GGCE 16 – The Empire’s Capital (2)

 

“The enforcers cover both civilian and military law. My job specifically is to ensure everyone who passes into the Cloud District is a noble, or has a good reason to enter. Will that be all, Prince Randol?” She asked after giving a simple explanation. “Yes. Thank you. I’ll leave a good word with your supervisor’s boss.” Randol nodded. “I thank Your Highness for your grace.” She bowed once more before retreating back into the office and the gate opened, lantern light spilling out from within.

Behind the gates was a large tunnel cut from solid grey rock. It went forward for twenty feet before slowly curving up and to the right enough so that the carriages wouldn’t be stuck would passing through. With a tug on the reins, the horses pulled their carriage through with ease. The lantern light illuminating the winding tunnel with a soft orange light. Avery peeked out the window and saw that walls were polished to a shine while there were engravings on the wall. The mural depicted a fierce battle between a group of humans and a dragon with missing wings.

It oddly familiar, but it wasn’t until they reached the end of the tunnel and saw her paw insignia on the lead human did she realize it was depicting the Treason of BrokenWing quest. A quest that led to the raid of BrokenWing, a large white two-headed dragon who tried to usurp the throne of Sky Gardens only to be defeated. His wings were ripped from his back so he could never fly and thrown to the earth below. Being a part of the CloudEater dragon race, he had a stronger body and managed to survive the fall.

In his rage, he began raising an army of drakes and wyverns to take over Sky Garden, but he only managed to terrorize the kingdom he had fallen into. His lair was a dead volcano he had found before he was then subjugated by a Raiding Party. It was at the end of that raid did players come to know of Sky Garden’s existence. The mural was epic, to say the least, but she had wondered why it was here. “Shouldn’t that be out in Craven Valley?” Avery thought to herself. Craven Valley should have been southwest of Fable’s end, but didn’t they travel directly south?

It was only after a few more seconds did she drop the subject in her mind. It didn’t matter that much anyways.

Once they exited the tunnel, the sight of finely built buildings painted in vibrant yellows, blues, and browns greeted them on the left-hand side. Most of the shops were closed, their windows shut with ornate iron grates. However, what interested Avery was how uniform all the buildings were. All of them were built into the mountainside, leaving a large stony lip above them. They had nearly a twenty-foot buffer from the old road where carriages could park with room for foot traffic. Each had three stories and two iron-braced windows on each level, and their entrances were on the right with their display windows on the left with a nearly transparent glass.

The line of buildings were uniform aside from a few buildings that were building further back into the mountain’s rock, allowing a sort of courtyard to be made. To how far, it varied. The first one went nearly twenty feet in, the building nearly fifty-feet wide. It looked to be an inn with tables occupying the front with patrons of the wealthy status chatting to themselves – of course with their own guards. The next one she saw appeared to be a restaurant, that went the deepest of an estimated depth of thirty feet and as wide as fifty feet. However, unlike the inn, all the space was bustling with patrons and workers.

The restaurant was filled to the brim, with a small waiting area just outside on the walkway. There was also a sign reading “No carriage parking, all waiting-patrons are to use the benches or make reservations ahead of time.” Even with the sign above, there was a smaller carriage parked directly under it with a rather plump man dressed in fine clothes arguing with a pair of steel-clad knights. His hoarse voice similar to a squealing pig as his face was red and dripping with sweet. Avery felt a little nosy and wanted to watch the show, but the carriage moved on against her wish – leaving the dispute behind.

They went along their way, passing a few people here and there. All of them dressed elegantly with knightly guards following them, but their demeanor was visibly unlike the ones patrolling under the banner of the Empire. The Empire’s Knights, rather, Enforcers were patrolling straight back and heads high. They carried well-maintained spears with short swords on their hips with pristine leather sheaths. Their heads always scanning their environment. The ones watching over their wards, however, were held a less of a commanding… aura?

