GGE 14

The long hall was illuminated with three patches of silvery moonlight, illuminating three days. However, three islands of inky darkness stood between each. Dark outlines of the suits of armor Priscilla’s father kept stood like hidden sentinels. But to her, they hid monsters. She toed the boundary of her room, the wooden door ajar just enough for her to slip through – or to close it quickly.

She held her knight, a black stuffed rabbit, tight against her chest. Her big eyes were full of terror. The hall seemed to slowly stretch and narrow. She fought to control her breathing, least the monsters know she had ventured from the safety of her room. But she needed her maid, Abigail. She was strong like her father and sweet like her mother. She could defend her from the monsters that prowled in the howling storm outside.

With a small shuffle, Priscilla slid one small foot across the floorboards and out into the hall. Her eyes watched tentatively to the shadows. Something stirred at the end of the hall, and she quickly slid her foot back in; she continued to watch. It had only been a trick of the mind, or so something Abigail often said.

Fear is just tricking me… Priscilla told herself, not convinced at all.

She a few moments longer. The shadows still did not stir again. She turned slightly to the left, where the first window illuminated the landing before her door. Outside, a new moon hung low as it began its ascent into the heavens. The trees, leafless, waved slightly like phantoms beyond her family’s countryside estate. She gulped and slid her foot back out, hoping the monsters had stayed outside.

The shadows did not stir.

Encouraged by the stillness, she stepped into the moonlight, abandoning the lantern light in her room. The monsters would see her if she took it, thus she decided she could make it the twenty feet to the next door – She had to. She tip-toed, paranoid that something would hear her far below, and come up the stairwell. Much to her delight, the floorboards heeded her silent pleas, and tonight they did not betray her.

Several timid steps, she toed the only long patch of ink she needed to cross. On the other end of this bridge of darkness, was Abigail’s quarters.

She hesitated once again, eyeing the dark figure that stood on the left where a suit of armor should be. Was it still a suit of armor, or did the monster replace it with itself to trick her? She scrutinized it without much luck in ascending the truth. And thus, she plunged herself into the dark patch. She pushed the rabbit out and held it before her as a sacrifice to assure her escape.

No monsters came out. She advanced slowly unhindered. With each step, she grew braver. She continued until she found herself crossing into the moonlight once again. She let out a sigh of relief. She quickly clamped her mouth over and stared back down the hall. Nothing had heard her, and thus she slid over to the towering door. And slightly knocked on it. She winced as the thuds echoed through the hall.

Her eyes quickly turned down the hall. A tall monstrous being stirred in the darkness at the end of the hall. Moonlight reflected off its eyes. She could see it smile at her. She lost her composure, for the monsters had gotten into the house. Her parents were not on the grounds, they could not defend her. Only Abigail could!

She tugged on the handle, not quite strong enough to turn the knob. She looked up and began to pound on the door. She tried to call her maid, but her voice didn’t work. She looked back down the hall… The monster was one patch of darkness closer. Now she could see its dark outline. It was tall and wore some sort of armor. Priscilla turned back to the door, panicking even more.

The door opened and Priscilla was about to run in. There was blood splattered on the door as Abigail’s body fell forward. Her head missing. A pool of crimson had appeared at the young girl’s feet, but she couldn’t turn her eyes from the figure before her. The monster was no longer in the hall but in Abigail’s room. It stepped over her maid’s body. The little mousy girl retreated. A few steps and she already found herself pressed against the window.

“Did you think I’d disappear that easily?” Jogun cackled with a wicked grin.

His leathery skin dotted with shadows and he adjusted his grip on his sword.

“I’m going to finish what I started,” Jogun said before he lifted the sword over his head. “Insect.”

“Cyril!” Priscilla managed to scream, unsure of why she called this particular name.

But it worked, the draugr took a step back. He looked bewildered as he looked around. Golden particulars of light shimmered in the air. Slowly, the walls around them began to fall away into the same lights. The roof. The walls. The floor… Jogun looked stunned at this before he turned back.

“No!” He hissed. “You cannot invoke my Creator’s name against me!”

