"We will see, Edwyrd." Death blew flames at Edwyrd melting his sword and shield and burning his arms. "I will lead this world into darkness," Death says as he blows flames at the wall. It burns a giant hole, a way out, and Death flies away through the hole.
Edwyrd pats the flames that were burning up his shirt. His face tenses in pain as he runs to the hole in the wall. "Alexi, I think we have a war coming. The future's not going to be pretty."
The Age of Dragons Begins
Edwyrd ripped a strip of cloth from the bottom of his shirt and wrapped it around his burned arm. He looked down at the floor and shuffled his wife's ashes. "There goes the burial I had planned..." he mumbled.
Alexi watched what was passing, prepared to step in, but as the dragon flew off, her eyes narrowed and her head tilted downward with her eyes still watching the dragon in the distance. "If a war 'e wants, a war 'e'll get." She jumped out the hole, using her hand to guide herself down to the wall until she landed crouched on the ground.
Angel went over and closed the door, then turned to the king. "Edwyrd...I think...it is time to prepare to find these upstarts." She handed the key back to him. "Do you have armor?"
Edwyrd nodded. "Alexi!" he yelled out the whole. "Come! We must prepare together!" He then turned to Angel. "I have plenty of armor. You must get prepared, too."
"I do not need preparation!" Alexi yelled back, still on the ground. She touched it, looking at the dirt in front of her. "I will wait 'ere."
Angel sighed slightly. "I am not a battle mage," she said quietly. "But I will certainly do my best."
"Okay! We'll meet you there when we're ready then!" Edwyrd yelled back at Alexi. He then turned to Angel. He took her hands and, in a soft voice, said, "You may not be a battle mage, but you are my friend. I'll need you with me. I don't know if I can do this alone." He dropped his eyes to the floor and dropped her hands. Without waiting for her response, Edwyrd started down the hallway. "The armory is in the basement. Follow me."
"Edwyrd," Angel said on a sigh. She followed down the hall and looked at her hands. "We may very well need more help than just the three of us. As formidable as we are, I am certain they have mages and warriors aplenty."
Edwyrd stopped to let Angel catch up and began to walk in step with her. "I know. I have it covered. If we're on the brink of war we have to let the people know. Then who wants to can train from my troops. You can gather the mages and Alexi can gather the merchants and outlaws." He patted her back. "We must stay focused."
"Edwyrd," Angel said hesitantly. "If this is war, I am loath to say...The people need more than the hope of battle." She wasn't going to say it out loud, mainly because the king already knew what she was getting at, but the news of the death of the queen on such a day as this one in particular was bound to hit some people rather hard. Angel was no exception, despite the fact that she did indeed hate festivals.
Edwyrd stopped and his brow furrowed. "I know, I know..." he muttered as he rubbed his temples. Nothing was coming to him. No matter what idea he could come up with, the future and its outcome was grim. He thought of many things, but the best idea was to lie about his wife. But he couldn't do it. He couldn't murder his self-conscious that way. Then a light bulb went off. It might sound bad, but it would work. "Umm...." he said quietly. "I have an idea that would offer hope, but you might not be up for it..." He stared at his hands as they began to sweat.
"You might as well ask. The worst I can say is no." Angel paused in her walking and turned to look at him. "And as I learned at a young age, a question unasked is already answered nay."
For being a king and an adult for so long. He never realized how hard it would be to ask this simple little question. He had no greater friend than Angel now that Kharis was gone forever. Edwyrd's knees began to tremble as he writhed his hands together. "Um....uhh..." he stammered. "We...you and I, can bring hope the kingdom through marriage." He let out a sigh. He got it out. He looked up to see Angel's reaction to the crazy idea.
It took Angel a moment to get over the shock of what the king had just said. It took her another moment to be able to reply. "If I was not your very good friend and did not understand how your mind worked, I would call you crazy." She paused. This was, of course, something every girl had dreamed of, if not the exact situation they wanted it to stem from. "This will only work if you do not announce Kharis' death. You must tell them...let the people believe she left of her own accord." She didn't want to seem insensitive by marrying Edwyrd just after his wife's death, but she wouldn't say no. "Only under that condition do I say yes."
