Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by gorgenmast
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"You've got nerve, bloodsucker," snarled the dwarf seated upon the great throne of chiseled granite.

"We had an agreement, Lord Bristlebeard," Baron Ulrek reminded calmly, standing before the firepit-flanked throne. "An alliance in exchange for the right to work the ancient dwarven mines in the Weald. A favorable agreement for Sturin's Folk, but now the time has come for you to uphold your end of the agreement. Ten thousand fighting dwarves for three months, not a day longer." The dwarven lord's face quivered in anger.

"You come to our lands, to my very house without invitation! And you come before the throne my great grandfather, Sturin Irontooth, and make demands! By the honor my ancestors, I ought to give you a horsewhipping, Ulrek!"

"I mean no offense to your ancestors. It is entirely within your rights to deny my request. Of course, should you deny me, I will renege on my end of our bargain as well. Naturally your people would be excluded from the Weald forever, and no longer would your people mine the tremendous riches from those great mines within my lands. A pity, but perhaps some day I will find crews of locals capable of extracting the mithril, gold, and silver for me."

"Those were dwarven lands before, and if you provoke our wrath they will be again." Bristlebeard threatened. The dwarf's face coiled with fury and venom, but underneath his visage, Ulrek could sense extreme anxiety. The Baron knew that the dwarf lord was backed into a difficult place. Probing his mind, Ulrek sensed the dwarf lord exploring the possibility of invading the Great Weald, deposing Ulrek, and reclaiming the dwarf mines. Bristlebeard knew it was impossible. His vassals would mutiny if they lost their source of precious mithril and also had to send their soldiers off to die in a fruitless invasion.

"If that were possible, we would not be having this discussion, as your father or grandfather would have invaded generations ago if they could. Such threats are naught but delusions of grandeur."

"We know what this is all about, Ulrek. You want soldiers to help settle this inheritance dispute with your father. Deny us our mining privileges and we'll fight for Edward."

"Lose your mining privileges and send your warriors to fight a protracted conflict with nothing to gain just to spite me? I doubt your vassal chieftains would much appreciate that. Why, it would not surprise me if your vassals mutinied against you for such a move."

"My chieftains are loyal!" Bristlebeard proclaimed rather defensively. "They would never disobey me!"

"Dwarves are not known for their loyalty... but their greed is notorious. Speaking hypothetically, should mining rights in the Weald be offered to any dwarf who rebelled against you, I think that it would be another dwarf sitting upon that throne."

Bristlebeard suffered a long and uncomfortable silence. Somehow Ulrek knew just how precariously he sat upon Sturin's Throne.

"I can't give 10,000 warriors," Bristlebeard admitted. Ulrek probed the dwarf lord's mind and knew he was not lying.

"I understand. It is a great many soldiers to muster, certainly with such little notice. To be frank with you, Lord Bristlebeard, it is not soldiers I need so much as siege engines. You already know full well I intend to march on my father's throne at Castle Bathory. The Capital of our Imperium has a sturdy wall of its own, and the citadel within boasts some of the finest ramparts in all the land. I believe dwarven masons from these mountains were consulted for their construction. Trebuchets and catapults will do nothing against such masonry. It took dwarven ingenuity to raise the ramparts of Castle Bathory, and it will require dwarven ingenuity to bring them down. It is known that the dwarves are proficient with the use of firedust, and have built machines capable of focusing its explosive and destructive energy."

"Cannons," Bristlebeard recognized.

"Indeed. I need them as big as they can be built, and as many of them as I can have."

"We do not possess such machines," said the dwarf lord. "But there is a dwarven lord in a distant valley, Orrin Goutfoot of Muin's Folk, who is fascinated with firedust and possesses a great many cannons. He owes me a favor, and would likely relish the opportunity to see his cannons used against actual fortifications even if he were not in my debt."

"Send word at once that his is to bring his cannons and all the dwarves needed to operate them to Castle Bathory with haste. If they are arrive in three fortnight's time, I will be satisfied with 5,000 levied dwarves from your people."

"I can agree to that, Baron," said Lord Bristlebeard with a heavy sigh.

"I am glad we can keep our current arrangement intact," said Ulrek. "Now, before I return to my keep, there is something else I need. I had commissioned some items from your master smith."

"Yes," Lord Bristlebeard recalled. "Send Dolmur Redhammer in!"

The dwarven chamberlains opened the doors to Lord Bristlebeard's throne room, permitting entry to a bulbous-nosed dwarf with an unkempt, wiry beard, curled and singed by exposure to fire. He wore a filthy linen shirt stained with numerous sooty smudges under a well-worn leather apron. In his arms was a bundle of sooty rags wrapped around something nearly as long as he was tall.

"Baron Ulrek Bathory," the dwarven blacksmith greeted cordially as he sauntered up to the vampire lord. "A pleasure to meet you at last. You've been keeping me and the lads awful busy, but we're awful proud of what we're putting together for you. Perhaps my finest work yet."

"Is my suit of armor ready?" Ulrek asked.

"'Fraid not, sire. We've got much to do for all that yet. They'll be ready soon enough, I can promise you that. However, I have finished this."

Dolmur Redhammer unwrapped the linen sheets around the object in his arms and from its furls drew a magnificent longsword. A three-foot long blade shimmered in the glow of the twin fire pits, dazzling everyone in Bristlebeard's court - even the normally stoic-faced Ulrek. The blades facets shone with a mirrory sheen that could only be achieved with silver. In the central bloodgroove, exotic glyphs cut out of the silver exposed a darker bluish-gray metal underneath. Intricately detailed upon the crossguard were wolfsbane leaves in silver bas relief.

"Solid mithril," Dolmur admired, "covered in a patina of silver, as requested. You'll see there's no silver on the edges - exposed mithril there to really cut through that armor and bone. In capable hands that blade will cut through chainmail. A deft jab will pierce platemail. And once it's cut through, that silver will be in contact with all the innards of the enemy combatant, as specified." The dwarf presented the blade to Ulrek and with an almost-reluctant hesitation, allowed the vampire to take the blade into his long, bony fingers.

"Magnificent," Ulrek declared, gripping the handle and caressing the blade. The silver running across his fingers elicited almost no pain anymore. He was nearly completely immune now.

"A fine blade, sire," said the dwarven smith. "Fit for a king. But it needs lacks just one thing."

"And what would that be?" Ulrek asked, watching the flames dance in the blade's mirroresque reflection.

"A name. A sword like that needs a name."

Ulrek continued to admire the blade silently for a time, watching the orange firelight dance over the coals of the fireplaces situated on either side of Lord Bristlebeard. Golden rays of light, Ulrek thought, not unlike a sunrise.

"Pthaalmâ." Ulrek uttered at last in a strange language, spoken deeply from the bottom of the throat.

"I beg your pardon, sire."

"Long ago, my people did not speak this language. Vampires once had a tongue of their own. It is, in fact, still spoken today by ferals though in a crude and vulgar dialect almost unrecognizable from High Vampiric. My father suppressed its use long ago in the Imperium, and the language as it was once spoken is known only to foreign scholars. But I have learned the words of my ancestors, and from those words I choose one to name this sword."

"It is an ugly word in Vampiric. A dreadful word, evoking great danger and death for vampires. But it also speaks of new beginnings, of a new day."

"Pthaalmâ," Ulrek repeated once again, admiring his new blade before translating. "The Dawn."

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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by The Wyrm
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Solomon rode hard and fast across the moors, pausing only long enough to strip Emily's clothes from her body and toss them into a stream before wrapping her in his cloak which was neatly inlaid with delicate pockets of garlic. Even if the blood sucking scum could track, which there was no mention of them being able to do so, they would be unable to continue the pursuit. Bloodhounds might find the clothes and try to track with them but open country was the worst place for such beasts as the wind would blow any scent far to the south, away from Solomons route. Only a Hellhound might have a chance but he had killed the last one rumoured to be alive a year ago.

He stopped only when the horse could go no further that night. Taking refuge in a small hovel that had been abandoned god knows when. Securing Emilys hands and feet so that she could not run, he stepped out into the gathering darkness and began to prepare his hiding place. Using several small items from his bag he laid a groundwork of holy symbols that would both protect him from evil, and more importantly, cloak him from their sight. One did not become Solomon Kane without some tricks up his sleeve and God on his side. He ensured that the horse was secure inside the protective boundary as well and collected an armload of forage from the abandoned fields. The horse whickered softly and nuzzled his hand before chowing down. He gave the strong neck a heavy pat and brushed the creature as best he would with no comb.

Returning to the hovel he found Emily was awake and kicking at her bonds. She stopped as soon as he came in and fixed him with a hateful stare. She looked beautiful even with nothing but a shift on, the white cloth now stained with dirt and horse sweat. He felt a familiar urge in his loins and began to debate the merits of taking her right there on the dirt floor.

"Do you have any idea who I am?!" She demanded in a petulant, almost childlike tone. He sighed. He hated chatty captives.

"Yes, you matter to Prince Eddie." Solomon replied as he sat, leaning back against the side of the hovel. He would not light a fire, the symbols might protect him from rampaging evil but they did nothing to hide the smell of woodsmoke once it had travelled beyond the circle. "And that, my dear, is good enough for me."

"There will by war if you don't release me! My father is the King!"

"Is he!?" Solomon's eyes lit up. "Well, isn't that convenient. I was hoping to start a little war and maybe your daddy can wipe out Edward and his ilk for me."

