"Another useless traveller." The older one scowled as he threw the backpack down, its contents spilling into the mud. "What!? Are we supposed to become, clothes and kitchenware merchants?! Aye, there isn't a bloody traveller carrying enough gold. We still do not have enough gold to get into the Hunlic kingdom."
The younger thief let himself explore the belongings his senior threw away, picking each one up and washing the mud off in the rain. Looking back up at his frustrated senior, he questioned. "I thought we were supposed to bring these back to the cove before taking a looking. Won't da boss be mad, Master Grieth?"
Grieth frowned as he tried to make out what his apprentice was saying above the chaos of the storm about them. He then answered back as loud as he could for the lad to hear; the storm getting more fierce, "Aye lad, she would be mad, if she ain't already a crazy hound. The best chance we have is to buy ourselves back into the kingdom. No use wondering about thieving!"
The young lad stared at him only able to catch every second word his master spoke. Grieth drew a sigh and hooked his hand around the back of the boy's neck. Pulling himself and the lad closer so they have a better chance of hearing each other above the thundering storm. "Let's get out of this storm and then I will explain everything." Grieth half yelled at the boy. Their foreheads were almost near enough to touch. The young lad gave his master an affirmative nod.
Taking the muddy things they entered back into the house. The metallic stench of fresh blood mixed with the gut-wrenching smell of vomit filled their senses - Grieth was not fond of killing unarmed civilians, but to ensure they won't be found, it had to be done. Since one of the travellers recognised him from his trial for the crimes, he did for the cove - Grieth was accustomed to these conditions as it was not the first time, but the young lad that came with him was not. As soon as he entered the house, his hand shot up to block his nose. His stomach-lurching uncontrollably. Grieth turned and gave a strong pat on the lad's back, who held his torso, turning away from the scene of dead bodies.
"There we go, hold it back. No one has poisoned you. No need to lose any more of yourself."Grieth said calmly, giving the poor boy another few pats on his back before pouring the rice-wine into two of the wooden mugs. Grieth grabbed the lad's shoulder firmly to gain his attention as he handed the mug of wine to him. "Here drink this, while I come up with a new plan."
The young lad downed the wine as he tried to stay steady on his feet. When he finished, he sat down with Master Grieth at the table still feeling a little queasy.
"Alright, so here's my thought to get back into the kingdom. We don't have enough money to bribe our way in. Yet." Grieth said as he eyed his young apprentice."There has been rumoured of an old castle in the abandoned kingdom that has jewels and gold linings embedded into the walls. It could be our only way to get you back to your family in Hunlic."
The young lad becomes lost to his thoughts, listening to his master in half disbelief. "You are going to be taking me back? How can you be so sure that these treasures are still there?" the lad asked trying to make out if Grieth was telling him the truth and that there wasn't a trap waiting for him.
Grieth chuckled, "Surely you trust me by now. I wouldn't put my neck on the chopping block for you if I didn't think you were worth saving."
He pulled out his damp, old map and showed it to the young man. "We are on the border with the Kingdom of Wolvar and the Abandoned Kingdom. They won't find us if we leave by nightfall. If they have figured us out. That is."
"Will we get there by morning?" the young man asked glancing up at Grieth. Grieth shook his head as he rolled the damp map back up and slipped it into its leather tube. "We will get there soon enough. It shouldn't be more than a few weeks to the castle from here."
The young man's face fell at that, not excepting or wanting to be on a long road home.
The journey to the castle of the Abandoned Kingdom was long and more difficult than first thought. The castle was much further then Grieth had anticipated, with a lot of the kingdom's terrain reduced to black soil dunes and ash-filled sky. Even when rashin' become dangerously low, they had not been able to find any wildlife or fruits that they could replace it with. When all hope seemed lost and a trip wasted. Grieth looked up to the horizon as the young lad grumbled and cursed the day he ran away from his home. There were ruins of a once-grand building cloaked in ash, that hid the rising sun.
