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The Once Lost Swan

By AM_Wright

Adventure / Fantasy

Introduction

Lord Rothbart did not start out so bad.

He was at first a Princely young man with a knack for the hunt and a taste for adventure. His mother was a Lady in the Court of a Faraway Kingdom who married his father, a Huntsman hired by Imperial Guardsmen to track down thieves and scoundrels. They had fallen madly in love, moved to a simple Kingdom, married and had one child.

Lord Feral Rothbart, firstborn son and heir to the only land his father ever owned.

The estate they lived on was a generous gift given by his Majesty and his Majesty’s Queen. They were not known for their generosity but rather their cruelty towards anyone who posed a threat. The Rothbart family was therefore grateful for the land and any opportunity given to the young Lord’s father, though it did take him away from the homestead quite often. His profession called him away to lands nearby and lands that could only be reached by the greatest practice of magic. The young Lord heard stories of such adventures and aspired to be the same as his famous father.

“We need the skill of an experienced Hunter to bring back a runaway.” Queen Cora was rumored to be a fright, but Majestic and quite lovely. Whispers reached them on the winds and told tales of the Queens extracurricular interests. The Dark Arts, Forbidden magic, and unspeakable torture. The red she wore on her lips was not rouge but the hot crimson blood of her victims.

It was the recent Royal call of Queen Cora herself that had the Young Rothbart lord doubling over his notes. He wanted to be absolutely certain of every fable and every fact regarding the reigning family. He would not create a monster in his mind if there was no monster to be found.

“A runaway, your Majesty?” Rothbart’s father, an aged man by the name of Grall, only lifted his head an inch to ask the question that lingered on everyone’s mind.

The entire Rothbart family had been called to present themselves before the Queen. They kept their eyes downcast the moment they knelt in the empty throne room to the second that the Queen was announced. Young Feral Rothbart knelt for what felt like a lifetime and could feel his leg weakening. Both his mother and his father kneeled beside him, which was the only comfort he found in his physical pain.

“Yes, a young maiden.”

His fathers voice was calm but stern, “What is the meaning of her sentence, my Queen?”

“She is of high import, Lord Rothbart. I believe she means to stage a coup to overthrow my family.” Queen Cora, despite her fearsome tone and tactics, did not attempt to hide her worry or concern for the crown. It earned his fathers full attention.

“My Lady, this is indeed pressing. Might I know the full detail of her imprisonment and any other information you have to share? I should depart very soon.”

Beside him, young Rothbart’s mother tensed but she did not dare speak up.

Queen Cora sighed, “Rise. Both you and your family, please.”

When the young Lord looked up he was quite shocked. Queen Cora was dark and daring, her figure cut quite the curve in her black gown but it was the harsh iron in her eyes that caught his breath deep in his lungs. Rumors met reality and he could not see a distinct line drawn between the two. She was terrifying, but beautiful, and her lips were indeed red. Was that rouge or was that blood? Here he was given the full vision of her. This was not a woman he would want to cross, nor was it a woman he would want to disappoint.

“Lady Rothbart, you and your son are welcome to the lunch my cooks have prepared. My daughter will lead you there while I borrow your husband for the time being. This will not take long.”

From the shadows a young woman emerged. Her appearance almost mimicked her Queen mother, though she may have been much prettier and less stern. She was quick to obey and silent in her ways as she led them along.

Glancing back at his father, a peppered hunter with a large frame and trimmed beard, young Rothbart thought his father so brave. Surely a runaway would not take him from home for too long. A young maiden? Hardly a challenge.

At the age of 12, Feral Rothbart could accompany his father if he so wished it. However he was fully hopeful that this was a mission done alone and done quickly. His father would be home again soon.

So when the chamber doors connecting the rooms closed on the dark figure of his father, young Rothbart did not believe it would be the last of him he would be seeing.


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