He was rather taken by the idea and the girl had fallen deathly quiet at the horrible smile that had crossed his features. She looked afraid now. Perhaps some small piece of his true identity had leaked through and that cheered him slightly.

Maybe he still had it after all.

"My father..." She started again at last and he snapped forward so quickly she gasped, his face inches from hers, his eyes gleaming.

"Your father will do what he his told if he wants you back... unspoiled..." He ran a hand up between her legs and then chuckled as she tried to kick him away. "Now, now. You're worth more to me alive and unspoiled than not, but I promise I will kill you if I have to, and only after I have violated you in every way imaginable."

The blood had drained from her face and curled into a ball, hands tied behind her back, knees and ankles similarly disadvantaged. She was helpless and she knew it. "Who are you...?" She whispered the words.

"Now isn't that a question." He stated flatly before leaning back again. "Oh!" He sat forward again. "Can't have you making any noise."

Before she could resist he had jammed a wad of cloth into her mouth. She tried to spit it out but failed, sagging onto the dirt floor with muted sobs.

"There, there, try to stay quiet. Old William Chaucer will keep you warm." He pulled the heavy cloak over her for some sort of warmth. "I've got you." He said as he patted her head.

He leaned back and settled his shoulder against the stone. He would doze perhaps, but sleep was out of the question. He needed to be alert. He was certain Edward would come, and that suited him just fine.

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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Vampiretwilight
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Edward smelled garlic. But, he did not care. He kept going after them, despite a slightly ill stomach. He made his horse break into a run and he continued onward as deep into the Moors as he could go. The prince stopped when he saw the hovel. He got off his horse.

"He shall regret what he has done."
However, Edward knew of a possible way to free her without being killed himself and without doing harm to them. He did not wish to attack unless he absolutely had to do so.

He soon saw the Raven again. He knew she was nearby, his friend and ally. The woman soon showed up in front of him.
"Is she in there?"
She pointed to the little hideout.

Edward nodded. He frowned.
"Yes."

The woman nodded solemnly.
"Let's make this quick."
She changed forms. She turned into a shadow ghoul and slipped inside. Edward would approach from the front to go after the kidnapper. While Edward did that, the woman, in her current form, snuck behind Emily to carefully work at her binds. She would free her in no time at all. There wasn't a single knot that she could not untie. She worked with plenty of rope and such herself in the past.

She noted the cloak, but she would take care of that quickly enough. She slipped Emily into the shadows surrounding her as Edward knocked down the door. He snarled. Edward would try to buy them some time.

Emily had been in tears. However, she saw things that have her hope, felt her binds loosening, and knew things were going to change after what just happened. She gasped but it was too muffled by the gag to be very much of a sound at all. This would be a good thing though. She felt everything going black but not because she was falling unconscious.

She heard Edward as the shadows covered her eyes. She was being rescued, she thought. She was nervous about whoever or whatever was trying to get her out of there instead of Edward himself. But, if Edward knew them, then it would be just fine, she thought briefly.
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by The Wyrm
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The deep night had fallen, not a sound disturbed the moor save for the beat of a ravens wings. To Solomon it was both a curse and a blessing. Nighttime was vampire time and it was only his faith in the wards that he had laid that allowed him to doze even fitfully. Even this was disturbed when, near the early hours of the morning, he heard the sound of hooves, and the soft knicker of his horse. Someone was coming.

He glanced quickly around the hovel. He rose swiftly and pushed together a small heap of sticks and other wooden debris that has been left by the previous inhabitants. He sprinkled fire dust on the pile and sparked it to life. A bright white flash and then a small fire was burning on the floor. It was not much, but it was enough to illuminate the space. He returned to his place by the wall and leaned back again, sword in one hand, another resting on a small collection of globes carrying holy water. He waited.

The ghoul, or whatever it was, slipped soundlessly into the hovel through its only entrance, it was a hovel after all. Solomon, still leaning against the wall, watched the creature through hooded eyes from beneath the brim of his hat and had to resist the urge to snort in derision as it tiptoed toward the prostrate form of Emily. The wardings he had placed around him so carefully the night before easily illuminated the ghoul in a soft golden glow, though it did not prevent the undead creature from throwing a deep shadow over whatever it passed across.

His hand was already resting on the hilt of his sword, the silver inlay ideal for killing a vampire, but this was a ghoul. A common creature he had faced countless times. Not that it mattered really, every creature, no matter how evil, could not survive its head being hacked off. Except trolls. Those were trickier, thankfully they were as dumb as fence posts.

Solomon waited as the ghoul crept further into the hut, almost comically slow as it went. He had been preparing to attack the thing when it occurred to him that there was only one reason why it was so interested in Emily and not him. Edward was nearby. He could wait.

The ghoul gathered up Emily in its arms and began to move quickly toward the door now, making small noises, and for an instant Solomon was concerned that he had waited to long and sprang to his feet. At that instant Edward himself burst through the door with a snarl, shattering what little wood remained like an enraged bull, crashing head first into the ghoul. The creature reeled back, dropping Emily as it did so.

Solomon wasted not a moment and swept his longsword out, hacking the ghouls head from its shoulders. The body crumpled to the floor even as he whipped out a small globe of holy water and hurled it onto the corpse. The creature, whatever it was, began to smoke and shrivel at once, burning with the righteous fury of God. The small fire that Solomon had lit was beginning to burn low.

Vampire Prince and Vampire Hunter faced each other across the small dirt floor, Emily between them, her muffled cries coming from within the cloak. Edwards claws were still red from his battle with the Vampire Hunters, his clothes sodden with the nighttime dew, and anger raced across his features. With a start, Solomon realized that the undead fool might actually love the girl at his feet. Someone had clearly never explained to him that she was going to die long before he was. No matter. They would both die now.

"Prince Edward! Welcome! So nice of you to join us!" Solomon crowed as he drew a wooden stake from his belt, silver glinting on the tip. He took a step forward and drove his sword toward the Vampire.
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Vampiretwilight
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Edward gasped. He hissed and snarled. He approached carefully.
'hopefully I can remember the things grandfather taught me'he thought. He looked at him with bright red eyes. He had a sword of his own. He was ready for a fight. He had more personal reasons for going after the hunter now. He dodged but his shoulder hit the wall. He hissed a bit but was managing to stand up. He was ready to charge at him in return.
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by The Wyrm
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Edward gasped as the blade flashed in the light and cut the Ghoul down where it stood, Emily tumbling away into a corner. He hissed and snarled, that was his friend that had just been slaughtered like a goat. His eyes flashed red in the dim light of the hut and he took stock of his opponent. It was a tall human, broad in the shoulders and utterly without fear in the face of an Undead Princling.

He began his approach carefully, eyeing the human carefully. Suddenly the man lunged and Edward dodged but there was not enough space for any movement as he slammed into the wall causing the whole structure to shake violently. Small pieces of dust and debris cascaded down from the roof above. A sharp searing pain in his right arm and saw the Hunters sword flash, blood on the edge and his skin smelt of burning. A silver blade!

Edward lashed out with his own blade and the human parried it with the stake he carried, the Vampires blade severing the silver tip, the small glittering piece cartwheeling through the air to fall to the floor. The human hammered a foot forward again, driving his blade for Edwards heart, the silver sword glittering in the small light of the dying fire. Edward desperately tried to turn the blade but both combatants were hampered by the size of the small hovel and Emily at their feet. The silver blade drove deep into his shoulder and he felt a pain like nothing he had experienced before. His fingers that held the sword went slack and the blade dropped from his hand to the floor. Nerves had been severed. He gave a hearty roar and struck out with his free hand.

The blow struck Solomon full in the chest and the power of the strike sent him across the small space and into the wall, which burst under the weight of his body. He bounced once and came to a stop in the dark, wet grass. He gasped for air, desperately trying to draw a breath and he struggled to one knee. His chest was tight. Something was broken. He staggered back to his feet, his vision wavering as he took an unsteady step toward the hovel. Through the hole in the wall be saw the Vampire seize the girl with its one good hand and sling her over its shoulder. It stepped into the night, sword forgotten on the ground behind it, one arm hanging useless at its side.

The Vampire made for its horse but even in his shocked state, Solomon had a final trick up his sleeve. He rushed into the hovel and took up his crossbow from where it lay against the only undamaged wall. In two strides he was outside, leveled the weapon, and shot the Vampires horse as Edward tried to toss Emily across the saddle. The unfortunate creature gave a piteous scream and collapsed into the grass.

Edward snarled at Solomon who had frantically began to reload the crossbow. Edward paid him no further attention however and quickly picked Emily up again before turning and vanishing into the dark. Solomon waited a short time and then sagged to the ground, the pain in his chest was spreading. He was dying.

Painfully he dragged himself back into the Holy Circle he had spun and there, covered in dust, dew, and shattered masonry, he clutched at the crucifix about his neck. He began to pray. He prayed for life.
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Vampiretwilight
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Edward had collapsed to the ground. The silver didn't kill him. However, it did some serious damage, especially to his arm. It was red from blood and was burned looking from the silver. He was barely managing to limp so that he could get to Emily. He had done his best to free Emily and get her out of there.

It would be some time before they would manage to return to the castle. Edward guessed at most several days, or so he hoped. Emily worried and fussed over him the entire time they were alone together. She was no medical expert but she did her best to help him. She hoped that someone would notice them being gone and how long they were gone for at some point. Whenever she had gone missing as a child, her mother always had someone sent out to look for her. She hoped this case would be similar. Until then, she did her best to help Edward.