“Cyril!” Priscilla screamed even louder. “You promised!”

With those two words, the world began to tremble and roar. The Draugr froze as well.

“Y-You!” His bravado was gone. “How did you get her to promise something?! She is the Lady of this World. The Creator! And you dare make her–“

He didn’t get to say anything else before he too began to crumble into golden lights. She didn’t know what to do, or why all of this was happening. She just began to sob in relief. The world around her faded away. A moment later, she too, existed no more.

 

— † —

 

Priscilla’s eyes opened to a blinding light that made her groan. She turned her head to the right, but the light followed. She turned to the left, and the light faded. She slid her right hand up to rub the sleep from her eyes but felt something feathery rubbing against her small breasts.

She took a breath of warm air and lifted her head to inspect what was touching her. She found herself covered by a large white feathery wing. It covered her entire upper body, its feathers as soft as clouds and as white as snow. Priscilla giggled stupidly to herself and slid her hand across the top. Her memories were hazy, and she didn’t remember how she got here, but the feathers felt good.

She laid her head back against the soft pillow but found that accursed light was still there. She groaned as she tilted her head back up to stare at the source. It was a derelict curtain that hadn’t been closed all the way, its creak gutted a razor-thin line of light across the pillows. She threw her head back to angle in such a way the light no longer bothered her. She continued to pet the wing.

She then discovered something. The wing was attached to something. This discovery swept a little of the haze aside. She felt soft, warm skin on her fingers. It was inviting and welcoming. She turned her head to see who was next to her. She found a delicate white face, framed by snowy silk hair. Her eyes were shut and her long eyelashes guarding the pools of gold beneath like elegantly made gatekeepers.

Just below her small nose, were those soft plump lips she had kissed, by accident, in the field. She smiled to herself as she remembered that, her heart fluttering. She didn’t know how she was so calm as she tried to turn over. Her lower body felt like dead weight, but she didn’t pay it any mind. Her crush was beside her, and that took up all her hazy thoughts.

After some effort, she managed to get on her side, no thanks to her numb legs. In the act, her stomach protested, along with her back. She didn’t care though – Cyril was beside her. Naked. She had found this when she shuffled onto her side. To soft white mounts had been pressed against her arm. She had mistaken them for something else, for what, she didn’t know. She paid it no mind.

She looked down, comparing them to hers, and felt insecure about her small perky breasts. Hers were tipped in pink, small and cone-shaped. The other girl’s breast was far larger. Her nipples were hidden out of sight, guarded by her breasts that were three times the size of hers. They were like… She couldn’t think of an example. They just were.

A few moments later, she saw both their hair swirl amongst each other. Rivers of white mingled with thick streams of raven black. Crisscrossing each other before separating. A naughty thought, one she had never had before, reared its head. Priscilla’s hand began to glide its way towards Cyril’s breasts. Priscilla’s face was flushed, her inky eyes, flecked with silver, reflected her desire.

“I don’t think that’d be a good idea,” Layla spoke up. “Fondling a sleeping person is a crime in most places.”

Priscilla’s hand froze, the desire still burning in her eyes. But the voice was not one she recognized. Annoyed, she turned her head over to see who interrupted her moments from bliss. What she saw in the dim light, was a rather mature woman with dark almond hair and matching eyes – flecked with silver.

She wasn’t as pretty as me, so why does she get to stop me? Priscilla’s hazy mind cursed. She couldn’t understand how looks came into play, but it was the first insult she could think of. She didn’t know why she felt the need to insult the woman. The small flags sent up by the thoughts were quickly forgotten, burned on their poles, when she remembered she’d been interrupted.

As if reading the thoughts on her expression, Layla smiled. “Don’t give me that look, young girl. Molesting another girl, especially your savior, isn’t a good look for you.”

“I.. Did nothing wrong,” Pricilla said while pouting. The words strangely heavy on her tongue. Her mouth felt like cotton.

