White, fluffy clouds scattered and dragged across the sky, a light wind tugged them across the sun and along their eternal path. Warm streaks of light illuminated the empty pathways like a river as the rays shone down upon the land. Stone roads of cobble and gravel winded and wrapped around sturdy huts and houses of wood, straw, and brick. The rough and peeling wood on the doors whispered lightly in the calm and gentle breeze. Strands of straw and corn silk fluttered in the air and tumbled down the deserted streets. Lines upon lines of houses and huts shrouded the land, the only plants to be seen were that of which resided in the scarce number of farmlands that dappled the Kingdom of Kalku in Castrumbra, ruled by the Seerian Royal Family. Despite the comfortable warmth of this early afternoon, the shutters were closed tight. The streets should’ve been bustling with life on a day like this. Lean and fast dogs with neatly brushed fur should’ve been prancing and howling along houses and winding between the legs of a busy craftsman or farmers. There should’ve been children laughing and chasing each other in the streets, garments all muddy and torn with disheveled hair and bright grins that stretch ear to ear. There should be women scrubbing clothes on a washboard and men pulling wagons of an assortment of goods. There should’ve been bakers setting their pies on the windowsill to cool and the sound of a blacksmith clanging and banging on metal should’ve rung through the air. But there was nothing. No song or sound or breath of life. No mangy cats hunched over barrels of ale or skinny dogs with unkempt fur and skeletal figures. Nothing. Not a whisper of laughter or a mumble of happiness. Not the whinny of a horse or clip-clop of its hooves as it carries its rider down the stony road of silence. Quite fitting it was, though. Secrets and treachery. Such foulness had no place amongst the laughter and sunshine. A threat slunk through the few dim shadows of the Kingdom, though nobody knew of it. Not a single commoner in the city quite knew why they were placed under house arrest by their most gracious ruler who seemed awfully distressed when he had made the announcement.
King Maverine III. Generous and kindhearted, benevolence and forgiveness were what he was known for, despite the fact that he ruled the Kalku race. The Kalku, perceived by all as wretched and foul and vile abominations. Few dared cross them and even fewer dared befriend them as they were pictured as disloyal backstabbers that could find your deepest secrets and twist them against you. Beings who cared for themselves and themselves alone. But King Maverine III differed greatly from the common misconception. He reigned with his heart in his right hand and a sword in his left. Steadfast and loyal, always doing what’s best for the people rather than himself. When he made alliances, he stuck with them to the end. When he made deals, he always fulfilled his end of the bargain. Never broke a promise or betrayed anyone’s trust, though that was typically overlooked in favor of focusing more on what King Maverine III was rather than who he was. But that’s just the way the world works, always looking but never seeing. People are often too engrossed in their own achievements or problems or other personal matters to hear the pleas and cries around them. Of course, not everyone is like that, just an unpleasantly surprising majority are. Although, there isn’t much use in trying to change that, as people are reluctant to change things at times, especially when those things aren’t immediately beneficial to them. Stubborn, pig-headed, and flawed people were at the worst of times. Participating in shameful and self-indulgent acts that warranted harsh and fierce punishment for which they would never receive if they had a good hand of cards. Higher ups mostly, and those who would boast about their achievements and wear their accomplishments on their sleeves like emblems. Looking down on people as if those with less fortune were somehow of little value, as if their lives had minimal to no meaning safe for the purpose of labor. They place too much value in what family you came from, what race you are and how much money you have, never looking past the physical appearance. Never seeing what lies beneath, what is truly of any value.
Despite the mistreatment and misconceptions, the utter inequity and biasness of his treatment, King Maverine III still ruled with justice and benevolence, wearing a banner of forgiveness, earning the love and respect of the people. He treated them as equals, even when his life was shrouded in misery and despondency when his beautiful wife had passed. Even further sorrowful and treacherous as she had died by the hand of a traitorous citizen who was pre-presumed to be loyal. All the more proving of the fact that people are much deeper than what’s seen on the surface. Shadowing things that they prefer to go unseen and never uttering a word of their secrets, forever keeping their shamefulness in the dark. Underlying talents and skills, little quirks and traits that are much more important than gems and gold. The mind allows people to see, only what they want them to see and only what their willing to let be seen. But, as strong and powerful as the mind can be, a sort of feebleness dwells in its stems. Not everyone can have a steadfast mind, and everyone can be swayed and molded into what’s desired of them with a little bit of time and effort. Fragile in a way, people are. Bending to the will of another with no less than a few words. Too naïve yet much too skeptical. Eager to believe what’s desired and reluctant to listen to the truth if it doesn’t play into their personal needs.
