The evening of the festival was young as the Love struck prince did his best to woo the young lady who accompanied him to the festival, an awkward silence held over him as if he wanted to say something but now that he had the chance he could not. The woman was similar to that of a wolf, her features sharp and fierce, yet she exuded a type of patience of that equal to someone well beyond her years. Her hair was jet black and her eyes a piercing blue, she wore an elegant robe made of a white silk ending just above her feet, her hair tied in a ponytail as she walked ahead, the festival underway, the streets were alive with people young and old to enjoy the festivities that were underway, games for the children and libations for the adults.
An hour passed as Bryce finally brought the courage to speak to her, his voice shook with some fear, “Lady Jessel, I thank you for coming with me to the festival.”
Jessel softly replied, “It is no trouble my prince,” she giggled, “Though could you not call me 'Lady'. I am a simple blacksmith's daughter not a Baron's Daughter. Walk with me young prince.”
Bryce walked closer to the lovely Jessel, a gust of wind blew over the city, the light from the street lamps glistened off the armour of the guards stationed across the festival grounds, Vera took to the platform to formally begin the festival, “My people, as you know it has been 15 years since the passing of our previous King and Queen, my father Andreas and my mother Leanna however, now that I am of age I will take my place as Queen of our land.”
A citizen spoke up, her form was similar to that of a hare, wearing something akin to an official’s coat, and a small label was worn on her chest reading “Oracle News”, “Have you not taken a husband Lady Vera?”
Vera responded, “No I have not, nor will I. I shall rule with the assistance of the Council.”
The Citizen spoke again, “And what of your brother? When will he be assuming any kind of position of rule?”
“Bryce is still too young to assume a position of power of any kind. He will however be working side by side with the Royal, his swordsmanship is nearly unmatched.” Vera answered.
The crowd cheered at the notion of their crown prince being amongst them as a protector of his people. People began to crowd around him asking to shake his hand and congratulate him amongst other things. Not wanting to make his date feel crowded he thanked the crowed for their support and politely asked them to let him enjoy his time with his date.
However off in the shadows of the festival, something evil lurked about. A sharp glare was focused on Vera, then in a short moment a glimmer shone off an oddly shaped knife. In a flash the knife was flying through the air on its way towards the Queen, the blade was snakelike in its design. The guards were unaware of the attack as Vera snapped open a fan and caught it just as it came near her head, the figure stepped out of the shadows his form was that of a jackal, his left eye was pure white with a scar down the left side of his face, a short curved blade in his left hand with a small talisman in his right. A mist of darkness swirled around him as he spoke, “My, my, Vera how you've grown! How many years has it been since I last saw you? Fifteen I believe right?” the figure spoke.
Vera replied a hint of rage in her voice, “Volgus. How dare you show your face to me after what you have done, guards arrest that man, no, monster for his crimes against the crown!”
Volgus drew his sword brandishing the blade toward the guards as he rubbed the talisman as he began citing a twisted incantation, “Venite ad me, mea satellitibus acedia atque amentia impulsum, in adjutorium meum intende mihi plebs adversus eos qui falsam hanc persuasionem regina cum suis persistens foolsih populo!” with these dark words, a small battalion of driders and satyrs appeared surrounding the crowd, the vile creatures threatening the civilians as Volgus walked into the centre of the crowd, “What a rousing speech by your queen do you not agree? Such vigour and care for you all, except she will not be able to give you what I can offer. Join me and my comrades here and we shall spare you, your friends and your families all you have to do is swear allegiance to our Lord and Master, Lahabre-ha for in him we will all be saved.”
A woman in the crowd spoke up, “You Lord is a monster, a creature borne of madness and hatred who would do naught but enslave us!”
Volgus' seemingly warm demeanour changed to a cold and vile expression, “Does she answer for all of you?” Volgus asked. The crowd resounded with a triumphant cheer, “Well then I guess you all get to die.” With a snap of his fingers the driders closed in toward the crowd as they brandished myriad weapons such as swords, spears and axes, the civilians cowered as their impending death closed in on them followed shortly but the sound of a skull cracking against something heavy. The everyone turned to where the noise came from to see Jessel with a massive smithing hammer in hand as she hefted it over her shoulder with one arm, a drider on the ground in front of her with its head caved in like a soft piece of clay being molded into an ashtray.
A fierce look came across Jessel's face as she held her hammer in front of her, “You can believe in a heretic slave god all you want, but NO ONE threatens me or my home as long as I live!” she shouted.
Volgus, with a surprised look on his face, asked a single question, “Where were you hiding that thing?”
Jessel responded, “What girl in this day and age doesn't have a 'Bag of Holding'?”
Bryce stepped forward his shoulders heaving sharply as he broke the line of sight between Jessel and Volgus, “You must be hard of hearing Volgus, the queen said to surrender.” Bryce held up a small sheathed sword in his hands and took hold of the hilt as he drew it from the sheath. As Bryce drew the blade the sword grew to a titanic great sword.
