The horses' uneasy whinnies were the first sign that something was amiss.
Prim glanced up at the sky. Dark clouds billowed above, and the telltale petrichor odor wafted up from the earth. The townsfolk moved to cover up anything that was vulnerable to inclement weather. Disturbed, the princess urged her horse to move faster.
"He's here," she warned the knights beside her. Wesley snorted. "You read too many novels." "There's a reason authors keep using dramatic rain, you know." "Because it's cool, not because it's realistic." "Your 'realistic' got me caked in mud the last time." "How is that even-"
He cut off when he heard a foul, unearthly shriek in the distance. It sent a shiver up Prim's spine, and all the horses began to whimper. She'd know that cold howl anywhere. Prim broke out into a gallop and sped toward the city, her knights trailing behind her. Already, the town guards raced into position along the walls, and whole companies of archers marched out. Engineers loaded their cylindrical nitro-catapults and pointed them to the north. Swarms of wyvern knights took off en masse.
Then the screams started. As she raced toward the city center, the screams drew closer and closer to the city limits. An explosion ripped through a nearby house, prompting the girl to look up at the sky once more. Guts and armor rained from above. Wyvern knights crashed into each other and tumbled to the earth. Soldiers trembled with fear and reverence.
There, in the center of it all, an unsettling streak of black tore through the sky. In the blink of an eye, dozens of soldiers erupted in flame and melted like wax in a furnace. Prim covered her eyes and raced for the central tower, praying over and over that it was strong enough to protect her. No sooner did the horse grind to a stop at the wall than the princess burst through the doors and run up the spiral steps.
From the top of the tower, she witnessed a sight she would never forget.
It wasn't the countless burning buildings that once held generations of families. It wasn't the rivers of blood draining through the streets. It wasn't the hellscape strewn out around her.
No, it was the dark, monstrous animal hovering in the air before her, a creature of majestic ebony whose very presence served as a consequence of her arrogance and a living testament to her failures, the one creature in all the world she hoped never to meet again:
The princess straightened her back and stiffened her trembling lower lip. "What do you want with me?" she demanded.
The dragon perched on the balcony and brought his face to her eye-level.
This bustling metropolis serves as the capital of Drakengard and domain of its namesake Haven tower. With its paved roads, sewage system, street lights, and social services, it's one of the most modern cities this side of the continent. The palace sits at the base of the Haven tower, thoroughly dwarfed by the ancient structure, but still an impressive marvel of architecture in its own right. With its precise stonework, intricate carvings, and botanical gardens, the palace's splendor truly fits the noble lineage it houses.
You arrive in the palace lobby, whether by magic or some other mode of transport, to find it abuzz with activity from nobility and commoners alike. Standing tall amidst the busywork are two guards: one a handsome, clean-shaven blond with a permanent smirk, the other a chubbier fellow with tousled brown hair and a warm smile. Both are currently engaged in giving directions to visitors, and when they see you, they wave you over.
A thumb folded the sheet of paper over after reading it for what had to have been the dozenth time. Shimmering steel folded the familiar crease to a smooth edge the same as when it'd first been read almost a week ago, and the reflection off of a grated visor blurred up to reflect a distant castle past the forest of roof points and other myriad towers.
A pale and haunting skepticism danced in the back of my mind in spite of the straight-forward nature of the note. In as many words that were necessary to earn my intrigue: embark for...Fellmore...ascend The Crown, insist upon a beast of nightmarish legend the mistakes it had made, return the princess...to Southaven Palace. To Southaven Palace I went. It was a lead, one that I graciously appreciated, and it certainly would save me the time of diplomacies required to request the aid of the realm.