However wrong they can be, secrets and lies are a natural part of life. People lie so much about silly little things they need not lie about, and they lie about larger matters in times of which the truth would be better. But the truth can be difficult to say. It can hurt others, or cause deep feelings of guilt, embarrassment, and shame, and people can be quite cowardly you’ll find. Some people have legitimate reasons to justify their lies while others do it for selfish reasons. There are many reasons to lie. People can lie out of fear to save their skins. People can lie and deny help to maintain their pride. People can lie to manipulate others to get what they what. Some will lie as a necessary evil on a road to exact vengeance. And some lie simply because they can, manipulate others and cause discord for their own amusement.
The people of the kingdom couldn’t exactly be mad at King Maverine III for lying, because he hadn’t given an explanation. While it’s true he obviously knew of the threat that lurched in the shadows, nobody had asked him about it. His reason for placing temporary house arrest on everyone wasn’t questioned. Nobody had asked for a reason; therefore, he would not have to give one. His secrecy couldn’t be considered a lie really, but an unspoken truth. But regardless, the citizens would be quite displeased when they learn of the reason for house arrest and the subject of secrecy.
The threat slunk through the shadows, clad in black, blade glinting in the sunlight. Its movements were quick and thorough as it moved in the shade as if becoming a shadow itself. Weaving between carts and barrels and winding between houses as it crept down the road. The cloak it wore did not drag, did not touch the ground nor did it float and flutter in the breeze. The figure in black wore its cloak like a second skin, identity concealed. Cunning and cautious it was as it swiftly avoided windows and watchful eyes of the Kings Royal Guard. It made not a sound as it moved, not a breath or sigh or whisper. It was as if it were a mere shadow, an embodiment of darkness without a name or face or intention of any sort. It slipped behind the castle guards and into the confines of stone and cement. White marble walls adorned with rugs and carpets of the deepest purple. Statues and plants and tables lined the walls of cobble, decorated with paintings upon paintings, the bright orange glow of torches stretching down the halls as far as they go. The threat sullied the bright of the halls with its sinful shadows and blade of dark fate. It moved along the walls; dagger concealed in the sleeve and continued to slither down the halls until it met the throne room. And that was where the threat paused, waiting, and watching for its moment to strike.
“I do wish you would stop worrying so much boy, you do it much too often,” a voice belonging to King Maverine III, gruff and deep sounded from the throne.
“Worrying is the only rational reaction at the moment,” another voice, much less deep, yet much more serious responded.
“The guards are watching, brother. Not much of anything slips past them,” a third voice came from a place not far from the threat, from a separate hallway that led somewhere else, probably bedrooms.
“Of course, you’d say that Mikhael. And I wish you’d snap out of your little fantasy land where everything is fine,” the second voice snapped back.
“Don’t antagonize your brother Etzel. He’s only trying to calm your nerves,” King Maverine’s voice seemed calm, with the intention of mediating.
“Oh, you’re all delusional! Have you no recollection of mother? Well, I’d expect you wouldn’t Mikhael, being the baby of the family and all, you have no memories of her, do you?” Etzel growled out, a short yet shocked silence following.
“Well, nothing!” Etzel cut Mikhael off.
“How I wish you’d just shut your trap for once, Etzel. Just once I wish you’d realize that not all of Midgard needs to hear your voice,” a new voice joined in, sounding tired and irritated.
“Nobody needs the opinion of the first born, Vindor. I bet you can’t wait for father to die and the crown to be passed to you,” Etzel hissed.
“Now, Etzel don’t be absurd,” The King came immediately to Vindor’s defense.
“I know it’s quite hard for you to comprehend, Etzel, but not everyone is power hungry. I believe you know that the crown is hardly in my interest. Much too many responsibilities for me, and I don’t quite care for people,” Vindor responded, boredom dripping from his voice.
“Oh of course not Vindor, you’ve not a care in the world! All of Midgard could burn to the ground, and you’d not bat an eyelash!” Mikhael shouted, his voice echoing off the walls of the throne room.
“Not true at all.”