Edwyrd let out a breath. He had just realized he had been holding his breath that whole time. "The only reason I ask is because you're one of my best friend...well, now my only best friend, but I like your thinking. I have a feeling some people would have though that I didn't love Kharis and that I may have killed her because of my love for you. I give you my word. The Kingdom won't know." Edwyrd smiled as warmth filled his heart. A new age was dawning and he was ready to finally accept it. He slowly hugged Angel for what seemed like forever. He smelled her hair and smiled. He finally let go. "We need to get moving. Alexi is waiting for us."
Angel hugged Edwyrd back, then made her way down the hall. "You are going to need sturdy armor. And I can bespell it to deflect most spells." She didn't want to say all spells, she knew better. "I am...going to need to change." She looked at her dress and frowned. A moment's spell weaving and the dress turned into a pair of harem pants and a crossed top, almost like Alexi's garb, yet subtly different.
They turned into a side hallway that led down some stairs. "My armor is very sturdy, trust me, but it might be good if you bewitch it." He laughed. "I will need a change of clothes, too, but sadly I can't change that quickly or easily. Everything I need is in the armor room. We need to hurry." At the bottom of the stairs he continued straight, passing many hallways. He then turned left, passed three doors, and open a heavy wooden door. "Here we are."
Angel stopped just behind Edwyrd and started her spell weaving. She would wait until he had donned his armor before casting it, but she had to prepare it before hand. A pinch of this in her hand, a touch of that, an incantation, and several quick movements. She also started adding her own twist on the spell, an extra safeguard, to keep his mind his own, away from Alexi's prying.
Edwyrd stripped off his royal robes and grabbed a light shirt he tucked into his breeches. He pulled on mid-shin high leather boots and strapped in a dagger to the inside of the right boot. He then put on other armor padding before adding his belt and sword. He strapped a shield, a quiver full of arrows, and a bow to his back. He then added an extra dagger strapped to his forearm underneath the sleeves of his shirt and armor. He then grabbed a couple long spears and a carrier to strap to Dhaerow. "I'm ready when you are," he said to Angel.
Angel finished her spell weaving and nodded. "This should be good for now." She looked down at her own lack of armor and shrugged. Anything padded would only cause her to loose her ability to cast spells as effectively.
Edwyrd nodded back. "Let's go." Edwyrd led a brisk pace out of the castle and around the bend to where Alexi was waiting. He whistled to Dhaerow, and he landed with a thud near them.
Alexi looked at Edwyrd and Angel as they appeared. "Good. You got your armor." She shrugged and patted Dhaerow as he landed. "Got any other 'elp that might be useful?"
Edwyrd strapped the spears to Dhaerow's front leg. "We should plan our attack. We need to know what more we are up against before we just run in there hollering. We shall round up the troops, have some scouts trail the dragon, and then formulate a plan of attack."
Angel caught up in time to catch the last of his short speech. "Plan of attack? We cannot plan an attack without knowing our or their troop strength. We do not even know where they are. We need to get our bearings, then gather the heads of the guilds." She frowned down at her own hands. "What we really need is...as much as I hate to say this, a spy."
"Yes, I agree, that is why we round up the troops." Edwyrd chuckled at Angel's last statement. "That, my dear, is why Alexi is here," he said as he motioned to her. "I'm worried about what the people will think." His brow furrowed as he thought. "We shall announce our wedding to the people then a few days later or so, after we know what we're up against, we shall tell the people about the upcoming threat of war." He nodded. He liked that plan, but he wasn't sure if it should be done the other way. There was no reason to rile up the villagers if the threat was just a bluff.
Alexi looked up at Edwyrd. "Do not rile up the villagers, but get the gypsies. They'll 'elp, for sure." She ran her hand up Dhaerow's leg. "There is a chance, 'owever slim, that they'll 'ave some intel."
"Right." Edwyrd nodded. His mind's a little spacey. He was glad he has other to help keep him straight right now. "Shall we go together? I think they would have a better response from you Alexi rather than the King."
"Don' be too sure," Alexi said under her breath. She climbed onto the dragon's back, whispering elven words of comfort and ease to him.