Edward was barely mobile. He guessed it would be a day or two before he could at least walk fully on his own. But, he dared not get his hopes up like that. He leaned against a tree to rest. Emily stayed closed by. She sat close to him, their arms touching. She sat on the side of the uninjured arm.

They both looked at the sky at the same time. Edward wondered if his father already found out or if he didn't know yet. He could only guess. All he really knew was one thing....they needed help.

Emily was in tears. She eventually cried herself to sleep.
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by ZAVAZggg
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Zachaeus let out an exhausted sigh as he finished his preperations. It had taken a good many hours, but he'd finally managed to put the city into a lockdown state with extra shifts of guards at every gate leading into the place. He'd also taken the time to train new guards to replace the one's that were lost during the attack earlier in the day. Sitting back in his throne, Zachaeus pinched to bridge of his nose as he considered what to do next.

The city was secure, the mess had been cleared, and new guards had been trained so there wasn't much left for him to worry about at the moment besides future attacks from hunters and possibly the aftermath of Ulreks schemes....Zachaeus's eyes widened as the realization that Edward wasn't back yet sunk in. Quickly getting to his feet, the vampire king called for several of his servants and ordered them to mobilize armed search parties to send out into the surrounding lands.

He'd already lost some of his men and people.

He would not lose Edward.
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Vampiretwilight
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Edward had nearly fallen unconscious himself. He had lost some blood but was unable to feed at this time. He was not going to take any blood from Emily out of sheer moral principle. He never took from a human unless he absolutely had to, and taking from royalty was forbidden, especially in his own eyes. He glanced down at Emily, who was resting against him, fast asleep. Her eyes were still a bit wet from when she was crying.

Edward sighed. He frowned. He could only hope that they would be found soon. Otherwise, they would be on their own, and would have to find their own way back, despite his condition. Edward smacked his lips. His fangs were partly showing. He hoped to be able to feed soon so that he would not end up getting worse or even hurt Emily. He closed his eyes and prayed, in his own way, for somebody to find them soon.
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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by gorgenmast
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((A collaboration between gorgenmast and Vampiretwilight))

The former chamberlain of Felboge Keep bounced uncomfortably upon the back of donkey, swaying wildly with each step of his comically-small steed. He was nearly asleep and kept awake only by the sheer discomfort of the ride. Despite the discomfort, the chamberlain found himself nodding off every now and then. No harm in dozing once in a while, thought the chamberlain; the roads of the Imperial Heartlands were quite safe. Brigands and highwaymen were rare this close to the Capital after all.

The chamberlain had been traveling at a grueling pace ever since leaving the dominion of Ulrek Bathory. Four days ago he had crossed into Solleckshire, the wards of Matteas Bathory - who the chamberlain soon learned was rumored to have been murdered with his suitor by highwaymen en route to Castle Solleck. A dubious rumor. What sort of highwayman is brazen - or well-prepared - enough to ambush a Baron along with his entire retinue of guards? If such a tale were true, it would certainly be the work of Ulrek Bathory. All the more reason to hurry south toward the Capital and relay news of Ulrek's deeds to King Zachaeus. To that end, the chamberlain purchased the fastest means of travel he could procure without raising eyebrows: a young donkey from some serfs in Solleckshire, and proceeded southward to the capital as quickly as his humble steed could carry him.

It was dark now, and a thin sickle of a crescent moon dimly illuminated the surrounding countryside. Unyielding moor had given way gradually to a rolling patchwork of farmland, pasture, and woods delineated by cobblestone fences and the occasional wolf tree. The chamberlain reckoned that it was at least two hours past midnight, judging by how chilly and dark it was at this hour. Just a little farther and he would find a place to sleep for the rest of the night.

Up ahead was a crude wattle-and-daub hovel off the roadside. A patchy, moss-infested thatched roof and the surrounding acre of weed-riddled fallow field suggested that it had been abandoned for some time. The groggy chamberlain decided this would be as good of a place to spend the night as any he would find and guided the ass off the road up the short trail to the abandoned hovel. The chamberlain was too tired to to notice the fresh hoofprints and tracks in the dirt surrounding the hovel.

The donkey raised its long ears as the chamberlain dismounted and announced his discomfort with a short, wheezing bray. Something had spooked the beast.

"Shhh," the chamberlain hushed with a gentle pat of the donkey's snout. "Nobody's lived here in the better part of a decade." The chamberlain staggered around the back of the hut, noticing a gaping hole in the wall of the structure before unfastening the belt on his trousers hanging limply to his waist below the robe. The escape from Ulrek's keep had visibly exhausted the former chamberlain, who had resorted to poking two new holes in his belt to keep his trousers on his waist. Standing at the edge of the fallow field, the chamberlain gave a refreshed sigh as he unfastened his trousers and relieved himself into the brush.

The chamberlain heard something rustle in the weeds, startling the donkey and him as well. Warm piss splattered onto the leg of his pants and robe as he recoiled from the rustling bushes. Hastily, he refastened his belt and lowered the folds of his robe.

"Who goes there?!" Called the chamberlain, backing away toward the braying donkey.

Edward let out a groan after he was startled awake. He had fallen into a fairly deep slumber but the shout had caused him to awaken. Emily had awoken as well, having let out a gasp as a result. Edward tried to sit up, but Emily forced him to lay back down against the tree.

"You're too hurt." She had actually scolded him.

Edward sighed and complied. The princess nodded in approval before carefully replying to the shout. She had no idea who it was after all.

"Who...who are you?"

Edward rolled his eyes but Emily did not notice. He tried to reach out to hold her hand as well, but Emily still didn't notice. she kept her eyes in the direction that voice had come from.

"A... courier," the chamberlain responded after a moment's pause to the voice in the brush. "I am a courier on an urgent errand for his majesty King Zachaeus. In the name of your King, leave me in peace and in peace I shall leave you."

"Wait....you work for father?" Edward managed a weak reply, trying to sit up again.

"No you don't. Lay back down. You're too injured to move." Emily scolded him again.

"Alright alright, princess. I'm fine. Do not fret over me." Edward groaned afterwards.

"Not precisely, I am but a-... wait. Father?" The chamberlain repeated to himself, dumbfounded. "Who are you?"

Emily tried to shush Edward before he could speak.

"You're majesty, you need to rest."

Edward spoke anyway. "Edward...Bathory...Prince....Edward...Bathory. Son of..." He trailed off.

Emily bit her lip in worry.

"Edward Bathory?!" Without hesitation, the chamberlain bounded into the brush after the voice. Nestled within a bowl of stamped-down weeds at the base of a wolf tree, the chamberlain found the vampire prince sitting upright, with a beautiful young woman clad in a ratty cloak hovering anxiously above him. The chamberlain recognized the handsome young man immediately as Edward Bathory.

"Your Majesty!" The chamberlain immediately bent the knee and bowed low before him. But out of the corner of his eye, the chamberlain saw a dark stain of vampiric blood matting his palace finery. Even for vampire skin, Edward's was alarmingly pale, verging on pale purple. His thin lips were turning a worrying shade of blue. The chamberlain's heart sank, for Edward was nearly dead. If Edward's grievous wounds were not attended to, he would die. Ulrek would win his father's contest not with love, but with hatred and fratricide.

And that, the chamberlain decided, could not be allowed to happen.

"His Majesty needs immediate care," the chamberlain concluded, turning to the pretty young girl at the prince's side. "The best apothecaries and doctors in all the land can be found in the Capital. They will be able to help the Prince, but it is at least a day's ride away, and the sun will rise in a few short hours." The chamberlain paced about in the wet, dewy weeds, racking his mind for a solution. After a minute of pacing, the chamberlain tore his tattered robe off - still wet with a small patch of still-warm piss, leaving the chamberlain only ill-fitting trousers over his legs.

"It is a lowly thing for a prince to wear, but it is thick wool and it will protect you from the sun's light. You must put this on and come with me. I have a donkey that can carry you to the Capital."

Edward just barely managed a nod. Emily nodded. She frowned with worry as she looked at Edward. Edward let out a groan.

"Damn...silver blade."He managed to say that much. He could feel Emily put the cloak over him but he did not care. His eyes had closed once more.

Emily stood up and proceeded to help Edward get to the donkey.

"He fought a very powerful vampire hunter to save me. the hunter fled but not before they each took damage. The hunter had a silver blade."

A vampire hunter. So this was the work of his former master.

"Ulrek," said the chamberlain gravely as he supported the shuffling Edward to the braying mule. "I knew he was planning something of the sort. You must understand, I served under his brother, the Baron of the Great Weald. I saw what Ulrek was doing after he returned from the Capital and I knew he had malign intent. I tried to warn them, but I suspect my messages were never received, but I will see to it now that he and the King are sufficiently warned. Ulrek must not be allowed even another week unchecked."

Emily and the chamberlain helped Edward over to the ass and helped lift the wounded prince upon its thankfully-low back.

"It will be better than walking, your Majesty, but only marginally so. Brace yourself for a rather unpleasant ride. We will have to move quickly."

Edward groaned but otherwise did not respond. Emily nodded. She had had a bad feeling and told the chamberlin as much. She touched Edward on the cheek as they began to leave. Edward needed help, and quickly.