“Not yet at least,” Layla reminded her of what she was about to do. The gravity of it was slowly beginning to set in when Layla continued. “You’ve been heavily sedated for the last two days. You took the worst hit out of everyone still alive, or so Bishop Luis says.”

To prove it, Layla held up a large girl that looked like milk, but not milk. It had a small tag with unreadable writing.

“Poppy milk,” Layla told her. “Your injury was bad enough to warrant large doses to keep you under so you didn’t hurt yourself.”

“Wwwhy–” Priscilla’s tongue wasn’t working well, maybe from being dry. Layla was quick to hand her a small glass cup that must have cost several gold coins. Priscilla looked at it, found it was water and almost gulped it all down.

“Sip at it,” Layla held the cup firmly until Priscilla acknowledged the command. She let go afterward and Priscilla tried to sit up. A hand slid under her bareback and pushed her up, and the wing moved away. “Good morning, Lady Cyril.”

“Good morning to you too, Miss Layla.” Cyril didn’t honor her with a smile. Her focus entirely on Priscilla.

Priscilla blushed as she felt the hand, pressed against her mid-back, helped her. Butterflies took flight in her belly. The conversation was quickly forgotten as she sipped at the water, and looked at Cyril.

“Drink slower,” Cyril said softly.

Priscilla did so while sizing up Cyril’s body as she sat up. Her wings folded back, revealing just how… Fit it was. It wasn’t a hulking mass of muscles, but neither was there any fat that didn’t add to her appeal. Layla coughed, bringing Priscilla’s slow mind back into the moment. More aware of herself, she realized she had the glass to her lips, but she hadn’t drank anything. Both the women were staring at her now.

“To answer your question,” Layla began. “When that monster ‘stabbed’ you -“

“Stabbed is a nice way to put it,” Cyril interrupted with a very displeased tone.

“-Skewered you, he had pierced through one of the lower lumbar bones in your spine,” Layla continued. “To salt the wounds, I’m told he had twisted the blade inside of you. This had shattered the bone into a lot of pieces. I wasn’t there to see it, I’m only recounting what Bishop Luis had explained. The important point here is, you’re not completely healed. He said the extent of your injuries will leave you paralyzed from the waist down.”

Priscilla looked at her, not fully understanding what that meant.

“Your body… Couldn’t handle half of what it needed to do to reconstruct the bone,” Layla said. “And not even Lady Cyril here could do anything about it. Look, whatever you’ve been through recently, it’s left your body in a… Less than optimal state.”

“But.. how?” Priscilla said with disbelieving eyes. “I’ve always taken… Care of…”

And like a hidden viper, the memories sank their fangs into her mind. The expedition, the deaths, curses, and the monsters. Blood, blood, and more blood. All the terrible things that had cascaded over their little group since they arrived, all of which, when taken one by one didn’t seem so bad, but all at once… It was too much to bear for the poor girl. Tears began to trickle from her eyes as she remembered that terrible face from her dreams.

That sadistic and twisted monster that stabbed at her. It hadn’t been a dream, because she remembered being hoisted into the air by her throat. Yes, she felt the bruises now. They seared themselves into her pale skin like brands, so she may always remember. She remembered how angered he had been when she called – She looked to the angelic beauty next to her, and she looked back, her left face hidden behind a veil of silky white.

He’d been angered when she called out to Cyril.

 

— † —

 

The door to the chambers shut silently, Cyril’s face hidden in the shadow of the sunlight. Back in her black dress, the sun revealed that the dim room hid. Red specks dotted her wings from her two-day hunt. Her dress was even more bloodied than her wings. her body had only been quickly wiped down before she laid with Priscilla. That had only happened when word that she’d been calling out to her in her sleep.

Bishop Luis was beside the door when Cyril was there. He looked at her, curious to her expression. She hid it behind a curtain of white and hadn’t moved away from the door as she looked down at the iron handle. He could hear the breath of rage she blew out to calm herself.

The Bishop felt for the deity. In the span of two days, even he knew she was nothing more than a girl herself. Unlike Alistair, who’d been regal and composed every time he held his yearly conferences, this girl wore her heart on her sleeve. From her annoyances to her rage. To her compassion to her sadness. Her two-day hunt of undead had been a pure venomous rage. Her quick flight back to the church housing had been pure fear and concern.