Angel looked at Edwyrd and frowned. She wasn't sure if he knew of her...less reputable connections, and she was loath to bring it up, but the thieves guild would definitely come in handy. "Edwyrd, I may be able to speak to some of those people who may be able to help, if you would like."
Edwyrd thought for a moment. "That would be great, Angel. You talk to the Guild leaders and, Alexi, would you mind rounding up Hector and some of the merchants? I know them well and I think they would also be of some use. You can take Dhaerow if you'd like. I'll talk to my advisers here, and you both can report back later. Sound good?"
Alexi nodded from on top of Dhaerow. "I don' think Hector will be too surprised by the summons." She smiled and looked at Angel.
Angel hugged Edwyrd quickly and went over to Dhaerow, climbing on with the dragon's help. "Take me to my shop first, please, then we can get started."
Edwyrd watched the girls fly off into the starry sky. He sighed and headed back to the castle to talk to his War Lord and other advisers.
A little while later...
"I can't afford for my people to be hurt!" Edwyrd said hotly as he slammed his fist on the table. This meeting was going as planned. He sat roughly back in his chair and rubbed his temples. "Gathorc, what do you think? If we're on the brink of war we need troops. We can't go out with plain villagers and get slaughtered. I won't allow it."
Gathorc sat there, leaning to the side on the arm of his chair with a fist clenched against his chin for support as he thought. "Are there no other countries or kingdoms we could have an alliance with? Do we not have soldiers in training?" His dragon Xerxes laid behind him, coiled up for rest upon the slick, stone floor. A puff of smoke left Xerxes' nostrils.
Edwyrd put his elbows on the table, using his hands to prop up his chin. "We do have two other kingdoms we have alliances with, but it would take months for them to train and travel, and by that time we would have wasted to much time. We do have soldiers in training, as always, but not nearly enough to take on dragons! We know of at least one dragon, but dragons don't tend to live alone. The most troops we have is to protect us from siege; not nearly enough to take on a war." Edwyrd sighed.
Gathorc stood up and paced with his hands behind his back. Folding wings at his side, he looked up at the ceiling. "Do we have any other options? Any whatsoever? There's just got to be... unless... I might have an idea. It might be cliche', but I am quite certain of it's effectiveness. You wish to protect your precious people, correct, ma'lord? Is there anywhere we have a fortified castle or any strong building in general to protect them in that could hold off fire power? If so, we could use siege and long ranged weapons to protect them the hold. I can muster together my magic-user companions to dispatch the enemy as much as possible. I also have Xerxes by my side."
Edwyrd thought quietly. "Well, there's always Z’Ress, the hold in the side of the mountain. It's always protected our people during times of siege and defense. Yes, yes," nodded the king as he began to think more about it. "Then we dragon riders could take to the skies. I like that idea. Then those who wanted to volunteer could man the long ranged weapon systems, freeing up troops for a ground ambush. Z'Ress is was made for fighting and defense. It has many spots in the wall of the mountain to place cannons and long range bows, along with smaller niches for archers. They're hidden the right way that you can only see them from inside. Good. Good." Edwyrd nodded as he kept thinking out Z'Ress and its defenses. "I like it." Then Edwyrd smiled. The first time in what felt like a while.
"Excellent," Gathorc replied, bringing a fist up to his face in ambission. "Z'Ress... It's perfect." Straightening up, he turned around to face the king. "How long will it be until our departure? And what length is the journey ahead of your people?" Gathorc peered over at Xerxes, Arise, Xerxes.
Xerxes woke up and brought himself to all four claws. So... what has our lord decided?
he asked curiously and steadily. The dragon lowered his neck to come within eye level.
We are going to Z'Ress to defend the people from the dark dragons,
Gathorc replied quickly.
Kiratosh left her chair, believing that she had heard enough. "Z'Ress? Are you certain of this? It's almost like trapping ourselves in a corner. What if one of our defenses crashes in and becomes vulnerable to invasion?"
"Then they'll have me to answer to." Gathorc growled in irritation of the thought.
