Cover of Suzanne Palmer's book Finder

AW Amazon Store

AW is an Amazon Affiliate

If this site is helpful to you,
Please consider a voluntary subscription to defray ongoing expenses.


paypal subscribe button

How To Support AW

Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

 

Welcome to the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler! Please read The Newbie Guide To Absolute Write

Page 1 of 5 12345 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 112

Thread: Story Posts from The Royalty For A Week Thread

Hybrid View

  1. #1
    Grand Duchess Ambrosia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    In the Castle, of course.
    Posts
    26,261
    After a long and grueling journey scouring the Realm for signs of the king, Duchess Ambrosia rode her horse into the courtyard of a downtrodden inn. It was the only place she had come across in the last 20 miles and it looked a whole lot better than the previous inn she had considered--and dismissed when vermin ran out from a hole under the wall of the great room. Night would be falling soon and she had no desire to spend another night sleeping on the ground. Dismounting, she threw the reins to the stable lad and tossed him a coin to ensure her horse would be well treated. She grabbed her satchel from the saddle, and headed inside. Taking a moment to let her eyes adjust to the dimness, she blinked a few times until her vision cleared. Then she spotted the barkeep and headed to the bar.

    "Have you seen anyone around these parts who resembles this portrait?" she asked, pulling the parchment from her bag and sliding the picture across the bar. Sitting down on the stool opposite the barkeep, she waited.

    He glanced at her, then down at the picture. "Nope. Can't say as I have. Want anything I actually can provide?"

    Ambrosia glanced up at the barrels of spirits stacked behind the man. All she saw was ale. Sighing under her breath, she asked, "Is this the entirety of your offering?"

    "Yep. 'Tis what we drink around these parts. Nothin' fancy like a lady like you'd be used to."

    Inwardly she laughed. She knew her white leathers were grey from the grime of traveling. She could feel the powder of dust on her face. Though she couldn't see her hair, she knew it must be a fright. She knew she couldn't look less like a lady than she did at this moment. "How much for a glass and a room for the night?" At that moment Ambrosia's stomach rumbled and she pursed her lips. She could eat the hardtack another night, but it wouldn't be her choice if she could help it. "Do you serve food here, too?"

    "We do. Nothin' fancy, mind. Missus makes a thick stew with hearty bread on the side. I believe tonight's stew is lamb."

    "That will do. How much?"

    "One tree for the ale, 5 trees for the food, and 20 trees for the room."

    Ambrosia poured some coins out of her purse into her hand. Mixed amongst the trees was a silver round. She felt the barkeep's gaze and looked up at him.

    He gestured to her coins. "Make it a silver and I'll throw in a hot tub of water delivered to your room. A lady like you probably would enjoy washing off the road a bit."

    "Wouldn't anyone?"

    "Most just go back to the crick and take a dunk. Saves them some coin. Nice lady like you, though, it wouldn't do to be out alone taking a dunk in the stream."

    "Shady types hanging around?"

    The barkeep didn't answer, just motioned with his eyes to the great room. Casually, Ambrosia looked around the inn. The great room was filled with tables, most had a few people at them. She thought it would fill up as the night progressed since it was the only place for miles around. At one of the tables a group of nine men intently watched her. She didn't let her eyes settle on them as she didn't want them to know she noticed them. No need to start something if she could avoid it. She noted their clothes were leathers with reinforcement and padding. Swords and knives were prominently displayed, the sheaths utilitarian. From their clothing, their postures in their chairs, and the way they watched the room, she could tell these were not ordinary men and not locals. No. Not farmers or trappers. Perhaps retired soldiers. Or perhaps bandits. Whatever they were, they were worth keeping a close eye on for trouble.

    Ambrosia turned back to the barkeep and slid the silver into his hand. "You might want to keep your wife in her room tonight away from their sight. It might be safer."

    The barkeep scowled as he picked up a glass and began wiping it with a towel. "I'm more concerned 'bout you. The boys and I'll take care of Mary and keep her safe. You, on the other hand, will have to fend for yerself. If trouble breaks out I'll do what I can, but I can't cover everywhere."

    The barkeep's eyes widened as Ambrosia's look turned ferocious
    .

    "I'll deal with any problems if they come my way, barkeep. Just keep your people safe. I can handle myself." Ambrosia reached across the bar and took the empty glass from the barkeep's hands, nodded to him, and rose from the stool. "Which room?"

    He frowned, then reached below the bar and produced a key. "Number 2. It's next door to my rooms, in case there's a need in the middle of the night. I'll get my boys to bring a tub right up. Do you want your dinner brought to your room?"

    "Thank you. It may be wise."

    The barkeep nodded and handed her the key.
    ..
    "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."
    Michelangelo

    "The best way to predict the future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

    "You don't need thick skin, you just need perseverance." leifwright




    ...

  2. #2
    Picking up tools, honing edges Welcheren's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Alchemist's shed
    Posts
    1,006
    Dark clouds boil over the distant mountains, obscuring most of the sun.

    The Alchemist was steaming. Metaphorically this time. Of course he understood that the Grand Duchess had the right to venture off alone. "Heavens forbid any slight to her independence. And yes I know it's a worthy quest," he snapped at the ferret, perched on a high shelf, eyes gleaming with preternatural intelligence. "Don't look at me like that. She could have asked for help." The ferret scratched itself. "She did ask. That's true. Damn us all."

    A raven suddenly landed on the open window with noises like nails scraping on bone as its claws took purchase on the stone.
    The Alchemist rushed over and bent down to the raven's twitching head.
    "Well that's good news at least. She'll be out of the weather for a night." The raven cocked it's head. "Oh dear. Well it would be their own fault if they end up with broken bones."
    The Alchemist did not laugh at his own weak jest. Instead he straightened and pondered an uncomfortable question. What would the Duchess decree? Would she appreciate help, or have him search elsewhere for the missing king.
    "Dithering will be the end of us all... but there's only one way to get there fast enough... and even then I might be late... by days."
    The ferret and the raven exchanged looks.
    "I'm not afraid. Well I am, but so would you be. Anyway I know what must be done and I will do it."
    Walking slowly, he reached for a battered bronze chest. From it's depths, the Alchemist lifted a column of dust that, upon further inspection, revealed itself to be a carpet.
    "You promised to fly one more time if I really needed you," the Alchemist spoke to the fabric in whispers. "That once is now. Try to kill me again and the dragon will have you."

  3. #3
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Sayin Quota's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Location
    Everywhere and nowhere
    Posts
    32
    (oooo going into full written-action mode are we?)
    Sayin Quota stands in front of the stone stove, pan in hand as he angrily flips the steak inside. Back, forward, up, down, back, forward, up, down. The post had come that day, and not a single word from the to-be king since the original acceptance letter. He sets down the pan on the stove, and turns around to begin chopping an onion.
    "I guess it's time to find another candidate." he whispers under his breath, rushing through the onions, then the mushrooms, and throwing them on the pan. He only lets them cook for a few moments before flipping the pan over, dumping the contents onto a china plate, and quickly carrying all the plates up to the dining hall. He leaves the plates on the table, shouts that dinner has been served, and sprints out of the castle.
    Upon arriving at the stable, he doffs his armor, hanging it on a coat hook, and leaps onto a grey horse. Grabbing onto the reins, he leans forward, and the horse leaps over the fence, landing on the other side.
    "I'm off to find a newcomer to this land." reads each napkin upon the set table.

  4. #4
    Grand Duchess Ambrosia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    In the Castle, of course.
    Posts
    26,261
    Instantly Ambrosia was awake, sword in hand. Throwing the covers away from her, she slid out of bed and listened. Yes. The noise was the loose floorboard at the bottom of the stairs. Her keen hearing heard the boots on the stair treads, though the people climbing the stairs were being extra quiet about it. Counting the foot treads she knew it was the nine strangers, seeking their prey.

    She touched her necklace, releasing the spell she had layered into it before going to bed. Though it had strained her depleted resources, she had gauged the better sleep without her clothing worth the expenditure. Her leathers soon covered her, her boots laced securely, her sword belt in place. She noted the momentary darkening of the room but kept her gaze on the door, awaiting the enemy. Odd. I thought there were no clouds tonight. Never can trust the weather. Waving her hand, she sent the dresser and bed up against the door. That slight expenditure of magic swayed her and she cursed beneath her breath. She had spent too much of her energy on this fruitless search. She hadn't had time to recharge herself. It would be a close thing, winning this fight without her magic. But she was no shrinking violet, no easy victim as these men obviously thought. No. They would taste her steel and regret their impudence.

    She heard a loud scraping in the hall. What are they doing? she thought. She moved further back into the room to give herself space to fight. The shouts from the landlord and banging on the door solved the mystery. The strangers had no intention of anyone getting between them and their fun. They had barricaded the barkeep's door. "Better they are safe than in the midst of this fight," she muttered to herself. Ambrosia took an en garde stance as she switched her grip on her sword in preparation of the blood bath to come. A sound at the window had her spinning, ready to skewer whoever had had the audacity to try to take her from behind. She nearly dropped her sword in surprise at the sight before her. Sheathing her sword, she ran to the window and retrieved the cursing alchemist clutching the windowsill with his fingertips. She could swear the flying carpet dancing several feet away was laughing.

