LORE OF THE DUCHY:
The spring rains drizzled outside of the window, long into the night. Malcoy was reading by candlelight, rubbing his eyes as he began feeling tired beyond measure. As the last drops of beeswax were dropping from the candle in front of him, he began to realize how late it was, and the soothing sound of rain was causing him to drift into slumber. In such turbulent times as these, the smaller Lords of Aclys have been concerned for their future - the future of their families, their lands and their people. Despite him dealing with their petty affairs, he could not manage to put those concerns to rest. 'I was never meant for this', he thought ruefully. Though as much as he wished to bring his brother back, the Lord of Aclys was gone and there was nought to do but to fill those shoes until young Lord Asteroth comes of age. Reminiscing of days long past, Malcoy began making his way toward his bed chambers, when he heard shouting coming from the hallway.
"Malcoy!", He heard a harsh and familiar voice from outside as the doors broke open. General Drednil leapt from the dark hallway, clad in chainmail and an ornate breastplate, a well-crafted piece with shoulders wrought in the shape of wild hyenas and chased with gold and silver. Pox scars marked his cheeks, only partly concealed by his silvery forked beard. He was furious about something and kept shouting for his ward to fetch him some wine, his yells echoing through the Castellan's office.
"What is the meaning of this?!" Malcoy rasped back at him. But before he got a reply, they were interrupted by the sound of a wooden cane tapping against the floor."General, this is ill considered!" He could hear the weak panting of Eddin Weasley, followed by coughing. "I beseech you, General, this is ill considered!" he slowly limped into the room, wearing a tattered grey robe only held together by a belt of boiled leather, and his seamed face might have been made of the same thing.
"Not another word from you, Clubfoot!" Drednil began waving his clenched fist at him, "I've had enough of your useless babble, and I'm talking to the Castellan now." His gaze dismissed the old tutor in an instant and shifted back to Malcoy. "Now, where's that damn boy?!"
"Probably fetching your wine."
"Not him, you fool! Where is your little Lord, eh? He is nowhere to be found. Nowhere, I tell you!" He continued shouting, his face turning into a different shade of red every instant. "I took your word that this would not happen, and you said this old fool was supposed to be watching his damn chambers!"
"General, I.. I.. ", the Clubfoot whimpered, "I must've fallen asleep, pray forgive me, but the young Lord is simply not used to being held a hostage in his own home." Before he could continue, the sharp edge of Drednil's blade was pressed on his throat. "Not. Another. Word." the militant drew back his sword before once more turning to Malcoy. "Curse you, Malcoy.. if your little nephew has escaped the castle, do you know what the Hazar will do to me? But you needn't worry about that, oh no.. you best worry about what he'll do to all of you when he finds out your brother's treason is still festering within these halls."
To that, Malcoy had little choice but to submissively bow his head. "It shall not come to that, General" he assured him, "Lord Asteroth will no doubt be here on the morrow.The rebel Godwin is dead and my brother a fool for following him, and the Hazar knows he has our everlasting allegiances."
"For your sake, I pray you're right," Drednil proceeded to sheathe his blade, as a little hazelnut haired boy appeared behind him, holding a flagon of wine. "There you are! What took you so long?!" He gave the young ward a clout in the head with his gauntlet on, then grabbed the flagon from his hand.
Malcoy seemed furious at that, "Enough of this! The boy is a new Ward at our court, and you will leave him be," he felt a headache that wasn't there just moments ago, "Now, out. All of you! We shall speak no more of this for the nonce, I need some rest."
The General ran out first, ranting about everything and nothing all at once, followed shortly by the limping maester and the boy. Finally alone once more, Malcoy took a look in the mirror by the entrance to his bed chambers and ran a hand through his hair that seemed more and more grey by the day. 'Why did I get so old?' He perplexed. Perhaps it was all due to his new position, yet there was hardly way out now. And so Malcoy retreated for the night, and for that moment it seemed his troubles would never end.
"What is it with these cursed snakes?!" Clubfoot pushed away a viper with his cane, as he and Malcoy were walking along the plaza toward the great hall of Aclys Castle, "they seem to be everywhere these days."
"The snakes are the least of my worries right now, dear Edd. Tell me, what news of my nephew?"
"Your nephew has shown up in time for his lessons today, my Lord. Everything is in order, and he has proved to be skilled at mathematics," his tutor was proud to admit.
Aclys Castle was a stone structure built in the shape of a triangle, with round towers rising thirty feet tall at each point and thick crenellated walls running between. Orange banners flew from its battlements, displaying the sigil of House Vyre, yet the entrance to it was guarded by men from the Hazar's Garrison. General's men. Malcoy couldn't help but feel worried at their presence, but he turned his attention back to Eddin Weasley. "It's getting dark, and my nephew seems to have been avoiding me. Let him know that I wish an audience with him right away."
"This might not be possible, Sir. The young Lord has shut himself in his room and refused to come out."