Edwyrd held his hand up to quiet Gathorc. "I understand your concern Kiratosh, but Z'Ress won't fall. It's made in
a mountain. If our defenses are breached, there are tunnels that lead out in various ways out of the mountain. We're not really in a corner. It will probably take a couple days because we have to travel through the woods to get to the mountain. How do we move all the villagers without causing panic is the true question." Edwyrd sat back in his chair and his brow furrowed in thought.
Gathorc stepped back, allowing Kiratosh to intervene.
Kiratosh sighed, moving forward to the middle of the meeting. "My king, the people will found out whether you will it or not. It's best to tell them in such a way that it will give them the courage to move and prepare. I feel bad mentioning this, but some might offer their services willingly to you."
"Yes, yes." Edwyrd nodded. "We shall have a wedding," Edwyrd said quietly, but nonchalantly as if it was the right answer all along. "It shall be held in Z'Ress."
Gathorc nodded. "Then, I suppose it has been decided."
Edwyrd nodded, still lost in thought.
It had taken Angel a bit longer than expected to garner support from the guild heads. She opened the doors to the meeting room quietly and slid in, closing them silently behind herself. She was dressed in Mage Armor at this point, her belt lined with pouches of spell components. She stayed near the door, against the wall, watching.
Edwyrd looked up, about to say something, but lost his thought when he noticed Angel. That armor looks so good on her,
he began to think, but shook the thought out of his head. This was no time for that. Edwyrd cleared his throat and said, "Angel, good of you to stop by. I believe we have come an agreement. Would you like to hear about it or report first?"
"I can report," Angel said, taking a step forward. "We have the support from all guilds except the merchant guild, who, naturally, want nothing to do with anything that might lose them customers." She made a face at that thought. It was typical of the merchant guild. "I do believe some of the guilds are sending ambassadors to speak with you."
"Good, good," Edwyrd nodded. "That decision was expected from the Merchant's Guild. I would have been surprised if Hector helped us out," Edwyrd mumbled. He cleared his throat. "Please take a seat, Angel, and I'll clue you in. For starters, we have decided to move all the villages to Z'Ress and fight from there. Getting all the villagers without causing chaos and panic will be a problem, so we shall have our wedding there thus moving most of the villagers without causing panic. Getting the enemy to attack us there is the next question. Also while we have the wedding going on we should send out scouts. I want to know what we're up against. Any ideas anyone?"
Angel sat at the table, eying those who were already there. She tapped her fingers on the table as she listened to Edwyrd. "There are runners in the Mage Guild, they are talented scouts. I could send for them."
"They would be good. Maybe we can send some people from the Assassin Guild to help with stealth," Edwyrd replied.
Lord Iroh slammed his big fist into the table. "No!" he yelled full of rage. "I will not allow for us to work with the Assassins Guild. What about the Assassin of Sin? I advise against this sire. Haven't you heard the rumors?" he pleaded.
Angel gave Iroh a look that clearly said she disagreed. "Rumors are just that. All of that will matter not if you are killed by more evil people." Angel's voice was one of contempt for the fear of the Assassins Guild. It was the same misunderstood fear of the Thieves' Guild and kept her from revealing the Guild to the king.
Edwyrd thought for a moment. "I do agree with Angel," he nodded. "But we must be careful. We must be honest and in now way act shady. And you must keep your temper, Iroh."
Iroh bowed his head. "Yes, sire," he whispered.
Sarah smiled as she walked through the area undetected by guards or mages. She travelled from shadow to shadow until she came across a room where she heard voices and the mention of her Nickname, "Hmmm, I shall listen a little longer and see if they are here," she said quietly to herself as she stood blended into a shadow on the verge of using it as a walkway into the room.
Edwyrd stood and started pointing out jobs to people. "Angel, you're in charge of getting the runners from the Mage Guild and Assassins Guild. Gathorc, I want you to round the troops and prepare them for battle, but do it in a casual way. Kiratosh, I'd like you to prepare Z'Ress. Take some villagers with you to decorate for a wedding so none of the villagers panic. Iroh, I want to you keep your mouth closed and no drinking." Iroh blushed and tried not to smile. "Everyone good with that?" Edwyrd stopped. Something's missing,
he thought. "Where's Alexi?" he muttered under his breath as he put his hands on his hips.