    "You have picked a very bad time to show up, Prince Welcheren," she scolded as she pulled him through the window. "I do hope you have something good up your sleeve. We are about to have some unpleasant, heavily-armed company."

    Once he was secure in the room, she turned back to the door as the battering began, and drew her sword again. The door was old like the rest of the wood in the inn. It wouldn't take long for the enemy to break through, even with the barrier she had up against the door.

    "Any ideas, dear alchemist? There are nine men out there armed to the teeth and I don't think your flying carpet intends to aid us."

    "Your magic?"

    She grimaced. It pained her to admit her weakness. But if he was going to die by her side, he had a right to know. "I was low on reserves when I left the castle. I foolishly depleted the remainder by over-extending myself in this search. I haven't had time to renew my magic, I was pushing myself too hard. I thought I would have time, that I wouldn't encounter anything I couldn't handle. My over-confidence may have just killed us both. I'm sorry."
    ..
    "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."
    Michelangelo

    "The best way to predict the future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

    "You don't need thick skin, you just need perseverance." leifwright




    ...

  5. #5
    Picking up tools, honing edges Welcheren's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Alchemist's shed
    Posts
    1,006
    Welcheren's eyes slowly adjusted to the gloom. Searching over the Grand Duchess' face and posture he could hardly detect the depletion of her arcane strenght. Judging by outward appearances, her vitality seemed ready to morph into lethal energy at a moment's notice. Long experience, however, had taught him that she never made such pronouncements unless driven the precipice of need.

    "Ah." He knew the dissapointment was discernible in his voice, but it could not be concealed. Not now. "Nine men, you say? And armed. I had hoped it would not come to it so soon."

    Welcheren closed his eyes, reached into the folds of his voluminous cloak like a blind man who needs no sight in familiar places. A small, black vial appeared in his fingers. No words ruptured the silence. Even the scuffing outside was stilled for a moment, adding an ominous layer to the quiet. He sat down, cloak pooling around his him, drew his hood over his face, and drank.

    Sounds slammed into the door. Not the battering of boots, or the clamour of clubs, but screaming. Screams scarred with the primal terror of childhood nightmares. The screams climbed into wails, pieteous to all ears save those of statues. A hard stampede of nailed boots on worn floorboards heralded a mad retreat through the passageway and down the rickety stairs.

    Silence resumed its reign.

    "There will be a price to pay," a voice announced from within in the hood. "There will be a price to pay for this escape. And I will not be the one to pay it." No further explanation was offered to expound this riddle. "They are gone dear Duchess," Welcheren's voice faltered like eggs cracking on stone, before he resumed. "Pray that their minds have not been damaged beyond repair."

  6. #6
    Grand Duchess Ambrosia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    In the Castle, of course.
    Posts
    26,261
    Echoes of the men's screams still rang in Ambrosia's ears as her sword clattered to the floor, her numb fingers no longer able to grip it. She stumbled to the prince and fell to her knees in front of him. Grabbing his upper arms, she gently shook him.

    "What have you done?" Ambrosia asked, her voice pitched high. Panic began to take hold when he didn't respond. "Welcheren! You must tell me. What. have. you. done?"

    There was no answer from within the hood that hid the prince's face from her view. Fear like a knife twisted deep in her gut. They were safe from the bandits, but there were worse things than dying on the end of a blade. Had he in his efforts to save her doomed them all? She couldn't fix the unknown. And the one who could tell her what to do was silent as the tomb. Was he alive? She ran her hands down his arms and pulled his frigid hands into hers. He was cold, yes. But he was alive. She massaged his hands until both his hands and hers were warm again. Tears she didn't know were falling from her eyes splashed on the back of her hand and she swiped them away.

    Think, Ambrosia! You are better than this. Think! Her heart pounded as she considered and discarded every plan that came to her for getting the alchemist quickly back to the castle. They were just too far away. Without her magic there was no quick way home.

    Or was there? She gently set the alchemist's hands onto his lap and rose. Hurrying to the window, she looked for the carpet he had arrived on. There! Resting on the barn roof, the magic carpet appeared to be just a mundane carpet someone had rolled out in an unlikely place. She raced to the bed and dresser in front of the door and started clearing the furniture away. Once she had the opening clear, she returned to the prince.

    "I must arrange transport for us back to the castle. I have to get you help. I will be back soon. Please stay here until I return. I won't be long," she said. She waited a moment for a response. When none came she sighed and left the room.

    Other guests and the innkeeper's sons had come to the innkeeper's aid and cleared the doorway. People were huddled in groups whispering about the night's events. Seeing Ambrosia enter the hallway, the innkeeper's wife, Mary, rushed to her.

    "Are you alright, m'lady? Those brigands didn't harm you, did they? Henry tried to come to you but the door was blocked. He couldn't get out!" Mary stood wringing her hands, worry etched in her face.

    "I'm fine, really. I need to go down and check on my horse. I'll be back soon."

    "Oh! M'lady, you can't go outside! What if those horrid men are out there, waiting?" She grabbed Ambrosia's sleeve and held tight.

    Ambrosia turned ducal in an instant, looked down at the hand restraining her and slowly looked up into the woman's eyes, raising her eyebrow as she did so. The woman immediately released her.

    "I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."

    "No, Mary. It is quite alright. We are all a little strained from the night's events. The men are long gone, there is no danger in the night at the moment. I shall return shortly. You stay here and help your husband get the guests back to bed. There's a dear."

    Ambrosia shoo'd the woman toward her husband, who stood several feet away talking with his sons. Once she was free, Ambrosia hurried down the stairs and out the doors which stood wide open, evidence the brigands had fled in haste and no one had recovered enough to re-secure the inn. Once she reached the stables, she took a minute to find the stable boy. He was hiding in one of the stalls behind a water barrel.

    "You can come out now," she said, using the voice she chose when dealing with skittish animals. "The bandits are gone. There is no more danger."

    She waited as patiently as she could for the lad to believe her and cautiously appear from behind the barrel. When he did, she casually leaned against the side of the stall. "Do you remember me?"

    "Yes'm. You own that white beauty there. You gave me a coin to take good care of 'im. I gave 'im grain."

    Ambrosia smiled. "I'm pleased to hear it. You have done well. Would you like to earn another coin?"

    She could see the calculation spread across the lad's face as he considered her proposal. Finally he nodded.

    "You want I should give him more grain? I can ride if you need me to exercise 'im tomorrow."

    "Actually, I want you to set him free once I'm gone. No, no questions yet. I am looking for another transport back home. If I can find it, I will need him to return on his own to me because I won't be able to take him. All you have to do to get this coin is release him without bridle or saddle once you are sure I am no longer here." Ambrosia held up a silver and twirled it in her fingers.

    Huge eyes on the coin, he agreed. "What do you want me to do with his tack?"

    "Keep it. You may need it someday for a horse of your own."

    "You mean it? You will give me the tack and the coin both?"

    "Yes, I mean it. Here, catch."

    The coin was snatched from the air by the stable lad and it quickly disappeared in a pocket.

    "What's your name, boy?"

    "Jeffrey, miss."

    "Jeffrey. It's a good name. Remember, release him once I'm gone."

    "I will, miss. I never shirk my duties."

    "Good lad."

    Ambrosia left the stall and looked around the stable. Once she found the ladder to the hayloft, she began climbing. Reaching the hayloft was a breeze. Shimmying up to the rooftop was a bit more of a challenge for someone who was drained by the night's events. She was panting hard by the time she reached the summit. She sensed the carpet appraising her and she brought her breathing back under control. She hated sentient floor coverings. They always had such an attitude.

    "I need your services," she said to the rug. She got the distinct impression it shook it's head no. Or would have if it had a head. Which, of course, it didn't.

    "Do you know who I am?" The silence reminded her of the incident with Welcheren and she shuddered.

    "You can stop pretending. I know you know who I am. And, more importantly, I know who you are and can find you anywhere on the face of the planet if I choose to look. You have a contract with the alchemist."

    She gave the carpet a moment to consider what she had said before continuing. The air was positively hostile.

    "Don't try to deny it. Your contract includes return delivery. He may not know it, but I do. I'm holding you to it. I will be accompanying him on this return trip. You will carry us, both of us, without incident back to the castle. You will not dump us, you will not leave us, you will not do anything to bring harm to either Prince Welcheren or myself. You will progress as quickly as it is safe to fly. If you do not abide by these terms of your contract, I'll assure you never fly again. Understand?"

