Those fools and wretched sons of Arden! Their passions are too great, and for them they fall like the grain at harvest. Can they not see the wages of their destiny; the dangers in the paths they choose? Soon their lives I’ll lay in shatter. Arden’s brothers for Faverly’s sisters.
Chapter One: The Myth
The king lay sprawled out on the couch of his private chamber, which was adjacent to the throne room. His left hand rested over his eyes while his right laid by his side playing with the fringe of the blanket underneath him. He simply lay there, quietly pondering the events of that morning. His advisor, a great and noble idiot, had finally come to his senses and obeyed his king: the boy would die, and that pitiful man could not prevent it.
He let out a gentle groan as he rubbed his face, now trying to awaken himself. With a swift motion he swung his legs over the edge of the couch, and for a second, he leaned over with his elbows on his knees, his head spinning, before sitting straight up. The footsteps he heard that had riled him from his rest now paused outside his door.
“Come in you fool!” the king cried out.
The door pressed open, and a young man peeked inside. He was a new servant, fearful to enter the king’s presence as most newcomers to the castle were. Hesitantly, he brought his fruit laden tray to the king. Arden was a rather warm and humid place. The fruit was available year-round, and though some might have thought it a treat, the king grumbled loudly at the sight of it; It had become mundane to him.
The server, however, was unaware of the King’s displeasure. His whole body seemed bowed over slightly, carrying his offering ahead at arm’s length. He placed the dish on the bench next to the king and, without lifting his head or turning around, floated to the door, closing it behind him. The king had to wait but a second till the door opened again, this time without the pageantry as before. Tall and mighty, the king’s advisor entered.
“My king, I see the day finds you well,” his advisor began.
“Why yes, my dear friend, it does. You have carried out your orders, and with such care! Tell me, how did you manage to conceal yourself?” the king asked.
“My lord, I fear I was not as successful as you had wished,” the advisor warned. “I have just returned from the market. Already there are great murmurings among your subjects. They suspect foul play.”
“Let them do as they please. What can even the greatest of my people do but speculate?” the king said plainly.
His advisor continued, “The consensus among those I spoke with is that the child died from the fall, or perhaps suffocated when the blankets fell on top of him. A few argue that the babe may have just died, as many infants do, and the nurse watching him was so afraid that she knocked the cradle over to make it look like an accident.” The man paused for a moment before he admitted, “Still there are those that suspect it was murder.”
“My good man, I fail to see the proof of murder!” the king blurted out, suddenly sitting up.
“Details of this morning, or rumors if you prefer, have spread quickly,” the advisor explained. “They say that after the child was removed from the room, the weight of the cradle was so great that three maids together had to lift it back to its place, leaving all of the maids individually blameless of the accident. It is also rumored that the cradle was in no way damaged and that there was, therefore, no reason for it to fall unless a man pushed it. I feel it would be wise to destroy that cradle immediately.”
The king thought for just a moment before he said, “I see. I shall have it hacked to pieces so that no man may see the truth behind it. As for the other details, they can be easily explained.”
The advisor nodded before continuing, “Then the matter is settled, but another issue presents itself. What of the Sisters? I understand you wanting a son’s death, but what threat could those girls present? They are just children.”
“I have been thinking upon that myself,” the king said as he laid back. It would seem that we ought to limit the stain of infant blood on our hands, yet the Sisters present a degree of danger if they are to produce the next heir to my kingdom.”
“My lord, think on this with care,” his advisor pled. “The people are torn. They had much hope in your son to unite them. Should they discover the Sisters to be deceased as well, it may cause an uprising. They shall suspect foul play. The countries that sent the girls will be most displeased if they are returned lifeless. For now, none would believe you capable of murdering your son, but if they die too who knows what they will be compelled to believe? It is better to let them live. Tell the people now that you will have another son. Restore their belief in you and keep them dumb at least until the prophecy is a myth and nothing more.”
The king paused for a moment, trying to take in all he had heard. He stared down at the floor for a moment before his eyes returned to his advisor. The fool had done him one service in eliminating his heir. Now perhaps he could humor him and keep the girls for a little while.