As the king muttered, the elf in question pushed the doors open and paused, sniffing the air. "My apologies sire, it seems that 'ector was 'arder to pursuade then I thought." Alexi frowned and entered the hall. Her eyes traveled to the shadows, sensing thoughts there, but she did not speak of it to those gathered. Not yet.
Sarah moved into a deeper shadow closer to the King. 'So he's giving the orders and a runner from the Assassin's Guild will be coming, they'll most likely send Him, as she calls him since his name could be anything,' she thought to herself a little uneasy with the entering of the elf who might have picked up on her whereabouts.
Edwyrd put his hand on his chin in thought. "Really? I wouldn't think he would be that hard to persuade, but then again, times have gotten hard," he said, talking out loud to himself. "Thank you, Alexi. Please have a seat and join us. Thank you for going out for me." Edwyrd nodded at her and waved his hand towards the empty chair by Angel.
"Well, 'e wasn't 'appy bought losin' one o' 'is workers," Alexi said as she walked further into the room. She opened up her mind, picking up on the thoughts in the shadows. She gave Edwyrd a smile as she passed and whispered in his ear, "The Assassin of Sin is here."
Sarah smiled in the shadows looking at her first target if a fight would break out between them. "Killing is all to easy, but it's not fun to destroy the harmony and balance of the world," she thought, figuring the elf would pick up on it.
Edwyrd nodded as he registered what Alexi said. He would let her take care of it, but still kept his guard up. Edwyrd laughed heartily. "Hector would do that, now wouldn't he." After a moment of pause, Edwyrd stood back up. "If no one else has anything important to report or any thoughts, we shall adjourn until a later date."
Four Figures, wearing the outfits of the High Assassin's, were headed toward the castle. "She is there I can feel it in the air," said Vance as he looked at the others. Cyrus laughed delightedly, "I will kill her if its the last thing I do," he said looking at the twins who were showing their despise in his attitude. "Why do we have to kill her for," said Lan, "She hasn't done anything to us that would cause us to kill her," said Van.
Back at the castle...
Alexi smiled at Angel as she glanced at her, but her mind was following the Assassin, Sarah, keeping track of her.
Angel stood and nodded to Edwyrd. She wanted a moment with the king, but everyone was quite busy with their assignments and she had work to do. Glancing at the door, she decided to wait until others had left to try to contact the guild runners.
As the four Assassins made their way to the castle, so did a fifth figure. A small dragon was following an elven girl dressed in green. She had a squirrel on her shoulder, and she had a crooked half smile on her face. Alessa Treeborn wasn't often found not smiling. She was only a few feet behind the assassins, and she quickly picked up on the topic of conversation.
Vance stopped walking, his eyes piercing everything around him. "There is an elf behind us," he said. "She may be a possible threat. I want you all to fan out into scout formation: long-range in the back, close range in the front." The Twins nodded and communicated to each other quickly. Cyrus smiled and changed into a half dragon man he met 2 years ago and had killed. "Elf," he said facing the opposite way that she was, "are you listening to us speak like it's your business?" Vance said with a wicked grin on his face.
"Oh, I cannot help it. You all think
so loudly." Alessa grinned at them as she quite easily tracked the assassins. She was much better at telepathy than her sister, who was mostly physical. Shrieve, the small dragon, hissed at Vance, but Alessa put a hand on his snout, silencing him. She shot Alexi a quick message and stood, her hands ready to grab one of the weapons on her back.
Alexi, still in the castle, suddenly ran out the door without a word, running to the nearest window and leaping out. Nevermind that she had to slide down the side of the castle and hit the ground running. She was out of the castle and on the main path before anyone noticed her. Unless they were elves, it was doubtful that whoever was bothering her sister would see or hear her coming, and even then they would have to be highly trained elves.
Van noticed an incoming elf from the castle and relayed it to his brother Lan who popped out of the forest in front of Vance. "Another Elf is coming," he said, "Possible threat 10%; we could have them dead in seconds if only you ask."
Vance looked at Lan and nodded, "Then they have acknowledged that we were coming to talk to them," he said, his eyes piercing everything. He saw the elf moving at incredible speed. "She's fast; I have to admit." He turned around and looked at the elf behind him. "You have no reason to grab your weapon for you are not our target elf," he said then paused, "but I have a question for you to answer me," he said. "Have you seen the one called 'Sarah Grimstone'?" he asked.