    Ambrosia felt the moment the flying carpet gave in. Climbing aboard, she directed it to the bedroom window. She climbed through the window and crossed the room quickly, gathered her bag, then helped the alchemist to his feet. Escorting him to the window, she urged him despite his reluctance onto the carpet. Once he was securely seated, she left a quick note on the dresser for the innkeep and his wife, then climbed through the window to take her place beside him. The rug jostled her and she fell prone atop it. The air whizzed through her hair by the time she managed to sit upright.

    Ever so carefully so as not to startle him, Ambrosia took the prince's hand in hers and patted it. "We'll be home soon, dear prince. It won't be long now." The wind whistling in her ears was the only answer.
    ..
    "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."
    Michelangelo

    "The best way to predict the future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

    "You don't need thick skin, you just need perseverance." leifwright




    ...

  7. #7
    Picking up tools, honing edges Welcheren's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Alchemist's shed
    Posts
    1,006
    Prince Welcheren's mind showed him the dank flagstoned floor of a catacomb. The ferret scurried forwards from a shadowed alcove, joined shortly after by the raven. The ferret raced up into the alchemist's lap, pawing at the unmoving wrist, while the raven perched on the tip of the upturned hood.
    "This is all in my head?" Welcheren asked.
    "What isn't?" the raven squawked. "You know the rules."
    Something slithered in the arched alcove from which the animals had appeared. The sound carried the heart-breaking weight of age and the implacable strenght of time. Two pinpricks of light appeared. Reptilian nostrils showed in the faint light. A froked tongued unloaded and recoiled like a wind up toy.
    The thought produced a laugh from the alchemist, a hysteric giggle.
    "You killed my children."
    "I had no choice. We needed the potion. We needed to escape. The Duchess..."
    "You killed my children."
    "Yes! I damn well know how the magic works! Two of them die every bloody time I use the Extract! I know this! Your offspring will be reborn!"
    "Eventually. You know not the pain of rebirth."
    Welcheren's ire faded as soon as it manifested. Gripping any emotion was a slippery business in the mind-scape. Coherent thoughts were even harder.
    "Would you like to find out? How rebirth feels for us? I can show you. I can show you the pain we undergo for your magic."
    "The Duchess... our king."
    "Would you like to see what I did the bandit's minds?"
    Welcheren felt something scratch at his hand - well, not his hand as such, but the thing that looked like his hand in the mind-scape. It was the ferret. "You are right," he whispered to his old friend and petted it's head. To the thing in the shadows, he intoned, "It's over." Welcheren's voice was suddenly louder, and not quite human. It echoed off the walls, chased by a second voice as if a second entity in the alchemist's mind was speaking just a little later. "I renounce the Accord."
    Laughter. Or hissing. Or both. Something human words are unfit to describe.
    "Fine. Let us see how you do without me. Time for you to wake up. Don't look down." Immediately, Welcheren felt a rush of icy air and a hand holding him firmly down against musky smelling material.

  8. #8
    Grand Duchess Ambrosia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    In the Castle, of course.
    Posts
    26,261
    Ambrosia knew the second Prince Welcheren came back to the world. She increased her grip on him with one hand while grabbing her dagger with the other. She didn't understand why the magic carpet had chosen that moment to do a nose dive toward the forest below them, but knew damned well how to stop it. She felt the prince stiffen beside her.

    "It will be alright. Just hang on," she shouted over the wind. She slammed the tip of her dagger into the center of the carpet.

    The carpet bucked, but Ambrosia was ready for it. She was grateful the prince was awake and obviously familiar with the antics of the rug. He had a firm grip on the opposite side and his seat never wavered. Someone less acquainted with the possibilities would have been thrown. Someone still vacant, as he had been when they first started out, would have found himself plummeting into the forest below. No longer needing to worry about his well-being, she concentrated on the immediate problem.

    "I told you what I would do if you violated the contract," she said. The tip of the dagger didn't go deeply into the fabric, but she was ready to apply more pressure if needed.

    The contract is ended.

    The carpet had stopped bucking and now hovered over the top of the trees. Ambrosia could see the castle in the distance. It wasn't too far to walk if necessary. Falling through the forest canopy, however, would make living let alone walking much more difficult. And the voice who had declared the contract finished was not coming from the carpet. What was her alchemist tied up in?

    She glanced at him. He white-knuckled the carpet as well as her hand. She was glad for the endless hours of practice she maintained on the training grounds. It gave her the strength to notice the pain and then ignore it. She was certain he had not heard the voice. That might be a problem. She pressed the tip of the dagger a little harder into the center of the carpet. It shuddered but made no aggressive moves.

    "Oh, I disagree. The contract is still in force until we are delivered, safely, to the castle. That was the terms."

    You tread dangerous ground, Duchess. The contract between the alchemist and myself is at an end. He has ended it. Return my property.

    "Your property will be returned as soon as the contract with it is finished. Your contract with the alchemist does not dissolve a legally binding contract with the carpet. And you know it."

    Ambrosia glanced at Welcheren, and wished she hadn't. His hood had fallen away from his face. It was bleached of all color and beads of sweat collected on his brow. Terror. Ah my friend, what have you done? Still, she couldn't give him the attention he needed right now. The entity must be her only focus until the crisis was past.

    Very well. You have your safe passage. Our business, however, is not finished. We'll meet again. Count on it.

    She heard the deep intake of breath by her side and knew the alchemist had heard the last communication given to her. The carpet started forward at a careful pace and she removed the tip of the dagger from it. She turned and looked at him. He was staring in horror at her.

    "It's alright, my dear friend. I've got this. No worries, ok?" Ambrosia smiled at him and exuded as much calm as she could while carefully watching the carpet. "Um...may I have my hand back now?"

    Welcheren looked down at their linked hands and released her. "I've hurt you. I'm sorry."

    "No, you haven't. It's fine," she said, opening and closing her fingers to regain feeling in her hand. "We will be at the castle soon. I'll call the court physician and have the staff help you to your suite in the castle. You need to rest."

    "No. I must go to my shed."

    "You need rest, Prince Welcheren."

    "You know I usually give in to you, Duchess. But not this time. I must do what needs to be done."

    "I'll help you then. We can get it done sooner and you can rest after we are finished."

    "This is something no one else can do. I must go in alone. I promise you I will rest afterwards."

    Ambrosia didn't like it but she had known him long enough to know there was nothing she could do to persuade him to change his mind. She acquiesced.

    Soon the carpet landed in the castle's courtyard and its travelers disembarked. As soon as they were off the carpet, it sprang into the air and sped off. The two of them watched it disappear into the distance, then they turned toward the buildings.

    "I expect you to show up for dinner, Prince Welcheren. Otherwise I'm personally going to the shed and dragging you into the dining hall."

    "I'll do my best to avoid that embarrassment, Duchess," Welcheren said, offering her a small smile and a tiny wink. Then he headed toward the shed and disappeared inside, the door closing behind him with a resounding thump.

    Ambrosia stared at the shed for several minutes, wondering what secrets he kept within it. Finally she shook her head and walked toward the castle. There was much to be done now that she knew the truth about the king. The alchemist's secrets would have to wait for another day.
    ..
    "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."
    Michelangelo

    "The best way to predict the future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

    "You don't need thick skin, you just need perseverance." leifwright




    ...

  9. #9
    Benevolent Bard DanielSTJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Location
    Ontario, Canada.
    Posts
    4,896
    Oooooooooooooo! I wanna play! Nice posts everybody!

    ==

    Daniel shrugged off his cloak. The night had been cold and he had been out late looking at the stars. He had searched for Welcheren, to consult him on the mysteries of the universe, but had come up empty-handed. It was more than just odd; Welcheren’s thoughts and opinions dictated much of his knowledge of the world. He had tutored him on the eloquence of turning abstract thoughts into clear ones. Whenever his mind was muddled, Daniel turned to Prince Welcheren.

    Ambrosia had been oddly absent as well. Daniel remembered her insistence on finding the missing king. She had been gone for too long. Daniel knew that she had always been a wild one and was not known to sit and dawdle when things were to be done.

    A kingdom without a monarch was an entity without its spark. Ambrosia had told him that long ago—the words remained in his head, as soft as whispers, long after they had been uttered.

    Sayin Quota, his ally in the kitchen and wonderful companion, had been missing for more than a day. This concerned him as well. Quota had always been found laughing and telling wondrous tales above the fires of the kitchen. He had never made a bad meal in all his time at the castle and Daniel smiled thinking of the fabulous platters he served when it was the monarch’s birthday.

    Daniel looked at himself in the mirror. His garb consisted of noble attire flanked by studded leather armor. He chose speed and mobility over brute endurance.

    Slowly, he traced a finger on the glass over the faded scars that blighted his face.

    “The king,” he muttered, letting his arm slip to his side.

    In less than an hour, he was off—on horseback, to find his answers.

  10. #10
    Grand Duchess Ambrosia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    In the Castle, of course.
    Posts
    26,261
    Good Sunday, dear Royals. I trust everyone is enjoying their weekend?