He looked away from her, and out the window that lit the hall around them. Pillars of smoke rose everywhere, contrasted by the beautiful winter blue sky. Nearly half the city had been razed, leaving only charred bricks and bones. As if a fire god had feasted off a fat stone pig and just left the bones on its plate.

Cyril’s shoulders were trembling when he looked back.

Bishop Luis spoke. “Your Grace–“

“She had to be sedated again,” Cyril cut him off. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

“Lady Hammel has gone through something terrible,” Bishop Luis said. “Comfort and care are what she will need for the foreseeable future. I’ve seen many people like her.”

Cyril finally looked up to him. Her left face still marred with those terrible black webs. He kept his pleasant smile, but he flinched in his heart.

“I haven’t,” Cyril sighed. “I know about PTSD, aftercare, both physical therapy, and mental therapy; but I’ve never seen it.”

“What is PTSD?” Bishop Luis repeated the acronym.

“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Cyril said. “It happens when people go through something terrible, and they have nightmares, flashbacks, and get randomly triggered by things that remind them of the event.”

That sounded like a lot of people he’d been treating.

“How does one deal with this disorder?” Bishop Luis asked.

“Teaching people skills to cope with it. Help them change their view of themselves, and just being there for them.” Cyril couldn’t remember if she had been diagnosed with it. There had been a lot of things the doctor said she had, then said she didn’t have. It was a labyrinth of crap she had to deal with in the hospital.

“Have you ever treated anyone with it?” Bishop Luis said, not actually comprehending the part that ‘She didn’t know what to do’.

“I’ve never treated anyone in my life,” Cyril chuckled at the implication. “As someone who’s spent most of their life dying, I was the one being cared for.”

“Gods can die?” Bishop Luis smile twitched.

“Anything can die,” Cyril said. “I had.”

With that, she stepped away from the door and walked down the hall. Bishop Luis jaw moved around as he digested it. A simple phrase, uttered by many. And it took a whole new light when uttered by what was supposed to be the strongest being ever. By the time she had reached the end of the hall, Bishop Luis scampered after her.

The Cathedral’s housing was by no means humble. The halls weren’t decorated with expensive items, but more so it in liberal usage of space. The hall was long, and when she descended the stairs, she took only one-fourth of the stair’s width. The stair was nice ” T ” shape as she hit the landing where Fenrir stood guard.

“Cyril,” He greeted her with that wolfish smile he always had.

“Hey Fen,” Cyril smiled as she cuffed his large ear as he bowed to her. “No more hunting for today.”

“As you wish,” The wolf replied before his silver eyes turned suspiciously to the man following her. “Will the insect be following us?”

Bishop Luis tried to smile but found his lips quivered to much in the wake of this over-sized wolf. That had made the wolf grin.

“Leave him be, Fen,” Cyril through the words over her shoulder as she reached the bottom. The wolf’s grin slipped off and he padded after her. The Bishop sent a prayer for strength to Alistair when Cyril yelled at him. “You don’t need strength to deal with Fenrir. Just talk to me like a normal fucking person.”

Bishop Luis flinched like he’d been pinched. It was easy to forget that the girl could hear prays. She often took offense if they were about dealing with her, or her wolf.

“I apologize,” Bishop Luis said when he caught up to them. “It’s a habit.”

“Whatever,” Cyril let out a fed-up sigh.

The housing was visibly more empty, and it still reeked of death. A few blood splatters here and there had spoiled, marking the spots were a few servants died. A single child in ill-fitting armor, a surviving squire, had been posted there. He fumbled an uneasy salute that was rewarded with a tired smile. Despite that, it dazzled the child.  Cyril patted his head, nearly a third her height, as she passed. Fenrir nodded and allowed the boy to pet him.

Bishop found that this wolf was surprising good with children.