With the vampire prince swaddled in a piss-soaked robe upon the tethered ass, Emily and the fugitive chamberlain of Felboge Keep made their way down the southern road toward the moonlit horizon and the Capital many leagues beyond. For if Edward did not survive the journey home, peace for the Empire Under Shadow would die with him.

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Edward was barely managing to hang on. He let out another groan. He soon blacked out completely. However, he was still breathing, which indicated that he remained alive.

Emily looked worried the entire time. She often bit her lip the rest of the journey. She wiped a tear from her eye.
"..Edward.."
Her voice was barely above a whisper. She touched Edwards' cheek again. It was a gentle gesture.

Edward did not make any more noises other than his labored breathing.
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Dinh AaronMk
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Semiane stood at the window of his hotel. The sun had set, and the sky was aglow with the rich colors of late evening. Clouds, back lit in bright golden and bloodied hues hung lightly in the sky. All that day, the merchant had not been able to sleep since the explosion rocked the city earlier that day. He had bode his disturbed hours plying for information, finding sources, and seeing if perchance he might get an opportunity to see the site of all the commotion.

He leaned up against the wall, holding the thick curtains to him as he leaned forward and looked out. Though the sun had set its dying rays still carried a sting that irritated the skin.

War, or the incitement of violence was not abnormal to him. One does not live for so long in so many places and not bare witness to one's fair share of pogroms, wars, riots, and hunts. He himself before in the past had instigated his own in elaborate schemes and force embargoes against rivals. Ports had been burned and blown up in riots incited over tariffs, or rather pirates had been hired declaring themselves as merchants unwilling to sell first at the privileged ports of the world. So too had he bore witness to the flowering of trade wars into open conflict and passed himself and his company off as mercenaries and swords for hire in brief periods.

This was only the beginning of the coming conflict, Semiane knew. It could only get worse from here. One side or the other would need material, perhaps both. It mattered little who won, what mattered were the contracts. He smiled to himself and let the blinds fall back into place and the room fell back into darkness.

He could still however see. Gray highlights of hidden objects, the writing desk, the bed, the dresser and dining table, the wine cabinet and the other amenities to give comfort to guests as prestigious or wealthy as he. Above the door to the room was a full scale bust of the long-ruling king of this realm, his dour face looking out in stoic scorn of the world. Was he naturally a cold person, Semiane wondered, or was this just the fashion?

He so missed seeing the excitable faces of the Kings of Glascon, far to the south. There was a country that knew the fashion of life. No one frowned in their images, in their simulacra. It was a party, it was a love and lust for life no matter how bacchanalian it got. Oh what skill their artists had, to render the muscles of the face in such active ways! It really did remind him that the north was loathsome for a reason. Dour, dreadful, and gray.

He drifted back to bed, his mind racing in many different ways. A whore slept there, her back turned to him. He lay down next to her, their naked bodies touched as he drew a hand across her sleeping body, feeling his breasts as her chest rose and fell with each breath. She was a young one, a premium one, who hadn't lost her mind yet. It made it all the more sweater. But he wasn't in the mood for anything either, thinking too fast never got it to go up. But he could breath her air, draw strength from that, and he lay down to close his eyes and try.

Semiane didn't know if he actually ever went to sleep. Though perhaps he passed in and out. When he opened his eyes again the sky was dark and night had fallen, and someone was knocking on the door. The whore turned in the bed and looked up and towards the window, shocked. Semiane muttered something about the gold being on the end table and rose to his feet, throwing on a robe as he headed to the door.

“Your honor, I've managed to clear an opportunity to see the site of today's activities.” the captain from his ship said. His face looked dour and stressed as he looked up at him plantively. He clearly wasn't enjoying being here. Semiane nodded.




They arrived at the block of the attempted assassination and kidnapping in rent carriages. Guards had already established a parameter, but it was hardly neccesary as most of the towns folk, or those mortal and day living had already retired away or were outright avoiding the street all together. Under the orange glow of torches and the green light of oil lamps an eerie glow suffused the space as broken glass sparkled in the shattered street.

Stepping out, Semiane's boots were the only sounds to break the silence of that deep silence. His presence sparked the attention of the guards who rose from their idle positions and stood attentively watching him from under the helmets. The ship's captain, with a small sack of coin in hand and a piece of folded parchment approached the nearest officer and exchanging hushed words. Taking the coin, and opening the parchment the nearest guard nodded.

“'roight y'honor,” he said in a heavy voice, “yer a tourist now.”

Semiane bowed politely and walked ahead. As he passed the men at arms the ship's captain hurried up to his side. Walking a ways onto the scene the captain finally turned and said to him, “I mean you no disrespect, but why are we here?”

Semiane stopped, his head held high as he turned to look about. He wore a wide smile as he answered, “I just wanted to check it out.” he said, walking over to the side. Apart from broken cobble stone and glass windows, there wasn't much amiss here.

“What is there to see here then that we couldn't from further back? Why go through the trouble of asking my to bribe the city guard?” the captain was clearly exasperated. His voice trembled. Clearly not a man of battle, a merchant's captain like many from his city. Was there not a single military action the patricians didn't sell out to mercenaries?

“Why is it people like to loiter in graveyards?” Semiane asked, “How is they're made to be attractive public spaces, a place for people to be.”

“Well you're honor, for respect of the dead. And this is hardly respect for the dead right now.”

“And why would the dead care? They're dead, they are hardly here to take offense. Else, if being where the dead have died were disrespectful then there would be all the reason to stay indoors, and then: people too die in their houses. But you didn't answer my question...”

The captain murmured as they walked down the street. “I-I don't know.” he said.

“I think it's because people seek out that membrane between life and death. It's why... people like myself are so terrifying. We're appealing in the end, we're neither living or dead. We are that interregnum between being alive and being dead. And so too are these places that hold such power. For eons, people have gone to the field of battle for such a purpose, to see the limits of life and existence. It's terrible joy.”

“But... wait, you're a vampire then. Why does this matter to you?”

“Because it reminds me of when I was human.” he said simply, crouching down in the middle of the street. Here at the epicenter of it all many of the pieces had not been entirely cleared away. Blood still caked the cobblestone streets, splashed against the walls. Semiane too thought he could still see the remnants of flesh hanging from the broken places. Ahead, a crater in the ground was a broken house whose debris had been ejected outward. A dead horse lay crumbled in the middle of the road with a broken carriage. Shreds of clothes and cloth were swept about on the breeze.

“Smells like gunpowder.” Semiane said, “A lot of it. I wonder who had so much.” he was beginning to wonder if he had a competitor embedded here already. Or there was a persistent smuggling tradition he could take advantage of to slip clandestine material in and out.
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The moors surrounding Felboge Keep glowed with a thousand flickering specks of orange. The hills of the Weald had transformed at dusk into a sea of embers. They were the torches and campfires of Baron Ulrek's massing army. The low roar of a hundred conversations, horses whinnying, and smithy hammering ringing overtook the placid chirping of crickets that had prevailed over this land only a week ago. The smell of smoke and thousands of suppers being prepared carried on the moor's breeze through to the window where Ulrek Bathory surveyed his growing host.

"How many are they now?" Ulrek asked, continuing to survey the sprawling camp.

"Thirty eight thousand as of this morning's count. Some of the levies from Solleckshire arrived early in the afternoon, so they may be forty thousand men at dawn tomorrow." One of the knights assembled at the stone table behind him reported.

"That is less than I had hoped," the vampire prince said with a sigh as he turned from the window and strode to the head of the table. "I had hoped for at least fifty thousand before marching south."

"We can continue to wait," another one of Ulrek's knights suggested. "We can wait another fortnight for additional levies to arrive. But already we are quickly depleting the keep's food stores. We will have to forage off of the surrounding countryside in a few day's time. This is certain to anger the serfs, and even then, there will not be enough to feed the entire army. Provisions would still have to be carted in from elsewhere. That will only add to the tremendous expense of this endeavor."

"The expense means nothing to me," Ulrek dismissed. "But I do not wish to starve the populace."

"Agreed, your majesty. I think, therefore, that it would be wise to begin the march south to the capital. It may not be as many as you like, but 40,000 men is still the largest army that the Empire has seen in at least an age. With the Dwarven cannons and Bristlebeard's dwarven levies on their way, Zachaeus and Edward will stand no chance of breaking our siege."

"I do not intend to lay siege to the Imperial Capital," said Ulrek. "I do not want to starve the subjects of my future seat of power, to force my father's hand and make him surrender. No, I will blast my way through those ramparts, cut down my runt of a brother and any guards that remain loyal to him and show my father that I was the greatest of his sons of before running Pthaalma through his heart."

The knights looked at each other with wide eyes. If Ulrek meant what he said, this would be the bloodiest battle in the history of the Xelwyth Imperium. A hundred thousand men could easily die if their master intended to burst headlong through the Capital's formidable defenses.

"Very well," gulped one of the knights. "To that end, we have made some contacts with a number of mercenary groups who will provide sorely-needed muscle to our ranks." The knight turned his attention to the table, where a huge map of the Xelwyth Empire and surrounding realms lay sprawled out. Several sheets of vellum had been stitched together to make a detailed map of the entire realm. Stone figurines borrowed from chessboards had been laid out across the empire, denoting army positions, fortifications, and other points of interest.

"From the port at Solleck, we have sent our moneyed men up to the Broken Lands, and purchased at the Fanghall the services of a flotilla of Broken Lander reavers." The knight gestured to a white bishop piece set in the jagged fjords of the frigid wilderness far to the northwest of the Xelywth Empire. "They will more than sufficient to blockade the capital's harbor and prevent boats carrying Edward's men to sail out and sally out behind our forces."