    I am tired today. For what reason I cannot say. I hope I get more energy soon. A Sunday is a horrible thing to waste.

    Speaking of not wasting time, let's do something about this lack of monarch, shall we?


    ~


    As Ambrosia approached the castle doors the guards opened them wide. She breezed past and headed directly to her suite. When she closed the door, she began removing her leathers. Her handmaiden appeared almost instantly, gasping as she took in the drawn appearance of her mistress.

    "Your Grace, let me help you with that."

    Ambrosia's upraised hand stopped the girl in her tracks. "I am quite capable of removing my own riding leathers. Go to the wardrobe and pull out the midnight blue gown. I will need the diamond mesh overlay, as well. Then you can help me with this hair. I washed it at the inn last night, but I didn't have the ability to do much with it."

    "At once, your Grace." The handmaiden pulled the gown and overlay and the shoes that went with the ensemble from the wardrobe and laid it all out carefully on the bed. "Do you need anything else to accompany this dress, your Grace?"

    Ambrosia finished stripping off her leathers, and glanced down at the bed. "The silver sword belt. And the sash of office."

    Once the handmaiden walked in the other room, Ambrosia freshened up. She needed another bath, but it would wait. The kingdom could not. Drying herself, she walked to the wardrobe and pulled out the fineries she would wear under the dress. She hated having the handmaidens help her with the undergarments. And for some reason they always thought they needed to do so. She slipped into the garments and sat down in front of the mirror at her dressing table. She barely recognized the woman staring back at her. Her hair was a disaster, her face was wind-burned and drawn, her eyes fatigued to the point of having bags. And here she was with not a smidgen of magic to fix her appearance. She sincerely hoped the girl was as good as the recommendation she had presented.

    The girl walked back into the room carrying the remaining items of Ambrosia's ensemble and laid them beside the rest on the bed. Then she came over to the duchess and looked at her from every angle possible. Her lips pursed as she tapped the comb she had picked up against them. Finally her eyebrows went up and she began working on the duchess' hair.

    "I need to apply makeup, your Grace. If that is alright?"

    "Yes, please. You are doing a wonderful job with my hair. The way it looked when I sat down I wasn't sure anything but a pair of scissors could fix it."

    The girl laughed. "You would really look a fright with cropped hair, your Grace. Fixing a bit of windblown is easy in comparison to finding a short style that would add to your beauty."

    The hairstyle the girl chose was high and elegant, curls piled high, the duchess' long neck bare. It will suit, thought Ambrosia. Once done with the hair, the handmaiden immediately started applying the layers of makeup that would change the duchess from a harried traveler into a court beauty. When it was all finished, she handed a small mirror to the duchess so she could see the back of her hair as well as the front and sides.

    "Perfection. I couldn't have done better myself," said Ambrosia.

    The girl tilted her head, giving her an odd look. "I'm pleased it pleases you, your Grace." She curtsied and retrieved the gown.

    Once Duchess Ambrosia was fully dressed, she told her handmaiden to take a break and get some refreshment. It would be a long day and there was no reason to keep her handmaiden locked up in the suite when she could be enjoying herself elsewhere. Then, she left her suite and headed to the throne room.

    The guards opened the double doors for her and her steward announced her. As she entered the room filled with courtiers, all conversation ceased. She had chosen to enter from the main doorway and walk the long carpet down the center of the room to the throne. She felt their stares but didn't look to either side. Instead she kept her eyes firmly on her goal. No one waited on the dais. No one needed to be there. She had the right and intended to use it, regardless what anyone thought. Oh, there would be mutterings. There always were. The Court was never a united place. None of that mattered. The only thing that concerned her was the state of the Realm. A throne unoccupied could not be suffered. This travesty ended today. Now. She climbed the stairs, picked up the crown, and held it up to the audience.

    "By the laws of this country, by my claim as Protectorate, by the right to rule that is mine, I hereby claim this crown until such a time as a new monarch is found." She placed the crown upon her head. She could barely hear the few jeers through the tumultuous approval. She did, however, hear it and marked each person it came from. She would not sleep with her back exposed.


    All Hail!
    Her Royal Majesty,
    Queen Ambrosia!
    ..
    "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."
    Michelangelo

    "The best way to predict the future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

    "You don't need thick skin, you just need perseverance." leifwright




    ...

  11. #11
    Picking up tools, honing edges Welcheren's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Alchemist's shed
    Posts
    1,006
    "And I call this a shed," Welcheren said to the stone-lined tunnel beyond the wooden door. It wormed into the earth under the Castle like an artery. "Nice metaphor," he thought after glancing at the seams of red minerals, spider-webbed into the grey stone. He had yet to identify the precise composition of the jagged red jewels that bled its ruddy light over the tunnel floor. It was a riddle bequethed to him by his mentor - the previous alchemist of the Castle: Voldo.

    "I will return one day, and then, on that day, you and I will complete the business for which the Coven of Alchemy was founded. Till then, no one else must learn our secret... Um... Well... The Duchess might figure it out one day. She's stubborn as steel and even smarter the ferret." Voldo's parting words were still etched into Welcheren's mind.

    The alchemist ignored the long shelves, choked with equipment and brooding experiments, walking with echoing feet towards the last door. In an instant the ferret was on his shoulder. "We have a dinner appointment, you and I. Ambrosia threatened to come down here herself if we are late." The ferret bristled, launced itself from the alchemist's shoulder and skittered away at speed. "Probably towards the dining hall."

    The last door was a single mirror, ten feet tall, framed with red stone. It would only reflect what stood directly in front of it. "Let me see the damage," Welcheren pressed his lips to the smooth surface and whispered as though to a lover. The mirror showed him.
    "Blood of stone!"
    His face was white as marble. Three red blisters had opened on his jaw, close to his ear, and a fourth of his cheek. "That will make a lovely sight at dinner... I wonder." After several deep breaths, Welcheren yanked his robe open, shed it to the ground and pulled his silk shirt over his head. "Well, there's one thing less to worry about." Every inch of his chest was tattooted in the likeness of a mail shirt. "Yes, every link still intact... Open," he commanded the mirror-door. The door did not open. Instead, two dead snakes poured out of the mirror, coiling on the floor in a neat pile, the emerald green scales lubricated with black blood. "The price is paid." His hand slapped flat against her face. "I killed her children. She deserved better than that."
    The raven fluttered down to settle on his shoulder. "Yeah, yeah, boo hoo. What choice did ya have? Now get on with it. The Bard is waitin."
    Welcheren signed. "Spill!" he commanded the mirror-door.
    Suddenly the silence shattered. A jar appeared in Welcheren's hands. As he fixed a lead lid over its top, the music that had been blasting from the mirror stopped. "The Accord is ended. But if Bard Daniel is as accomplished as I think he is, that will not be a problem," he said to the raven. "If he can tame this music I will soon have a new source of magic to animate my potions."
    "Yeah, but you'd better be careful. He ain't no fool hizzelf. You don't wanna end up divulgin the secret of the Coven."
    "You leave that to me. Now for dinner."

  12. #12
    Picking up tools, honing edges Welcheren's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Alchemist's shed
    Posts
    1,006
    More entertainment for our Queen:




    The alchemist dipped his hands into a bronze cauldron of ointment resting by the bottom of the mirror-door and rubbed the odourless substance into his hands until not a trace could be seen. "Not a very elaborate species of magic, but my own nevertheless." For once, the raven offered no response.

    Leaving the winding caverns under the earth to sleep in the blood-hued light, Welcheren exited the shed and crossed the finely manicured lawns of the Carnival Courtyard. Keeping the lead-sealed jar tucked into the enigmatic depths of his cloak, the alchemist affected a leisurely pace. When the cyclopean doors to the main hall reared into view, his eyes sweept the slowly gathering congregation for signs of the Bard.
    "Time to frighten the dainties with these blisters," he remarked to the ferret, who suddenly manifested on his shoulder. "Perhaps I should risk a detour and see if Princess V has any subtle concealer to alleviate the worst of it, what do you think?" The ferret darted away again and over the grass, headed for the Hanging Gardens that Princess V has been known to frequent.
    "Here," he instructed the raven, removing the jar and holding it out for the raven's ebony claws. "Fly by the Bard's window and see if you can deliver this. If not return it to me. I'll be waiting right here, but be quick about it. Dinner starts soon, and I'll need the refreshment. Prince Sayin's culinary inventiveness never dissapoints."

  13. #13
    Grand Duchess Ambrosia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    In the Castle, of course.
    Posts
    26,261
    Good morning and good Wednesday, dear Royals.

    Prince Welcheren, you are missing a perfect opportunity by thinking of the time as wasted during graduation. While you are sitting there in your regalia and not expected to be listening except at the proper times (I'm sure you know what times those are from past occurrences) you can be people watching and picking up information for future creative endeavors. You can be creating. Your mind is not visible to those around you. As long as you nod and clap and get up at the proper times to do the graduation thing, you can travel anywhere and be anyone doing anything. (I would also think being dressed up in regalia would be a perfect time to make mental notes on what it is like to wear such things. All that can be used later when writing.) Observe everything and everyone. Take the opportunity to do what you want to do without constraint. Then you won't be bored but looking forward to your next bit of freedom from the stress of academia. What an opportunity! I hope you don't waste it.

