Silence strangled the room as if to murder it, ever so quietly. This was only broken by a single turning of a parchment paper – Then nothing.
The library was empty of all life, but a single lone boy who sat at a thick old oak table as daylight poured through the large glass windows. Rows of neatly lined bookshelves, ten feet tall, rose from the floor before meeting the roof where another floor began. Then another floor of the exact shelving. The shelves were perfectly mirrored, creating the illusion that the shelves rose through the second floor and the stone railing was but braces to keep them still encase a careless student happened to press to much weight upon one of them.
Another page flipping broke the deathly silence.
Desmond stared at the book on the table, seeing the contents, but his mind was elsewhere. His left elbow rested on the tabletop while his left hand gripped a fistful of his own hair. A soft broken sigh parted his lips as a few tears leaped from his cheeks and splattered on the open book below. “If you’re going to cry, at least don’t cry on the book.” A deep voice broke the silence that had only given way to the rustling of paper before.
Desmond jumped, startled like a kitten shaken from its nap and would have fallen back out of his chair if his knees hadn’t been caught by the underside of the oak table. Ter’yut stood on the other side of the table, his dark orc eyes staring down at him with pity. His lips were pursed as he waited for the young prince to regain his composure. “I-I wasn’t crying.” Desmond cleared his throat. He had been crying and the orc knight had caught him doing so, but what little pride he had forced him to lie about it out of habit. “Straight face lying, you’re learning too much from Randol.”
The joke brought a small chuckle from the distressed prince. “You want to talk about it?” Ter’yut asked as his left hand rested on the hilt of his sword that dangled from his belt. His armor gleamed slightly in the light. “No, but thanks… Just a little too much happening as of this moment.” The orc nodded, his heroic faces almost human-like compared to the others of his race. He did not even have protruding fangs like others of his race.
Ter’yut pulled the seat across from Desmond out and sat down. The sound echoing throughout the large library. “So, our valiant hero, what are you doing here and how come I didn’t hear you?” Desmond asked as he rubbed his bloodshot eyes and took a few deep breaths to calm his frayed nerves. “I came to relieve the guard that came with you, per your brother’s orders.” The orc licked his lips and kicked his worn leather boots onto the table and leaned back in the chair. “Please have some more respect for the furniture.” Desmond sighed, this time from the Knight’s shameless ability to make himself comfortable.
“Why? These old things won-” Has if jinxing himself, the chair gave way – dumping the heavy muscular knight onto the floor in a heap of splintered wood. Desmond couldn’t help but burst into a fit of laughter after he watched the proud orc falling down in the chair. Desmond’s laughter broke the stifling silence that filled most of the large cathedral-like building. The prince’s palm slapped the tablet repeatedly as his laughter quickly turned into snorting as he fought for breath. The Orc grumbled as he tried in vain to quickly get up, only to fall back into the heap of wood when his feet found a piece of small wood and not the floor.
This caused Desmond to fight even more valiantly against his laughter in a bid to breathe enough air to not pass out. It wasn’t until he was started to see stars and his vision began to fade did his laughter subside.
By then, the large orc – who towered close to six-and-a-half feet tall – finally managed to stand from the broken heap. He adjusted his armor and belt before he cleared his throat in embarrassment. “The furniture must be poorly made. The ones in the barracks don’t break like that.” He forgo-ed picking another chair to sit and elected to stand. “I have to say, the furniture used in the knight lodgings and dining halls are all sturdy and reinforced. Not to say that the knights are rough on everything, even your beds use more nails than this table. Everything in here is made for the scholar, not the warrior.”
Desmond mused as he wiped away tears of joy now. The young prince beamed with a smile, his heavy heart lifted at the orc’s expense. “So what are you reading?” Ter’yut wanted the topic to change now that he had become the joke of the conversation now. “Ah..Ha.” Desmond finally cooled himself once he saw the orc was changing the topic, but the young man still chuckled to himself. “It’s regarding the Age of Gods. I’ve been trying to find out more about Avery, but a lot of what we have is mostly hearsay and gossip from the various murals in ruins.”
Not to mention the Holy Paws headquarters… Desmond thought to himself. The critical information found there had mainly been monopolized by him, which was not much in the least. Not compared to the actual woman herself who was escorting Navara across the border to her home tribe.
The conversation ended with Desmond talking about the information the Academy had on the regarding Fable’s End. He theorized to the Orc Knight until he noticed the Knight’s eyelids fighting to stay open. Desmond quickly ended the conversation much to Ter’yut’s delight.
The library seemed to brighten after the incident…
. . . . .
Fenrir’s leg shook from exhaustion beside the beaten trail before his front legs finally gave way beneath him. His chest rose and fell violently as he fought for breath.
