were necessary to guard the ship.

“Where did they go?” Daniel had asked. “Why did they not wait for me?”

The cook of the ship shook his head. “I could barely understand it myself. They wanted to go see the things that they believed would be lost if they waited a single instant longer. It was as if they could not control themselves. Everything that was beyond their reach suddenly took on an increasing vigor and vitality to them. I saw things in their eyes that I did not want to see. It was not darkness, but it was as if they were looking for freedom from everyone and everything. I told them to wait for you,” he paused. “You deserved that most of all Daniel, but they took off without you and now I’m not sure you can make your way alone. I think you should wait with us. There’s something about this place that worries me. Forget the stories and what it appears to be. I’m not sure what lies beneath the surface is what this world needs.”

“I need to see,” Daniel responded. “There’s no way I came all the way out here, on this wondrous shore, just to turn back. I’ve run away from enough things in my life. I am not adding another one to my list.”

“We will give you a day,” the cook said. “I’m the most senior person left on this ship. “You should be able to see enough. Then, you come back for tomorrow morning and we leave. No one else is leaving the ship besides you, so consider yourself lucky.”

“Noted,” Daniel said, going up to the deck of the ship.

The sun was shining down and everything was covered in mist. You could barely see a meter before you. Daniel climbed down from the side of the ship and his feet touched the ground of Amaron. He suddenly felt different-- strange.

Nonetheless, he had moved forward.

The hall continued to widen until it was three times its side. He was in a large space now and he saw that there was a form before him, leaning against a sword that was pointed at the ground. At first, he did not recognize who it was. Then, in a rush, he realized that the giant form could only be one person.

Tarquinius.
 

DanielSTJ

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Tear-jerk ending. Have a tissue ready. :greenie

==​

“Tarquinius,” Daniel whispered, letting the word trace over his lips once after he said it.

“Bard,” the king said. His face was covered with an iron helmet. Daniel could not see his eyes. He wiggled his sword into the stone and noticed that it was slicing into it like a bread knife through butter. While this happened, his visor was still pointed at Daniel, as if he could peer at him through the iron in his helmet. “Are you alone?”

Daniel thought of Welcheren’s raven. He did not want to give up the bird-- he had been noble and dependable. Whatever steps I must pass, I must do so on my own.

“Yes. I’m alone.”

Tarquinius slid the sword into the ground and let it sit there. He was covered from the neck down in plate mail with an emblem. Daniel could see the deformities in his body even despite this. He was a towering and impressive figure nonetheless-- over seven feet tall. Daniel knew that he could not win a fight against the king.

He would have to use his wits to survive.

“What are you looking for, Bard?” Tarquinius said. “You have been across the lands, I can tell. What is it that you seek?”

==​

Amaron had grown more impressive with each and every step taken. The sandy dunes had shifted to light grasses and then an impressive forest. Verdant was putting it lightly. There were flowers growing from the trees that sprinkled their petals downwards as he walked. However, there were no markings or traces of his companions.

He kept moving forward. Daniel came to a clearing and stopped at a spring. He drank some of his canteen, avoiding the wondrous pond that was before him. Although he knew that the place existed, there was still something about Amaron that was putting him on edge. There was great warmth and everything was light, but Daniel knew very well from the stains of life on his soul that with every flicker of a candle came darkness spreading into the night.

At midday, according to his compass, Daniel reached a clearing. Finally, there were traces of his companions. All of their gear was before him, stacked up neatly. It appeared they had ventured on without their packs and supplies. For what reason, Daniel did not know.

He knew he could not venture much farther without missing the ship, so Daniel hurried ahead.
The clearing was beautiful. There was a single tree in the center and all of the crewmen were sitting around it. Daniel came closer and realized something was wrong.

They were all dead.

There was a flag hanging over-top of the tree. It had been one of their regalia from the nation they had set sail from. However, it was crossed out and in its place, written in a smooth even hand was one word.

Peace.

Daniel looked at the expressions on their faces. They were all smiling. It was as if they had taken all the weight from their souls and set it free. That was how their eyes looked, staring at the sky: free.

Eyes watering, Daniel made his way back to the ship.

==​

“Arall,” the king muttered. “He killed me. I was going to banish him to the tower and worse, but he stopped me. He told me that he uncovered a plot to murder me that I didn’t know about. It spiked my curiosity.”

The king slowly took off his helmet and then, methodically, began to unstrap the armor.

“You know,” he said, his pale handsome face illuminated by the torch-light. “I loved my brother. We used to grow up riding horses in the pastures together. One time my horse threw me into the river. I couldn’t swim and neither could my brother.”

The chest-plate dropped and then the gloves.

Daniel realized that Tarquinius was crying soundlessly. The tears fell in rivers from his eyes.

“He,” the king choked. “He came into the water. The horses were scared, they wouldn’t follow. My brother dragged me out of the water before I drowned and then, in the moonlight, he hugged me and told me everything was going to be alright. Then, he smiled that little smile that always made his eyes twinkle.”

Daniel looked away.

“Don’t look away.”

Daniel focused his eyes back on the king’s. They were pulsating and red.

“Arall did this world more of a favor than I ever could. I tried so hard. I just wanted to do one thing perfect. Just one little thing. Can you understand me? Just once. Then, I could die in peace.’