Volgus groaned, “What is it with these items of Holding?! You know what never mind, kill them both as an example!”
The driders and satyrs rushed Bryce and Jessel with a mighty swing the first few attackers were cleaved in two, their corpses staining the ground red, “We were TRYING to have a DATE!” Bryce roared as he grabbed a drider and threw them into the air.
Jessel was crushing drider limbs left and right while booting Satyrs with ease, “I was actually enjoying myself for once!”
Bryce looked at her with a feeling of glee as she shouted that sentence, “We could try again next week if you'd like Jessel.” he stated as a he sidestepped a charging satyr.
Jessel swung her hammer sending the Satyr flying into a pair of drider, knocking them down like bowling pins, “I'd like that,” she stopped being interrupted by a drider as she smashed its head in with a powerful swing of her hammer, “I'd like that a lot.”
Bryce ran a drider through with his sword and minced it into small chunks. “I promise all of our dates won't end with us going into battle I swear.”
Jessel laughed at Bryce's joke, only for her to be caught off guard and pierced by a satyr's spear, a sharp howl of pain escaped her mouth as Bryce rushed to her side crushing the attackers head in his hand like a grape, “GUARDS!” he roared, “Stop gawking and fight the invaders back! Protect your prince!” The guards who seemed both stunned at Bryce's skill in combat as well as his composure during a hectic sword fight such as that. They forced back the reaming attackers while another squadron surrounded Volgus.
Bryce took Jessel from the battle field, attending to her wound. It was shallow, missing her vitals but it drew a fair amount of blood from her, staining her robes, the spear head jutted out from her body. “Jessel, forgive me for this.” he said frankly as he pulled the spear from her in a swift motion, the blood flowed faster as it was no longer obstructed by the bladed intrusion.
“GAH! Why in the name of the goddess would you do that?!” Jessel howl as she grabbed him by the collar.
“So I can do this,” Bryce spoke placing his hand on her wound, his fur staining red as he began to recite a spell, “Caeruleo flamma ardet intus me da emundatione tua flamma quibus sisteretur fluens vitae ab sociorum vulnera.” As Bryce finished his incantation a blue light radiated from him as an azure flame began to cauterize the wound, stopping the flow of blood from her wound and sealing it. “I hope the burn didn't hurt too much, but the blood flow will stop.”
Jessel winced as she tried to bring herself to her feet, “Not as much as having a spear thrust into me that’s for sure.” she tried to laugh making light of the situation as she stumbled keeping herself close to the wall, “Goddess this hurts. I had no idea you were skilled with magic.” Jessel said with a hint of pain.
“Of course, the royal family is trained in both martial and magical arts,” Bryce stated, “I'm not all that good at it though, mostly just fire magicks and the basics.” Bryce waved down a cleric, having them look over Jessel whilst he walked back toward the battle.
“Where are you going?” Jessel asked worriedly.
Bryce replied coldly, a seething rage hidden in his voice, “I have a traitor to kill. Bryce returned to the battlefield hoisting his sword over her shoulder, as he walked toward the remaining driders and satyrs, “I will give you all one last chance, as you did not attack me or the civilians when commanded. Swear your loyalty to me and I promise you will not share the same sentence as Volgus.”
Some of the satyrs agreed to Bryce's terms almost too eagerly, those who remained bared naught but resent to the young prince swearing, their fealty to their mad lord Lahabre-ha. Bryce shook his head in sadness as he continued to their leader Volgus, he was pressed against the wall by a squadron of pike-men, ordering one of them to stand aside while Bryce took his place, raising his blade toward Volgus' neck, the very tip of the blade pressed against his jugular. The Messenger of Lahabre-ha had a death grip on his blade ready for the fight of his life.
“You will pay for your crimes against the royal family Volgus, you are charged as follows: the murder of King Andreas and Queen Leanna, the attempted murder of Queen Vera, terrorism against the people of the Auracia Kingdom, collusion with war enemies and finally swearing allegiance to the Mad Drider King. What do you have to say for your defence?” Bryce spoke, his voice commanding despite his inexperience. His eyes burning with an intense flame as he stared the heretical madman down.
“I plead guilty,” Volgus spoke, “but I'm dying tonight, not to some pup! Nubes et caligo insaniam, et auferas me de isto carcere et in sinu meo me!” a dark mist enveloped Volgus, he broke out into a fit of laughter as Bryce charged him before the mist finally vanished leaving an empty wall where Volgus once was. The knights stood around in awe as Volgus had vanished, leaving the rest of his comrades to die.
“He has no sense of honor.” one civilian spoke, another piped up, “His death will be a welcome respite!” Bryce's eyes burned bright with rage as he lowered his sword, the thought of not being able to slay the heathen who butchered his mother and father and nearly killed his lover. Bryce sheathed his sword and quieted the crowd.