She didn’t understand how, but she instinctively felt the Enforcers were on a whole other level compared to them. Her eyes raked over them as they passed. She ended up just pushing the feeling to the back of her mind for another time.

Soon the road curved to the left to follow the shape of the mountain before coming to a large fork in the road. The old path lead up the mountain some more to the left while there was a rather elegant, if not strangely out of place, bridge. Built from stone, it contrasted the weathered main road at the fork before reaching across a small divide and reaching out to another peak. While she was busy taking in the beautiful sights of the city, she hadn’t realized that the mountain path had reached halfway around the mountain before it faced a peak.

At first, she just thought it was a dome-like mountain, but now she was closer, it became apparent that the side the city was built on was carved out completely. On the other side were mansions build into the folds of the other side. A few watchtowers here and there, but it impressed her, or maybe shocked her, how much of the mountain the empire had actually moved to build their bustling city…

With these thoughts, the carriage stayed left and moved higher up the mountain until it turned sharply to the left before leveling out. Two old towers awaited them, a stone archway bridging the two. The stone itself seemed similar to elven stone, but with all the vines crawling up the towers, she couldn’t tell. The gate that blocked their path, was new. Its fresh dark wood braced with grey meteor iron with Knights suited Meteor Armor. They all held long Glaves with short shorts hanging from their waists. There were around ten knights stationed in the front with more stations on top of the tower in view.

The carriage rolled to a stop before the checkpoint. Four knights surrounded the carriage before one of them approached the carriage window. He glanced inside, confirmed just by a look who was inside and stepped back “Prince Randol, Prince Desmond, High Warrior Ter’yut, and Tribal Princess Navara passing through along with one guest!” The knight bellowed with a voice that didn’t sound humanly possible, but he did it. The gates shook violently a few seconds later. It parted open enough to let the large carriage through before closing when they passed.

The carriage moved onward before the path ended, giving way to a large clearing made up of pristine stonework. The carriage jolted as it moved from the worn-down stone to the newer surface and the vibrations intensified.

The clearing was nearly a football field wide {PF: Around 50 m} with blossoming cherry trees lining the left side where the edge was. To their right were rows of parked carriages, numbering nearly ten with a stable. Behind that on the mountain wall was a large mural of the Two-headed dragon – BrokenWing. In the middle of the mountain wall, the central clearing was a large opening like a gaping maw of a dragon. The stone jutting out like a roof with spikes coming down similar to teeth. The ages weren’t kind to the opening that Avery remembered being so imposing before. Weeds and grass grew over the top while moss painted the underside as nature moved to reclaim the dragon-made structure.

Eventually, the carriage cut across the clearing and came to a stop before the giant cave. A small girl, no more than fifteen, dressed in a grey dress came out to greet them. The door opened and revealed the stunning sight of the white-haired beauty that was Avery. Her aura was as noble as an Elf’s with the same graceful strut as she dismounted the carriage. Avery’s golden eyes studied the girl for a moment before she moved to the side and allowed the rest off. The girl’s face was marred with several scars, however, nothing too unsightly and had graying hair loosely tied back.

The group disembarked behind her and the girl trembled when she saw the Princes, fear flashing through her eyes as she quickly knelt on both knees, her head to the floor. “Forgive this lowly servant! I had not noticed it was your Royal Highnesses! We saw the crest and believed it to be someone else! Allow me to fetch the Royal Maids!” The large clearing was filled with soft orange lantern light, which made the girl look even more pitiful as her entire body shook with fear as two patrolling knights strode over to see why she was hollering. “Is there an issue here, Your Highness?” One of the knights asked, both of them taking up posts on either side of the prostrating servant girl.

Prince Randol felt his headache with frustration. This was why he didn’t like coming around to the Dragon Palace. His father had somehow bred an environment where low-level servants could be abused by Officials or their superiors. There were many feuding servants within the halls, most of which trying to advance their careers for money or power. At this point, he didn’t even think they had a reason to do so. It was more so a vicious cycle at this point was others wanted to advance so they could abuse as well.