All of the king’s armor was off now. He grabbed his sword and bent it into a loop until it was unusable.

“I’m not going to hurt you bard,” Tarquinius whispered. “I just wanted someone to listen. I tried, bard. I really did. I just was not good enough. Don’t be like me. When everything seems to fall apart around you, that is when you need to try the most. Don’t give up.”

The tears kept flowing from his eyes. Daniel wanted to look away, but he steadied them like one would the reigns of a horse.

“I want to go home,” the king brought up his hands to his face. “I just want to go home again.”

A form appeared beside the king.

“Arall?” the king gasped.

It was shadow. Not human-- a spirit. It grasped Tarquinius on the shoulders and slowly began to force him downwards. As it did, Tarquinius’ own form started to become a shadow.

“Tell me,” Tarquinius sobbed. “Does the sunset still make one wish for the sunrise?”

This time Daniel had to look away. “Always.”

Tarquinius smiled, so softly, before he disappeared from view entirely.

Daniel peered down at his hands. They wouldn’t stop shaking.
 

DanielSTJ

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Tear-jerk ending. Have a tissue ready. :greenie

==​

“Tarquinius,” Daniel whispered, letting the word trace over his lips once after he said it.

“Bard,” the king said. His face was covered with an iron helmet. Daniel could not see his eyes. He wiggled his sword into the stone and noticed that it was slicing into it like a bread knife through butter. While this happened, his visor was still pointed at Daniel, as if he could peer at him through the iron in his helmet. “Are you alone?”

Daniel thought of Welcheren’s raven. He did not want to give up the bird-- he had been noble and dependable. Whatever steps I must pass, I must do so on my own.

“Yes. I’m alone.”

Tarquinius slid the sword into the ground and let it sit there. He was covered from the neck down in plate mail with an emblem. Daniel could see the deformities in his body even despite this. He was a towering and impressive figure nonetheless-- over seven feet tall. Daniel knew that he could not win a fight against the king.

He would have to use his wits to survive.

“What are you looking for, Bard?” Tarquinius said. “You have been across the lands, I can tell. What is it that you seek?”

==​

Amaron had grown more impressive with each and every step taken. The sandy dunes had shifted to light grasses and then an impressive forest. Verdant was putting it lightly. There were flowers growing from the trees that sprinkled their petals downwards as he walked. However, there were no markings or traces of his companions.

He kept moving forward. Daniel came to a clearing and stopped at a spring. He drank some of his canteen, avoiding the wondrous pond that was before him. Although he knew that the place existed, there was still something about Amaron that was putting him on edge. There was great warmth and everything was light, but Daniel knew very well from the stains of life on his soul that with every flicker of a candle came darkness spreading into the night.

At midday, according to his compass, Daniel reached a clearing. Finally, there were traces of his companions. All of their gear was before him, stacked up neatly. It appeared they had ventured on without their packs and supplies. For what reason, Daniel did not know.

He knew he could not venture much farther without missing the ship, so Daniel hurried ahead.
The clearing was beautiful. There was a single tree in the center and all of the crewmen were sitting around it. Daniel came closer and realized something was wrong.

They were all dead.

There was a flag hanging over-top of the tree. It had been one of their regalia from the nation they had set sail from. However, it was crossed out and in its place, written in a smooth even hand was one word.

Peace.

Daniel looked at the expressions on their faces. They were all smiling. It was as if they had taken all the weight from their souls and set it free. That was how their eyes looked, staring at the sky: free.

Eyes watering, Daniel made his way back to the ship.

==​

“Arall,” the king muttered. “He killed me. I was going to banish him to the tower and worse, but he stopped me. He told me that he uncovered a plot to murder me that I didn’t know about. It spiked my curiosity.”

The king slowly took off his helmet and then, methodically, began to unstrap the armor.

“You know,” he said, his pale handsome face illuminated by the torch-light. “I loved my brother. We used to grow up riding horses in the pastures together. One time my horse threw me into the river. I couldn’t swim and neither could my brother.”

The chest-plate dropped and then the gloves.

Daniel realized that Tarquinius was crying soundlessly. The tears fell in rivers from his eyes.

“He,” the king choked. “He came into the water. The horses were scared, they wouldn’t follow. My brother dragged me out of the water before I drowned and then, in the moonlight, he hugged me and told me everything was going to be alright. Then, he smiled that little smile that always made his eyes twinkle.”

Daniel looked away.

“Don’t look away.”

Daniel focused his eyes back on the king’s. They were pulsating and red.

“Arall did this world more of a favor than I ever could. I tried so hard. I just wanted to do one thing perfect. Just one little thing. Can you understand me? Just once. Then, I could die in peace.’

All of the king’s armor was off now. He grabbed his sword and bent it into a loop until it was unusable.

“I’m not going to hurt you bard,” Tarquinius whispered. “I just wanted someone to listen. I tried, bard. I really did. I just was not good enough. Don’t be like me. When everything seems to fall apart around you, that is when you need to try the most. Don’t give up.”

The tears kept flowing from his eyes. Daniel wanted to look away, but he steadied them like one would the reigns of a horse.

“I want to go home,” the king brought up his hands to his face. “I just want to go home again.”

A form appeared beside the king.

“Arall?” the king gasped.