"Lord Goutfoot and his cannons are still some distance away," another knight added, pointing to a queen piece in Felmurg Mountains north of the weald. "Separated from our forces by mountain passes and switchback roads through the Felmurg Mountains, it will be some time before they can rendezvous with our forces. Even so, it would be wise to march south now and surround the Capital. This would keep Edward and Zachaeus' forces trapped within the walls and allow our forces to forage on the more fertile imperial heartlands while the dwarves lug their cannons through the mountains. However, it will cost a tremendous fortune to keep these mercenaries around for an extended time."

"Never mind the expense," Ulrek dismissed. "If it is advantageous than it shall be done. I will worry about the costs later." The vampire lord sensed a new presence in the vicinity. Perhaps a guard patrol or servant out in the hallway. He paid it little mind.

"Your majesty, I would like to urge a measure caution in terms of the expenditures. Remember that both Matteas and Rory have been slain by the vampire slayers. You owe now 200,000 golden vespers to whoever carried this task out per the conditions you spelled out to those men. I am concerned about the ability to pay for everything."

"I said never to mind the expense," Ulrek snarled. "Everything will be paid for in due time."

"Well if coin is of no concern, then perhaps I can be of assistance."

The gathered knights turned at once to face the newcomer who had casually barged through the doors into the chamber. A dwarf, clad in a cuirass of mithril scalemail and a cape of lion's fur, swaggered across the floor toward Baron Ulrek and his knights. The dwarf sported only a half of a thick red beard, for a full half of his face was covered in gnarled scar tissue caused by some horrific burn. An eyepatch covered the eye on the burned half of his face, but his disfiguration did not seem to effect the dwarf's demeanor in the least, as evidenced by the dwarf's confident smirk. The knights were visibly shocked by the arresting appearance of this unannounced arrival, though Ulrek had earlier sensed an unfamiliar presence and did not appear alarmed.

"And who might you be?" Demanded one of Ulrek's knights.

"Kharald Halfbeard," the dwarf announced. "Hope I didn't disrupt your discussions. I told the guards I had urgent details concerning the war effort and they let me in." The knights glanced at Baron Ulrek, meeting the dwarf's smirk with a stoic, icy glare, and knew that the vampire lord had already probed his mind and found that this dwarf was telling the truth or at least meant no harm.

"Who said anything about a war effort?" One of the knights said defensively.

"No need to say anything. I just walked through a camp of about thirty thousand men. It seems plainly evident to me that Baron Ulrek Bathory means to go to war. And what a war he means to wage. A fortnight ago, I was up north in the Hoarstrath when I saw a caravan of a dozen cannons carried by a hundred oxen come through the valley led by one Orrin Goutfoot. He tells me that one of the vampire princes means to use his favored toys against the walls of the Imperial Capital, all expenses paid and then some. Seems to me that you lot are preparing for the greatest war these lands have seen in many centuries."

"The rumors are true, Halfbeard," Ulrek said at last. "My father has committed against me a great injustice, and I shall go to any length necessary to exact my revenge."

"Then I can help," said the scarred dwarf. "On my way to this keep of yours, I took stock of the army you lot are assembling here. They're numerous, no doubt about that. But they're peasants, not soldiers. Most of 'em don't even know how to hold a spear. You send a rabble like that against the walls of Castle Bathory and it's going to be a massacre. There's plenty to be said for numbers, but when it comes to a fight on the ramparts you're gonna need folk who know how to kill a man."

"I would assume you know how to kill men," said Ulrek.

"You don't end up with a face like this picking turnips," Halfbeard drew a circle around the scar-covered half of his face with his index finger. "Aye, I know how to kill a man, and I have thirty-five hundred men, dwarves, and other folk who do too. I have catapults, trebuchets, ogres-"

"Ogres?" Ulrek repeated, his eyebrow raised. "You have ogres?"

"Aye," Halfbeard nodded with a wide grin. "They've all been hunted in the lands of men, but up in the mountains and valleys of dwarven lands, ogres yet live. I've got a handful of them; big, mean ones too. Nothing makes an enemy formation rout like seeing an ogre sicced on them."

"I shall have them, then," Ulrek declared. "Bring all of your men, your ogres, and siege equipment south to the Imperial Heartlands with all due haste. For tomorrow, I march against my father and brother."
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by The Wyrm
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Breath that sounded like a child's rattle echoed up through his throat as he gasped for air, fingers feebly clawing at the cross around his neck. The ground was frozen and wet beneath him and he could feel a warm trickle coming from the corner of his mouth. Pain was everywhere, grasping and stabbing at his chest like a thousand tiny knives. He was dying.

"Lord," He choked out the word and blood misted the air as his breathing became more desperate.

"Look upon me with eyes of mercy," A painful cough racked his body and he heard a sob escape his lips.

"May your healing hand rest upon me," The moon had broken clear of the cloud cover now and a silver light poured down upon him. The destroyed hut leered like some squatting beast above him and he could hear the soft whicker of his horse nearby. He clutched at his sword pommel. If he were to die, he would die with a weapon in his hand.

"May your lifegiving powers flow into the depths of my soul," His breathing was desperately shallow now and it hurt to swallow, to blink, even to think. The end was coming and he felt a rage begin to flicker in the back of his mind. He couldn't die here. He had work to do. Edward, Ulrek, their father... They had to die.

"Restore your servant to health and strength for service in your Kingdom..," His voice was fading even in his own ears, an empty echoing sound within his own mind. Mentally he grasped desperately at anything he could focus on, fixating at last on the moon which seemed to grow ever larger to cloud his vision.

"Amen." He mouthed the final word and felt his body go limp. In an abstract way he felt as though he was floating. At least if he were to die God had given him a final moon, he would miss the moon.

"You will not die today, Solomon Kane." A voice thundered through his head and he felt a sudden surge of hope. "Not today, for you are the right hand of God."

At that moment there was a dazzling burst of light and a being of light materialized in front of him. There were no features visible but a pair of huge wings cast a brilliant light, bathing the entire area in an astounding glow. It appeared to be wearing a tattered white robe that swirled around it despite a decided lack of wind.

"Rise, son of God." A long white hand was extended toward Solomon and with a great effort he reached out his hand to touch the perfect fingers. A shock ran through him and he felt his strength returning. Still holding the outstretched hand he struggled to his knees and bowed his head before the figure.

"Our father said to give you this." The figure now held out a longsword of brilliant white that forced Solomon to shade his eyes as he let go of the long fingers and took the blade. It faded at once to grey steel but he saw a ripple of gold run down the blade. "Use it wisely Solomon and perhaps he will allow you to return home."

Then the being was gone and naught remained but the moonlight and the sword clutched in Solomons hands as he knelt on the cold hard ground. He took a tentative breath, expecting a stab of pain but nothing came. He gingerly climbed to his feet, waiting for the agony to tear at him anew but it did not come. He spat. His saliva was clean and clear. He began to laugh.

He laughed until his sides hurt and tears pricked the corner of his eyes, the sound echoing around the small village that might have been his tomb. Then he thrust the sword into the air and screamed a challenge into the night.

"I liiiiiiiiive!" The sword flashed in the moonlight as he flourished it before driving it home into his scabbard.

He stooped back into the hut and took up his hat and bag. In a few short strides he had found his horse and mounted in a single bound. He yanked the beasts head around and rode for the capital.

Gods will would be done, and Solomon his willing instrument.

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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by gorgenmast
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Never before had overcast skies been so welcomed. A hazy blanket of gray hung over the heartlands, bearing the brunt of the sun's harsh rays. Moribund Edward, swaddled in a filthy black robe, sat huddled upon the back of a donkey clinging to life. Emily remained faithfully at Edward's side while the former chamberlain of Felboge Keep led his donkey down the road. They were a queer sight to behold, a beautiful young woman dressed in soiled palace finery accompanied by a shirtless vagabond jockeying a donkey bearing some shivering wretch. Passersby regarded the unusual party with raised eyebrows. The chamberlain paid little mind to the passing onlookers; Prince Edward's life depended on his timely arrival at Castle Bathory.

In the early afternoon, the three had crested a hill and were afforded their first view of the Capital. Castle Bathory, a massive citadel with magnificent spires reaching toward the sky, sat in the center of a dense and sprawling city with its own skyline of far less grandiose watchtowers. Ringing this great city were the greatest walls in all the land, 30 feet high ramparts built out of the native sandstone with parapets and numerous guard towers with onagers affixed atop them. Surely, within such impressive fortifications, Prince Edward would be safe.

"Your majesty, you are nearly home! The castle is in sight at last!" The chamberlain exclaimed.

Edward groaned, but he had soon fallen silent. His labored breathing was the only sound, but even that was quieting down. Emily bit her lip. She fought tears. She looked ahead towards the castle from the hilltop. She prayed for Edward as they continued on towards the castle.

The highway ran ahead of them another mile through the patchwork farmland of the heartlands to the northern gate of the Capital. As the road neared the gates, a teeming line of wagons and people stretched out, standing before the closed gates of the city.

"Best to just turn around," a wagon driver said as he rode up the highway in the opposite direction. "You'll not get in. Castle guard's locked the Capital down. Only folk with prior appointments with the guard captains are allowed through the gates."

"What for?!" The chamberlain snapped.

