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Thread: Story Posts from The Royalty For A Week Thread

  1. #101
    Benevolent Bard DanielSTJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Location
    Ontario, Canada.
    Posts
    4,786
    Night addition:

    ==

    Daniel was dreaming. He was in a dense wood. Beside him, he had a wolf as a guide leading him further and further inside. It was as if the forest was opening its arms to envelop him in a warm embrace of bliss. The wolf had one eye blue and the other eye green. His coat was rich, and he was in the prime of his life. They walked slowly, appreciating the trees which seemed to have artwork of all the souls of the past who had wandered before him. Their lives were spread out before him as a rich tapestry that was meant to be seen and appreciated—even if not understood.

    Then, he was awake.

    Someone was knocking at his door.

    Daniel sighed. Why is it that all the best things in my life are always taken away from me—especially when I just seem to have them in my pale hands?

    The frequency of the knocking increased. Daniel pulled back the blanket from the cot he was sleeping on and slipped on a pair of pants that was on the floor as well as his shirt. Then, he put on his boots without lacing them up. The knocking stopped, but then it sounded like someone was kicking on his door.

    “I’m coming!” Daniel yelled. He grabbed his satchel with throwing daggers and then, as an afterthought, grabbed the enchanted short sword that he had collected from the catacombs. There is no need to always assume that the people who are seeking you are friendly. You know that from being a bard: you make friends quickly but enemies quicker.

    He unbolted the door and came face to face with Ambrosia.

    She was wrapped in a thick fur coat. The only thing that Daniel could make out was her face. The rest of her was completely covered. It was obvious that she was freezing.

    “Come in!” Daniel spread the door wide for her. “Does your horse need tethering Ambrosia?”

    She shook her head and tottered inside. Daniel, just for an instant, set a foot outside. It was chilly, but it was nowhere near as cold as Ambrosia seemed to be. He frowned and closed the door behind him without latching it. Daniel had learned, despite his typical habits, that people did not like to be caught somewhere without a clear exit.

    She brought her arms from outside her furs and began rubbing them together. Daniel took the hint and began making a fire. That was one thing that the cabin was good for—he never seemed to have any trouble keeping the heat inside.

    “How are things at the castle?” Daniel asked.

    “Queen Snitchcat has requested an audience,” Ambrosia said. There was warmth in her voice, but it was strained. Daniel had thought that he had affronted her by the way she had entered, yet that did not seem to be the case.

    “Your voice sounds harsh.”

    “I’m sick, Bard. Can’t you tell?” she smiled.

    “Ah,” Daniel said, moving around the coals and then lighting a match to ignite the twigs that he had placed on top. There were logs by the side of the fireplace, but he had to make sure that the fire was glowing enough before he added those. He had learned, many times, the hard way and had ended up shaking from the cold when he could not get a fire started fast enough.

    “How are things for you out here?” Ambrosia said, grabbing a few twigs that Daniel had spilled and tossing them into the fireplace.

    Daniel shrugged. “It’s a little time alone. Everyone needs that now and then.” The twigs began to light.

    Success.

    “You seem to require it a little more than most.”

    They did not speak for a few minutes. Instead, they soaked in the warmth of the fire.

    “How are things at the royal castles. Are your magnificent quarters exquisite enough?” Daniel grinned.

    She laughed. “Funny one, you are. Always mixing and mincing your words as if you’re trying to test them on your palette.”

    Daniel did a mock bow. “What can I say? I aim to entertain.”

    Ambrosia nodded, looking out the T-shaped window. “Autumn is here. And that means that winter is not too far off the mark. I sense something, Bard.” She closed her eyes. “There is something amiss in the other kingdoms. The messengers were have sent off are taking too long. Everyone is placing it off to poor roads and travel conditions, but I do not believe that. There’s more to it than that.”

    Daniel’s eyes narrowed.

    “We need to make sure that we can defend the kingdom. Threats are not apparent, but that is the way it always seems. When you are in the light of day you always have your shadows, yet it is at night that your shadows continue to follow you in the blighted darkness.”

    “Hm.”

    “We need to make sure that things are going to be safe here before we can continue on our activities. The other royals are busy with their endeavors around the castle, as they will, but I took it upon myself to get you to the Queen. It is an important audience that she requests, and I believe that she has a task for you.”

    “I will go to the castle this evening. It is quite a journey out here. Are you sure that you that up are up for the journey back?”

    “Yes, Bard. I will survive. Just do not tarry too long. Queen Snitchcat is known for her kindness, but when you cross her the wrong way she does not shy away from letting her anger show.”

    “Noted,” Daniel said.

    He walked her to the door and opened it for her. She walked outside and then turned back to face him. “Don’t let your emotions get the best of you, Daniel. The things that happen in this world are not always right, but you cannot control them. You can only control the way that you react to them.”

    Daniel nodded, shuffling his feet. “Take care, Ambrosia. Safe journey.”

    She went to where her horse was tethered, undid her, and then began to ride off. When still in sight, she raised her arm and waved without turning around.

    Daniel looked up at the clouded sky for some time. Afterwards, he re-entered the cabin.