He straightened up, and in an authoritative voice, he resumed. “Ever since this prophecy was uttered, my men have retained control of that cursed fortress in preparation of this time. I want you to send the girls there. Take them to Faverly as we were told to do. Take the map from my journey and return there. Take with you whatever you think the fortress will need along with ten servants to care for the girls and protect them. Only be careful whom you choose to take. I would not want any more unexpected heirs. In time, in a place so far away, they will be forgotten. Then we will decide.”
And so, it was done. The girls were sent away while the king used the anger and confusion caused by his son’s death to rally his people behind him. In time, a year or two at most, the memory of the Sisters would fade, and then he could dispatch them. They were just seven little babes: all girls, all born on the same day as the king’s son, but each born in a different country. It was foretold that they would be the ancestors together of a single male who would unite the world in peace.
Years of darkness and famine followed that day, yet the king in his high walls was unaffected. Sixteen years passed to be exact before the Myth of Arden once again returned.
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The king entered his bedroom many years later filled with a fantastic sense of warning. He shrugged his shoulders as if to shake off his feelings as he turned towards his bed and raised his right hand slowly. His fingertips caught the smooth softness of a cord that hung from the ceiling. Gently he pulled it till several young servants entered the room. They occupied themselves with every detail of the king’s busy nightly ritual before exiting, closing the door stoutly behind them. The king now lay in his bed, staring into the darkness.
His mind wandered as he thought of the blind man who would entertain him with stories in the evenings and wondered what he must see: blackness, whiteness, red like the look of the sun through closed eyes? His stories were always so vivid as if the man could look into another world. The king had been told again and again by the eternally patient blind man that he saw nothing at all. However, the king had never seen what nothing was, so the form of it was foreign to him. Therefore, if the man had never seen anything how would he know what nothing looked like? He resolved only to inquire again of the man the next evening, for his eyes were growing heavy.
He closed them, but it was so dark that the room remained unchanged. For a minute he fancied that his eyes were still open, but after blinking several times, he became quite sure that his eyes were indeed closed.
He shifted his weight back and forth restlessly, trying to establish a comfortable position before he was able to take in a deep breath and set in. A moment elapsed. The room was completely silent. Again, he shifted between the covers. Yet as he did so he became aware of a noise. The silence was again broken.
“Who was that?” he pondered. A guard, or his wife perhaps? He sat straight up in his bed, his ears straining to listen. Again, there seemed to be no sound. Again, the silence beckoned. His drowsiness overwhelmed his fear. He motioned to lie back down when he thought he heard it again. His heart quickened. His breath grew shallow. It all seemed to be connected; connected to his premonition…
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“What premonition?” interjected Marcus. His female passenger glared back at him, arms folded, a pursed frown on her lips. She strained to hold this pose as the carriage they were riding in swayed suddenly, forcing her to reach out and catch herself. Marcus tried to hold back a laugh. As he did, she noted the faint wrinkles beginning to form in the corners of his deep brown eyes. He was a handsome man with defined features and dark, tan skin. His hair was black and somewhat long.
“If you are going to keep interrupting me I’ll never get through this story,” she warned.
“What premonition? I do not remember hearing about one,” Marcus insisted. Seeing her glare sharpen, he raised his hands in defeat before motioning her to go on.
Marcus’s escorts had explained earlier to his befuddled passenger that under any other circumstances Marcus would not have been so cross. However, he had been traveling almost nonstop for the last four days to arrive at the capital city of Arden, which at that time was called Pent. The reason behind the urgent trip was unknown to all but Marcus, yet his royal position delegated him the luxury of such an expensive excursion unquestioned.
His young, female passenger had been spotted very early that morning as the caravan made way through a small town. Marcus immediately liked her. She had smooth pale skin and long, straight, dark hair. Her eyes were large and a brilliant shade of blue. In exchange for entertainment, Marcus had agreed to let her come along.
As it turned out, Marcus’s escorts were being somewhat deceptive about the prince’s temperament. In truth, Marcus was always known to be cross.
“As I said before, he had a premonition right before going to bed,” the young girl annoyedly insisted.
“Of what, exactly?” Marcus shot back sourly.
“Of sugar, and rainbows! What do you think it was of? You should just know premonitions are always bad,” she snapped back.
Marcus paused for a second, seemingly insulted before he gave out a hearty laugh. He hadn’t been spoken to like this in some time. He found it almost endearing. This girl was either brave beyond measure or incredibly naive.
“Yes, I guess that is a silly question, please go on,” he said with a charming smile.
His passenger smiled back and continued…