Grieth becomes hopeful once more and ran on ahead, leaving his young, grumbling apprentice to catch up to him. Looking over the vast expansion of the open plain, his hopes were rewarded. They had at last reached the ancient ruins of the Abandoned Kingdom. Grieth turned and shouted to the young man, who was doing his best to keep up. "We've found it! See? Now we are going to be richer than the Kings of Hunlic!" Grieth hooted and whistled, relieved and excited to have at last found the ancient palace of the once-powerful kingdom. They both ran the rest of the way to the dark looming castle as the sun rose higher in the ashy sky.
The walls of the ancient palace crumbled as they drew nearer, revealing an old oak door. The large oak door moved wearily. When fully opened, it broke free from its rusty hinges and crashed onto the floor. Wincing at the ground shaking crash, they pay no mind to the fallen door, since people no longer lived in the palace. Grieth and his apprentice walked into the building, the walls were broken and chipped away as if there had been a great battle. The artworks adorning the walls where either fading or torn. The sun shone through the gaping holes in the roof and floors above, creating a still and eerier atmosphere as the dust and ash hung in the thick hot air.
They entered into the throne room after carefully coming up the broken staircase that was laced with the remains of a brutal war: broken bones, rusty armour and forgotten weapons. On the walls dancing up to the unsteady ceiling, were beautiful fading paintings telling the story of how the island Meddashia was created and how the Abandoned Kingdom's people found it and created an empire. Within reach, as Grieth had said, was precious metals and stones decorating paintings of the past and the grand still standing thrones. For 450 years, they had not been touched.
Grieth didn't hesitate to draw both of his small blades. He handed one to the young man next to him, "Come on, we need to take more then we can carry if we want to get back into the Hunlic kingdom."
They got to work straight away and had almost stripped half of the first wall of the throne hall when the young man stopped to admire the painting in front of him.
It was a painting of a prince; a crown was adorned on his head with real sparkling jewels. His arms were crossed over his chest and his eyes were closed. Just below his pecks was a large emerald that sparkled with a blue hue, as if there was a blue glowing liquid floating inside the gem. The young man took a breath as he finished admiring the artwork that had kept its beauty for over 450 years. He jammed his dagger behind the jewel and worked hard to pry it out of the wall.
At last - with great effort - it broke free from the wall and landed in his hand. It glowed a deep-sea blue through the green prison. Then it began to change its hue slowly to orange and then at last dark crimson. The young man looked up as the painting began to crack with the wall. Without warning a hand shot out from within the wall and grabbed the young man's throat, lifting him off his feet and into the air. Grieth was further down the wall when he looked up to see what all the commotion was.
He shuddered as he watched the being who had come out of the painting snap his apprentice's windpipe with its thumb pressed into it. The being was tall with a split likeness to the painting of the prince it had just destroyed, its eyes were black with glowing white irises and deep red pupils. It let go of the lad's body, letting it fall limp to the floor. The being then looked at Grieth, who was frozen in one place. With each step it took towards Grieth, the more he wished he had believed the old forgotten prophecy and had stayed away from the Abandoned Kingdom.
Grieth, upon instinct, grabbed his alkem powder and poured it shakily over his hand. He rushed to put the bottle back in his pouch. Grieth rubbed the powder into his hands, letting it begin to glow, summoning his blood weapon. Drawing an alkem sword out of thin air Grieth readied himself for a fight. His sword was almost transparent and glowed a coral colour around all its edges. The being stopped in its tracks for a moment, tilting its head slightly as Grieth shouted to it. "The war you remember is over! Meddashia is at peace now. I am not looking to fight you and will leave everything we took in exchange for my life."
The being was in front of Grieth in a split second, lunging for his throat, Grieth dodged it quickly and swung his sword at the being. To his terror, his sword could not cut it. The being grabbed him and smashed his body against the wall behind him. Grieth spat up blood and wheezed through violent coughs. His ribs and spine pulsating with intense pain. He struggled to open his eyes only to find himself staring into the menacing eyes of his murder. The being whispered to him, "The war... hasn't yet begun."
Grieth then recognised the being in front of him from a painting from the portrait hall. "Prince Nikcree? H-how..." he stammered releasing his final breath. His eyes became dark and foggy as the light from them drained into nothing.