They entered the large connecting corridor where most of the servants had been killed. A few old ladies scrubbed hard at the stones with rags, accompanied by a few orphan girls to haul their bales. All of them were quick to throw themselves aside as the “Angel of Death” waltzed by. Cyril had learned quickly that they would never speak to her. The old were too stuck in their ways, and the children they worked when followed suit.

A few children added as guards had no such escape from her, and found they liked the goddess. She never hit them like their leaders, and never spoke. This meant they didn’t have to hide, nor fumble with polite responses. And when the Bishop was with her, he never spoke to them either. It was an overall stress-less encounter for them.

They stepped out of the corridor a minute later and entered the worship hall. The dying and the sick were kept here, under guard by most of the surviving watch and their new brothers. With Cyril rampaging throughout the streets, they had been relegated to keep an eye out for infected townsfolk. This there was plenty of still. Cyril was just one firing throwing goddess, and the port two was several miles long. Their population had been nearly a hundred-thousand.

Only half had survived that. Those who could fight and those who could hide, all while not freezing on the first night. Everyone outside the walls had perished either to the cold or the infection. Fenrir and Layla had killed the turned while Cyril’s blessing coursed through them. A major had died to exposure though. Before they could’ve been turned by the draugr, he’d been killed.

Cyril stopped on the top of the steps outside the cathedral and turned to the Bishop.

“Then who’s running the show here?”

“Lady Gulley, the deceased lord’s wife,” Bishop Luis replied. “She survived in the Keep along with her children and wards.”

“How come I haven’t seen her?” Cyril asked. “I figured I was making quite the mess out there, that someone would come to say something.”

“On the contrary,” Bishop Luis returned his business smile. “We’ve already sent a runner to the castle. Lady Gulley is aware of the situation but asks that you try and keep the damage to a minimal.”

“Asked?” Cyril set her jaw.

Bishop Luis meant he needed to explain. “Lady Gulley is aware of lingering threats. She nor I have the arms to deal with them, nor the coin. You doing it on your own accord is a windfall, even if it’s just kicking the costs down the path. As a matter of fact, that reminds me. Lady Gulley wanted to know how much you wanted for your ‘services’?”

“Nothing,” Cyril shook her head before looking out over the half-burnt town. The damage had been kept to the eastern part of the city, Fenrir had told her of their battle. She had burned down the suburbs during her hunt before it widened to involve that entire part of the city. “I did it because I wanted to spite those things. Not for a reward.”

“If I may add,” Bishop Luis cleared his throat. “If you refuse a reward, it’d be slighting Lady Gulley’s honor.”

Cyril looked at him, chewing on the several ways to say “Fuck her honor” and deciding how much she felt like offending him. Then, she dropped it altogether. She’d read enough stories to know offending a noble was a surefire way to start problems. So, she just took the path of least resistance, in the way she wanted.

“Don’t want it,” Cyril huffed before she turned away and down the stairs.

“Your Grace!” Bishop Luis followed after her, panicking. “Her Ladyship is quite lax in her customs, but honor must still be kept!”

“Do you want to die?” Fenrir growled. “Cyril has said she did not want it. There is nothing more to say, or should I kill you where you stand?”

Bishop Luis froze on the last step, Fenrir’s snarling maw towering over him.

“Leave him,” Cyril tugged on his tail, to which Fenrir turned away reluctantly from the Bishop. “And Luis?”

“Y-Yes?” Bishop Luis replied.

“A lot has happened,” She said as she raked her fingers through her hair. “I’ll say this once. No means no. “

“As you say,” Bishop Luis bowed respectfully. “No means no, I apologize.”

“Good,” Cyril nodded. “Now, why are you following me?”

“Excuse me?” Bishop Luis looked at her for a moment. Then he remembered why. “Ah! Yes. It’s regarding me actually.”

Cyril’s eyebrow rose slightly with interest.

“I wanted to tell you that I’ve told my God about you,” Bishop Luis stated, but Cyril still looked at him as if she waited for the point. “I was told to get on your good side to find out what you wanted. However, since you did save me, I believed it to be a disservice. So I wanted to let you know, and ask you.”