"Assassins tried to kill Prince Edward a few days ago is what I heard," said the wagon driver, pulling the reigns on his draft mule so as to stop the beast. "Heard firedust was involved, killed a lot of innocent folk. They're saying his brother, the feller up in the Weald, that 'es behind it. Whatever happened, it was real bad, and now nobody's getting in. Hope you lot don't need to get their too desperate-like."

"But I do! I am escorting our prince back to the castle at this very moment! They have to let us in!"

The wagon driver took a glance and the huddled body upon the donkey and let out a snort of laughter.

"Yeah? And I'm 'is majesty Zachaeus 'imself!" The driver flicked the reigns to galvanize the mule to continue on, snickering to himself as he went.

"They have to let us in," the chamberlain repeated to himself, pulling the donkey along down the road to the Capital.

The three arrived at the rear of the gathered travelers and wagons halted by the locked gates of the Imperial Capital. The chamberlain led Edward and Emily over the shoulder of the highway, cutting around the line and eliciting a hateful barrage of cursing from frustrated travelers. After an hour of weaving and budging through the crowd pressing in at the entrance, the three had arrived before a contingent of guards standing before sealed gates of the citadel.

"Let me in! It's just a wagon full of apples for God's sake! They're going to go bad and I'll be ruined if I don't do something with them soon!" One merchant demanded.

"I cannot let you in," a guard reaffirmed. "No one is allowed into the Capital until further notice. Now, take your wares elsewhere."

The chamberlain led Emily and the donkey-mounted Prince up to the gate, drawing irritated glares from the guards posted at the gates.

"Can't you see that there's no entrance into the city? Turn around."

"I am defector from the court of Ulrek Bathory, escorting Prince Edward and this foreign dignitary back home. His majesty needs urgent care. Let us in immediately."

The guard's stoic visage broke down for a moment as his frown cracked into a grin.

"Hah! If nothing else, that is certainly the most creative excuse I've heard all day. But my orders still stand. Please turn around."

"Please..." Edward groaned from under the robe. "Help."

The eyes of all the guards within earshot opened wide upon hearing that voice. These were the guards of Castle Bathory, and were well acquainted with the voice of Edward Bathory.

"Y-your majesty?" A guard asked, drawing closer to the robe-swaddled being atop the donkey. One gently pulled back on the hood and gazed upon Edward, pale and bloodied and shivering.

"OPEN THE GATES!" Screamed the guard, loud enough for the guards in the gatehouse high above could hear. "OPEN THE GATES AND LET THEM THROUGH!"



As soon as they had been permitted through the gates, a carriage and a large guard escort had been summoned to take Edward, Emily, and the chamberlain up to the Castle. Within the hour, Prince Edward had been placed in the castle's infirmary and was being attended to by a dozen surgeons and apothecaries, with the ever-present Emily at his side. The chamberlain had elected to stay outside of the infirmary, giving the healers ample room to work. He remained in the vestibule just outside for any word as to the prince's condition. No sooner had the chamberlain sat down on a bench within the waiting room that a number of the castle's honor guards clad in magnificent plate armor approached.

"So it was you that we have to thank for returning our prince to us?" A guard adorned with a flowing cape of red silk asked of the chamberlain.

"I am," he reported.

"I am Commander Yorrek of the Castle's Guard, and I wish to express gratitude on behalf of the entire guard. We are in your debt."

"I was but serving our Prince and King. No need to thank me." The chamberlain noticed that Commander Yorrek's cordial smile withered at once upon uttering the word 'King'.

"We understand you have gone to great lengths in that service, in the most literal sense. You have traveled a long way to be here, have you not?"

"Indeed," the chamberlain affirmed, his own smile disappearing as he recalled the journey. "I was, until recently, a servant of the Baron of Felboge Keep. Ulrek means to commit terrible crimes against the Empire, and I must relay what I have witnessed to our King at once so that he can adequately prepare himself."

The guards exchanged nervous glances to one another while the guard commander paused for a moment.

"That will not be possible," said Commander Yorrek.

"And why not?" The chamberlain demanded, standing up from the bench. "This is critical. Zachaeus must be notified at once."

"His Majesty is... missing." One of the guards behind Yorreck blurted.

"Missing?! How is he missing? This is our King, not some keyring you've misplaced!"

"Don't lie to him," said Yorrek somberly. "He deserves to know the truth."

"The truth?" The chamberlain asked with wide eyes. "What do you mean?"

"Come with us," ordered Yorrek. "And we shall show you."
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Edward groaned. but, he had soon fallen silent. his labored breathing was the only sound. but, even that was quieting down.

Emily bit her lip. she fought tears. she looked ahead towards the castle from the hilltop. she prayed for Edward as they continued on towards the castle.

Edward was SILENT when they pulled up to the castle at last. His breathing was very barely audible.

Emily followed them inside. She frowned. She teared up.

Edwards' body was just barely balanced on the donkey as they hurried up to the castle, escorted by the guards.
Emily was fighting more tears. She placed a hand on Edwards' back. She prayed for him.

……………………….

Emily was still teary eyed and such as they rode in the carriage and escorted inside. She remained by Edwards' side as he was being tended to. He was kept unconscious through medicinal means so that he would not feel pain while they worked. There was a special herb that was used. Emily sobbed when she saw him in bandages. Edward nor Emily knew of the terrible news yet.
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"Make way!" Solomon was yelling at the crowd as he forced his horse through the thick press of folk lining the roadway leading to the capitals main gate. One half of the gate was open, guarded by a squad of spearmen. Behind them a massive pillar or black smoke rose skyward and a distinct glow could be seen over the city walls. The firedust must have caused more damage than expected.

"Move damn you!" He snarled at a stubborn tinker, lashing out with his foot as he passed, sending the man crashing into the ditch. Some folk shouted at him but they were used to being bullied at by men with weapons and his sword was enough to quiet most of them.

The commotion he caused was spreading and folk began to hurriedly move aside so that he could ride freely down the long line. He kept glancing left and right, looking for Prince Edward. He had expected to find the Vampire along the road somewhere but no such luck. Perhaps he had died of his wounds, he could only hope.

"I have news!" He was shouting again, waving frantically at the spearmen who stared at him in surprise. They were nervous and he could sense their anxiety. They had been committed to a quiet life of guarding brow beaten peasants, living slightly better than everyone else so that a woman might find them worth humping. It wasn't much, but it was better than slaving in the muck as a farmer. Now that peace had been shattered by the slaughter of the Royal family, including an attack within the city itself. Heads would roll for the failure to protect the city, it was simply a matter of whose head.

"I bring news of Prince Edward! I must see the King!" Solomon drew his horse up sharply, narrowly avoiding the spears that had been leveled at him. "He was wounded by vampire hunters and is lying near death."

The spearmen glanced at each other and then at their sergeant. The man looked worried. He had been told that no one without an appointment was to be permitted into the city but surely that did not apply to someone with news of the missing prince. He looked around again, as if desperate to find someone who out ranked him,and Solomon leapt at the weakness.

"Sergeant, the Prince is dying! I must see his father at once!"

That was enough for the sergeant and he nodded to his men who raised their spears and waved Solomon into the city. He kicked back his heels and urged his horse beneath the huge gateway. He could smell bubbling oil and glanced up briefly to see faces peering down at him through the murder holes. The city would be a beast to take.

His cry was like a magic talisman and soldiers waved him onward toward the citadel. His horses hooves clattered loudly on the drawbridge, the black water beneath to vibrating away in small ripples. He could see tips of wooden stakes just below the surface and the reflection of large ballistas nested atop the gatehouse towers. Ulrek would have his work cut out for him.

He swung down from the saddle in the inner courtyard as two men hurried toward him.

"Your swo..." The first man began to speak but stopped as Solomon tossed him the blade Prince Edward had left behind when he fled the hut.

"The Princes sword, you fool, I need to speak with his father now. He is wounded and the girl is tending to him!" Solomon snarled as he pushed past the two, heading for the double door guarded by yet more spearmen.

The two men hurried after him, one cursing under his breath, the other glancing skyward as if expecting something to come tumbling down upon them. The interior of the citadel was dark, darker even than the shaded day beyond.

"Which way to the King?" Solomon snapped at his escorts. His heart was thundering in his chest. His bluff was enormous and if either man thought quickly enough to stop and question him, he would have to fight his way out. Here again though, the confusion and fear that permeated the city worked to his advantage. No one wanted to be responsible for the Prince dying. "Hurry!"

"This way." The first man plucked at Solomon's sleeve and led him down a long passage toward the rear of the keep. The walls were barren stone, lit with the odd flickering torch, just enough for a human to navigate without tripping over the thin carpets that muffled their boots.

"Here." The man pushed open a large set of doors and they stepped into an audience chamber. It was a least three stories high and great banners embroidered with images of Zachaeus and his family hung from balconies around the upper floor. A huge narrow throne, set with red jewels and gold, gleamed and winked in the light of a dozen torches. To one side, seated on low wooden benches, were terrified young women in skimpy dress, while all around the walls stood armoured pikemen.

"Your majesty!" The first man took a knee. "This man brings news of your son, Prince Edward."

A figure standing nearby, staring up at a huge tapestry that showed a vampire tearing a man in half, turned. He looked into Solomons eyes and frowned. The confusion was fleeting. Reazaliation flashed into the blood shot eyes and a low growl escaped his throat.