It was shadow. Not human-- a spirit. It grasped Tarquinius on the shoulders and slowly began to force him downwards. As it did, Tarquinius’ own form started to become a shadow.

“Tell me,” Tarquinius sobbed. “Does the sunset still make one wish for the sunrise?”

This time Daniel had to look away. “Always.”

Tarquinius smiled, so softly, before he disappeared from view entirely.

Daniel peered down at his hands. They wouldn’t stop shaking.
 

DanielSTJ

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Tear-jerk ending. Have a tissue ready. :greenie

==​

“Tarquinius,” Daniel whispered, letting the word trace over his lips once after he said it.

“Bard,” the king said. His face was covered with an iron helmet. Daniel could not see his eyes. He wiggled his sword into the stone and noticed that it was slicing into it like a bread knife through butter. While this happened, his visor was still pointed at Daniel, as if he could peer at him through the iron in his helmet. “Are you alone?”

Daniel thought of Welcheren’s raven. He did not want to give up the bird-- he had been noble and dependable. Whatever steps I must pass, I must do so on my own.

“Yes. I’m alone.”

Tarquinius slid the sword into the ground and let it sit there. He was covered from the neck down in plate mail with an emblem. Daniel could see the deformities in his body even despite this. He was a towering and impressive figure nonetheless-- over seven feet tall. Daniel knew that he could not win a fight against the king.

He would have to use his wits to survive.

“What are you looking for, Bard?” Tarquinius said. “You have been across the lands, I can tell. What is it that you seek?”

==​

Amaron had grown more impressive with each and every step taken. The sandy dunes had shifted to light grasses and then an impressive forest. Verdant was putting it lightly. There were flowers growing from the trees that sprinkled their petals downwards as he walked. However, there were no markings or traces of his companions.

He kept moving forward. Daniel came to a clearing and stopped at a spring. He drank some of his canteen, avoiding the wondrous pond that was before him. Although he knew that the place existed, there was still something about Amaron that was putting him on edge. There was great warmth and everything was light, but Daniel knew very well from the stains of life on his soul that with every flicker of a candle came darkness spreading into the night.

At midday, according to his compass, Daniel reached a clearing. Finally, there were traces of his companions. All of their gear was before him, stacked up neatly. It appeared they had ventured on without their packs and supplies. For what reason, Daniel did not know.

He knew he could not venture much farther without missing the ship, so Daniel hurried ahead.
The clearing was beautiful. There was a single tree in the center and all of the crewmen were sitting around it. Daniel came closer and realized something was wrong.

They were all dead.

There was a flag hanging over-top of the tree. It had been one of their regalia from the nation they had set sail from. However, it was crossed out and in its place, written in a smooth even hand was one word.

Peace.

Daniel looked at the expressions on their faces. They were all smiling. It was as if they had taken all the weight from their souls and set it free. That was how their eyes looked, staring at the sky: free.

Eyes watering, Daniel made his way back to the ship.

==​

“Arall,” the king muttered. “He killed me. I was going to banish him to the tower and worse, but he stopped me. He told me that he uncovered a plot to murder me that I didn’t know about. It spiked my curiosity.”

The king slowly took off his helmet and then, methodically, began to unstrap the armor.

“You know,” he said, his pale handsome face illuminated by the torch-light. “I loved my brother. We used to grow up riding horses in the pastures together. One time my horse threw me into the river. I couldn’t swim and neither could my brother.”

The chest-plate dropped and then the gloves.

Daniel realized that Tarquinius was crying soundlessly. The tears fell in rivers from his eyes.

“He,” the king choked. “He came into the water. The horses were scared, they wouldn’t follow. My brother dragged me out of the water before I drowned and then, in the moonlight, he hugged me and told me everything was going to be alright. Then, he smiled that little smile that always made his eyes twinkle.”

Daniel looked away.

“Don’t look away.”

Daniel focused his eyes back on the king’s. They were pulsating and red.

“Arall did this world more of a favor than I ever could. I tried so hard. I just wanted to do one thing perfect. Just one little thing. Can you understand me? Just once. Then, I could die in peace.’

All of the king’s armor was off now. He grabbed his sword and bent it into a loop until it was unusable.

“I’m not going to hurt you bard,” Tarquinius whispered. “I just wanted someone to listen. I tried, bard. I really did. I just was not good enough. Don’t be like me. When everything seems to fall apart around you, that is when you need to try the most. Don’t give up.”

The tears kept flowing from his eyes. Daniel wanted to look away, but he steadied them like one would the reigns of a horse.

“I want to go home,” the king brought up his hands to his face. “I just want to go home again.”

A form appeared beside the king.

“Arall?” the king gasped.

It was shadow. Not human-- a spirit. It grasped Tarquinius on the shoulders and slowly began to force him downwards. As it did, Tarquinius’ own form started to become a shadow.

“Tell me,” Tarquinius sobbed. “Does the sunset still make one wish for the sunrise?”

This time Daniel had to look away. “Always.”

Tarquinius smiled, so softly, before he disappeared from view entirely.

Daniel peered down at his hands. They wouldn’t stop shaking.
 