    Now for the proper bits. Royals, do feel free to engage in writing here. The Realm is, after all, a writer's realm. Every opportunity to write only improves your abilities and increases your desire to continue writing. Use it. So you don't lose it.

    Now I'm taking my own advice:



    Prince Welcheren approached the queen, carrying a silver salver with a carafe, cup, saucer, and small pitcher of cream on it. He sat the tray down on the side table, poured the coffee and added just the right amount of cream for the queen's tastes. With cup on saucer, he turned toward the queen.

    Ambrosia raised her eyebrow and took the cup from the prince's hand. "Prince Welcheren, you attend me and bring me coffee. How delightful! What has turned you from prince into servant this morning?"

    "Only your beauty and grace, your Majesty," said the prince, bowing with a flourish. He straightened, his lips tilting in a smile.

    Obviously he is up to something, thought the queen as she sipped her coffee. Or perhaps just playing. Whatever the cause, she was delighted to see him. And grateful for the coffee.

    "I still haven't found a proper reward for you. Now I must add to it for this service performed. Tell your sovereign what you desire. If it is within my power, it is yours. New equipment for your lab? A horse? Robes to replace the ones you scorched last week? All that together would not be enough. For a start take this bag of baubles I have had laying around for some time. Perhaps you can find a better use for it than being stuffed and forgotten in a drawer." Ambrosia held her hand out and a small leather bag appeared on her palm.

    So, her magic has returned. Good, thought Welcheren as he took the bag from the queen and tossed it in his hand. The dark brown leather was soft and felt like doe skin. He could feel many small objects inside, all of them hard. The bag was tied closed with a simple knot on the drawstring. He glanced up at the queen, and was greeted with a playful, assessing look. Very well, he thought. Let's see what baubles this bag holds. He undid the knot and poured the bag's contents into his hand.

    Only years of training and practice kept the shock from his face. As it was, he had to stifle a gasp and bring his breathing back into control. Glittering jewels matching the red vein in his tunnel stared back at him. He quickly glanced at the queen and then back at the jewels. They were perfectly cut to catch the most light, produce the most beauty. A master craftsman had touched these gems. One more person knew of the stone.

    "Where did these come from, your Majesty? They are beautiful. Whoever did you find to make the cuts?" He carefully poured the jewels back into the bag and tied it, looking up at his queen once he was finished.

    Queen Ambrosia looked over his shoulder and her expression became guarded. Other courtiers were beginning to file into the room. "We will talk later, dear prince. I'm certain we have much to talk about. Don't we?"

    Welcheren slipped the bag into an inner pocket in his robes, then bowed again. "Until we meet again, my queen."
    ..
    "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."
    Michelangelo

    "The best way to predict the future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

    "You don't need thick skin, you just need perseverance." leifwright




    ...

  14. #14
    Picking up tools, honing edges Welcheren's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Alchemist's shed
    Posts
    1,006
    Excellent advice my Queen. I shall take it as seriously as behooves a loyal subject.










    "Until we meet again, my Queen."
    The alchemist's mind was ablaze. Only his predecessor knew the substance of the red stone and thus the means of cutting them. But he had dissapeared more than twenty years ago. What in the hells is going on? How much else does she know? Had the Queen discovered the Accord, struck between the Coven of Alchemists and... them decades ago?
    At least, selecting a reward will prove easy now. Information. Knowledge. The truth about the source of these gems.

    Thus engrossed in a tumble of thoughts, he missed the scandalised looks and snide remarks shot at his back by passing courtiers. When a particularly barbed comment finally cut through his contemplation, Welcheren assumed it must relate to the stinging blisters on his jaw. The Queen, of course, was gracious for not mentioning it.

    This state of affairs cannot persist. Capable and beloved the Queen is without a doubt, but a new monarch must be found eventually. But where? Searching would require magic. Welcheren possessed ointments that could render his limbs resistent to steel cuts, and potions that could achieve more arcane ends. Yet, bringing a new monarch to the realm would require feats far beyond surviving a fight. Even the Queen's magic, restored to its full prowess, might not suffice. I need a new source. A safer one. Something squelched under his feet. Looking down the subject of the jibes directed at him was suddenly clear.

    "Ink?" Ink!

    Rivulets of black were trickling over his wrists, between his knuckles and dripping down to the marble floor in a steady rain.

    "Blood of bronze." My armour.

    Running from the hallway, into an adjoining garden, Welcheren was brought up short by the raven flying low with the jar still cluthced in its claws. The music trapped inside the glass glowed with a faint blue, almost invisible in the morning sunlight.

    "We have a problem," he said to the raven, lifting his palms as if begging mercy from a judge.
    So shocked was the raven, that the jar fell from its claws. It made no sound as it struck the centrepiece of a fountain, or when it bounced off the rim of the pool. It rolled towards the alchemist's feet in complete silence. Not a single crack marred its smooth surface. But with every movement, the red jems in the soft leather bag, stoked near Welcheren's heart, thrummed.

    "What have we here?"

    Grabbing the jar like a miser seizing a tiny coin, the alchemist sprinted for his shed.

  15. #15
    Benevolent Bard DanielSTJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Location
    Ontario, Canada.
    Posts
    4,896
    Daniel had started to go back when he had seen the red glow in the sky on the third day. He was not one to become enamored with omens, but he had remembered the simple lessons about how the elements gave indices of what would come.

    Think logically, Welcheren’s words echoed in his memory. The world is nothing more than a body of its own. It speaks through its actions, for its words are not to be understood by the masses of people that tread on it. Mother Nature speaks through symbols and hints—it is a mystical and wild creature. Do not attempt to tame the world, for it will be the one that tames you.

    He had found Sayin’ Quota down at Frederik’s Tavern—one of the old haunts that they had gone to when they were younger. He was singing merrily and showing the cooking stuff how to make better food. On that second day; they had shared a few ales.

    “I’ll be back at the same time as you,” Sayin Quota clapped him on the back. “You look glum, Daniel. Chin up.” He took a large sip of his drink. “Besides, haven’t you heard? The Grand Duchess holds the throne. She will rule well.”

    He raised his beer-mug until it touched Daniel’s chin and then brought it upwards until Daniel’s eyes were level with his own. Saying Quota grinned, revealing his pearly teeth.
    Daniel had smiled. They brought their beer mugs together in a salute to days of fortune and had sung the communal songs, for nearly an hour, which the customers had cherished in days of past glories.

    Riding had been difficult that night. He had done so in the night, despite the suggestion that he stay at the tavern. His mind would not let him rest—he had learned more about the missing king. Sayin Quota had offered to go with him, but Daniel preferred to travel alone.

    On stopping to rest; he had a dream.

    There had been a throne that had been tainted with the blood of the past. He recalled something about an ancestor and a crown made of bone. The eyes of the skull were fitted over the eyes of the missing king and he looked at him through candlelight in the dark. His eyes were deep and heavy. With a motion, he put his hand a few inches over the candle, making it flutter with the gush of air.

    The hand had been trembling, deeply.

    When the eyes looked back at him, he realized that they reflected a desolate land covered in ashes, dead grass and flowers.

    Then, he had snuffed the candle out.

    The dream ended in the dark.

    ==

    On his return, he went directly to his chambers. There was much to be muddled over and to do. First, he was to compose himself to greet fair Queen Ambrosia. He did not want to greet her without bathing and smelling adequately.

    While clothing himself at the end of his bath, there was a tapping at his window.

    Daniel went over. The window was made of enchanted multicolored glass. You could see what was on the outside, while they could not peer inside. It made for a good way of observing the world quietly.

    It was Welcheren’s raven.

    Daniel pocketed something and walked over, unlatching the window and pulling it aside.

    The raven was carrying something. Its weight made him posture, usually relaxed, stoop underneath it.

    It cawed at him, depositing the object at the sill of the window and then stepping beside it, scratching at its side with one foot.

    “Treat?” Daniel said. Sayin Quota had given him some food for the journey back. He knew that the raven would enjoy it. He reached out, palm lowered, with one hand—extending it to the animal.

    “I’m too smart for tricks,” the raven said, taking the piece of sweet bread from him and eating it while keeping his dark eyes focused on Daniel. “It’s good.”

    “It’s going to rain,” Daniel said, scanning the horizon. “What is the jar for?”

    “Welcheren asks for you to enchant it, Bard,” the raven said.

    The Bard nodded. He went to his corner of the room with the jar.

    “You can step inside if you please,” Daniel said.

    The raven stepped onto the ledge in his room and managed to close the door by itself.