  2. #102
    Benevolent Bard DanielSTJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Location
    Ontario, Canada.
    Posts
    4,786
    Night addition:

    ==

    Daniel was dreaming. He was in a dense wood. Beside him, he had a wolf as a guide leading him further and further inside. It was as if the forest was opening its arms to envelop him in a warm embrace of bliss. The wolf had one eye blue and the other eye green. His coat was rich, and he was in the prime of his life. They walked slowly, appreciating the trees which seemed to have artwork of all the souls of the past who had wandered before him. Their lives were spread out before him as a rich tapestry that was meant to be seen and appreciated—even if not understood.

    Then, he was awake.

    Someone was knocking at his door.

    Daniel sighed. Why is it that all the best things in my life are always taken away from me—especially when I just seem to have them in my pale hands?

    The frequency of the knocking increased. Daniel pulled back the blanket from the cot he was sleeping on and slipped on a pair of pants that was on the floor as well as his shirt. Then, he put on his boots without lacing them up. The knocking stopped, but then it sounded like someone was kicking on his door.

    “I’m coming!” Daniel yelled. He grabbed his satchel with throwing daggers and then, as an afterthought, grabbed the enchanted short sword that he had collected from the catacombs. There is no need to always assume that the people who are seeking you are friendly. You know that from being a bard: you make friends quickly but enemies quicker.

    He unbolted the door and came face to face with Ambrosia.

    She was wrapped in a thick fur coat. The only thing that Daniel could make out was her face. The rest of her was completely covered. It was obvious that she was freezing.

    “Come in!” Daniel spread the door wide for her. “Does your horse need tethering Ambrosia?”

    She shook her head and tottered inside. Daniel, just for an instant, set a foot outside. It was chilly, but it was nowhere near as cold as Ambrosia seemed to be. He frowned and closed the door behind him without latching it. Daniel had learned, despite his typical habits, that people did not like to be caught somewhere without a clear exit.

    She brought her arms from outside her furs and began rubbing them together. Daniel took the hint and began making a fire. That was one thing that the cabin was good for—he never seemed to have any trouble keeping the heat inside.

    “How are things at the castle?” Daniel asked.

    “Queen Snitchcat has requested an audience,” Ambrosia said. There was warmth in her voice, but it was strained. Daniel had thought that he had affronted her by the way she had entered, yet that did not seem to be the case.

    “Your voice sounds harsh.”

    “I’m sick, Bard. Can’t you tell?” she smiled.

    “Ah,” Daniel said, moving around the coals and then lighting a match to ignite the twigs that he had placed on top. There were logs by the side of the fireplace, but he had to make sure that the fire was glowing enough before he added those. He had learned, many times, the hard way and had ended up shaking from the cold when he could not get a fire started fast enough.

    “How are things for you out here?” Ambrosia said, grabbing a few twigs that Daniel had spilled and tossing them into the fireplace.

    Daniel shrugged. “It’s a little time alone. Everyone needs that now and then.” The twigs began to light.

    Success.

    “You seem to require it a little more than most.”

    They did not speak for a few minutes. Instead, they soaked in the warmth of the fire.

    “How are things at the royal castles. Are your magnificent quarters exquisite enough?” Daniel grinned.

    She laughed. “Funny one, you are. Always mixing and mincing your words as if you’re trying to test them on your palette.”

    Daniel did a mock bow. “What can I say? I aim to entertain.”

    Ambrosia nodded, looking out the T-shaped window. “Autumn is here. And that means that winter is not too far off the mark. I sense something, Bard.” She closed her eyes. “There is something amiss in the other kingdoms. The messengers were have sent off are taking too long. Everyone is placing it off to poor roads and travel conditions, but I do not believe that. There’s more to it than that.”

    Daniel’s eyes narrowed.

    “We need to make sure that we can defend the kingdom. Threats are not apparent, but that is the way it always seems. When you are in the light of day you always have your shadows, yet it is at night that your shadows continue to follow you in the blighted darkness.”

    “Hm.”

    “We need to make sure that things are going to be safe here before we can continue on our activities. The other royals are busy with their endeavors around the castle, as they will, but I took it upon myself to get you to the Queen. It is an important audience that she requests, and I believe that she has a task for you.”

    “I will go to the castle this evening. It is quite a journey out here. Are you sure that you that up are up for the journey back?”

    “Yes, Bard. I will survive. Just do not tarry too long. Queen Snitchcat is known for her kindness, but when you cross her the wrong way she does not shy away from letting her anger show.”

    “Noted,” Daniel said.

    He walked her to the door and opened it for her. She walked outside and then turned back to face him. “Don’t let your emotions get the best of you, Daniel. The things that happen in this world are not always right, but you cannot control them. You can only control the way that you react to them.”

    Daniel nodded, shuffling his feet. “Take care, Ambrosia. Safe journey.”

    She went to where her horse was tethered, undid her, and then began to ride off. When still in sight, she raised her arm and waved without turning around.

    Daniel looked up at the clouded sky for some time. Afterwards, he re-entered the cabin.