“Yes, it is! You could be surrounded by fire and magma, and you wouldn’t pay it any mind”
“Wrong you are, I’d chuckle for a few seconds as you thrash helplessly in the throes of lava, and then I’d go about not caring,” A small smile could be heard in the eldest son’s voice.
“Oh, this has nothing to do with the situation at hand! I’m trying to prove a point here,” Etzel hissed, a loud stomp of his boot emphasizing his anger.
“We all know what point you’re trying to make here, Etzel. But it’s simply not going to happen. I’m not ordering a town-wide interrogation and I’m not ordering a castle lockdown.” King Maverine dismissed his sons with that. The sound of Etzel stomping away drowned out the sound of Mikhael’s shuffling down the halls while Vindor strutted off in silence.
The King could be heard sighing in amusement as the threat watched him as he slouched back into his throne. The threat kept to the wall as it watched the throne room, listening for any indication that a guard was on the way. The orange glow from the flames of torches stretched out into the throne room. King Maverine sat there, knees apart, one arm resting on his leg. His elbow sat on the arm of the chair with his pointer and thumb pressed to his temple, seemingly in exasperation. The room was silent except for the gentle breaths of the King as he made an attempt at calming himself. He slouched, garments pooling on the floor in a puddle of dark purple and white. Strands of gray streaked his beard with age, the crown was not atop his head but set aside. A furry cape of black covered his shoulders and back with a silver brooch across his collar bone. His eyes were tightly shut, and brows furrowed, wrinkles creased his forehead and mouth drawn down in a stressed frown. The throne of polished chestnut and deep blue fabric was positioned near the end of the room down the center about 5 feet from the wall. Two tall torches were positioned on either side of the throne and a deep purple tapestry baring the sigil of the Kingdom of Kalku just behind it. As the King sat in deep concentration, the threat slithered against the walls with feather light steps. It was but a flash of black as it made its way behind the throne. King Maverine still sat with his fingers pressed to his head, breath shaky with fear. His throat felt restricted with grief as tears threatened to stain his clothes. Memories of his wife, assassinated years ago, flooded his mind. He’d known he’d be next though the identity of the assailant remained unbeknownst to all in the Kingdom. Of course, there were speculations, but none could be proven. In the midst of his sorrows, he was oblivious to the gloved icy hands of death that locked around his throat.
King Maverine’s hand dropped from his face and his eyes widened in shock and terror. His mouth flew open to give a shout but with one quick and firm squeeze the threat had crushed his larynx, cutting off any sound that tried to escape. The threat loomed over the King as an embodiment of death and watched him. A hand flew to the Kings throat as strangled breaths clawed their way out of him. His arm flailed and strained for his sword, but another gloved hand pinned him down. A blade slipped from the threats sleeve and was pressed to the Kings throat. His eyes darted around the room and his face paled from lack of oxygen and pure terror. His legs thrashed and knocked into torches, clanging of metal echoing around the room as the atrocity took place. The blade, positioned against the Kings throat, glinted in the light as it was slid across skin. A thick crimson poured out in steady streams across the silver dagger. It ran down the Kings chest and stained his clothes with a red that could not be washed out, for the gruesome memory would now be engrained in every fiber of the fabric.
Etzel, Mikhael, and Vindor Seerian rushed into the room at the sound of a clash and arrived in the throne room, several guards were forming a half-circle around something the brothers could not yet see. A cold stone of dread seemed to have dropped in Etzel’s stomach as he thrust his way through the crowd and his eyes fell upon a sight he did not wish to see. Vindor and Mikhael came up beside their brother with horror painted on their faces. Mikhael dropped to his knees as sobs wracked his body, Vindor placed a comforting hand on his brother’s shoulder, his typically stolid features twisted into a look of grief. Etzel could feel nothing but rage and despair as he stared at his father’s body, drenched in blood. A peculiar sight on the wall behind caught his eye as he neared the corpse and he moved around the throne to examine the wall. Fury shot through his veins and wrath boiled in the pit of his stomach. He thrashed about, drawing his sword he swung it around in a mad haze of anger, slashing at the stone walls, hacking at the throne, and tearing at the tapestry. His brothers and guards watched him, keeping their distance, and not daring to interfere.
“Son of a bitch!” Tears threatened his eyes as he screamed out, whipping his sword around. “That winged serpent scum will pay in blood! She’ll resent the day she was born, mark my words!” Etzel fell to his knees as he screamed to the sky.
Scrawled across the wall in blood the words read;
Long live the Dragon Queen