Ambrosia

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Queen Ambrosia paced the floor of her suite, every so often stopping and glancing into the mirror. What had once been green fingers of infection on her cheek where the Realm Locust had bitten her had now turned into a dark-green, hardened area. When she pressed her fingers against it, as she had done at least 50 times now, it didn't hurt in the manner the infection had pained her. It seemed a part of her and that scared her all the more. It reminded her of a section of carapace. She didn't need to ask a carapace of what. She began her pacing again.

Finally she stopped and stared at the crown laying on her dresser. She could see the green tinge, a miasma surrounding it. If she passed the crown on to a new monarch, would the miasma dissipate? Or would the crown still be diseased? She had no way of knowing. After all, nothing untoward had happened to the gardener, other than being terrified of the Realm Locusts. But she would have had to be insane not to be afraid of them. Running, screaming from the hall was a perfectly reasonable action in Ambrosia's mind. And well justified.

"Am I condemning someone else to this?" mumbled Ambrosia as she once again touched the hard plate on her face. "No, I don't think so. This is a result of a bite. That's all. Perhaps a new monarch will find the missing princes, Welcheren and Daniel. Perhaps a new monarch will find a cure to this disease I have. Perhaps a new monarch will finally free the infection in the crown. I must believe. There must be hope."

Ambrosia went to her wardrobe and pulled out a headdress with a veil. Quickly securing it, she grabbed the crown as she headed to the door. A matter of succession must be dealt with before she was lost to... Her mind would not allow her to continue that thought. One foot in front of the other, she made her way to the throne room.
 

Ambrosia

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Queen Ambrosia paced the floor of her suite, every so often stopping and glancing into the mirror. What had once been green fingers of infection on her cheek where the Realm Locust had bitten her had now turned into a dark-green, hardened area. When she pressed her fingers against it, as she had done at least 50 times now, it didn't hurt in the manner the infection had pained her. It seemed a part of her and that scared her all the more. It reminded her of a section of carapace. She didn't need to ask a carapace of what. She began her pacing again.

Finally she stopped and stared at the crown laying on her dresser. She could see the green tinge, a miasma surrounding it. If she passed the crown on to a new monarch, would the miasma dissipate? Or would the crown still be diseased? She had no way of knowing. After all, nothing untoward had happened to the gardener, other than being terrified of the Realm Locusts. But she would have had to be insane not to be afraid of them. Running, screaming from the hall was a perfectly reasonable action in Ambrosia's mind. And well justified.

"Am I condemning someone else to this?" mumbled Ambrosia as she once again touched the hard plate on her face. "No, I don't think so. This is a result of a bite. That's all. Perhaps a new monarch will find the missing princes, Welcheren and Daniel. Perhaps a new monarch will find a cure to this disease I have. Perhaps a new monarch will finally free the infection in the crown. I must believe. There must be hope."

Ambrosia went to her wardrobe and pulled out a headdress with a veil. Quickly securing it, she grabbed the crown as she headed to the door. A matter of succession must be dealt with before she was lost to... Her mind would not allow her to continue that thought. One foot in front of the other, she made her way to the throne room.
 

DanielSTJ

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Late night addition:

He was alone.

Daniel looked upward. He noticed that there was a glimmering of light. It was almost like an aura shining down on him.

Slowly, it widened and then the ceiling caved in. He rushed to move out of the way and found himself amidst an opening wide enough to get through.

He climbed the towering stack of stone and rubble and made his way to the top. Daniel was now out of the catacombs. He was standing amidst the old church that stood near the end of the castle grounds and near the pastures that regaled around the wide kingdom.

When he got to his feet, he noticed that he was in a graveyard.

Daniel peered at one of the nearest gravestones.

It read:

Here lies Jacob Talworth
Born 1624
Died 1634
May his soul rest in peace.

There were flowers growing through the graveyard. It had not been used in a long time. Around the outer perimeter of it, the grass was growing wild and free. Daniel nodded, as if understanding something that he did not want to share, and moved forward.

He began the long walk back to the castle.
 

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Late night addition:

He was alone.

Daniel looked upward. He noticed that there was a glimmering of light. It was almost like an aura shining down on him.

Slowly, it widened and then the ceiling caved in. He rushed to move out of the way and found himself amidst an opening wide enough to get through.

He climbed the towering stack of stone and rubble and made his way to the top. Daniel was now out of the catacombs. He was standing amidst the old church that stood near the end of the castle grounds and near the pastures that regaled around the wide kingdom.

When he got to his feet, he noticed that he was in a graveyard.

Daniel peered at one of the nearest gravestones.

It read:

Here lies Jacob Talworth
Born 1624
Died 1634
May his soul rest in peace.

There were flowers growing through the graveyard. It had not been used in a long time. Around the outer perimeter of it, the grass was growing wild and free. Daniel nodded, as if understanding something that he did not want to share, and moved forward.

He began the long walk back to the castle.
 

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His feet hurt at the beginning of the second mile. Daniel looked down and noticed that he must have trudged through mud. His boots were covered. Also, his laces looked like they were wearing themselves out.

Daniel looked up at the sky. It was beginning to grow dark. The day had aged from its beginnings of red azure glory to a dim penumbra of faded midnight blue. There were no stars yet, but the contours of the moon were shaped in the corner of the sky. The sun had died off long ago.