  3. #103
    Grand Duchess Ambrosia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    In the Castle, of course.
    Posts
    26,201
    Ambrosia kept her mare at a canter until she reached the crossroads where she pulled on the reins, bringing them to a halt. Her horse was nervous and skittish, shifting under her and dancing around the clearing in the middle of the roads' meeting. She reached up and ripped off the disguise covering the hard plate on her face. She wouldn't need to hide her hideousness and shame from anyone on the road with more than a veil. The disguise had itched maddeningly. But the covering had been necessary with the bard. She couldn't let him carry the tale of her disfigurement back to the queen. And he would have asked too many questions if she had worn the veil. The only person who knew she had been poisoned was Prince Welcheren. And he didn't know what the poison had done to her. He had disappeared on that fateful night when the Realm Locusts were coming up from the bowels of the castle. The Realm Locusts had never appeared, though the troops had rushed to the throne room as well as guarded the stairs in preparation of the assault. Where any of them had gone remained a mystery. The disappearance of Prince Welcheren was a blow to all of the Court. She prayed he was still alive and would find his way back home.

    What wasn't a mystery was that she, Grand Duchess of the Realm, Princess, Protector of the commoner and Crown alike, was changing due to the illness inflicted by the poison running through her burning veins. Her thoughts were no longer hers alone. If she could hear snippets of the hive queen, then it was more than possible the hive queen could hear snippets of her thoughts as well. And that put everyone at danger. She couldn't stay. When the queen asked after the bard it had been a golden opportunity for her to leave the castle with no questions asked. Ambrosia had discovered the bard had returned to his cabin during one of her scrying sessions trying to locate Prince Welcheren and him. The raised eyebrows of the queen when Ambrosia personally volunteered to take the bard the summons were quickly lowered and replaced with a nod when she explained to the queen her need for a ride to get away from her suites for a while. Everyone knew how much the duchess enjoyed riding and that she had been sequestered in her suites for days on end. It wasn't difficult to convince the queen the short ride to bring the message to the bard was exactly what was needed to ease Ambrosia's solitude.

    Of course, it wasn't a short ride. It was a long ride. She had allowed that little bit of erroneous information to go uncorrected. She knew where the bard's cabin was, hidden off in the forests, secluded from travelers, a private retreat Prince Daniel could use to restore his creativity. If the queen had realized how very far from the castle it actually rested, she would have insisted Ambrosia take an escort. Escorts did not feature into the duchess' plans. She needed to disappear for the safety of everyone. For the safety of the Realm. She hadn't lost control of her magic yet, but could it be far behind if her thoughts were compromised?

    No. It is better I go find myself a hole to crawl into and let come what may. I won't be the one to bring down the castle. Death is preferable.

    Ambrosia thought she heard laughter as she guided her mare onto one of the roads leading away from the castle. She wondered if the hive queen was mocking her. Teeth chattering, she wrapped her winter cloak tightly around her, adjusted her grip on the reins, and kicked her horse into a gallop.
    ..
    "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




    ...

  4. #104
    Grand Duchess Ambrosia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    In the Castle, of course.
    Posts
    26,201
    Ambrosia kept her mare at a canter until she reached the crossroads where she pulled on the reins, bringing them to a halt. Her horse was nervous and skittish, shifting under her and dancing around the clearing in the middle of the roads' meeting. She reached up and ripped off the disguise covering the hard plate on her face. She wouldn't need to hide her hideousness and shame from anyone on the road with more than a veil. The disguise had itched maddeningly. But the covering had been necessary with the bard. She couldn't let him carry the tale of her disfigurement back to the queen. And he would have asked too many questions if she had worn the veil. The only person who knew she had been poisoned was Prince Welcheren. And he didn't know what the poison had done to her. He had disappeared on that fateful night when the Realm Locusts were coming up from the bowels of the castle. The Realm Locusts had never appeared, though the troops had rushed to the throne room as well as guarded the stairs in preparation of the assault. Where any of them had gone remained a mystery. The disappearance of Prince Welcheren was a blow to all of the Court. She prayed he was still alive and would find his way back home.

    What wasn't a mystery was that she, Grand Duchess of the Realm, Princess, Protector of the commoner and Crown alike, was changing due to the illness inflicted by the poison running through her burning veins. Her thoughts were no longer hers alone. If she could hear snippets of the hive queen, then it was more than possible the hive queen could hear snippets of her thoughts as well. And that put everyone at danger. She couldn't stay. When the queen asked after the bard it had been a golden opportunity for her to leave the castle with no questions asked. Ambrosia had discovered the bard had returned to his cabin during one of her scrying sessions trying to locate Prince Welcheren and him. The raised eyebrows of the queen when Ambrosia personally volunteered to take the bard the summons were quickly lowered and replaced with a nod when she explained to the queen her need for a ride to get away from her suites for a while. Everyone knew how much the duchess enjoyed riding and that she had been sequestered in her suites for days on end. It wasn't difficult to convince the queen the short ride to bring the message to the bard was exactly what was needed to ease Ambrosia's solitude.

    Of course, it wasn't a short ride. It was a long ride. She had allowed that little bit of erroneous information to go uncorrected. She knew where the bard's cabin was, hidden off in the forests, secluded from travelers, a private retreat Prince Daniel could use to restore his creativity. If the queen had realized how very far from the castle it actually rested, she would have insisted Ambrosia take an escort. Escorts did not feature into the duchess' plans. She needed to disappear for the safety of everyone. For the safety of the Realm. She hadn't lost control of her magic yet, but could it be far behind if her thoughts were compromised?