    Daniel went to his gemmed ornate harp—a gift from Ambrosia long ago, and sang the first song that came to his mind:

    ponder the darkness
    like absence of light
    dreams do not decay
    with shimmering dawn

    does the willow tree
    whisper of past loves?
    or does Time’s hourglass
    leak azure teardrops

    dreaming in rainbows
    journey to the coast
    for crimsoned skies
    to bring sailors home

    life is an open seashell
    listen to it in echoes
    under the pale touch
    of the midnight moon

    Daniel saw the jar illuminate, ever so slightly, with a tinge of blue.

    The raven was silent.

    “Is it done?”

    “It will suffice,” the raven took the jar into its talons. “The Alchemist appreciates your assistance.”

    As the bird flew away, Daniel fixed himself in his mirror and made his way to speak with The Queen.

    ==

    Greetings Queen Ambrosia! It is rainy here, but I am VERY well!

    Prince Welcheren: I have read New South Africa Speak: Race talk in an undergraduate debate on racialization in post-apartheid South Africa. Very good food for thought. My mind is still in the process of digesting its details. I plan to read a few more in the coming days-- I will let you know what I think.

    Graduations are never my type of thing. I never go to mine, despite the qualification earned. I am not for pomp.

  16. #16
    Picking up tools, honing edges Welcheren's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Alchemist's shed
    Posts
    1,006
    An evergreen grove two miles north of the Castle grounds covered an outwardly nondescript hill. Its grass was laced with the twining roots of oak trees, but underneath that tranquil covering lay a crypt. Its stone portal only became visible on the third day of every third month at the third hour after breakfast. The trick is to know when the current occupant of the thrones took breakfast. Coffee counts. Manipulation of the rules is permitted. Opening the portal at a suitable hour accounted for the alchemist's service to the Queen that morning. Well, partially, at least. Waiting on her was hardly an unpleasant task. No, not at all. Right now, however, her presence, her gift and her promise was hanging at the back of Welcheren's mind, pushed there by the dilemma dribbling down his hands.

    "I will die here," Welcheren said to his own hand, stained with a continuous flow of ink. "I will die here. And you will kill me. I will wake again, and you will kill me again. Every time you instill the most potent of your magics in liquid or metal, wood or stone, you will kill me or one of my children. We will wake again, and the cycle will empower you. What will you do with that power?" More ink spilled over Welcheren's hands as he intoned the terms of the pact.

    Suddenly, a stone at the base of the hill shivered. The hour had come. Overhead, leaves rustled, as the raven fluttered down, dropping the jar into the alchemist's wet hand. It slipped and thudded into the soft ground. The red stones in Welcheren's pocket vibrated in sympathy.
    "It is done?"

    "So it is, and what a show too," the raven landed on the great stone at the base of the hill, it's feet scrabbling for purchase.

    "We shall see. Time to test it." The alchemist's limbs had grown heavy, as if turning to stone with the loss of each drop of ink. Yet he drove them mercilessly, convinced that his plan would yield results. Struggling up to the stone like a drunkard on feastday, he passed his hand over its cracked surface. "Good." His calculations had been accurate. "Third hour after breakfast." It occurred to him then that the Queen might have planned her reception and might, even now, be watching. "No choice now."

    "You going in? Into the crypt?" The raven's bone-cutting voice did not entirely conceal its concern.

    "Not today friend." Welcheren pressed his lips to a moss-covered fissure, closed his eyes, and spoke. "Share."

    No sound followed. But when he opened his eyes again a stone coffin lay on the grass behind him. The lid slid away with a grinding effort that nealry stole the last of his reserves. "Thanks for helping," he smirked at the raven. It merely eyed him and the coffin. When the lid fell heavily to the side, a writing mass of maggots heaved and sank inside the coffin's bowels like a tide. "Tell me." Welcheren said to the millions of worms. A single image coalesced in his mind. "Thank you. That gives me a place to start." Reaching his right hand into the sea of slithering bodies, Welcheren withdrew a sword. To all other eyes it seemed like a simple arming sword - designed primarily for use with one hand, to be coupled with a shield, buckler or offhand weapon. "I always did prefer subtlety. My thanks again," he said to the multitude of maggots. Closing his eyes, the alchemist bowed to his friends and when he straightened again, the coffin was gone, leaving nothing more than deep impressions in the yielding turf.

    "Now then." He tapped the tip of the sword against the jar.

    It was quite possible that people could hear him scream all the way from that grove to the edges of the Castle grounds.

    "Blood of bronze," he whispered hoarsely when the protocol had been completed. "That Bard knows not the depth of his own prowess. Either that or he toys with us all." Strenght shuddered through every sinew of his body, and power pulsed in every pore on the alchemist's skin. He did not need the eye of a mirror to show that his armour was repaired. That and - oh so much more besides. He felt like laughing out load until his voice gave in. The red stones emitted a comforting heat on his chest.

    "So that's one problem dealt with. Between the music and the gems we have a fine replacement for the Accord. That said, we still need to understand the connection between one and the other," Welcheren addressed the raven, pointing to the music trapped in the jar, while tapping the gems inside his chest pocket.

    "Dere's sumthing else," the raven interrupted.

    "Yes?"

    "Dat Bard. I can't exaclty put my beak on it, but he knows sumthing. Sumthing about the missing monarch, or whoever it is who's supposed to follow your Queen. Logic's all good, but there's an intuition there that I cannot quite place."

    "Tell me more while we walk back."

  17. #17
    Picking up tools, honing edges Welcheren's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Alchemist's shed
    Posts
    1,006
    I promise I am not trying to hog the floor, dear Royals and Beneficent Queen. This just came to me during graduation, so here goes:







    "Tell me more while we walk back."

    "There ain't much more to tell. Someone's been dreaming about the next monarch. Can't tell who exactly. But someone has."

    "How do you know?"

    Caw. "How am I supposed to know that? It ain't like this has happened to me afore. I ain't no dreamer's lightning rod ya know."

    "The maggots offered a word - a place to start the search."

    "Yeah?"

    "Neau Bee Fourym."

    "Where in the hells is that?"

    "That's why we need to consult the other Royals, as many of them as we can. Pool our knowledge and all that."

    From the left-hand side of the path, the music of a shallow river reached them. Listening to the waters whirling happily around smooth stones, Welcheren hummed a childhood tune. Man and bird were staring ahead, only half aware of their surroundings. The gems stowed away in the alchemist's pocked suddenly radiated heat.

    Something heavy thundered into the water to their left. A creature burst onto the path. It was human-shaped, with it's waist dressed in tatters. Ribs protruded through a sickly grey canvas of flesh, as though starved for weeks. It's head was snapped back at a disturbing angle that forced its blank face to stare up at the canopy of leaves. Thin horns curled out above the creature's ears. It's heavy boots landed on the path, and as it's emaciated body swivelled this way and that, Welcheren could see that the thin horns curled back far enough to pierce the creature's own back. Effectively, it's horns kept the head locked in that sickening, broken-necked angle. The creature's right hand bore the forward slashing blade of a kopis.

  18. #18
    Benevolent Bard DanielSTJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Location
    Ontario, Canada.
    Posts
    4,896
    Queen Ambrosia was seated on her throne, looking out her window at the world outside. She took a lock of her wild hair and tamed it, turning it in-between her fingers.

    When the bard entered, she looked over at him. He went before the throne, bordered by her royal guards—all dressed in black, and put his knee on the ground and lowered his head.

    “Your flatteries never cease to amuse me,” she grinned.

    Their gazes met and Daniel smiled boyishly, showing his dimples. “Fairest of all Queens, how was your journey?”

    She looked over at her attendants, each in turn, and they left the room. When they did, Daniel arose.

    "What is on your mind, Bard?"

    “Before,” Daniel said. “A gift for thee.” He walked up the stairs. “There was once a great prince in a foreign land that sailed across the sea. There was wanderlust in his eyes and glory-seeking in his heart.”

    Daniel whistled a tune. It was one that Ambrosia had heard before—it sounded like the waves cascading together by the shores at night.

    “He found a foreign island. The verdant grasses filled almost its entirety. At the center of the island, there was a flower.”

    Daniel reached behind his ear and snapped his fingers. An indigo blue flower appeared in his hand.

    “The flower brought truth and serenity. He went back to his land—the prince found what he had sought.”

    Daniel put forth his open palm and extended it to Ambrosia. She looked at it, close, and the flower reflected her image: it had the effect of a mirror. However, it still retained its indigo tinges. It was like looking through the ocean at an object.

    “This flower I present to you,” Daniel said.

    Ambrosia brought up her hand slowly and Daniel let the flower drop into her hand.

    “A great tale,” Ambrosia said. She was looking intently at the boon—studying it.

    “For an even greater Queen,” Daniel said.

    Daniel paused.

    His mind showed an image of something—dangerous. Welcheren was there, as was the raven. There were heavy waves in the waters of tranquility in his mind.

    “I must go,” Daniel said, bowing low. “There is something I must attend to.”