He arrived at an ancient dilapidated stable. The former glory of horses was now nothing but a pale shade of its former self. Daniel walked inside of it and looked at the rusted horse-shoes and reins that were in various processes of decomposition. The hay was now rotting away to a disgusting color that made his stomach retch. It was as if it were a reflection of the lost times of the past.

Where have they been? Rather, where have you been? Is it the world leaving you behind, or you leaving it behind?

It was a two-storied building, but the second floor was limited. Nonetheless, he made his way through the wreckage and to the ladder that led to the second floor. It was, surprisingly, still in good condition. As he climbed, it was as if the weight from all the problems from his world were evaporating before his very eyes.

As his feet thumped at the top, he realized that there were sketches all over the walls. Someone had been up here, a long time ago, and had filled the top of the barn with depictions of life. Daniel moved over to one and saw that it was of still-life. Another was a cow. Next came a moon shaded in the dark etchings of night. While some of them were lackadaisical, they began to increase in their intensity, strength and power.

He went to the one furthest at the back wall. It read, in large print: Downfall.

It was a sketch of the barn from the inside looking out. All of the grass was dying. A tree was in its last stages of mortality. The water looked polluted and decimated. Even the landscape looked as if it were in the process of giving up on the life that it had been granted.

Daniel looked away.

He came face to face with someone.
 

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He looked at him. The man was impeccably dressed in expensive clothing. His eyes were white. His hair was a fine auburn.

Daniel paused and his hand went to his short sword, but the man slowly lowered his hand and took a step backward.

“Don’t be afraid,” the man said. “I was just noticing you up here. No harm,” he lowered his hands and put them behind his back.

Daniel let his hand drift away. “What are you doing here?”

“My name’s Jacob Maytherer,” he brought forth a hand from behind him. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“Daniel,” he said, shaking Jacob’s hand.

“The man’s handshake was loose. It appeared he was timid. He released his grip and let his hand drop to his side. For a moment, he looked over, watching it fall. Then, he took another step backwards.

“I used to play cards here,” Jacob’s eyes were directed towards a window in the ceiling. He looked up at the sky in wonder and grinned.

“I am from Narvia,” he paused. “From the south. I am a son of royalty.”

Daniel noticed that, on his side of his clothing, he had a royal emblem.

“What’s that?” Daniel pointed.

“Oh,” he grinned shyly. “That’s my families emblem. We come from a long line of royalty.”

Daniel balanced himself on the backs of his feet. “Cards?”

“Cards. Yes, hmm. You see I couldn’t find anywhere else to gamble, so I had to gamble here.”

“I couldn’t quite, hmm,” he scratched as his nose and continued grinning, “gamble in my own kingdom.”

Daniel began to smile. “What?”

“My father would not allow me to gamble in the, er,” he looked away, his smile was almost entirely across his face. “Kingdom of Fine Narvia.”

Daniel looked away. The man was ridiculous. He felt at the edge of bursting into laughter.

“And why did you not gamble closer to your own kingdom?”

“I had to make sure it was far away from my own,” Jacob sniggered. “My father would, er, not be pleased at, ummmmmm, my exploits.

Daniel laughed.

“Say,” Jacob beamed. “Would you be interested in locating for me the nearest dive. My wine is calling me.”

“For a price,” Daniel looked at him, smiling.

“That can be arranged. First, we must locate the nearest tavern. Hopefully one that is, er, attended by members of the opposite sex.”

“You don’t get out much do you?”

“No,” he said. “I’m still a hobbyist.”

“Well, let’s go.”
 

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(Despite their queen's violent vehement calls to attack the castle, the Realm Locusts hoarded food and tea in their lair. They set up mahjong, poker, big 2, and domino games. They weren't working in Typhoon weather. Queen commands or no.)

(The queen calmed down at some point. An occasional snarl interrupted an otherwise dispassionate demeanour. She mumbled as she took her turn at four player MTG. A servant handed her a glass of bubbly. Maybe it was time for DND instead.)
 

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Early morning addition (get in on it people :greenie):

Jacob pulled the reins of his horse to a standstill. They were in front of The Royal Ore—Daniel had directed him. It was the nearest place where he could make a quick profit on the task that was entrusted to him. It was dark when they arrived, the sun had not yet risen in the sky. Nonetheless, the tavern was still alight and bustling with activity. It was open at all hours of the day and night.

“What’s Narvia like?” Daniel asked. “I’ve never been.

Jacob dismounted his horse. “It’s a quaint little place. Never really involved with the rest of the kingdoms and duchies that surround it. Isolated and boring. Nothing like this kingdom at all.”

Daniel nodded, tapping his fingers on his leather belt.

“Well,” Jacob outstretched a hand upwards. “You did a remarkable job, Daniel. I am very pleased with the way that this has turned out.” He grabbed a pouch on the side of his body and retracted a small pouch of money. “This is for you. No need to count it,” he said, opening it up slightly so that Daniel could see that it was full of gold. “I paid you handsomely. You ride fast. Everything went smoothly. No problem at all.”

“It was a nice ride and getting to know you was pleasant,” Daniel said, grabbing the pouch. “Now, I must be off to my Bard duties. I bid you well, Jacob Mayweather. Take care.”

Jacob smiled. “You too.”