    No. It is better I go find myself a hole to crawl into and let come what may. I won't be the one to bring down the castle. Death is preferable.

    Ambrosia thought she heard laughter as she guided her mare onto one of the roads leading away from the castle. She wondered if the hive queen was mocking her. Teeth chattering, she wrapped her winter cloak tightly around her, adjusted her grip on the reins, and kicked her horse into a gallop.
    ..
    "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. #105
    Benevolent Bard DanielSTJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Location
    Ontario, Canada.
    Posts
    4,786
    Another night addition:

    ==

    Daniel threw the last of his lackluster poem into the fireplace. He watched it burn while he clenched his hands. Then, slowly, he put the rest of the writing he considered adequate into the chest at his bedside. It overflowed with paper, when he opened it, but he managed to stuff the new addition on top and then push the rest down until he was able to close the chest again. He locked it and then put the key in his secret hiding place, a small area of hollowed wood underneath the rug, by the fireplace. That place no one would ever find or seek to—there was no gold or silver there.

    He had been tasked with going the castle and he intended to do it. Daniel had been at the cabin for more than a week and, besides the visit from Ambrosia, he had spoken to no one. Nonetheless, he had accomplished much writing in that time and had worked on getting through one of the tomes that he had left there. It had been an ancient book describing a mariner’s journey through the Mediterranean. The depictions in it had been lucid and the characters have been vivid and deep. Daniel had enjoyed the book immensely.

    Going outside, he noticed that the weather was beginning to grow cold. His meager belongings he had assembled by the front door, but he wanted to take a moment to witness the expanse of nature that surrounded him before departing from it. Although he enjoyed the regalia and joviality of castle life, there was something about being alone in nature that appealed to him—a base sense of being left alone with Mother Nature as much as possible.

    There was a bluebird singing in a tree. It did not seem to have any other birds around it. Daniel frowned and went inside. When he returned, he had a few morsels of bread. He knew that the bird would not do anything foolish like eat it out of his hand, but he scattered the bread at the base of the tree and then gathered his belongings.

    It’s time to go.

    The woman who he had been writing to had stopped returning his letters. Daniel had thought about writing a final one to her to confirm that, whatever they had, was over—but instead decided to let sleeping dogs lie. There was no need to push something that had already toppled over. He had met with her a few times and things had seemingly gone well, but—like had happened before to him many times, she had lost interest in him.

    When Daniel locked the door, he noticed that the bluebird had gathered a few speckles of bread and was munching on it. He made a route that would not startle the bird and then got himself on his horse. Daniel galloped off slowly at first, looking behind him, but by the time he had reached a dozen meters he began to urge the horse foreword.

    He did not look back.

    ==

    Daniel decided to stop at a tavern when he had been traveling for half a day’s journey. He had not eaten all day. At first, he thought that he might be able to starve off the feeling, but as time advanced the grumbling from his stomach persuaded him otherwise. The name of the tavern was Ogle’s Inn. It was a peculiar name and, for the life of him, Daniel could not remember seeing it before. He assumed that it was a new establishment and wondered about the marketability, and profitability, of a tavern operating under that name.

    The sign was freshly painted, and the Ogle part was red while the Inn portion was black. It stuck out along the way, near the signposts leading towards the village of Hearthen.

    It was not a large village, but he remembered from the small amount of time that he had worked in the surveyor’s capacity that the village had never any problems paying their taxes. The homes that he passed, along the outskirts, revealed luxury and plenitude. This was not a starving town, it was a small-knit community based in wealth. There were trees, obviously not from the region, that were planted all along the way leading to the center of the village. They were adorned with lush leaves. Daniel reached out for one and felt it and the touch of it reminded him of silk.

    When he reached the village’s walls, he called out to the watchman. “I am a Bard seeking Ogle’s Inn. May I gain entrance?”

    The watchman looked down at him. He was fully adorned in chain mail with a shiny helmet that allowed his face to show. The sentry studied him for a few moments and looked at his horse. “Do you have coin?” he called out.

    “But of course,” Daniel’s words were slow and mediated.

    He walked down the rampart of the wall and appeared at the iron gate. It had slits in it that were large enough for a hand to poke through, but there was no way that someone was going to enter without raising it.

    “The toll is four gold pieces,” the man’s eyes were stolid. “More than a modest sum, I’m sure you know, but we require it. It is also pertinent that you have a coin-purse that is adequate. We do not merely allow entrance to anyone that pays the toll,” he raised a studded leather hand and, with the lightest part of it, scratched at his chin. “We have a tight security system in here. I know you didn’t notice this on the outskirts, but the surrounding residences have armed guards at their disposal and they are always on call. This is not a place for beggars. We consider ourselves a thriving community.”

    “Understood,” Daniel said.

    He paid the toll and then jingled the coin purse, while allowing the watchman to see its contents, to illustrate that, monetarily, he was not lacking.

    “Welcome to Hearthen,” the guard said, nodding at another guard who began to open the gate.