Malcoy lowered his voice, as he pulled Eddin by his sleeve and took a few steps back from the garrison men, "My nephew has been unwell, Weasley. Something is happening to him, and it's going on at the worst time imaginable. This garrison is here to ensure that Lord Asteroth does not follow his father in his treason. If we give the General any doubt in this, it would mean our ruin."
"You should be patient with your nephew, Malcoy." Eddin stroked his chin, "You know he still grieves for his father. It has not been easy on him." Malcoy shook his head at that, "No, Edd, something is happening. He has not been himself recently, and something has taken hold of him. Something strange," they walked further away from the Hazar's men, "Did you fall asleep last night? I know you don't sleep as much as you used to, my friend."
"This is nonsense, Malcoy. The boy simply snuck out of his room, what more is there to it? As a scholar, I must reject these ludicrous claims." The Castellan pressed a finger against his chest, "If you wish to shut your eyes to this, Edd, good and well. But you best remember that we need to control my nephew at all costs." he took a step back and dismissed him with a wave of his hand, "Now leave me, I have some business to attend to." The guard Malcoy was approaching had been eyeing him up and down for a while now, and he was quick to speak up as he saw him getting closer. "State your business here."
"I am serving as Castellan of this castle," Malcoy narrowed his eyes, "I don't need to say anything to you. Now tell me, where is your General?"
"General Drednil is looking for your Lord, he needs an urgent word with him."
Malcoy felt a headache from last night again, "He does not speak to my nephew without my presence! Now move away, I have to find him." Before the guard could make any objection to that Malcoy shot past him into the keep of Aclys Castle. The hallway he was passing through was dark, and Malcoy could barely see where he was going until he heard a terrifying shriek come from the great hall, he bolted toward it with no hesitation. The hall was just as dark, with nothing but the moonlight rays shining through the windows. At that moment Malcoy noticed a figure standing on the wooden days just in front of the Duke's Throne.
"Who's there?" He called out and in an instant all of the candles on the main table of the hall lit up, and the sight before caused a spine-tingling terror piercing through Malcoy's body. The lifeless body of a Hazar's guard was lying by the table five feet of him, and hissing snakes were crawling all over it. The Castellan's breath was caught in his throat, and then he heard the chilling laughter, deep and throaty, of young Lord Asteroth standing on the dais. His cries might've been agony or ecstasy or both. His eyes were smoking black coals and blood was dripping from them, as black as pitch. "Gods preserve us" he whispered to himself as he saw the shadow his young nephew was casting. It was not the shadow of a man, no, but a dark and twisted thing with two grasping arms, with black fingers coiling around Asteroth's shoulders. Malcoy wanted to run, but it was at that moment that he saw General Drednil come in through the side entrance, screaming for the guards.
"You cursed wretch!" in a hiss his blade went from his scabbard, "you murdered my man, now die for it!" he charged toward the throne, steel in hand, but the lights once again went out for what seemed like seconds. In a short while, the candles were lit again and Lord Asteroth was nowhere to be seen - as if vanished into thin air. "Witchcraft!" the General spit on the ground, "The Hazar will hear of this, you will all burn for your treason, just like Jackar!" In his rage, he did not see Malcoy approaching him from the back, nor his dagger.. It was only when he pierced the back of Drednil's throat, and the blood came running in a hot black gush, that Malcoy went closer to his ear and whispered, "I'm sorry, but I cannot let that happen."
"Halt there!" before it was all over, the three guards from outside were suddenly standing where Malcoy was standing moments ago. He knew good and well there was no way explaining himself out of the situation, he only managed to reach for Drednil's blade before his lifeless body could hit the floor. And so began the dance of steel. The Castellan lurched to his feet. Two guards drew their swords, and the third one's hand whipped around in a blur to send something silver flashing across the hall. If Malcoy had not been moving, the knife might have cored the apple of his throat, instead it only grazed his ribs, and wound up quivering in the wall. The two guards were grim, methodical fighters, and they pressed him steadily backwards, their swords moving with brutal precision. Malcoy's cuts were sloppier, his parries slow, his feet rushed and clumsy. 'I'm too old for this', he realized with dismay when a cut came slashing straight at his face. The Castellan grunted pain as one side of his face ran red from temple to cheek, and the stub of his ear was gone. That seemed to give him courage for another attack. He drove the first guard back with a furious attack, hammering at him with the nicked short sword he had swapped from the General. The bearded guard gave way, but none of the cuts so much as touched him. And then the other guard leapt over a bench quick as a snake and slashed at the back of Malcoy's neck with the edge of his blade.
As he got stabbed, Malcoy twisted violently aside, falling to the floor. Blood ran down his face and from the gash in his neck, and he was looking up at the guards as one of them thrust his blade through his chest area. After that, all he could see was light. A bright, flashing light moving toward him, and a silhouette standing in front of him. He attempted to speak, but the blood caught in his throat and gurgled. In his final moments, all he could muster were two little words. "Help... him..."
