ISARD

The word 'treachery' has already graced the ears of Prince Isard, the first-born son of King Islar and the next in line for the Dark Throne. He stormed the halls of his dominion with a presence that exuded such ominous feelings that the flames in the overhead hanging lanterns began to flicker with a purple hue. Banners fluttered nervously as the hallways grew dark with his terrifying authority as his thick lined robes lightly trailed the ground and gave greater presence to his being. Clad in armor bearing the arms of the Dark Kingdom, the crest of his family and the symbol of the Eternal Mother, Isard crossed the Throne room and advanced up the stairs to the dais of the castle.

There was blood in the night's air and his senses immediately picked it up. There was mass bloodshed but the smell was not Demon, nor Vampire nor any creature he himself had struck down. The wind picked up, gently ruffling his short brown hair bringing more news. He crossed over to the guarded walls and stood aside a sentry holding a poleaxe in the forever-unforgiving cold.

The sentry bristled slightly at the presence of his forbidding Prince, but he stood stoic, endlessly watching the tall thick forests that provided protection and shelter for the kingdom.

'You.' Growled Prince Isard in a deep tenor as he looked up the blood red moon. Slithers of light illuminated his features carving out a strong jaw with a short beard and high cheekbones. The sentry stood tense before answering promptly.

'Yes Sire.'

'Have you spotted any disturbances in the West?'

'Not recently Sire.'

'And the Eastern Mountains?'

'Not that I know of Sire.'

'Where is the Sentry Commander?'

The sentry hesitated. 'He… He is indisposed Sire.'

Isard rounded upon the sentry his domineering presence instilling a weakness in the knees of the male as his eyes flashed a deep purple.

'And that means…?' The portentous edge to the Prince's voice cut through the night air. The scent of blood that was faint in the breeze grew potent.

With a steady hand on his weapon, and the other raised in the direction of the stone keep; the sentry gave indication to the Prince to the commander's whereabouts.

Static exhumed from Isard, the breastplate on his armor became charged with his ferocity outlining the Royal Crest in a deep purple. Rage and vehemence swept the dais and the remaining sentries on the West Wing of the castle stood in fear as Isard stalked towards the keep.

He threw open the wooden doors the lanterns in the room immediately changing from yellow to purple as he crossed over the Sentry Commanders quarters. No more than two steps away Prince Isard's ears were graced by a gentle sigh of a woman.

He paused.

The flames in the hall extinguished as around Isard's being a purple haze began to form. Without any force the door separating himself from the Sentry Commander's quarters turned to ash.

Bound in the embrace of two naked women the Sentry Commander froze. The look of initial surprise vanished, and fear that clawed the heart and breath out of his body bound him as the two women stumbled off his bed and pressed their foreheads to the floor in forgiveness as warm tears spilled on the earthen floor.

'Outside.'

The command was indisputable as the bared commander and the two women scrambled to march behind the Prince; their heads bowed in acceptance of their inevitable fate.

'Sentries!' The voice that boomed from the lungs of Prince Isard forced the land into temporary silence. The swaying of the trees had halted in wait for Isard's next words. In a profound moment the sentries from the North, South, and East watch points brought their poleaxes to their breastplates with a clang in acknowledgement. Moments later a secondary clang was heard two levels down, a tertiary and finally a quarterly at the foot of the castle. The clangs boomed hollow as the entire Dark Kingdom held its breath.

'What is your purpose here?' Shouted Prince Isard.

'To protect the Dark Kingdom in the Grace of the Great Mother.' Came the reply in unison.

'And who do you owe your duty?'

'To the Royal Lineage.'

'Then tell me.' Rasped Isard in a deadly drawl as he rounded upon the naked Sentry Commander who had soiled himself. 'When did your duty to me become second to your manhood?'

There was no sound except the uncontrollable heaving sobs from the two naked girls who pressed their foreheads to the ground once more.

No sound could escape the throat of the Sentry Commander as he stood stunned and smelling putrid. Purple flames rose from Isard's feet and encircled him. He reached out, his hand wrapped around the Sentry Commander's neck and within a sigh his neck cracked, and turned into dust.

'Let this be a lesson.' Roared Isard as he turned leaving the crumpled body to drop onto the floor and walked past his Sentry. 'Those of you who put your loyalty second to the Dark Kingdom and the Royal Lineage will perish by my hand.'