==​

Daniel returned to the palace. On the throne sat Queen E.F.B. He had been absent for some time and, now that he had returned, Daniel felt strange. Nonetheless, he was not about to shirk away from his duties—except if it would be for a decent amount of coin. Before he had come to the palace, he had made sure to put the pouch full of golden coins somewhere safe in his cloak.

“Bard,” E.F.B announced. “There has been a change of plans.”

She looked pristine on the throne, as if she had owned it from birth. E.F.B has been absent for some time and the tradition of passing along the crown amongst the royalty had been one of the more resplendent ideals throughout the realm. The peasants believed in the socialist idea. They believed that, through constantly exchanging kingly or queenly duties that it would result in an overall better kingdom. So far, Daniel had noticed that this was not far from the truth—not at all.

“What do you mean?”

She took off the crown and, grinning, walked down the royal carpet. When she arrived near Daniel, she placed the crown on top of his head. “The crown is yours for a week. You are a bard, through and through, but you are also royalty. Do not shirk from your responsibilities.”

Daniel smiled. “Thank you, dear E.F.B.”

The crown was put on his head. Daniel felt a rush of energy. He knew that the official rules were that the crown was not supposed to be fueled with magic, but Daniel wondered about how closely that rule was being followed. It felt as if it had been tampered with. Nonetheless, the feeling was pleasant.

Duchess Ambrosia, Welcheren, Porter, Princess Snitchcat and Princess Tiddlywinks, Prince Michael, Prince Ted and Lady V appeared from the halls of the castle. They all brought their royal charm to the castle.

“God save the King,” Porter yelled, swigging down a dirtied bottle of moonshine.

They all laughed.
 

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Late-night addition:

==​

Daniel exited the cabin. It had been a week since Queen Snitchcat had been announced the new monarch. He had been happy to see her take the crown. She had danced around the throne room and had thrown her arms in the air frolicking. Daniel had smiled; she always had a way to turn whatever troubles that were in him to the wind and to make the world whole again.

The things that Daniel had seen were troubling. He thought back to the stories that his parents had read him when he had been a child. There had always been dragons, princess, knights and rogues in their various courses of actions—seemingly independent of each other, but always in the end working together for a greater cause: to change the world.
His solitude was noted, but—sometimes, it was the only thing that he could do.

Daniel sighed and took out his crossbow. He had arranged a target about fifty paces away. On it were the various marks from where he had hit bullseyes or close. A few of them had gone off the mark entirely, but he had tried to forget about those. You know that you can do things, but not all of them will turn out for the best.

He loaded the crossbow through muscle memory, looking up at the sky. Sometimes it helped to feel around for things rather than look at them directly. There were crows scowling the sky. It was as if they were looking down upon the world to feast upon all the joy and wonder that was left in it. Daniel cringed and looked away.

He aimed the crossbow carefully. Take the time to set up your shot. You know, in battle, you only have so much time before the enemy reaches you. Your sword is useful, but you are not tall enough nor muscular enough to become a brawler. You must use your wits to survive—you always have.

He fired. The bolt hit the target, but not at the point that he wished it to. Daniel walked up to it and tore it away from the target, tossing it aside.

Again.

Daniel focused, and his memories overtook him. He remembered being small and being in a tavern. There were drinks, barmaids and traveling merchants. Many were dancing, but all the words were strange and unknown to him. On the walls were paintings of the famous patrons of the inn: The Red Beard. His uncle had always taken him here on the nights where his mother and father were too busy to take care of him. There were faces that he remembered even now, when the grasp of time seemed to be tightening around him.

He fired again and missed his mark.

Again.

“What do you want in life?” his uncle asked him. His eyes were a shady oak brown and his cloak radiated a sense of poverty and sophistication at the same time. Perrot’s features were strained through the years and his hair was matted and thinning. Sometimes, when Daniel had looked deep into his eyes it was like he was looking at an eclipse.

“What do you mean?” Daniel’s voice had been squeaky and small. He was sitting on a stool that was far too small for him. Only his head was above the table. Perrot had intended it this way. He did not want Daniel to have access to any of the drinks that were scattered across the table. For the most part, Daniel behaved himself, but there were times when his mischief knew no bounds. Perrot had already learned that the hard way, having to come home to his brother and explain why Daniel was in trouble.

“What is it that you see yourself doing? Are there any sort of jobs that you would like?”

“I like writing, music and art,” Daniel stated, nodding.

Perrot laughed. “it is all fine to worship the arts, Daniel. But that is a way to put bread and butter on your table.”

“I can do without butter.”

Perrot giggled and downed his drink. Pushing it aside, he grabbed another one of the half full glasses that were on the table. “Seriously, Daniel. What sort of occupation,” he emphasized the word. “Would you like to become?”

“Er,” Daniel said. “Can I have a glass of milk?”

“Daniel,” Perrot stared. “You have had seven glasses of milk this evening and have been to the bathroom a dozen times. I don’t think that you need any more milk.”

“I want a glass of milk,” Daniel pouted.

Daniel aimed. His hands were more stable than before. He closed his eyes and tried to feel around, picturing the target in his mind. Then, he opened his eyes and fired.

Bullseye.

“You’ll have another when you answer my question.”

“I want to be like that guy over there,” Daniel pointed.

There was a bard singing in the corner. The crowd at the bar was humming along with the mandolin that he was playing. It was a soft song of sorrow and woe. Daniel had been listening to it the entire time that they had been inside, but it was only now that Perrot began to pay attention.