Seven souls, all now my responsibility. Such optimism would surely be my bane, my hope rekindled with just a handful of words speaking of people I, in a word, never met. Seven. Was I the seventh? I suppose I am a bit rusty with math or interpreting intent through written text, but it was worth investigating. Keeping my expectations tame, I bowed to the courier and inflicted upon them a small handful of gold for their trouble. It must not have been easy to track me down in the middle of the forest, though the phrasing of the note implied I was somehow expected...news travels fast, I guess. The rest was truly secondary, though I am guilty of many of my readings of the note being during the evening where I shared a wild turkey and onions with the courier. They seemed harried by travel, which was understandable, given the contents of their delivery.
This time, when I looked up from the note for what I hoped to be the final time, my eyes met with a portly fellow wearing Drakengard colors, accompanied by their elegant associate. Wrestling with attempts to direct the bustle, they still found time to gesture into the crowd to call others over. Pardon my aforementioned skepticism, but I was not entirely certain this opportunity was taking place until it took both of the men to gesture to me in order to gather just how expected I was.
Plume upon their helmet and a shimmer from between the battlements striking the freshly polished plating, a figure whom, in whole, must have stood almost seven feet tall from feathers to toe, waded through the crowd. Every few steps, they would stop for individuals carrying various goods, offering them "Fair days" and other variations of the pleasantries, until reaching the two. Aark stood off to a side to allow them to continue about their business while leaning in to show them the message's wax seal that once held it together.
"I am expecting zeht I vahz expected?" their voice came, hollowly, from within the helmet, thick with an accent which immediately betrayed her heritage. A deepening in their voice was present, though first impressions may break expectations, as there were still hints to their tone being lighter than what they then spoke with. However, their tone was directive while welcoming, the most a voice could offer amidst the crowd in order to be heard and convey blatant intent. As they seemed to be the first, Aark turned back to the crowd to better observe the others being flagged down by the two men, quite easily managing to see over most of the heads in the crowd, though not too far into it, otherwise.
Looking up from his current seat, a bench from the looks of it, in the middle of this gods forsaken town, the man with the metal deer head looks up at the courier. Without a word he takes the letter opening it up and looking it over. In that moment of silence he just shakes his head, another asking for his power it seems. Yet this time it was for a good reason as it seems someone lost a child.
With a silent nod he takes out a coin and hands it to courier, but grabbing his hand firmly. "Take this, but don't lose it." With that said he stood up and started walking away. "That is your lucky coin after all, but it's just a normal coin if you put it with the rest." The sound of his boots slowly marching away with the soft rattling of bones being the only merrier each step. In his left hand a Slightly longer longsword (Better known as a Basterd Sword) was held, in a soft case of Leather and wood with Steel Loops to hold its form.
Dismounting from his Pale Horse outside of the Castle Nebel slowly went over the events that led him here. Looking around he couldn't help but let out a muffled growl of agitation at all the 'corruption' he saw. Another cesspool where this worlds evils lie and wait to claim another for its horror's. Still he marched on after Tying his horse down. Reaching to one of the saddle bags he pulled out a brush and started cleaning her up. all the while taking in the sights around him.
Despite his perspective Nebel had to admit it was a nice looking town. Outside of the expected nooks and crannies of side street gambling and petty crimes that always seem to happen in back alleys, the normal things for a city, nothing seemed off. Still what danced in his mind was how did they find him and more importantly, why did they want him to go back to his long fallen home. That hell whole that he left behind after seeing how it feel to the temptations of this world. It might of been his home at one point, but now it seemed to match what his mind always said it was a true cesspit of the corruption of this world.
Putting the brush away after cleaning his Pale Horse's hide and mane Nebel grabbed the Stirrup and hooked them to their respective keepers. One he was done with that he turned to the palace, heeding no mind to anyone but the two who seem to be waving at the Knight. With a respective nod he holds out the letter to them, remaining mute for the moment. After a short confirmation he leaves them behind going to the main entrance steps and taking a seat after removing his weapon from his back. Once siting down, with the weapon resting on his shoulder and the tip touching the ground in front of him, Nebel slowly starts to hum an old Ispar Lullaby. A simple one, about a Hunter who wondered too far and befell to his own trap, a warning to those who do not heed their step lest they wish to be trapped by their own doing.