“Right now?” Cyril shrugged. “I want to kill the asshole that hurt Priscilla. Seeing as I was talked into letting his soul go, I can’t have that. So, as of this current moment, I’m going to settle for finding a way to cheer Priscilla up. Afterward? I haven’t gotten that far. Fair enough?”

“And you’d tell me all of this?” Bishop asked with an obvious unasked question.

“Because I have no plans,” Cyril started. “I may never have plans. I’m just living, and that’s about as far as I’ve gotten this week.”

“I see,” Bishop Luis said. “I will relay your words to His Grace Alistair.”

“You do that,” Cyril threw a wave over her shoulder as they turned to leave.

“Actually, I may be of some assistance to your current issue.” Bishop Luis stepped off the stairs.

Cyril grumbled and rolled her eyes before she turned to face him.

“The new year is coming, and normally, the town would throw a festival.” Bishop Luis. “But as you can see, that will not happen. However, the capital will also be throwing a festival and there will be plenty of goods being sold. I know we cannot offer anything here. We will be busy rebuilding.”

“And how do I get there?” Cyril asked with renewed interest. As annoying as the man was, he was finally being useful.

“The festival is in eleven days, land travel will take a week or so to get there.” Bishop Luis said. “But if you go by boat, it’d take only two to three days.”

“Wait, what’s the date?” Cyril asked.

“December twentieth,” The Bishop said. “The festival will start on the first of the year, and go on for a week.”

“What about Christmas?” Cyril asked.

“I am sorry,” Bishop Luis said. “I do not know of this ‘Christmas’ you speak of.”

“It’s a holiday where people exchange gifts with their loved ones,” Cyril said with a smile. “Saint Nickolas goes and gives gifts to all the good boys and girls, and people eat sweets, and decorate trees.”

“That sounds… Quite lovely actually.” Bishop Luis smiled. “But I’ve never heard of it. Many of the ancient holidays, along with history, has been lost to many wars and exchanges of power. The Dragon Empire celebrates very few holidays and less with festivals. The New Year is a festival to a celebration of life and good fortune. However, I think I very much like your idea. What day was it celebrated on?”

“December twenty-fifth.” Cyril said.” In five days.”

“Well, are you going to hunt right now?” Bishop Luis asked.

“Mhm,” Cyril replied.

“If I may, when you get back, could you explain Christmas in more detail?” Bishop Luis. “I believe it would be a much-welcomed respite for the townsfolk.”

“Definitely,” Cyril said with a smile. “We’ll have a talk when we get back. C’mon, Fenrir; let’s wrap up the hunting today.”

“I never thought you’d say it,” Fenrir smiled and turned back to the Bishop as Cyril walked away rolling her shoulders. “And you human.”

Bishop Luis stiffened as the wolf turned his attention back on him.

“Thank you,” Fenrir said.

 

— † —

 

Emperor Ryan Drakefang glared at his second son, Prince Aiden, as he examined his nails in the most obnoxious fashion. His first instinctual reaction was to toss the master-crafted copper dragon at him, the second instinct was to kill him where he sat. Both may have had something to do with his master bringing his child into the fold. Or, maybe it had to do with how arrogant he’d become in the last week, but that golden chain with a coiled dragon pendant served as a reminder not to. 

Like him, Prince Aiden had grown nearly half a head taller. He’d been shorter than Desmond before, as shameful as that was, but now, he was nearly an inch shorter than him. That leveled him the First Prince, his eldest son. Once an indignant little shit that beat his servants whenever they looked wrong at him, he not took to luring pretty women in the city; off for what, Emperor Drakefang didn’t care so long as it stayed under wraps.

And today, he’d even had the courage to waltz into his office during an important meeting, and the seat across from him. Of course, after removing the groveling minister that had sat in it. The minister was all smiles, of course, but that wasn’t his problem. The problem was that this was not a luxury he’d even given his deceased queen.

Being that he was now under the protection of his master too, he couldn’t just kill him outright. Thus, he turned to the minister.