That was until a member of the Royal Family stepped out.

It was common knowledge that his father was known to execute groups of servants if even one of their group incurred his displeasure. Even his Head Concubine was that unruly.

With a sigh, he dismissed the question. “No, no. She’s just overreacting.” The Knights had more of a grasp of what kind of person Prince Randol was as he spent most of his time training with the Knights. Randol then had an idea. “You’d probably be annoyed if you had someone helping you that just spouted pleasantries and praises right?” He turned to Avery. She nodded with a serious expression. “That settles it, you can have my mercy if you tend to Lady Avery here. You two. You both will be her personal escorts for the duration she is in the Palace.” He nodded as he issued his orders.

“No matter what, don’t leave her side.” he said to the girl before turning and gesturing for the rest of the group to follow. “Let’s go.” Avery said to the girl, softly. Her golden eyes stared down at her. Yet, she never moved. Only trembled on the spot to which she asked the guards to carry her. The knights, who towered a head taller than Avery, picked up the girl by her arms and carried her away. The poor servant looked like a rabbit who’d just stared into the mouth of the wolf when she passed her. Somehow… It tingled the mischievous side in her…

. . . .

Once they stepped inside the Dragon Palace, Avery was welcomed to a very familiar throne room. Polished white marble floors stretched out in every direction before climbing the walls to the roof where embedded Ghost Stones glowed. Ghost Stones were partially translucent white stones that glowed bright enough to light an area of twenty-feet with just a stone the size of a finger. They were the lore friendly way to light dungeons that were supposed to have never been touched in thousands of years – Unlike certain games were you open up a long forgotten chamber and find fresh apples.

The stones above them were clustered like jagged rocks on a mountainside, growing from the center of the ceiling and basking the room in a warm white glow. There were no other levels here, but the room was tall enough to fit a blue whale. Which was exactly how big the Brokenwing got. Ruler-class dragons grew to those sizes, so he wasn’t an anomaly.

Along the wall were several doors the size of Lesser Dragons to which the servants of Broken-Wing would swarm out of during the raid, but now they were lonely with only a single knight guarding each doorway and several pairs of servants moving about dressed in deep blue clothing. Prince Randol took the lead and took them through a door near the back where a new addition to the room was added. A human-sized throne on a raised stone platform along with the heads of Broken wing resting on either side like some twisted stuffed trophy. “So what’s with BrokenWing’s skulls doing out here?” Avery asked as they passed by it.

The small procession stopped abruptly, nearly causing a pileup. “B-Brokenwing?” Randol asked as he turned back to Avery. “How did you know the Dragon?” He asked, a hint of fear his eyes. Desmond also looked at Avery strangely, but with more curiosity than fear.

“Because I killed him. His body shouldn’t have been around, so I’m wondering why his remains are still here?” Her tone becoming darker. In the lore, dragons were pure magical beings. When they died, their body could do a few things. Such as the nature of this world, nothing really ended with death. If the Dragon died with hate in its heart, it would become an undead dragon or a Skeleton Dragon depending how far decayed the body become. This could be circumvented by removing its mana stone within a day or so before it has a chance to cause the turn.

However, another problem with this was that the remains would slowly turn into a catalyst for evil. Those who basked in its presence who were of good, would feel weak and eventually fall sick. Those of the wicked would become more twisted. It was one of the items used to power the Undead King in a later expansion. “He was supposed to have been buried in the mountain.” She said with a grim tone, her golden eyes fixed on it. She could already feel the wickedness from here.

“Well… It was found when just a few months ago when Father Emperor decreed an expansion of the collapsed Catacombs below. We were only able to free the heads as we don’t have enough slaves to mine every day.” He wasn’t too sure why the heads seemed upset her. He looked at the heads too, feeling unnerved by them. He never liked coming here since the heads were unearthed. Sometimes, he thought they could talk to him and he didn’t like that at all…

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