He paused, and eyed each sentry who came in his pathway.

'Do you understand?'

A resounding clash of metal to their breastplates and a reply that echoed hollowly in the Dark Lands followed.

'Yes Sire!'

The Blood Red moon shimmered in the night's sky.

'You.' Said Prince Isard to the sentry who had sent his commander to his demise. 'Your name.'

'Yshaar of the house Duranses, Sire.' Said the male with a slight shake in his voice.

'You are now Sentry Commander. Tomorrow I will see to it that you will not be able to lay with a woman as a lesson to all your men that you will learn from your previous commander's mistake and never put your needs before the Kingdom's. Tonight I give you leave to do as you will with these two whores, and tomorrow I want you to send them to the Blood Kingdom to be Blood Slaves for the Unseen.'

Muffled cries emerged from the two women as the new Commander stood with cold sweat perusing down his face in acceptance of his outcome. Isard knew his sentence for the male was not fair, but it was a message to all those who dared to lay with a woman when on duty, and the whores, they would be dead in less than a month at the hands of Unseen. None would dare to defy him again.

He turned and made his way to the doorway to the winding staircase that led back to his throne room.

'Tomorrow I expect of you to give me news of your observations. And see to it that you dispose of that.' He said indicating to the burnt corpse without turning his head before descending the stairs.

The taste of betrayal was still souring in Isard's mouth as he exited his throne room; the carved emblem on his armor now dulled silver shade as he clenched the fist that crushed the Sentry Commander's neck into ash. His anger was slowly subsiding as he entered his chambers, but the familiar stooping figure caused his blood to boil once more.

'What is it?' He growled. The figure jumped and bowed low his grey robes falling forward in heaps whilst he supported himself on his dark grey staff.

'My dear Prince, there is more news from the Blood Kingdom.'

Prince Isard turned away and stormed into chambers lined with numerous bookshelves. The figure shuffled after him, but with a tense expression Isard exited the room and squared up to the hobbling man.

'Silas.' He said tensely. Silas held on tight to his staff as he looked up meekly to his face.

'Ah uh Sire...' Said the male in response in a high nasal voice that made Isard's skin crawl. 'The Crimson Court… It seems they expelled you because they believe that ah you are responsible for… for...'

'For the death of their fucking 'Carrier's' brother?' He was fuming and Silas was bracing himself for any kind of physical or verbal backlash.

Isard already knew the news that was polluting his mind and the minds of his people in the Dark Kingdom. The Black Wind always bought news to him first.

'How can I kill this godforsaken Carrier's brother when I don't know who she fucking is?'

Silas stood silent his eyes averted away from his Prince's face.

'What is… What is this bullshit the Crimson Court is hiding from me? Our alliance was forged because of my father, how dare they exclude us and lead us around like bound, blind dogs.' He looked to his hands and clenched them again.

His Father created this debauched mess allowing the Blood Kingdom to reign supreme. Forging alliance by giving up the Lost Relic of the Fallen Creator made the Dark Kingdom second best, and now they were nothing. His father's soft mind no doubt led to his early demise.

'Malakai. Where is he?'

Silas hesitated and Isard took the moment to grab onto his long grey cloak and tighten it around his throat.

'He… He is in the Human… Realm.' He choked.

Isard's eyes flashed a bright purple at the news.

'What?' He said quietly as he threw Silas down to the floor. 'WHAT?' He began to pace back and forth his teeth clenched tight. His mind couldn't fathom what he was hearing. 'What is… What is he doing in the Human Realm?'

'I-I-I don't know Sire.' Replied Silas his hand on his breast and the other on his staff.

'Could he have… Some part in this? Could the rumours be true? Is he conspiring against me with the Crimson Court? Did he kill that boy?' Speculative thoughts, accusations and the inevitable overpowered Isard's mind.

Silas swallowed nervously as he saw the breastplate shine with violet brilliance.

'Tell me Silas… Is my younger brother conspiring against me?'

'I don't know Sire… He too has also been expelled from the Crimson Court… I don't know…'

'Has half my Kingdom been divided? Are there traitors in my very armies?'

'I don't know Sire…' Replied Silas weakly.

'How often has he been visiting the Human Realm?' Asked Prince Isard sharply.

