Story Time Contest: Hero Edition
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9th Jul 2012 at 6:57 AM
Thanks: 2648 in 11 Posts
Round 1: Prologue
Like maggots feasting on a lion’s carcass, the cancer slowly consumes him, weakening him more and more with each passing hour. These days, his disease ridden body trembles with even the slightest movement, but he forces himself to sit upright anyway.
“Emmeline,” he whispers, his once robust voice now struggling to pronounce my name. “I have but one request, before the Dark God comes for my soul.”
I nod my head. “Anything, Sir Roldan. I will do it for you.” And I will. For eight long years, he has been my mentor, my guardian, my friend. Since my mother’s death, he has taken me in and taught me everything I know. I will not let him down. Not now, not ever.
“Take that letter,” he says quietly, “and deliver it to Triston’s crowned prince.”
A cold shiver runs down my back. “His royal highness? Would not a man of lesser rank satisfy?” I plead.
“No,” he replies, summoning up a shadow of his former tenacity. “It is of the utmost importance that you give the letter to the prince and only the prince, intact and unopened, before his impending coronation. I cannot stress that enough, Emmeline. Promise me.”
I take his hand in mine, squeezing it gently. “I promise,” I whisper, fighting back tears.
With painful effort, he removes a single silver ring from his finger and places it in the palm of my hand. “Give this to the prince, as a sign of our goodwill.”
“Sir Roldan has died,” I announce, emerging a few hours later.
As warriors in the elite Order of the Lynx, we are trained from childhood never to show emotion. Emotions lead to mistakes, our masters explained, and mistakes lead to death. However, the men, my brothers and fellow fighters, seem disheartened by the news of our leader’s passing.
“We must return to Wallington at once,” Tariq commands, “to bury his body amongst those of the fallen.”
“Yes,” I concede, “but I cannot go. Sir Roldan has given me one last mission. I leave for Triston at once.”
“Triston?” he growls. “What business does Roldan have there?”
“He did not say, and I dared not ask.”
“But you hate Triston,” Gideon chimes in, already heavily intoxicated at this early hour.
“Yes, but for Sir Roldan, I shall wade into the bedroom of our enemy and see through his last wish, regardless of the price,” I declare, sounding much braver than I feel.
The journey to Triston’s capital is relatively short; just a few weeks ride on horseback. Calix, my cat, accompanies me on this trip, despite my insistence that he stay home. Unfortunately, he talks much more than he listens.
Those were foolish words for a foolish mission
, he purrs, licking himself clean.
I laugh. “Perhaps, but foolish or not I will see it through.”
Only a fool would risk her life for a dead man
, he insists.
Besides, what do you owe a prince whose soldiers beat, raped, and murdered your mother and sisters? If it hadn’t have been for Sir Roldan, you probably would have joined them in the Realm of The Lost Souls.
His words cut sharply at my old wounds, reminding me of painful memories I so desperately want to forget. I was merely ten when they were killed, a frightened child, helpless to save her family. The Tristonian army massacred my entire village; men, women, and children all murdered at the tip of their swords. Within a year, my country was being ruled under the iron fist of Triston’s infamously cruel regent, Lord Hadrian.
I tell myself that I’ll be strong
, that I’ll fight for their honor, to make right their deaths, but I often wonder if my resolve is not fading. I have grown comfortable in my life as a Lynx warrior. Too much so, I believe. I hate Triston with such passion that my heart aches just thinking of it, but yet I have done nothing to stop their bloody crusades and ruthless conquests. The shame feels almost unbearable.
Tired, sore, and hungry, I arrive at the castle late one afternoon, only to be turned away by two crude guards looking for any excuse to fight.
“I need to see the prince,” I declare impatiently.
They laugh, a grating sound that wears on my nerves. “Don’t we all, sweet cakes. How about you see me instead, in about 30 minutes when I get off?” the blonde one taunts.
My hand automatically reaches for the hilt of my sword, but Calix meows, warning me to play nice.
“Fine, then I demand to see your commander.”
They skulk at this suggestion, but after a bit of persuasion I manage to gain an audience with the head guard.
“The prince?” he asks. “What business do you have with him?”
“A letter, of urgent importance.” Hesitantly, I show him the envelope, so old it has yellowed with age.
Upon seeing the seal, stamped with some symbol I do not recognize, the guard grows visibly uneasy, fidgeting back and forth.
“Right this way,” he directs impatiently.
After a few hours of waiting, he leads me into a richly decorated office and snaps the door closed behind me. I have never seen the fabled prince before, but I immediately know this man is not him.
“Who are you?” I ask quietly, feeling unusually anxious.
He smiles, revealing two rows of perfectly white teeth, but his eyes remain still and untouched. “Who are
?” he wants to know.
“I have a letter for the prince,” I explain. My normally forceful voice suddenly sounds weak and desperate.
“Let me see,” he commands. It is not a question, but an order.
I feel my temper begin to rise. “It is for the prince and the prince alone. I demand to see him!”
He laughs, a hollow sound that feels as empty as his cold blue eyes. “Making demands of the regent? You are a feisty one.”
The regent? His words sink in slowly, like a thousand angry needles piercing my skin. I start to apologize, but I quickly stop myself. I shall not grovel before a murderer.
He smiles again, amicably motioning to the chair in front of his desk. “You seem tired,” he comments. “Perhaps you’d like to stay the night at the castle? I’m sure there’s room in the servant’s quarters. I can arrange a meeting with the prince tomorrow, once he returns from his hunting trip.”
He seems… nice. Too nice, I think, but I readily accept his offer for lodging. It will be much cheaper than renting a room in town.
That night, Calix awakens me from a sound sleep.
That’s all he says, but after years of training I immediately spring into action.
“Who sent you?” I yell once I’ve got the man pinned to the floor.
He laughs, but with one brutal twist I show him who’s in charge.
“Why are you here?” I demand.
“The letter,” he chokes, but before he can say anymore he collapses to the floor in a lifeless puddle.
“Dead,” I tell Calix. “Cyanide poisoning, I’m sure of it.”
He was sent here to murder you
I roll my eyes, feeling unreasonably irritated. “I know that Calix,” I snap.
I told you it was a fool’s mission
I ignore him and begin searching the man’s clothing for clues. I find a piece of paper tucked in his pocket with a crude map of the castle drawn on the back. One of the guard’s towers appears to be circled. “He was going to meet someone here,” I surmise. “Perhaps… Perhaps a bit of digging is needed,” I whisper, an idea forming in the back of my mind.
After swapping clothes with the dead attacker, I find my way to the location on the map.
“You’re late,” the man says, without ever really looking at my face. “Do you have the letter?” he asks.
“She burned it,” I whisper, stretching to make my voice deeper and more masculine. If he notices anything suspicious, he remains quiet about it.
“Burned?!” he sounds horrified. “Lord Hadrian will have my head!” he wails.
“What does he want with the messenger’s letter?” I speak slowly, delicately probing for more information.
“How do I know?!” the man snaps. “All he told me was to get that letter in one piece. Something about the old king’s seal.” And with that, he stalks off, leaving me alone to ponder his final statement.
Calix catches up with me a few minutes later.
Can we go home now?
he asks, sounding droll.
“Not yet,” I smirk. “Something about my letter has the regent on edge, and I fully intend to find out what.”
He yowls angrily in my ear, but I gleefully ignore him. Perhaps now I will have a chance to seek the revenge I so desperately long for.
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