    The village center was adorned with a marble fountain adorned with a Gothic style. Most of the buildings in the town seemed to be fashioned in this way. Daniel marveled at how much time this must have taken. Legendary people, mythical animals, Gods, and Goddesses were displayed in a rotation around the base of the fountain and at the top was a woman balancing the weight between a bouquet of flowers and a manuscript. On close inspection, he noticed that it was a scholarly text in Latin. When Daniel looked at the bottom of the fountain, he realized that there were coins of all sorts of value—ancient coins that had seemed to survive the ages. He reached into his pocket and retracted a small coin that he had never been able to divine the mystery behind.

    “A boon for you,” he whispered, raising his hand up high and letting the coin plop into the fountain. Daniel watched as it sunk to the bottom.

    His eyes rose, and he met another set. It was that of a wizened old man.

    “Come with me,” his voice was strained and husky. “I have a task for you.”

    Daniel followed.

  6. #106
    Benevolent Bard DanielSTJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Location
    Ontario, Canada.
    Posts
    4,786
    Another night addition:

    ==

    Daniel threw the last of his lackluster poem into the fireplace. He watched it burn while he clenched his hands. Then, slowly, he put the rest of the writing he considered adequate into the chest at his bedside. It overflowed with paper, when he opened it, but he managed to stuff the new addition on top and then push the rest down until he was able to close the chest again. He locked it and then put the key in his secret hiding place, a small area of hollowed wood underneath the rug, by the fireplace. That place no one would ever find or seek to—there was no gold or silver there.

    He had been tasked with going the castle and he intended to do it. Daniel had been at the cabin for more than a week and, besides the visit from Ambrosia, he had spoken to no one. Nonetheless, he had accomplished much writing in that time and had worked on getting through one of the tomes that he had left there. It had been an ancient book describing a mariner’s journey through the Mediterranean. The depictions in it had been lucid and the characters have been vivid and deep. Daniel had enjoyed the book immensely.

    Going outside, he noticed that the weather was beginning to grow cold. His meager belongings he had assembled by the front door, but he wanted to take a moment to witness the expanse of nature that surrounded him before departing from it. Although he enjoyed the regalia and joviality of castle life, there was something about being alone in nature that appealed to him—a base sense of being left alone with Mother Nature as much as possible.

    There was a bluebird singing in a tree. It did not seem to have any other birds around it. Daniel frowned and went inside. When he returned, he had a few morsels of bread. He knew that the bird would not do anything foolish like eat it out of his hand, but he scattered the bread at the base of the tree and then gathered his belongings.

    It’s time to go.

    The woman who he had been writing to had stopped returning his letters. Daniel had thought about writing a final one to her to confirm that, whatever they had, was over—but instead decided to let sleeping dogs lie. There was no need to push something that had already toppled over. He had met with her a few times and things had seemingly gone well, but—like had happened before to him many times, she had lost interest in him.

    When Daniel locked the door, he noticed that the bluebird had gathered a few speckles of bread and was munching on it. He made a route that would not startle the bird and then got himself on his horse. Daniel galloped off slowly at first, looking behind him, but by the time he had reached a dozen meters he began to urge the horse foreword.

    He did not look back.

    ==

    Daniel decided to stop at a tavern when he had been traveling for half a day’s journey. He had not eaten all day. At first, he thought that he might be able to starve off the feeling, but as time advanced the grumbling from his stomach persuaded him otherwise. The name of the tavern was Ogle’s Inn. It was a peculiar name and, for the life of him, Daniel could not remember seeing it before. He assumed that it was a new establishment and wondered about the marketability, and profitability, of a tavern operating under that name.

    The sign was freshly painted, and the Ogle part was red while the Inn portion was black. It stuck out along the way, near the signposts leading towards the village of Hearthen.

    It was not a large village, but he remembered from the small amount of time that he had worked in the surveyor’s capacity that the village had never any problems paying their taxes. The homes that he passed, along the outskirts, revealed luxury and plenitude. This was not a starving town, it was a small-knit community based in wealth. There were trees, obviously not from the region, that were planted all along the way leading to the center of the village. They were adorned with lush leaves. Daniel reached out for one and felt it and the touch of it reminded him of silk.

    When he reached the village’s walls, he called out to the watchman. “I am a Bard seeking Ogle’s Inn. May I gain entrance?”

    The watchman looked down at him. He was fully adorned in chain mail with a shiny helmet that allowed his face to show. The sentry studied him for a few moments and looked at his horse. “Do you have coin?” he called out.

    “But of course,” Daniel’s words were slow and mediated.

    He walked down the rampart of the wall and appeared at the iron gate. It had slits in it that were large enough for a hand to poke through, but there was no way that someone was going to enter without raising it.

    “The toll is four gold pieces,” the man’s eyes were stolid. “More than a modest sum, I’m sure you know, but we require it. It is also pertinent that you have a coin-purse that is adequate. We do not merely allow entrance to anyone that pays the toll,” he raised a studded leather hand and, with the lightest part of it, scratched at his chin. “We have a tight security system in here. I know you didn’t notice this on the outskirts, but the surrounding residences have armed guards at their disposal and they are always on call. This is not a place for beggars. We consider ourselves a thriving community.”

    “Understood,” Daniel said.

    He paid the toll and then jingled the coin purse, while allowing the watchman to see its contents, to illustrate that, monetarily, he was not lacking.