"Solomon Kane." The words were said quietly but the effect they had on those in the hall was instantaneous. The girls screamed. The armoured sentinels looked shocked and then dropped their pikes low and began to advance on Solomon. The two men who had come with him looked stunned, lunged for Solomon, and died.

The glittering sword spun once and two heads bounced across the floor, leaving trails of blood on the otherwise flawless black marble. The remainder of the guards checked themselves for an instant. A pair of heavy thuds indicated that the bodies too had hit the floor.

"Solomon Kane." King Zachaeus said again. "Son of God. Welcome to my home."

The guardsmen had stopped now, staring from the King to the Vampire Hunter. Solomon was as famous as Zachaeus was infamous. There was not a man in that room who did not realize that their lives were about to change forever.

"My men cannot decide if they should welcome you, or fight you." Zachaeus commented as he strolled toward his throne. That sent a shudder through the armoured ranks. "I can peer into their minds. But not into yours. That is how I know your name."

He had reached the throne and as he did he causally picked up a six foot spear, Solomon recognized Bloodline at once, and turned to face the Vampire Hunter. "You killed my sons."

"And your daughters." Solomon nodded. The sword was back in his sheath and a hand rested at his lower back where he had palmed an item from the specially made pouch he had carried so carefully until this moment.

"There will be more. But for you, Solomon Kane, there will be nothing!" In an instant Zachaeus launched himself from the dias, his face contorting as huge fangs shot forth and great wings burst from his back. The guardsmen gave shouts of terror and dropped to the floor. Solomon alone did not. Instead he took the item he had been holding behind his back and with one swift movement he hurled it into the floor at his feet.

"Pie Iesu domine, dona eis requiem!"

The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch burst without hesitation upon the marbled floor. In an instant the blackened interior of the keep shone brighter than the sun itself, the light of Heaven. Zachaeus gave one horrible scream as he burst into flames, his body turned into nothing but ash before it hit the floor. Even Bloodline, the great evil spear that Zachaeus had used to drain the blood of so many innocents, was incinerated. There was no trace of the King.

For those mortals in the room, they would never see again. For to look upon the glory of God was to be blinded for eternity. The guardsmen and slave girls did not weep however, for in that moment they had seen the greatness of God and the promise of his kingdom in heaven. For the rest of their days they would have that image to remember and when they came before God and he judged them he would be kind for they would spread his word about the land.

Solomon Kane was on his knees. His clothes were gone, and in their place he wore white chainmail, cloak, boots, and from his back a great pair of white wings now cast their light upon the milky white eyes of the mortals who had witnessed his miracle.

"My son." The voice seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. "Your task is not yet done."

Solomon raised his face toward the ceiling and could see, beyond the vestiges of pure white cloud, the glimmer of great golden gates. Tears were coursing down his cheeks. He had been forgiven. He would return home.

"There is still great evil in this land. You are my sword. Go forth and conquer."

"I will... Father..." He whispered the words and bowed his head.

In an instant the room was plunged back into darkness. Solomon was once again in his broad hat and long jacket. His leather boots sounded loud on the floor as he stood and glanced around at the guardsmen and slave girls, all of whom were kneeling in prayer, their faces skyward, hands clasped, smiles of pure joy on their faces.

The sound of shouts and clatter of steel reached Solomon from down the passage. He had to leave and quickly. To kill men who served evil because they had no other choice was not God's will. He glanced to his right and saw a flight of stairs climbing up and way through the wall. He turned and hurried toward them. He would find Edward, and then he would kill him.
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by gorgenmast
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Commander Yorrek and the chamberlain were ushered into the throne room by a sizeable contingent of guards. All three entrances to the chamber had a dozen guards posted outside to prevent any unauthorized entrance. The doors were opened only as widely as necessary before being immediately shut again; the guards careful not to peer inside as instructed by their captains.

The chamberlain had attended King Zachaeus' court once before, some fifteen years ago when he had been sent in Baron Ulrek's stead. He recalled a dark and cavernous space, with ceiling rising high above him and exquisite silken tapestries hanging from high above. As the chamberlain stepped inside, the difference in the atmosphere of this place was palpable. It was somehow brighter, though only a dozen or so torches burned in their sconces upon the chamber's colonnaded pillars. It was as if the stones of the walls faintly glowed. A long carpet trailed from the doors up to the ruby-encrusted throne. The chamberlain remembered this carpet being dyed a brilliant crimson, but as he tread upon it today, the carpet seemed severely faded as if it had been exposed to sunlight for many years. The tapestries too were bleached to the point of being unrecognizable. Most striking of all were the walls, where the shadowy impressions of dozens of guards armed with halberds were imprinted upon the walls like frozen shadows.

"What happened here?" Asked the chamberlain.

"I have no idea," Commander Yorrek admitted. "It was reported that shortly before the... incident, a rider came into the castle claiming to bring word of Prince Edward's fate. He had been missing for some days. In hindsight, it was foolish to allow him in without searching him, but in those anxious hours it was understandable that he would be allowed to see the King at once. Guards posted outside the throne chamber reported hearing an unearthly sound from within the chamber. It was described to me as akin to the sound of long, continuous peal of thunder, a waterfall, and a roaring fire all at once. Then, they saw a golden light shining from underneath the doors. The alarm was sounded and the guards went to enter the chamber, but when they arrived, neither His Majesty nor the rider remained."

The chamberlain's gaze went down to the carpet before him. Surrounded by faded pinkish red was a space where the carpet retained its vibrant redness, the size and shape of a man's shadow in midday sun. Some thirty paces ahead was a massive smear of fine soot.

"This was sorcery of a power and sort I did not previously think possible," the chamberlain said, examining the faded carpet. "Were there survivors?"

"Everyone in the chamber at the time is accounted for, save for his Majesty and that rider," Commander Yorrek reported.

"And have you not questioned those witnesses as to what happened?"

"Someone bring me Captain Wesel," Commander Yorrek called out to the handful of guards milling about at the side entrance of the throne room, as if he had been waiting for the chamberlain to ask this very question for some time. The guards slipped out of the side doors for a few minutes. They returned escorting a man with strikingly blonde wavy hair cropped short in the martial fashion. Milky white eyes were opened wide, looking about the room but not focusing upon anything in particular. The chamberlain soon noticed that the guards were not simply escorting this man, but guiding him across the room toward Commander Yorrek. This man was completely blind.

"All his life, Captain Wesel had such fiery, intense red hair," Yorrek said to the chamberlain as the guards escorted this man toward them. "Now, completely blonde. Every single one of them left in this chamber had every hair on their body turn this silvery blonde. That and they're all blind as a bat."

"Captain Wesel," Yorrek said once the man was in earshot. "I hope you are feeling better now,"

"I have never felt better, thank you. And please, you may simply call me by my given name. I have no desire to be called a 'captain' any longer. For it is more noble and joyous to be a mere servant in the House of the Lord than commander of all the men of the Earth."

"As you wish, Aerin," said Commander Yorrek.

"Aerin Wesel," the chamberlain began. "Did you see what happened in this place?"

Captain Wesel turned to face this new voice, looking at the chamberlain with white milky eyes in the way a child might behold something of wonder. "I saw. It was glorious beyond description. It will be the last thing my eyes see until I am taken to be with Him, and I am the happier for it."

"Please, Aerin, try to describe it. What exactly did you see?"

"I saw Him. His faithful servant, Kane, came before us and with his artifact tore apart the boundaries between the mortal plane and Paradise. The Lord looked with disfavor upon the wicked one and destroyed him. His body burned in the Lord's righteous sight, and his soul was cast into oblivion where he and the rest of his kind shall meet unending punishment."

"Solomon Kane," the chamberlain recognized. "This is the work of Solomon Kane. I remember, several months ago, Ulrek summoned every vampire hunter he could think of to Felboge Keep. One missive was sent to Solomon Kane. I remember reading the invitation, placing his seal upon the letter. Had I known what would have happened..."

"This was not your fault," Yorrek assured. "You were only following the orders given to you. This is Ulrek's doing. And he shall pay for his crimes soon enough."

"Indeed," Aerin chimed in. "God's instrument will strike down him down as well. Ulrek's judgement comes too and that right soon."

"Unlikely," said the chamberlain. "Solomon Kane is in Ulrek's employ. He will not turn on his benefactor."

"Kane serves no man, but the Lord. No sin will go unanswered for."

"I've heard enough of his raving for today," Yorrek groaned. "Relieve us of Captain Wesel's presence." With that, the guards seized the witness by the arms and guided him away from Command Yorrek and the chamberlain.

"The Lord's judgement is nigh!" Aerin called out to anyone who would listen. "Serve his House, eschew wickedness and serve not its purveyors! Repent and serve the Lord! Judgment will be served in accordance with the Gospel of Kane!"

"Captain Wesel was a credit to the guard," Yorrek remarked solemnly as he was taken away. "Now they're all like him. Anyone left in the throne room with that man turned into a damned lunatic."

"I'm not sure what to make of all this," said the chamberlain. "But I don't believe that Captain Wesel is as mad as you believe. I recognize that name; Solomon Kane is responsible for this somehow. And whatever the precise circumstances, our King is gone."

"And what unfortunate timing at that," said Yorrek.

"This is what Ulrek wanted all along. His majesty's contest so infuriated him, that the Baron would stoop so low as to regicide - patricide - to avenge himself. We cannot allow Ulrek his victory. Our Empire needs its King," said the chamberlain.