“We’ll convene on the morrow,” The Emperor stated without turning his eyes from his disrespectful child. “I seem to have business with the child.”

The minister was keen enough to see the tension, bowed, and escaped silently out the open door of the spacious study. Neatly recessed bookcases lined the far left wall. Trophies lined the other. Behind the emperor, a large wall that held a map of the known lands. On either side, two large four-piece windows the midday sun to shine through.

Emperor Ryan Drakefrang leaned back, his hands clasped in his lap, awaiting whatever unimportant thing his waste of a second son had to say. However, after a minute of silence, he figured out his son was just toying with him.

“What do you want?” The Emperor said in a deep partial growl. “If you have nothing better to do, you can go to train.”

“I rather not,” Prince Aiden finally put his hand down and looked to his father. “I want a large budget allocated to my palace.”

“No,” The emperor didn’t pretend to even entertain that thought. “Start a business, or go run a city. Earn the gold if you want it, but you will not get any more from me.”

“Are you sure?” Prince Aiden’s eyebrows rose with amusement.

“I am sure,” Emperor Drakefang fought the urge again to throw the paperweight. Brokenwing had expressly instructed that they were to work together, not to fight. But this child had inherited his pride from him, not his strength or his cleverness. That was Desmond’s only redeeming quality in his eyes. His cleverness. Randol had his strength, but this one… Only had pride. Now he had power and pride, which often was deadly if they weren’t the one at the top.

“Well then,” Prince Aiden smiled. “I’ll go earn it then. Good day to you, Father. Enjoy it – not.”

The prince gave his father smile, one someone would give to someone who’d die soon, and waltz out the door, pushing aside the guard that’d almost crashed into him.

“Your Highness,” The guard was quick to bow, but the prince ignored it. “Your Imperial Majesty.” The guard bowed in the doorway a moment later, awaiting the emperor’s acknowledgment.

Emperor Drakefang sent a death glare at the royal guard who, with his head down, didn’t notice. He took that time to burn a hole through the man’s skull before he acknowledged him. “Enter.”

“Your Imperial Majesty,” The guard stood up and saluted. “We’ve received word that the First and Second prince, along with Princess of the Fox Tribe, Princess Mai, has entered the palace. They seek an audience.”

The emperor took a silent breath to calm his annoyance. He’d hoped his youngest would have died out there, but fate decided against it. Since his heir and his youngest had arrived with the rodent, he figured he’d hear whatever nonsense they had to say. The guard had disappeared for a moment, then appeared with the trio.

First Prince Randol was in his armor, per his fancy. And his other son and the rodent princess were dressed in their Dragon Academy mage robes.

“What do you want?” The Emperor said with a bit in his voice.

“I’d like to present this before I give you my report,” Prince Randol said as he held up a small box he’d overlooked in his disgust for his youngest.

Emperor Drakefang gestured with his finger for him to place it on the desk. Randol took a few steps forward, placed it on the table, opened it with it facing himself before turning it to show his father. Inside the box was a small red orb, it shuns a deep crimson, but it was also transparent as a rounded diamond.

“This is?” The emperor felt the aura of the object without having to feel it out. It felt calming and homely. It made him feel at ease. He could feel his annoyance seeping away just by basking in its aura.

“An artifact called Tranquil Last Wish,” Prince Desmond answered as his brother stepped aside. His father only looked at him with astonishment when he heard that. Tranquil Lash Wishes were up there in priceless artifacts. Formed only during the more violent and bloody battles, there had only been a total of five known orbs in existence. Four of them laid in the Theocracy’s possession, and one in dwarven lands on the north-eastern lands of the Iron Mountains.

“How did you come to have this?” The emperor looked to his eldest before he shook his head.

“I didn’t get it,” Prince Randol denied. “Prince Desmond and Princess Mai obtained it during the expedition.”

Randol nodded to his brother to take the lead, and his younger brother began to rattle off the happenings of their failed expedition. Despite how much he hated that child, for once in his life, Emperor Drakefang gave him a beaming smile of happiness.

 

 

 

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