    “Welcome to Hearthen,” the guard said, nodding at another guard who began to open the gate.



    The village center was adorned with a marble fountain adorned with a Gothic style. Most of the buildings in the town seemed to be fashioned in this way. Daniel marveled at how much time this must have taken. Legendary people, mythical animals, Gods, and Goddesses were displayed in a rotation around the base of the fountain and at the top was a woman balancing the weight between a bouquet of flowers and a manuscript. On close inspection, he noticed that it was a scholarly text in Latin. When Daniel looked at the bottom of the fountain, he realized that there were coins of all sorts of value—ancient coins that had seemed to survive the ages. He reached into his pocket and retracted a small coin that he had never been able to divine the mystery behind.

    “A boon for you,” he whispered, raising his hand up high and letting the coin plop into the fountain. Daniel watched as it sunk to the bottom.

    His eyes rose, and he met another set. It was that of a wizened old man.

    “Come with me,” his voice was strained and husky. “I have a task for you.”

    Daniel followed.

  7. #107
    Dead. Snitchcat's Avatar
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    *Taps a lengthening fingernail on the throne's arm*

    Your queen is annoyed with herself: forgot to ask who would like the crown next.

    Also, where is Prince Daniel?

    And why are the repairs delayed?

    If I have to move and interrupt my writing, I shall be terribly vexed.

    *taps a claw on the throne's arm while typing away with the other, rather normal hand*
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  8. #108
    Benevolent Bard DanielSTJ's Avatar
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    Late-night addition:

    ==

    He led them through the streets. Every so often they came across the various street vendors who had things that Daniel would not have imagined: jewelry, charms, exotic fruit, and so forth. Daniel’s eyes lingered on these, but the man cleared his throat when Daniel tarried, and the bard took it upon himself to continue and not become further distracted.

    Surprisingly, they took a turn at a side street. Daniel looked around: it was empty. There were no signs of any sort of inhabitancy and the yellow brick walls were old and cracked.

    The man turned on his heel and faced Daniel. “I could not speak in the open streets. I have a message for your Queen. It is not to be read by you. This is to be delivered. You will be paid for this,” he produced a small bag of coins and jingled it before placing it in Daniel’s hands. “You are to go at once.”

    “But I haven’t eaten all day.”

    The old man smiled and revealed teeth that, despite care, had turned yellow. He snapped his fingers and a door open. A heavy-set man came out with a straw bag. The man opened the bag and revealed its contents: bread, butter, meat, fruit and cabbage.

    “Go now,” the old man said. “This is not something that is meant to wait.”

    Daniel went.

    ==

    “Hail,” the watchman called out. “I have not seen you for some time. The Queen is awaiting your arrival. You have tarried.”

    Daniel frowned. So, I guess that it’s common knowledge that I’ve been lingering around a little too long. That is not an effective way to start out this meeting. I must mind my words and explain myself without making excuses.

    “I am here now,” Daniel answered. “The journey was long. Open the gate, Farlan.”

    Farlan gave a hand gesture.

    The gate began to open.

    ==

    Daniel waited for entry into Queen Snitchcat’s hall. His hands were callused from the long years of riding, but they were not red with the exertion he had placed upon them by not stopping to rest. You have only done this to yourself. Do not try to blame anyone else for the things that you had control over. It was not anyone’s choice at what time you would depart for this journey, those were self-imposed controls.

    Absent-minded, he let his thoughts drift to one of his journeys to the south. He had been young and still learning what it meant to be a bard. Daniel had been too nice, had trusted the wrong people. At first, the journey was full of splendor and rigor. He had hooked up with a group of traveling musicians who, he had thought, were to head to the capital of the realm to fill their empty coin purses and spread their names. It was when the journey began to lag, and he had been forced to front several bills, that he realized something else was going on. Daniel pretended that he had not known the direction in which the capital was located—they had preyed on that. When he realized the course was not heading to the capital, he had attempted to leave.

    They robbed him blind and left him with only the clothing on his back. They had been traveling thieves masquerading as musicians. Daniel had learnt his lesson: do not trust people on their words alone.

    The doors opened, and a servant came out to greet Daniel. He gave a nod and was led into the meeting hall.

    “It has been some time,” Queen Snitchcat said from atop her throne. “And you are quite late. Would you like to explain that to me, Bard?”

    “I apologize,” Daniel said, bowing lower than usual. “I did not realize that a considerable amount of time had passed before it was too late to amend my course of action. I have been busy.”

    “And does the impending fate of the castle revolve around you “being busy?”” she said, her hands moving up and then index fingers protruding up and then coming down.

    “No,” Daniel looked at the floor. “It does not.”

    “Good,” Queen Snitchcat said.

    There was a moment of silence.

    Daniel looked across at one of the palace windows to the world outside. The grounds were being kept in pristine condition, despite whatever internal problems were happening inside of the castle. The duality of this always surprised Daniel—no matter what might be happening, certain rules and standards were always kept.

    Queen Snitchcat rose from where she was sitting and walked in front of him. “Bard,” she poked him on the head. “Don’t cast your eyes on the ground. You look so sad when you do that. Tell me, are you okay?”