“My people,” The prince started, “the heretic is gone for now, I am sorry to say that we have to end the festival early, for your own safety. We know not if he will attack again.”
The civilians moaned and murmured as they dispersed to their homes. The guards carried the defectors away while others killed those who stayed loyal to the Mad King. Bryce walked towards where he left Jessel, a field cleric was attending to her wound. The cleric stood and saluted the young prince, the glow from the cleric’s staff began to fade as Bryce walked up to the now healed Jessel, helping her to her feet as he looked into her eyes, a passionate flame burned between them that no force on Seira could douse.
Across the realms, in the southern continent of Etrar, a swirling black mist formed in the base of the hideous fortress, its intimidating size only offset by the empty black of its color as a starless night. Large thick webs were spun from tower to tower and across the inner cloister, the sound of innocents howling in pain as they are tortured in the most cruel and unimaginable ways. Out of the black mist formed Volgus, his chest heaving as he rested against a pillar in the keep. The sound of chitinous legs tapped closer before going silent altogether.
“You return Volgus… but where are our brethren?” a disembodied voice spoke, the sound of which had a strange chittering to it, as if an insect had learned to speak, “Our master provided you plenty of forces to succeed.”
“Rougerith…. I- I,” Volgus stammered his mind flustered as he tried to find a way to break the news of his failure, “I was met with greater resistance than I anticipated. Most of the unit had perished violently. The prince… he is much stronger than we had thought.”
Rougerith descended from the ceiling, his drider form allowing him effortless control of web spinning and dexterous striding. “T’would seem that you are less efficient a solider than our master let us to believe. Mayhaps our master should’ve killed you when he had the chance, when you came to us weak and sniveling like the vermin you are.”
A loud thud was heard from the inner sanctum of the keep, followed by a whooshing. In a split second Volgus was being held by his head, his feet dangling three feet off the ground. A deep voice rumbled behind him. “Volgus. Why have you returned without your prize?”
Rougerith dropped as low as he could, his face staring down at the ground, “Lord Lahabre-ha! You grace us with your visage.”
Volgus panicked as he began to fear for his life, “Please my Lord, it was not of my own incompetence that I had failed. The Prince… he was too strong for me or my men alone! Some of them even dissented to his side! Please spare me!” Volgus begged.
Lahabre-ha paused letting out a sigh of both disappointment and relief, “Good, you aren’t completely worthless then. The Prince is strong you say? Good I would have nothing less of my future combatant.”
Lahabre-ha dropped Volgus, his clawed hands dripping with fresh blood from a recent meal, or victim. As Lahabre-ha licked his finger clean he had a vile thought, a disgusting grin came over his face as he laughed, turning away he signaled for Rougerith and Volgus to follow, as the three walked down to the hall Lahabre-ha traced his razor sharp finger along the wall, until he tapped against a small brick, revealing a hidden staircase that lead down. As the three went down in silence a faint violet light began to come into view to reveal a strange lab, in place of beakers and other alchemical equipment there were strange fleshy growths all over the room filled with various fluids of varying colours and viscousities some were near gelatinous at first glance.
“Welcome to the School. A small laboratory I had developed after my last… attempt. I have had my greatest alchemist, Bella vas Scyllus working in here for the past century. Though she’s changed since then, isn’t that right my dear sweet alchemist.” Lahabre-ha said as he stroked a fleshy growth on the wall.
The growth opened to reveal the torso of a young woman, her hair now just a growth attached to the walls. Her skin was glistening with a strange purple slime and her eyes now empty sockets. In a gurgling voice she spoke, “Lord Lahabre-ha, you grace me with your presence, what brings you to the School? A new experiment perhaps?” She bowed to her master with gleeful abandon, as if a she were a pet seeing her master again. “Shall I experiment on the fuzzy one like the others? I’m sure I can make his better than my previous failures.”
Lahabre-ha patted her head at her enthusiasm, his face grinning warmly, “I do have need of your skill once again my sweet, sweet alchemist. I need you to breed a hybrid. Something that would rival Mondus in strength and Enkir in wits.”
Bella pondered for a minute, stroking her chin, “I can… but I’ll need a base, something to build such a creature from. Mondus and Enkir are some of my best works, it would take months, no YEARS for it to be completed.”
Lahabre-ha laughed loudly as he took Volgus by the neck, “I have your base, my sweet. But how long will it take repurpose this worthless form into something powerful?”
Bella’s body stretched and extended toward Volgus’ now cowering face, “hmmm, he is ripe with fear… but other than that I can easily remake him into something useful. It will take around two years to remake him, my lord.”
“Then let it be done, I would have the man who killed the previous King and Queen of Auracia kill their children!” Lahabre-ha spoke as a fleshy pod formed around Volgus as it filled with a black viscous liquid, his eyes went white and his fur began to burn away, until he was naught but bone. “You will be remade Volgus, made strong and wise, able to move mountains with both hand and thought and NOTHING will stop me from reaching my goal.”