    Daniel rushed. Where was he? The Raven had given him clues, but he had no way to be certain of their location.

    Then, like a tidal wave—it hit him: the crypt.

    He unhinged the crossbow from beneath his cloak and loaded it.

    With that, he hurried towards his destination.

  19. #19
    Picking up tools, honing edges Welcheren's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Alchemist's shed
    Posts
    1,006
    The creature's arm snapped up and down, slashing towards Welcheren. The kopis blade came speeding like a snake, sending eldrich sounds spearing into the alchemist's ear. Welcheren flicked his left hand forward - straight into the arc of the descending blade. When the clash between kopis and knuckles was imminent, a shape flickered in the air, shaped like a bowl, and the blade bounced off, rebounding down towards the creature's knee. The ointment he had smeared over his hands and arms hours before was doing its work. Now the alchemist's front foot carried his weight and he lunged forwards, driving his sword point into the creature's twig-thin chest. The reach of the arming sword vs the kopis played into Welcheren's favor. Yet, the sensations shooting up his arm suggested that the creature's body was light, as though the sword had struck an old pillow. With almost no effort, Welcheren retrieved his blade and stepped back, just as the kopis reversed in the creature's grip and cut back in an upward angle.

    "Blood of..."

    The creature renewed it's attack, cutting X shapes in a murderously paced attack of flashing slashes. From the deep puncture in it's chest spilled a substance that seemed for all the world like...

    "Sand?"

    The creature's dexterity was not the least impeded by the mortal wound. The observation nearly choked the alchemist's throat with laughter.

    "Mortal wound indeed. You are already dead, my friend, are you not? Come at me then."

    Ducking beneath the flurry of blows, Welcheren aimed the edge of his sword at his eerie opponent's knee. The blade bit deep, severing sinew and tendon. The creature buckled forwards and toppled down onto it's remaining knee. Not a sound. It made no sound. Looking back at his reeling foe, Welcheren could see it's face clearly for the first time. A thin membrane covered the face, obscuring what might have been any combination of features. Thrusting down, his sword speared into the head, between the eyes. Still no sound. Instead, the body swiftly dissolved into sand.

    The raven's cawing drew his attention back to the path behind him. A second creature had appeared, identical to the first in most respects, save that this one also bore a hemp noose sound its neck. It's horns were thicker and longer. The sharp tips actually pierced all the way through the creature's chest. No blood flowed from those twin wounds. Like it's friend, this one bore a kopis.

    Suddenly, a third spiky point punched through the middle of the creature's chest, precisely in the middle between the tips of the horns. Nevertheless, the body spen on, running directly for Welcheren and forcing him to deploy his shielded arm again.

    A figure appeared on the path behind the monster. Daniel. The Bard bore a crossbow. A foolish weapon in these circumstances, or so it seemed. Allowing a tiny portion of his attention to flit away from the assaulting enemy, Welcheren watched as the crossbow's heavy string retracted itself with not so much as a gesture from the Bard. Quick as death, Prince Daniel fitted a second bolt, which soon embedded itself in the creature's head. Sand poured out and deflected from the alchemist's invisible shield.

    The Bard's attention was already back on reloading, before his eyes raked every leaf around them for signs of a new attacker. Three more things appeared, and each was met with a bold to the head. All the while, Daniel sang in a language Welcheren could not place. And then... Nothing... Nothing at all...

    Welcheren noticed that Daniel was wearing cloth fit for court. A dark blue cloak, embroidered generously with silver runes, hung back from an evern deeper blue doublet. The cloak flowed down to polished boots, marred with the marks of a hard run, and his hair suggested that a hat had been lost somewhere along the way. Keeping the weapon loaded, Daniel pointed its business end to the ground, before making a theatrical bow, as though on stage for a royal performance (which, of course, was often the case - though not as often as court requested). There was the boyish grin - supplanted quickly by a flash of pride at dealing such accurate shots so swiftly to no less than four attackers - supplanted again by a confusion at the heaps of sand.

    How in the hells did he know I was here? Welcheren thought, but he was not about to show ungratefulness for the timely intervention.

    "I am in your debt, Bard Daniel, and much though I would happily offer you such recompense for your time and energy as my skills can proffer, we must report this the Queen. In fact, your silver tongue might well be my only defence soon."

    The raven fluttered down. "What he means by that last remark, is that these things are his fault. Also, there might be more of them, anywhere on the grounds."

  20. #20
    Grand Duchess Ambrosia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    In the Castle, of course.
    Posts
    26,261
    Good Sunday, dear Royals.

    This is your queen without coffee. Beware.


    __________________________________________________


    Ambrosia awaited her first cup of coffee. She sat in a non-regal manner: elbow on the table, hand supporting her tilted head, fingernails playing a staccato beat on the table's surface. "What is taking them so long? It's been an hour now. I could stick a match under a cup and make it faster. For that matter, where are all the servants?"

    She heaved a sigh and pushed away from the table, rising with less grace than was normal. As she entered the hallway, she noticed a flurry of activity down by the corridor that led to the kitchens. She approached, then stopped, catching one of the servants by the arm who was in full flight mode. She swung the servant around to a full stop. The girl struggled to get away until she recognized the queen was the one who held her arm.

    "Oh! Your Majesty, I'm sorry! Quickly. We must flee before they come this way!"

    The girl's eyes darted down the hallway and Ambrosia felt the girl's tension beneath her palm. The servant was quivering like a rabbit being chased.

    "Who are 'they'?" The steel in Ambrosia's voice broke through the girl's terror and the queen felt a bit of calm fall over the terrified servant.

    "Gremlins, your Majesty. They have taken over the kitchens. The staff has managed to escape and barricade the doors, but the beasts are breaking through. Your Majesty, we must go!"

    The girl pulled against Ambrosia's hold again. Ambrosia released her and the servant fled down the hall. "Gremlins. In my kitchen. Keeping me from my coffee. No. Not this morning they don't."

    She knew she must look a fright when she reached the door because her servants recoiled from her glance. She didn't care. She wanted her coffee and she wanted it now. She shooed the staff away from the doors, stood back in front of them, and waved her hand. A net extended from floor to ceiling. The door flew open, crashing into the walls on either side of the doorway, and gremlins the color of pond scum flew out, straight into the net. They stuck like flies to fly paper. Once the assault force was secured, Ambrosia stomped into the kitchen.

    Normally she would give an enemy time to surrender. Today she didn't care for such restraint. One by one the gremlins fell dead to the floor, blasted by lightning strikes flying from her hands. None escaped the slaughter, except those trapped in the net. They screamed in fear as they watched their comrades fall without mercy, no quarter given. Once the screaming ended, the queen walked over the dead bits, careful not to let her gown or silk slippers be soiled by gremlin goo. When she reached the coffee pot a tear traced down her cheek. She lifted it gently in her hands. It had been her favorite coffee pot. Now it was broken beyond repair. She set it back down on the counter. When she turned, her eyes blazed. Even her staff took an involuntary step back. She walked over to the net and examined the creatures. Pointing to one of the scrawnier ones she said, "Get this one out of the net and bind it."

    The servants rushed to do as she commanded. Once they were finished she gave one more command before storming from the area.

    "Burn them. Alive. Make this one watch. Then throw it in the dungeon until I return. No harm is to befall it. If I find harm has befallen it, I will not be pleased."
    ..
    "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."
    Michelangelo

    "The best way to predict the future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

    "You don't need thick skin, you just need perseverance." leifwright




    ...

  21. #21
    Grand Duchess Ambrosia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    In the Castle, of course.
    Posts
    26,261
    When the queen returned from town she went down into the dungeons and personally retrieved the prisoner. Most people would be horrified that she had burned the gremlins in the net alive. The stench still clung to the stones of the courtyard. She, however, knew how the gremlins thought. Because it was a horrible way to die she did not dishonor her enemy by the act. It would be looked upon by the gremlins' king as a death befitting a warrior, even though it was a death the gremlins avoided religiously. All in all they were a cowardly race, taking advantage of the weak and unleashing havoc on the unwary. That they had dared invade not only her realm but her castle required a strong response to remind the king she was not someone to be tested. Of course, it was all the worse for them because they had destroyed her coffee maker and denied her the beverage that kept her civil in the mornings. She might not have been quite as angry if she had had her morning coffee.

    "Guards! Take this prisoner to the edge of our lands. Then release him."

    Turning to the prisoner, she muttered what sounded like gibberish to the people around her--completely unintelligible syllables that somehow the prisoner seemed to understand. And understand he did. He had been spared to become a messenger. He was to return to his king and tell him what had happened. If a gremlin stepped foot on the queen's land again, there would be war. The gremlin glared at her, abruptly nodded his head, and was escorted out of the castle.