    “These are strange times,” Daniel looked up. “It’s hard to tell what is happening before it seems it is too late.”

    “Sometimes, that is fate.”

    Daniel reached into his cloak and retrieved the letter. “A strange old man from Heathen asked me to give this to you. I never got his name, which in retrospect may have been a bit foolish. Yet, he seemed very adamant about me getting this to you. I hope that it was worth the slight delay in journey.”

    Queen Snitchcat, with her index and thumb, plucked the document at its corner and pulled it towards her. She waltzed back to the seat that she had chosen and sat herself back down. “Hm,” she hummed. “I see that you have not broken the seal that was placed on it. That is good.” She examined it closely, bringing it closer to the light of the chandelier that was hanging on the ceiling. “You’d be surprised at the amount of courtiers and messengers who open it and then attempt to reseal it.”

    “That would be dishonest.”

    Queen Snitchcat smiled her feline smile and her shady oak eyes radiated playfully. “And you are a Bard,” she winked.

    Daniel grinned, but said nothing.

    “There is a threat of locusts,” Queen Snitchcat began-- serious. “Welcheren has descended into the depths and has not returned. We are trying to keep things quiet, but this is something that needs to be taken care of. The area is considered under quarantine and we have send a scouting party."

    "Have they returned?"

    Queen Snitchcat shook her head, looking away.

    Daniel put one of his feet on the other and steadied his leg with it. The pose was one that he did to stretch his legs. He would soon do the same with the other.

    “Are you capable of handling such a task?” she titled her head completely to the side.

    “Yes, my Queen.”

    “You will be supplied with gear at the armory. This is very serious, Bard. Watch yourself."

    “My apologies again for…”

    “Apologies have been said and what is done is done."

    “Thank you, Queen Snitchcat.”

    He turned to leave, beginning to walk.

    “Oh, and Daniel.”

    Daniel turned his head backwards.

    “Be careful,” she brought a hand up to her face and flicked it ever-so-slightly.

    Daniel nodded and gave a wave.

    The servant let him out and closed the double-doors behind him.

  9. #109
    Dead. Snitchcat's Avatar
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    (The Locust Queen clicked and chirped her fury at her lieutenants. Why had the horde taken any prisoners?! Idiots! She whipped a claw-tipped leg across a lieutenant's face.

    "Devour them! And extract the heartstone from that interfering princling prior to liquidising him!"

    The lieutenants bobbed and scurried out of sight.

    Left alone the Locust Queen focused on the faint peridot coloured thread that connected her to the Duchess. The poison was insidious. No antidote.

    "Now, Duchess," she breathed, "tell me what you passed to Welcheren and you may slow the poison.")
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  10. #110
    Dead. Snitchcat's Avatar
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    Queen Snitchcat waved at the servants and attendants. They bowed or curtsied and hurried from the throne room.

    The Queen glared at the half repaired wall; the workers had fled after they had heard the castle staff mutter about giant insect invasions that had suddenly ceased.

    "Sable," whispered the dragon monarch.

    A furry ebony arachnid scuttled into view. "Snitchy one," it squeaked.

    "What findings bring you of the lack of six legged attacks?" Snitchcat tapped a claw on the throne's arm and a tiny saucer of webbed prey slid out of a sliver of silver and came to rest in front of the arachnid with a tiny tinkle.

    "It was the drowned environment, Majesty." The arachnid poked a minuscule hole in one of the webbings and slurped. The webbing shrank in on itself. "The Realm Locusts preferred tea and games to invasion."

    "Yet, the weather is now at peace again." Snitchcat's eye ridges lowered in a thoughtful frown. "Go. Discover the Locust Queen's intentions. And keep an eye on Daniel. We would like him back safely but he also hides too many secrets. Uncover them."

    "And Welcheren?"

    "Stay wary of that one. His secrets are deadlier than Daniel's." The Queen puffed a smoke ring at the wall. She waited till it was whole again before continuing. "Deal with them one at a time, preferably. Else, together if necessary. But no liquedation. They are princes of the kingdom."

    "Why harm them?"

    Snitchcat chuckled, a purring sound more than a laugh. "Silly spider. Do not harm them! We wish to confirm that their secrets will not inadvertently harm the castle or this kingdom and all who dwell within."
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  11. #111
    Benevolent Bard DanielSTJ's Avatar
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    Late-night addition:

    ==

    Daniel rode his horse slowly. You’re heading to the catacombs—steel yourself. Around him, the trees were filtering out. The grounds were less and less glamorous the more he approached the graveyard. There, he would find his entrance. As he passed by the gravestones, he peered every so often and sorrow filled his heart. All these people have passed along the road of life. They will not be back. However, as he slowed his horse down to trot the narrow path that lay beside the gravestones, he reminded himself that everyone journeyed the voyage of life and that it ended for all of them—there were no exceptions. Together, in their deaths, they formed a uniting bond that would never force them to separate from one another. The chorus of death was as strong for those departed as the chorus of life that had bound their existences together. That was, in short, the circle of life.

    There were wild flowers growing amongst the tombstones. Daniel stopped his horse as he saw one grave overflow with these. It was close enough that he was able to read the inscription:

    Ava Goldberg
    (1412-1432)


    The epitaph read:

    May the beauty in her soul lead her towards the stars


    Daniel paused, staring at the epitaph, for a moment.