Sarah knew what would cause someone to shoot out of a building like that, 'The Assassins are here,' she thought then quickly delved into the shadows walking along their paths, avoiding the gaze of Vance knowing he would be somewhere nearby.
Alessa had to stifle a giggle at Lan's decision that the assassins could easily take her and her sister. As Alexi skidded to a halt on the other side of Vance and Lan, throwing up enough dust to choke a horse, Alessa tilted her head slightly at Vance. "Sarah Grimstone? Well, of course I haven't seen
"But I have sensed her," Alexi finished from behind Vance. Alessa nodded and continued. "And I shall warn you only once, lycan, and you can inform your shapeshifter and fellow elves, if you cause any trouble on the path you are one, your lives may be forfeit. No blood shall be spilt within the castle." Alessa did not care much for assassins who killed without cause, and girls had no qualms with stopping more bloodshed.
Vance laughed. "Are you threatening the ones who bring death by its embrace, the ones who decide if kings and castles will fall," he said then made a snap sound as his comrades came out of the forest around them looking at the two elves.
Cyrus laughed, "Don't think you can control the Assassin Guild elf," he said, "Any who try will be murdered in cold blood like everyone else we've ever killed."
Van and Lan looked at the two Elves with slight curiosity. "Where by chance did you sense her?" they asked in unison.
Vance looked at the Twins and shrugged. "Give up on her you too, she will die by our hands," he said then continued. "We will keep our killing to a minimum as long as no one gets in our way," he said. "You have my heard as one of the High Assassins directly underneath the Master."
Sarah watched from a careful distance just outside of Vance's eye range as the groups exchanged works with each other.
Alexi actually snorted with laughter as the others came out of the forest. Alessa simply kept smiling. Knowing her sister would not answer, Alessa allowed herself to sense in the area. She felt the watchful eyes of Sarah not far, but wasn't going to pinpoint for assassins. "We are not your lackeys nor do we answer to you," she said. "And you are hardly the ones who decide if kings or castles or anyone for that matter will fall." She nodded again at her sister, who would be the one doing the majority of the work if this group didn't stop posturing and threatening. "You will not
be killing within the castle," Alessa finished. "Not even if you believe it to be required." She quickly contacted with Angel, the mind of the woman still in the castle who Alexi was thinking of.
Angel narrowed her eyes slightly and nodded. She moved over to Edwyrd and put a hand on the king's arm. "The assassins are coming, though they may be slightly delayed."
Vance laughed,"You are a cocky individual, but let's be honest here," he said. "I'm not here to argue with the king's lackeys, I'm here because the King wanted us to come," he said. "So will you be escorting us, getting in our way, or are you an enemy of the Assassin Guild Elves," he said directing it toward Alessa.
Van and Lan showed signs of disappointment at their question not being answered by the other elves.
Cyrus looked at the two and grimaced, "Quit worrying about her you nitwits," he said. "She will die, and you will be happy. I don't care if you have your displaced honor towards your forgotten teacher," he said looking ticked off at the many elves in the area.
Alessa rolled her eyes at Vance. He was too sure of himself. And she could see right through him. Alexi answered instead. "We will not be lettin' any of you into the castle with death in your 'earts and killin' on your minds. An' we know what is on your minds, even wit'out your sayin' it." Alessa smiled at her twin before looking at Vance, smile still in place, and raising an eyebrow at him.
Back at the castle, Edwyrd nodded to Angel. He gathered up his papers and files in a folder and led Angel out of the room. He linked her arm and whispered in her ear, "Since we have some time, there are some things we should talk about. Mainly our wedding." He winked at her with a devilish smile and lead her down the corridor.
Angel followed, wondering vaguely what could be on his mind. She thought it would be a normal wedding. Or was he wondering about afterwards. The thought made her blush slightly, an act that was so out of character for her that she sincerely hoped no one saw it.
Edwyrd smiled at Angel's blush and could guess what she was thinking. "I'll just leave her in suspense,"
he thought as he continued to lead her towards his chambers.