It went:

There was a lady of the lake
Who once came from the sea
Her eyes were fair, hair was long
With her crimson lips did she speak

She cast her eyes upon all people
As delicately as the gentle sun
When they began to fade so sadly
My lady still smiled at everyone

I held her in my arms that night
While the waves wrestled the moor
Of all the rivulets that I did cry
Hers were filled with careful love

“Do not weep for me my beloved,
I am returning to the ocean of life.”
I held her close and I held her tight
And I lost my dearest darling that night

And now I sit in the quiet corners
Of every tavern that will have me
I dream of her floating on the waves
While her arms reach out to call me

Perrot looked at Daniel, whose eyes were filled with tears.

“We’re going home,” Perrot said. His uncle looked at his drinks in disgust.

Daniel pulled the bolt out of the target tenderly. He looked at the bolt and then reinserted it into his cloak where it would reside until it was needed.

Fall was here.
 

DanielSTJ

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Late-night addition:

==​

Daniel exited the cabin. It had been a week since Queen Snitchcat had been announced the new monarch. He had been happy to see her take the crown. She had danced around the throne room and had thrown her arms in the air frolicking. Daniel had smiled; she always had a way to turn whatever troubles that were in him to the wind and to make the world whole again.

The things that Daniel had seen were troubling. He thought back to the stories that his parents had read him when he had been a child. There had always been dragons, princess, knights and rogues in their various courses of actions—seemingly independent of each other, but always in the end working together for a greater cause: to change the world.
His solitude was noted, but—sometimes, it was the only thing that he could do.

Daniel sighed and took out his crossbow. He had arranged a target about fifty paces away. On it were the various marks from where he had hit bullseyes or close. A few of them had gone off the mark entirely, but he had tried to forget about those. You know that you can do things, but not all of them will turn out for the best.

He loaded the crossbow through muscle memory, looking up at the sky. Sometimes it helped to feel around for things rather than look at them directly. There were crows scowling the sky. It was as if they were looking down upon the world to feast upon all the joy and wonder that was left in it. Daniel cringed and looked away.

He aimed the crossbow carefully. Take the time to set up your shot. You know, in battle, you only have so much time before the enemy reaches you. Your sword is useful, but you are not tall enough nor muscular enough to become a brawler. You must use your wits to survive—you always have.

He fired. The bolt hit the target, but not at the point that he wished it to. Daniel walked up to it and tore it away from the target, tossing it aside.

Again.

Daniel focused, and his memories overtook him. He remembered being small and being in a tavern. There were drinks, barmaids and traveling merchants. Many were dancing, but all the words were strange and unknown to him. On the walls were paintings of the famous patrons of the inn: The Red Beard. His uncle had always taken him here on the nights where his mother and father were too busy to take care of him. There were faces that he remembered even now, when the grasp of time seemed to be tightening around him.

He fired again and missed his mark.

Again.

“What do you want in life?” his uncle asked him. His eyes were a shady oak brown and his cloak radiated a sense of poverty and sophistication at the same time. Perrot’s features were strained through the years and his hair was matted and thinning. Sometimes, when Daniel had looked deep into his eyes it was like he was looking at an eclipse.

“What do you mean?” Daniel’s voice had been squeaky and small. He was sitting on a stool that was far too small for him. Only his head was above the table. Perrot had intended it this way. He did not want Daniel to have access to any of the drinks that were scattered across the table. For the most part, Daniel behaved himself, but there were times when his mischief knew no bounds. Perrot had already learned that the hard way, having to come home to his brother and explain why Daniel was in trouble.

“What is it that you see yourself doing? Are there any sort of jobs that you would like?”

“I like writing, music and art,” Daniel stated, nodding.

Perrot laughed. “it is all fine to worship the arts, Daniel. But that is a way to put bread and butter on your table.”

“I can do without butter.”

Perrot giggled and downed his drink. Pushing it aside, he grabbed another one of the half full glasses that were on the table. “Seriously, Daniel. What sort of occupation,” he emphasized the word. “Would you like to become?”

“Er,” Daniel said. “Can I have a glass of milk?”

“Daniel,” Perrot stared. “You have had seven glasses of milk this evening and have been to the bathroom a dozen times. I don’t think that you need any more milk.”

“I want a glass of milk,” Daniel pouted.

Daniel aimed. His hands were more stable than before. He closed his eyes and tried to feel around, picturing the target in his mind. Then, he opened his eyes and fired.

Bullseye.

“You’ll have another when you answer my question.”

“I want to be like that guy over there,” Daniel pointed.

There was a bard singing in the corner. The crowd at the bar was humming along with the mandolin that he was playing. It was a soft song of sorrow and woe. Daniel had been listening to it the entire time that they had been inside, but it was only now that Perrot began to pay attention.

It went:

There was a lady of the lake
Who once came from the sea
Her eyes were fair, hair was long
With her crimson lips did she speak

She cast her eyes upon all people
As delicately as the gentle sun
When they began to fade so sadly
My lady still smiled at everyone

I held her in my arms that night
While the waves wrestled the moor
Of all the rivulets that I did cry
Hers were filled with careful love

“Do not weep for me my beloved,
I am returning to the ocean of life.”
I held her close and I held her tight
And I lost my dearest darling that night

And now I sit in the quiet corners
Of every tavern that will have me
I dream of her floating on the waves
While her arms reach out to call me

Perrot looked at Daniel, whose eyes were filled with tears.