    Then, he looked away and pressed the horse onward.

    When he arrived at the entrance, there were two sentries guarding it. The doors were sealed with a dual-lock that took two separate keys to open. Daniel had dealt with these types of locks before in the days when he had been forced to steal to survive. The poor never had them, but among the upper-class merchants and elites they were common.

    “Bard Daniel,” the greasy-bearded taller one roared. “How art thou?”

    Daniel smiled. “Menderick, I cannot complain.” He nodded to the other sentry—who ignored him entirely. Instead, he seemed more concerned with studying his dirty black fingernails that revealed themselves through the holes in his leather gloves.

    “Bah, Purlon,” Menderick scowled at the other sentry. “Why do you always treat everyone so poorly? I know that you do a respectable job, but it doesn’t help anyone when you get into these little moods that you are in.”

    Purlon spat on the ground and took a few steps away from the entrance.

    “I think he’s having troubles at home,” Menderick put a hand up to his mouth and spoke out of the corner of it.

    “Shut up,” Purlon barked.

    Menderick shrugged. “It is in times of troubles that you show your true nature. One should be wise enough to realize that. Now,” he pointed at Purlon without the least bit of sympathy. “Get your key. Daniel has something important to accomplish. I am not going to make him wait, so hurry your tail.”

    “Humbug,” Purlon muttered, but he grabbed the key that was linked to his belt and went to the entrance.

    Menderick joined him.

    “Daniel,” Menderick said. “I remember when you were green behind the ears when you first came to the castle. I was much older than you, as I am now, but you were so nervous and shy. You were like a puppy dog.”

    Purlon’s key turned in the lock. There was an audible click.

    “Don’t let whatever happens down there change you. I am not certain of what will happen down there, but don’t let it color your soul. The realm needs light, not more darkness.

    Menderick, from the chain on his belt, inserted the key in the lock and turned it.

    Click.

    “Thank you,” Daniel said. “When you are done your rotation, you will take my steed to the stables?”

    Menderick nodded.

    Daniel leaned forward and looked at his horse. He was old, but steady. Daniel had first got him when they had rejected him after he had lost too many races—he had been a gambling stead. Taking a deep breath, Daniel rubbed his head against the horse’s muzzle and it let out a muffled neigh.

    “It’s all right,” Daniel said, patting the horse on its head. “You’re still my horse and you always will be.”

    He turned towards the entrance. “I don’t know when I will back. Will there always be someone here to re-welcome me?”

    Menderick gave a nod of assent and Purlon turned so that he was facing the graveyard instead of them. The sentry motioned him close and then whispered in his ear.

    “The scouting party had Purlon’s closest friends in it. I’m trying to cheer him up, but I feel that it’s a losing battle. Do not take it to heart, Bard.”

    “I won’t.”

    Daniel reached forward and took off the lock. It dropped to the ground.

    He took a deep breath and opened the doors. Some part of him expected chaos to erupt from the entrance, but it was quiet. It smelt musty.

    Daniel entered. The doors were shut, and locked, behind him.

    ==

    There had been a long staircase that led down to the first floor of the catacombs. Here, at the bottom, there was a lantern on the floor. Where it had come from, Daniel had no idea. Nonetheless, he picked it up and shone it around him. His eyes had been poor since he had been a child and he had always been forced to read with spectacles. However, that is not becoming of a bard. He only wore them when it was necessary, when he was in private. That was why, during those times, he became extremely introverted and focused. He tried to make up for the time that he lost not reading during his other activities. The one thing that was not affected was his general vision quality and night vision. He had always seemed, once he adjusted to the darkness, been able to see well in dim or small light.

    The first room had a wide corridor. Along its cracked stone walls, there were small incisions into the concrete. It appeared like it was some sort of trap. Daniel frowned. He had not been in this part of the castle before. Tread carefully; mistakes will not be tolerated down here.

    There was an open piece of parchment paper on a stand a meter away from him. It read:

    The walls creak and jolt when your answer is not right.
    Turn the hands of the clock to lead you to your plight.


    There was a clock a foot ahead of the stand. Its hour and minute hands were set at III and VII respectively.

    Above him, a drop of condensation fell from the ceiling.

    Daniel closed his eyes and thought.

  12. #112
    That's Queen Sparklepants to you tiddlywinks's Avatar
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    Princess tiddlywinks stuck her head out of her royal chambers just long enough for a whispered conversation with Fred. Then, on a cloud of glitter and non coffee fueled mutters, she ducked back inside to trip into her secret portal elsewhere.

    Later that evening, a sparkly little plot bunny could be seen tapdance-slinking his way down to the throne room, a schematic for a Tiffany inspired stained glass window in hand. The subject matter, if one squinted closely, might resemble a glorious dragon queen seated upon her throne, holding court over a sea of plot bunnies.
    Loves to tell stories. Finds editing a necessary evil. No longer fueled by coffee (I really mean it this time).
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    Pirate fantasy
    , Book 1 - Updated Chapter 1 (revising)

    Red Riding Hood retelling - Chapter One (revising)


    #Tweety tweets | Pinterest plot bunnies | Bloggity blog


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