"We cannot let the public know what happened here," Commander Yorrek hissed. "The attack on Prince Edward - the explosion - has terrified the people. When they realize that our king, who has ruled these lands for 80 generations, has been slain. Panic is a gross understatement of what we shall experience if the people discover what happened."

"They will find out. We can't hide this thing forever," said the chamberlain. "Ulrek will know soon enough that Kane has dispatched his father if he doesn't already. If we don't break the news to the people, Ulrek will on his terms. That will cause the breakdown in order you so fear. We cannot loose the trust of the people now, Commander. The only things separating Ulrek from that throne over there are a hundred leagues and two stone walls. We need those people fighting upon those ramparts if we're to have even a chance of stopping him. The people must know who their true king is."

"But what of his Majesty's contest? That they must be wed before they could be considered King? Edward must have a queen before he can be king."

"Have you not seen the way that Emily looks at him? Edward already has his Queen, and so we have our new King."

"Very well," Yorrek sighed after a moment of thought. "Once Edward is feeling better, we will appraise him of the situation. In the meantime, let us make preparations for the coronation."
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The hours ticked on by. Minute after minute passed, and they seemed to do so rather slowly. Things were quiet in the room as Edward recovered. The atmosphere was very dense, very sad and depressing.

Edwards' body was half covered in bandages. His eyes were closed and he was asleep. His recovery was a little bit slow, but he was doing better already now that he was within the castle walls. Those within the castle hoped greatly that he would be better, and that was certain to happen. It was strongly believed that he would make a full recovery.

Emily was relieved to hear that. But, she still worried greatly. She continued to frown with worry and such as she sat there by his bedside. She held his hand at times. Emily would not leave his side, not even for second. She did not eat. She did not drink any water. She did not sleep. Emily was too focused on Edward and his recovery to want such things.

The prince started to get his color back after some time had passed. Emily noticed and hoped that that was a good sign. She, like the others there, wanted him to make a full recovery. The kingdom needed him. As the only heir left with a legitimate right to the throne, Edward needed to recover. They could not allow his surviving brother to take the throne. The kingdom would be doomed if he did.

Her father had gotten word of what happened. He tried to make her return home with him. He wanted to marry her off and could not allow her to remain there any longer. She refused. She lied and said that she and Edward were already engaged. Her father became happy upon hearing those words, but then frowned, saying that if Edward did not recover, she was to marry another. Emily sighed and nodded, waiting for her father to leave, which he did after another moment or so.

Emily resumed looking at Edward. She teared up. She bit her lip. She prayed for a miracle...
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Dinh AaronMk
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The low chime of bells sang low and solemn in the night. Still, after all this time the morning for the dead king continued. And fear for their prince, who rumor would have it had crawled back to the capital barely alive. Some had whispered in hushed tones, low so as the guards would not here: he came in on the back of an ass, like a drunkard; poisoned as if he had imbibed too much alcohol. To Semiane, this represented a sharp change in the story, in his expectations. Walking through the half empty streets outside he listened to the low chiming of the bells and the mutterings from the door frames. All up and down the streets the citizens laid out tokens and totems in solemn observance of the dead king's passing. Men and women, mortal and immortal alike who had believed that they would have lived under the auspicious and immortal gaze of an age-old wise king – even if he would not rule forever – made silent processions through the streets holding up paintings and portraits of the dead king as if he were a saint.

Many too had decorated their images as if religious icons. Among the human cattle they hoisted great oil portraits of the ivory white emperor, the frame draped in heavy bolts of black and purple cloth as they joined in chorus with the bells, singing lamentations and sending prayers to the kind. The Vampires seemed to done hooded cloaks and walk about cutting their palms with long knives and letting the blood spatter on the cobble stone; there was an overwhelming smell of blood and tears. Some of the middle-dead mourners even chimed brass bells and sat beside wooden icons of some generic ancient king and acted as if they spoke to the statuettes as if they could hasten their words to the departed immortal.

Whether or not they would ever like Edward, there was the recognition that he was their only chance for salvation in what seemed to be a dire time. Rumors were aflood on the streets that Baron Ulrek had finally mobilized his armies. The strength of these frightening tails seemed to take on a strength in validity even when they did conflict that sustained them by the silence of the royal court to confirm or deny anything. They burned like fire in a dry forest, burning all the brighter and all the more terrible all the day. To Semiane who had not yet gotten an audience in the royal court, this frenetic terror at the least paid for his crossing over as he reached out to the lower nobility who resided in the city and the aristocracy who found themselves most troubled; after all, what sort of terrifying future was there for them if Ulrek took the city, or what might happen if the terror incited the peasantry to rise in open revolt?

In the past twenty four hours he had signed a the bills and contracts for one-hundred-twenty minor nobility and merchants alike for the recruitment of mercenaries to be recruited by Semiane number on average a hundred men per unit. He had not specified who or from where these mercenaries would hail from given the short notice and nature, but had issued his captain a blank check to return home with and recruit who he may at which ever price. The upper classes assured them to the deepest part of their being, to their very souls that they would repay Semiane twice the price of whoever was willing to compensate the foreign merchant's lost capital.

Likewise, he had signed bills of sale for another dozen families and even for moderately well off commoners in the city for arms and armor, of which he promised the most modern and the best; matchlocks from over seas, sturdy armor, and sharp swords for their own protection. For this he had exacting prices he could demand on the spot and they paid or sought out loans to pay for it. All in all, as it was on the street an economy for war was brewing as the fear gripped the hearts and minds of the populace. But there was still one lingering issue.

“The king is dead, how will I get to the court?” Semiane cursed under his breath as he stood in the middle of a open court. Strings of lit lanterns ran every which way and that bathing the square in a soft green and blue light from the stained paper that encased the candles within. At the center a massive obelisk rose crowned by a clump of swarming bats manifested in marble. Townhouses and merchant's businesses lined the outside of the court, their darkened doors and windows framed behind the vaulted archways of the pillars supporting the overhanging structures. High above them, looming dark and daunting atop its spiteful butte loomed the Gothic palace of the imperial family.

“I would hate to suggest it, but I'd suggest simply going to it.” said a young vampire, a replacement companion for Semiane's missing captain who had sailed back for brighter shores clutching the forms for hundreds of contracts and a payment for the job. For all intents and purposes now, Semiane was alone but he did not feel the least bit uncomfortable.

“That's preposterous.” exclaimed Semiane, “Incredibly impolite.”

“It may be the only way at this point.” the vampire said. He was about the third the age of Semiane. His face long, chin protruding. He accentuated his deep set eyes with black eye liner and he looked absolutely skeletal. He also dressed in a modest way, deceiving for his otherwise high stature but overlooked by most of his family, he stood clutching the hilt of his sword.

“I don't doubt you are a fine gentleman, but I know in my experience one doesn't normally barge into a monarch's palace. That so much I have learned in my time. Have you ever been there?”

“I have.” the young vampire said with a smug smile, “For galas.”

“Those are invitation. Not going there on one's own free will.” Semiane huffed, he felt impatient.

“Who said I was invited?” the young vampire said with a smile, showing his long sharp front teeth.

Semiane looked at him stunned, “Munchsin, what are you saying?”

“On and off I have often walked in. Sure I'm stopped by the guards who ask who I am. Under normal circumstance: sure they might turn me away. But I'm sure now with all courtesy turned aside you could announce yourself and go in. With the prince down you may not be speaking to him. Some steward or high courtier perhaps, but once he's awake and crowned: there is no reason they can't inform him you would like an audience. Or you might insert yourself in the palace right away. The kingdom is operating on regency, and who ever is regent now would have the power of the King until the new king himself awakens from his supposed coma.”

Semiane sighed, “I suppose you might be right.” he admitted, it was painful to do so. “So I suppose, I guess: lead the way.”

The young Munchsin smiled and bowed. “Very well, this way.” he said.

Semiane cast one last look up over the roof tops as he went towards the palace. Tonight would be the night, he supposed.




Semiane stood at the gates of the palace. Far below him a wide and winding stone cut path climbed its way back down to the city. From this high perch he looked out to the sea, and saw the celestial scattering of the lights, heard the distant lamentations of the mourners, and beyond that the sheltered bay and the more distant sea. From up here he smelled the salt of the sea, and the dankness of the air. A storm was coming, he could sense that.

Ahead of him a large iron gate stood guarded by an entire company of soldiers who stood at attention with their halberds. One armored hand hooked into the belt of their livry. Their heads turned to watch the guests with silent sharpness and a repressed agitation. The whole structure was tall, far and above what Semiane had expected from the ground and he felt imposed upon, daunted. But casually and with firm purpose he strolled up to the gates and with Munchsin announced his presence.

“I am Semiane Munch Strige of the House of Vrykolas. Former Baron of Transavonia, current a high-valued financier. I come here to the palace in search of lending my services. I offer to the prince my broad network of contacts, financial resources, and personal capabilities and would like an audience. I sought one with the late king, but it appears in these last days he was too busy. I respect that he had no time to speak to a worm such as my self. But in these trying times I come to petition personally. May I enter?”

A soldier stepped forward from the gate, the captain. He wore no helmet, and his bald head was as dull and bruised as a naked skull. He tilted his head as he looked at him, a heavy hand resting on his sword. He seemed to be studying him. Shrugging he said, “If that's so, I'll send for a request. We'll see.” he said. Turning, he gestured to his men and whistled.

“I'm on it.” said a voice.

The captain nodded, “And now we wait.”
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