“We’re going home,” Perrot said. His uncle looked at his drinks in disgust.

Daniel pulled the bolt out of the target tenderly. He looked at the bolt and then reinserted it into his cloak where it would reside until it was needed.

Fall was here.
 

DanielSTJ

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Late-night addition:

==​

Daniel exited the cabin. It had been a week since Queen Snitchcat had been announced the new monarch. He had been happy to see her take the crown. She had danced around the throne room and had thrown her arms in the air frolicking. Daniel had smiled; she always had a way to turn whatever troubles that were in him to the wind and to make the world whole again.

The things that Daniel had seen were troubling. He thought back to the stories that his parents had read him when he had been a child. There had always been dragons, princess, knights and rogues in their various courses of actions—seemingly independent of each other, but always in the end working together for a greater cause: to change the world.
His solitude was noted, but—sometimes, it was the only thing that he could do.

Daniel sighed and took out his crossbow. He had arranged a target about fifty paces away. On it were the various marks from where he had hit bullseyes or close. A few of them had gone off the mark entirely, but he had tried to forget about those. You know that you can do things, but not all of them will turn out for the best.

He loaded the crossbow through muscle memory, looking up at the sky. Sometimes it helped to feel around for things rather than look at them directly. There were crows scowling the sky. It was as if they were looking down upon the world to feast upon all the joy and wonder that was left in it. Daniel cringed and looked away.

He aimed the crossbow carefully. Take the time to set up your shot. You know, in battle, you only have so much time before the enemy reaches you. Your sword is useful, but you are not tall enough nor muscular enough to become a brawler. You must use your wits to survive—you always have.

He fired. The bolt hit the target, but not at the point that he wished it to. Daniel walked up to it and tore it away from the target, tossing it aside.

Again.

Daniel focused, and his memories overtook him. He remembered being small and being in a tavern. There were drinks, barmaids and traveling merchants. Many were dancing, but all the words were strange and unknown to him. On the walls were paintings of the famous patrons of the inn: The Red Beard. His uncle had always taken him here on the nights where his mother and father were too busy to take care of him. There were faces that he remembered even now, when the grasp of time seemed to be tightening around him.

He fired again and missed his mark.

Again.

“What do you want in life?” his uncle asked him. His eyes were a shady oak brown and his cloak radiated a sense of poverty and sophistication at the same time. Perrot’s features were strained through the years and his hair was matted and thinning. Sometimes, when Daniel had looked deep into his eyes it was like he was looking at an eclipse.

“What do you mean?” Daniel’s voice had been squeaky and small. He was sitting on a stool that was far too small for him. Only his head was above the table. Perrot had intended it this way. He did not want Daniel to have access to any of the drinks that were scattered across the table. For the most part, Daniel behaved himself, but there were times when his mischief knew no bounds. Perrot had already learned that the hard way, having to come home to his brother and explain why Daniel was in trouble.

“What is it that you see yourself doing? Are there any sort of jobs that you would like?”

“I like writing, music and art,” Daniel stated, nodding.

Perrot laughed. “it is all fine to worship the arts, Daniel. But that is a way to put bread and butter on your table.”

“I can do without butter.”

Perrot giggled and downed his drink. Pushing it aside, he grabbed another one of the half full glasses that were on the table. “Seriously, Daniel. What sort of occupation,” he emphasized the word. “Would you like to become?”

“Er,” Daniel said. “Can I have a glass of milk?”

“Daniel,” Perrot stared. “You have had seven glasses of milk this evening and have been to the bathroom a dozen times. I don’t think that you need any more milk.”

“I want a glass of milk,” Daniel pouted.

Daniel aimed. His hands were more stable than before. He closed his eyes and tried to feel around, picturing the target in his mind. Then, he opened his eyes and fired.

Bullseye.

“You’ll have another when you answer my question.”

“I want to be like that guy over there,” Daniel pointed.

There was a bard singing in the corner. The crowd at the bar was humming along with the mandolin that he was playing. It was a soft song of sorrow and woe. Daniel had been listening to it the entire time that they had been inside, but it was only now that Perrot began to pay attention.

It went:

There was a lady of the lake
Who once came from the sea
Her eyes were fair, hair was long
With her crimson lips did she speak

She cast her eyes upon all people
As delicately as the gentle sun
When they began to fade so sadly
My lady still smiled at everyone

I held her in my arms that night
While the waves wrestled the moor
Of all the rivulets that I did cry
Hers were filled with careful love

“Do not weep for me my beloved,
I am returning to the ocean of life.”
I held her close and I held her tight
And I lost my dearest darling that night

And now I sit in the quiet corners
Of every tavern that will have me
I dream of her floating on the waves
While her arms reach out to call me

Perrot looked at Daniel, whose eyes were filled with tears.

“We’re going home,” Perrot said. His uncle looked at his drinks in disgust.

Daniel pulled the bolt out of the target tenderly. He looked at the bolt and then reinserted it into his cloak where it would reside until it was needed.

Fall was here.
 
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