On that more a gusty wind was blowing from the entrance to his balcony, as Asteroth Vyre awoke as if from a bad dream. The past weeks seemed to have been a blur for him, a strange dream he could not quite put the finger on. After he got up, Asteroth found a basin and a flagon of cool water and washed his hands and face, but no amount of scrubbing could cleanse the grief he still felt over his beloved father. He needed some fresh air to clear his head.
This high up in the keep of Aclys Castle, the views were splendid. His balcony opened up to the east, so he could watch the sun rise above the sea. The other side allowed him to look down upon the marvellous Phoenix Tower. Asteroth leaned forward over the balcony, and as the wind was blowing through his dark hair, he gazed upon his father’s lands - now his lands. 'When did it get so warm in Aclys?' He wondered to himself. At that point, he remembered how badly he needed to talk to his uncle. He expected Malcoy to see him right away, but when the door finally opened it proved to be only the servant girl with her meal. "Your tutor wishes a word with you, M'lord." She bowed her head to him as she left the platter on his table and bolted out of the room.
Not long after that, The Clubfoot limped into the room, slow as ever. Yet Asteroth could tell right away that something troubled the old scholar, a grim look had appeared on his leathery face. "Your Grace, might I have a word? I fear it is dark tidings I bring to you today."
"What happened, Sir Eddin?"
"I-it's your uncle.. Your Grace, no one knows what happened," the old Mann whimpered, "but Malcoy killed a guard from the Hazar's garrison, and after that he murdered General Drednil in cold blood. He was caught red handed in the act."
"What!?" Asteroth gasped, "Where is he!? I need to see him."
Tears began filling his eyes as he could read the look Weasley gave him perfectly well, "Your Grace.. he, he was put down by the garrison menn." And suddenly as that, he felt like weeping, but he brushed away the tears in front of his tutor.
"The situation is grim, Your Grace.." Wesley continued, "The remainder of the Hazar's garrison demands an explanation for your uncle's treacherous acts. You have to denounce him, Asteroth - you have to! Or the Hazar will end your House once and for all."
"Why did he do it, Sir Eddin, why?" the young Lord looked away to conceal his face "He knows good and well this is not the time to strike back, The Hazar is just too... too powerful."
"I cannot claim to understand it, but.. but you must proclaim him a traitor, it is your only hope right now."
"Then so be it. Write a letter to the Hazar, tell him the deep regret I feel for my uncle's actions. Tell him that he was still loyal to my father, but that I have seen the error of their ways. Tell him that we will always be loyal, but know that this will not be the last I have to say it." Asteroth clenched his fist in anger. To that, Eddin Wealey bowed his head and slowly removed himself from his chambers. And so, Asteroth has left to his grief again. The last of his family wiped out, and his people enslaved by that cruel tyrant Radrik. He felt hopeless, alone - how could he, a boy of sixteen fight against such a force as the Hazar?
He felt like going back to slumber at this point, but once more he realized that he was not alone in the room as he heard the creaking of his door. A young boy walked into the room, with hazelnut hair - it was the ward his uncle had brought to court, offering refreshments after he broke his fast. Asteroth was quick to dismiss him, as he was looking for solace, but to that the boy straightened up "Your Grace, might I have a word?"
"A word?" Asteroth stroked his chin, "Very well, lad.. come sit with me by the balcony." As the two of them were gazing from the platform, the little ward seemed determined to speak out, only to stop himself in an instant beforehand. Something seemed to have been troubling. "Speak your mind, lad, what is it?"
To that, he finally spoke up. "I'm sorry for the death of your uncle. I knew him quite well, he was the one who brought me to court when my family passed away. A good man."
"Thank you for your kind words," Asteroth went on, "but you would be wise not to speak so kindly of him in public, boy. He has done a horrible thing."
"I don't believe that, General Drednel was cruel and I'm glad to be longer serving him. I'm sure your uncle had a good reason for killing.."
"Hold your tongue!" Asteroth had to interrupt him, "what's done is done, you'd be wise to linger on it no further."
The young boy seemed disappointed at that, "But do you not wish to fight back? Do you not wish to avenge your uncle, your father? I certainly wish to avenge my family."
"Do not question my thirst for vengeance over what they did to my House" Asteroth grabbed his arm with a firm grip and moved closer, "but the time is not right.. not yet." Silence filled the air after that, until the young Lord finally went on. "I know who you are, lad.."
"You.. you do?"
"Of course I do.. you're at my court, after all. Don't you think my people would keep me in the dark about Godwin's last living son is here? Your name was Vaizer, was it not?" The boy responded with a nod.
"Listen, Vaizer.. " he went with his hand through the boy's hair, "there will be a day when you and I will fight back against those who have wronged us.. But that day is not today. So I need you to keep your head down, do you understand?"
The boy responded with a nod once again, but continued on this time, "Your uncle said my father still has friends in the Demalion Land. He said that they would fight for me against the Hazar. Will you fight for me?"
"I will fight for you. For why else have we put on this world but to continue where our fathers left off?"