Avery helped Navara off his back, while not exhausted to the point of collapse, she was sleep deprived. “Are you okay?” Avery was quick to rush to her old friend’s side. “My… Lady… For… Give me… I am.. Not as young as … I … Use to be…” They had sprinted back through the trail they had taken to catch up with the fleeing survivors of the caravan only to find a trail of death and destruction. They had found Lord Albion’s remains, but not the Heavenly Sons Officers. They had not bothered themselves with the goods the noble was transporting back to his town and made haste back to the capital to warn them of the dangers they had faced.
Yet, they had only made it three-fourths of the way there before the old wolf’s body gave way. The vixen didn’t fare much better as both had fought the night away against the undead. Avery cursed herself silently for not being able to kill the enemy quicker. Unskilled and lost in the glee of battle, she fought like a primitive ape, only knowing to point the sharp end of her sword towards what she was trying to kill.
“We need to rest, Avery..” The fox-kin wearily planted her rear next to the lion-sized wolf and rested her head against his, now slowing, ribs. “My lady, can you summon water?” Fenrir asked his master. Avery nodded her head. If it was just to summon water to drink, she could do so. It was not hard as she only had to will it into her palm rather than shape it to fight. She quickly willed the water to form in her palm. Within the blink of an eye, water formed in the palm of her hand and she cupped both her palms together. The wolf lowered his head and opened his mouth while she slowly poured the water onto his parched tongue.
“Me too, please!” Navara requested. It took a minute or so for the wolf to drink his fill before Navara got the pleasure to drink Avery’s magical water. However, when she tried to pour the water into the red-haired fox’s mouth like a waterfall as she did to Fenrir – the girl quickly took hold of Avery’s hands and pressed her lips to her fingers and sucked the water up greedily. “That’s not sanitary…” Avery’s brows furrowed with displease, but she let her drink her fill without pulling away.
After a few moments, the vixen finally fell back against Fenrir’s body with a sigh of content. Avery’s eyes lingered on the girl’s body as she observed the grime that caked her from the battle, her once fire red hair had been vibrant was not dulled from dirt. Her clothes damaged, but still wearable. “Let us rest, Mistress, at least for an hour…” The wolf pleaded. Avery only nodded in response. “Sleep for a few hours. I’ll keep watch.”
. . . . . . .
The messenger shook as the Emperor’s glare targeted him with an intense rage. The fear made him keep his forehead plastered to the ground as he recited prayers to the Holy HearthMother of ole’, wishing that he could flee from the audience hall. However, the Goddess did not heed his prayer as he heard the Emperor’s nostrils flare as if he was a mighty dragon ready to breathe down righteous retribution upon those who had angered him.
Even the nobles in the early morning court session, who so often loved to bicker amongst themselves in court, stayed silent in fear of earning the old ruler’s wraith.
As Emperor Ryan Dragonfang aged, his patience thinned with it. Seldom did he love to hear of issues of traitors and rebellions, choosing to immerse himself in his concubines or the latest popular courtesan. That wasn’t to mention drinking. Now a new major issue had been laid at his feet and the Nobles pitied the footsoldier who had drawn the shortest straw to be sent to inform the Court. Having been slighted the other day by the girl named Avery Baily, he had become quite unsociable.
The Emperor’s stare threatened to burn the poor man alive until the High Magnus had entered the grand hall. “Your imperial majesty, do you wish to send the army to assist the Viscount?” To everyone’s shock, the man who was supposed to be an advisor actually showed up to a court session that had nothing to do with magic or academia. He had even bothered to offer a solution, though a very obvious one. He still “advised” the Emperor! A rebellion and an unruly High Magnus that actually came to do his job?
Was the world going mad?!
The High Magnus’s voice tore the enraged Emperor from his thoughts. Before he could threaten the man for interrupting him, he recognized who had spoken. “Ah, the High Magnus. How kind of you to join us for once.” Emperor Dragonfang sneered in his heart before he turned back to the messenger. The sight of the commoner disgusted him and he waved the soldier away. Two royal knights came forward and escorted him away with a single silver coin being pressed into his folded palms by one as the man bowed.
Delighted to have been freed and paid handsomely, the messenger figuratively flew out of the grand audience hall. The Magnus nodded approvingly to the knights who nodded back. “Yes, I heard there was an issue in the north and I thought I should try my hands at helping with the issue.” Ah, so that was his motive. The Emperor thought. The man had spent quite a lot of time with that powerful woman, maybe he had learned more magic? The idea delighted him. He could always use more people to throw into the Arena to fight the monsters.
He was still made about the failed attempt on the Fox Tribe’s Princess, but he now had enough nails to shut his damnable son’s coffin with. First, the botched expedition that resulted in a lot of aristocrats losing their children, he had even endangered the First Prince. Now his group had been the spark the ignited the powder keg that was the Northern region. While he did place Viscount Otto into the north, the rebellion trap had been planned for Viscount Otto.