    That task done, the queen wiped her hands on a towel handed to her by a courtier, then returned to her suites. She was still awaiting word from the person she had chosen as her heir. Was it possible something had befallen the heir apparent as it had the man who would be king? She began pacing, her hands behind her back, her brow furrowed in worry. These were indeed troubling times. She must find the source. And quickly.
    ..
    "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."
    Michelangelo

    "The best way to predict the future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

    "You don't need thick skin, you just need perseverance." leifwright




    ...

  22. #22
    Picking up tools, honing edges Welcheren's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Alchemist's shed
    Posts
    1,006
    Welcheren and Daniel had encountered and killed six more of the creatures before reaching one of the Castle's concealed entrances. Daniel had dubbed them The Twisted. It was an apt monicker and likely to stick.

    Squeezing gingerly behind a hedge of shrubs barbed with thorns like scimitars, Welcheren passed his hand over a spot on the stone wall in a series of sophisticated gestures. The stone wavered and blinked for an instant before snapping back to its solid appearance, yet alchemist and bard stepped through it as though the wall had transformed into mist. A dark, winding staircase strained their fitness, already taxed by the long run and combat. All the while, Welcheren contemplated the words he might string together to offer as explanation to the Queen. How much does she already know? How much does she suspect. Eventually, the staircase ended in a wooden panel. He knocked. A bell answered. Sliding the panel smoothly into a perfectly cut recess in the wall, Welcheren and Daniel entered the Queen's lavishly appointed antechamber. She was alone. Her expression was stern enough to stall a thundercloud and persuade it to turn around and sneak away like a mouse. Still beautiful, even when angry... Especially when angry. All his carefully composed words evaporated. Daniel was waiting, leaning nonchalantly against the wall beside the secret entrance, taking his time before intervening, causing Welcheren to grind his teeth.

    "Well?"

    Goodness me she really is angry. You'd swear she hasn't had her coffee.

    Aiming for directness, Welcheren wasted no time on formality or flattery, and launched into a partial explanation. "They are not demons, my Queen," he asserted after setting out the basics of the Accord. "My predecessor would not make a mistake quite as comical as that. They are animals - the serpents. Preternaturally intelligent animals, but not demons, and I hasten to add that the Bard here has supplied a new source." He was jabbering under the Queen's gaze. Facing the Twisted was easier than this. "For the most complicated alchemical magic, one or even several of the serpents die and eventually reincarnate, but older and stronger. That arrangement has been terminated. The influx of evil creatures into the Castle is an act of spite, provoked when I cancelled the Accord. The serpents left a series of magical rifts open, knowing that only the ascension of a new monarch would seal them. Even then, we will have no idea how many of the Twisted are out there, or who else might take advantage of the rifts. The Gremlins and Goblins for instance. We might not even be able to trust Snakerius."

    Having said his piece, Welcheren realised that his sword had remained unsheather. Blushing profusely, he slid it into place and sank to one knee, awaiting his Queen's judgment, or Daniel's intervention. As he kneeled, something in his body felt out of place. Reaching into his chest pocket, he discovered that the red gems - his Queen's gift - had burned through purse, pocket and shirt, fusing into the skin over his heart.

  23. #23
    Grand Duchess Ambrosia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    In the Castle, of course.
    Posts
    26,261
    Good Monday, dear Royals.

    I have yet to hear back from the heir apparent. We shall see if he too has been whisked away by demons or snakes or whatever might be out there. At this rate I may be queen forever.

    Enjoy your Monday and continue writing. It is good for the soul.

    ------------------------------------------------


    "Rifts? You bring me rifts? When all I really wanted was coffee? Has the castle gone mad?" Queen Ambrosia threw her hands up into the air, speared the bard with a look when he started to speak, turned and left the room.

    "If no one will bring me coffee I will just go out and find some", she muttered under her breath. "Snakerius will know better. He will remember the last time. Rifts. Now I have to deal with rifts. At least Prince Welcheren will be protected. You think he would have figured out the heartstone's magic by now."

    The doors leading out of the castle opened quickly at the queen's approach. No one would look directly at her, sensing her mood. As she approached the stables, she saw a stablehand glance up and run inside. By the time she arrived, her horse was nearly saddled. The boy finished tightening the girth, patted the mare, then turned and bowed. "Your steed, your Majesty."

    Ambrosia took the reins, thanked the stablehand, and ran her palm down the horse's neck. Then she produced part of a carrot from her pocket. The horse's ears flicked and she nudged Ambrosia, seeking the carrot.

    "Silly one. Of course you can have it. You know I brought it for you."

    She let the horse take the carrot from her hand, and went to mount. It was then she remembered she was in court dress instead of riding leathers. She abhorred riding side-saddle. They were dangerous and made a woman less able to defend herself. She had outlawed the saddles from her stables, much to the chagrin of visiting dignitaries. Once she explained the reason for side-saddles to the females of said parties, every last one had changed to riding normally. They had also availed themselves of learning self-defense during their stays. Men and their impertinence!

    But a woman had a hard time mounting in full court dress. She had done it when time would allow no changing to more appropriate attire. However, it wasn't easy and it wasn't comfortable. Sighing, she waved her hand over her attire. The dress changed into white riding leathers with matching sword belt. She felt the pommel of the sword. Everything was correct. Then she mounted Storm. The high-spirited mare immediately started dancing and Ambrosia brought her under control with a touch and a word. She walked the mare out of the stables and when they were in the courtyard she leaned forward and whispered. The mare lunged forward then reared. Ambrosia laughed as the horse under her burst into a full gallop.

    Finally. I'm going to get my coffee.
    ..
    "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."
    Michelangelo

    "The best way to predict the future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

    "You don't need thick skin, you just need perseverance." leifwright




    ...

  24. #24
    Benevolent Bard DanielSTJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Location
    Ontario, Canada.
    Posts
    4,896
    “The gems,” Welcheren said.

    Daniel nodded. “I have worse news. I have something to show you.”

    Daniel led Welcheren up to one of the towers in the castle. The winding staircase was partially obscured in shadow and partially in the light. With each step, the exhaustion in their legs grew.

    “You handled yourself well back in there, fair Welcheren,” Daniel said as they made their way upwards.

    “You as well, Bard.”

    When they had nearly reached the top, Daniel looked out of one of the slits that had been made in the wall of the tower. He peered outwards and his eye was bathed in the light and it seemed to glow. Seeming content, he continued on.

    When they reached the top, there seemed to be nothing there.

    Daniel looked back at Welcheren, who seemed perplexed.

    “Here,” Daniel said, pushing on one of the stones on the wall. It moved forward and then spread aside.

    They entered a room that had tomes on the walls and a book spread out on the table.

    "An astronomer's private quarters," Daniel said. "From long ago."

    Welcheren went for the book and began to read.

    “Latin,” Welcheren said. “The language of the scholars.”

    Daniel went over to the bookcase and took a book, crouching on his knees. “It’s an astronomer’s log book. Things start fairly normal, just the thoroughfare of his duties. But then, things get more complex. Keep reading.”

    Welcheren flipped through the book and looked over the dates.

    Aug 11: The sky holds secrets that I seek. The moments of Deja-vu are growing more intricate. There is something here that I cannot put my fingers on.

    Aug 17: The moments are growing even more intense. Beneath the castle, there is something dark that has been there for a long time—it knows no bounds. It whispers the secrets of the stars and holds them back, wanting me to seek for them under the light of the moon. My sleep is bad. Every time I close my eyes I can see a map without words. What is happening to me?

    Aug 22: No sleep. My eyes keep closing and bringing me closer and closer to the map. My calculations are off—the instruments are not faulty. There is something going on here, deeply adrift. The King will not speak of things to me and he looks to be worried. I can see the dark circles underneath his eyes. The heat is oppressive and it is making it hard for me to breathe.

    Sep 1: Sleep. No. Sleep. Eyes. Whispers in the night. Map of the mind. Scars that won’t heal. Coughing up black. The plague? I must go underneath the castle. I have found gems—red gems. They are not what they appear—not at all.

    Welcheren took a breath, but kept reading.

    The last entry was a nearly illegible scrawl.

    Sep 7: Serva me.

    They looked at each other.

    “Save me,” Welcheren said.

    Daniel nodded.

    Welcheren closed the book and took it with him. “We must speak to the Queen, and soon.”

  25. #25
    Picking up tools, honing edges Welcheren's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Alchemist's shed
    Posts
    1,006
    Welcheren wathed Prince Daniel turn on his heel, eager to report these findings to the Queen. The matter of a new monarch was still unresolved and yet, much though Welcheren shared Daniel's devotion to a resolution, another question remained unresolved.

    "A moment of your knowledge Bard. The music in that jar. I know where it comes from, and I know much of its magic. But when you enchanted the jar, you did something to the music trapped in it. Its notes are connected to the red stones in ways I do no yet comphrehend. Tell me what you know, before we report to the Queen. Is it linked with the veins of red stone running under the Castle?"

    For now, Welcheren said nothing of about the Queen's secret knowledge as to how the stones could actually be cut.

Page 1 of 5 12345 LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Custom Search