The man was unsociable and uncaring of any life. While his family had been a great ally to the throne throughout the short history of the Empire, Viscount Otto had ruined their relationship at every turn. Knowing that the little-devil would cause his own death, Emperor Dragonfang had appointed him to the Northern Keep to watch over the Great Divide. He could have demoted him, but his power wouldn’t have diminished. The Empire owed the Otto family a considerable debt from past wars, one that he didn’t care about and paid them with every passing year, he wanted that man gone. So he had to die.
However, Desmond so happens to have been the ignition to the rebellion that ended in a massacre in the keep. While the main rebellion had ended, the families of the slain were starting to rise up. He could either blame Desmond or blame Viscount Otto. He knew which one meant more.
Killing that demon spawn that they called his child, the Third Prince Desmond.
“Arrest The Prince and keep him held within his chambers until we hold a trail.”
. . . . . . . . .
The evening was settled to the song of cicadas singing, their seemingly unending song a constant buzz that filled the Palace gardens almost masking the wretched cries of agony.
Three maids held a haggard young Empress up by her arms while another had dabbed at the dark blood that trickled down her leg with a moist cloth. The young mother’s face was haggard and drenched with sweat as her muscles contracted with a heart-wrenching scream of pain. The midwife kept her wits about her, a testament to the hundreds of births before her. Soon, the wail of a newborn child joined the mother to create a chorus of wails before the Empress slumped over into her maid in relief.
She had been in labor for most of the day, just before dinner of the previous day and she both physically, and mentally exhausted. Her bloodshot eyes pinned to the midwife as she went about the rest of her duties with the baby. By the time the baby had been cleaned of all the blood that covered him like a thin film, the placenta fell to the floor in a loud plop as blood gushed out.
“Miss! The blood is not stopping!” The third maid had called out just as a stream of blood began to trickle down the girl’s leg, her pale face becoming even paler as if she were slowly becoming a ghost. The midwife who was about to hand the child over to the mother ordered the third maid to take charge of the child and take her to a wetnurse. The midwife also kept note that the child required feeding now. None of the maids could do anything else aside from holding their master steady and await instructions from the midwife.
Their fear began to grow as her skin was becoming cold. “Lay her down on the table!” She barked orders and the maids were quick to carry the Empress over and lay her down as the midwife began to chant a spell. Healing magic began to swirl in the woman’s palm slowly as if it were a dancing string before she slowly inserted her finger into the woman’s motherhood. Blood gushed out over the table and the maids shrieked at the sight. The midwife would have cursed them out of the room if not for the Empress bleeding out on the table.
The vaginal convulsions were weak, unable to seal the blood vessels that were connected to the placenta. However, as she squirmed her hand gently through, she found that the inner walls of the woman had been torn as well. As a woman who assisted in the birth of children, she possessed the ability to use healing magic and brew potions specialized for the issues that faced childbirth, but she did not possess a strong mana pool or ability. So she had to move one by one.
Soon, the blood began to slow until she had reached the end where the main culprit was and quickly began to weave more mana into her fingertips to quicken the process.
Before she knew it, nearly twenty minutes had passed before she had finished. Her face was pale and beaded with sweat from the amount of mana she had to push. She felt a sense of relief now that this ordeal was over. The was until she looked up. The maids were frozen in horror and the old lady quickly looked at the still mother, now noticing she had not felt any movement from her. “No, no no!” The lady panicked in her head and felt for a pulse. Nothing.
She took a step back, knowing she would be killed for this and she saw the amount of blood that had pooled beneath the table – The young Empress of the Twin-headed Dragon had bled to death…
The next day, the Emperor looked over the brutally raped and beaten midwife. Bent over and tied, the midwife who had helped his Empress give birth no longer had the strength to scream as her blood trickled out her womanhood. “You failed to save her, now you will die like she did.” The Emperor’s cold words stabbed into the woman, but she did not move. Her rear was bruised from the men that had taken her. If it was just that, she could have lived, but what followed was the dogs, then the horses, then… Swords. She was whipped as they did her as well, her back lacerated with countless wounds. Her face had swelled from each time they punched her.
As if to mock her, they used healing magic to keep her alive and potions to keep her awake. The Wraith of the Emperor was soon to be spread after this day.
The woman, no older than thirty, cried in her heart. It was not her fault that the Empress had bled out, she had told the Head Steward that as well. She could no help if there were any extreme circumstances and that a priest would have to be on standby, but the Emperor would not allow another man to see his wife’s womanhood.
She lamented how she should have hidden when the church had handed her the job, but she did not think it would have ended so badly. Soon, the shock began to set in her as more sick knights went another round with her, laughing at her suffering as the Emperor turned her attention to the baby that cried vehemently for its mother from across the room.
The last thing she would ever see was the Emperor holding an ornate gold dagger above the child, ready to strike…