'Regularly.' Answered Silas as with great difficulty he lifted himself off the floor. The hood that settled on his bare cranium fell back revealing sunken eyes and a sallow face that had begun to wither. 'S-s-sire?'

Isard turned to face the wall with an elaborate painting of the Eternal Mother blessing her Demonic children. He saw the faces of his people, the crests of the many houses that formed his kingdom and the Royal Crest of his direct lineage from the Eternal Mother herself.

He wanted to throttle Silas the next moment his shrill voice reached his ears.

'Sire… They believe… You are building an army to go against them… They believe… You are going to take the Relic…'

Isard's mind focused on the Eternal Mother's outstretched arms, the flames that surrounded her were red and fiery like her hair but her eyes were as his was, as with all her other Demonic children, violet and encapsulated with lightning. And that purple lightning that flowed through his veins gave light to the crest on his armor and fuelled the purple flames that consumed his hands.

He laughed mirthlessly.

'I will see to it that it will happen now. I will see to it.'

'But Sire… The allegiance?' Asked Silas with rising trepidation in his shrill voice.

'There is none, from today I relinquish our allegiance with the Blood Kingdom and with my brother. By the name of the Eternal Mother I say we are at war. Come Silas, summon my council to the Inner Chambers. We need to keep this plan from prying eyes.'

'Brash words and unnecessary.' Came a deep voice. Isard whipped his body around to face an older towering male with wide shoulders. The male had short hair and a look that challenged Isard's rage. Isard held his gaze with the male and narrowed his eyes in suspicion as the flames in his palms retreated.

'I heard you killed the Sentry Commander.' He said in an unaffected tone.

'Lord Erol…' Mumbled Silas as he took two steps back and bowed to allow the pair to converse.

'I will not have any men who put whores before their Kingdom.' Spat Isard as Lord Erol took two steps towards the Prince.

'Very rightly so…' Said the male as he stood before the large painting of the Great Mother and her children. A small smile emerged on the corner of his mouth and Isard found he was growling with impatience.

'What is it you want?'

'I want to offer his Highness some sound advice. Do not declare war.'

'What did you say?' Interjected Prince Isard with fury.

'Let me finish, I said do not declare war… yet.' Lord Erol tilted his head to the side and peered at Prince Isard. 'It would be unwise to attack now as the Crimson Court are already expecting an attack.'

'So what do you suggest?'

'I suggest we keep an eye on them. The reason for their secrecy and removal of you and your brother from the Crimson Court is related to new findings with the Lost Relic. And of course this Carrier girl is a key element to it.'

'My brother…' Said Isard with gritted teeth.

'He's in the Human Realm mostly throwing his weight around their nightclubs.'

'Night… Clubs, but-'

'I will tell you there is nothing to worry about with Malakai, even you, yourself know he hasn't the mind or patience to command an army nor plan an uprising. His concerns are more related to his manhood and how many girls he can crown on top of it. Nor is he foolish enough to warn the Humans to the existence of this realm.' Lord Erol ended with another curling grin. Prince Isard's features were stitched into a furrow. By his Father's Royal Decree, Lord Erol was named as Master Commander after he devised the successful plan to retrieve the Lost Relic. Even though in Isard's mind it was a foolish title to give him, as the Relic never entered the Dark Kingdom he knew that Lord Erol always offered sound counsel even when Isard would resist it.

'How do you propose we keep an eye on the Crimson Court then?'

'Deception.' The word resonated in Isard's ears before his eyes widened at the recognition of the word.

'But… They are all dead or disappeared. The last one died in our Kingdom twenty years ago.' Isard could remember the boy. Only a few years younger than himself yet he died before he could develop his abilities. He blamed his father and himself for believing starving him and beating him would toughen him up. He never forgave himself on that matter.

'Except, there is one that has been commanding a small band of half-breed warriors and defectors. There have been reports and sightings of a woman by the name of Delta who is said to be able to change face and shape. They say she has half an obscured face so no one can see her true form. There is a possibility that she is indeed perhaps one of the last-'

'-Shapeshifters…' Answered Isard quietly. The weight of that one word seemed to bear down heavily upon the three males in the corridor and a chill of nostalgia run down Isard's spine.

'We will have to capture her then.' Suggested Isard with brutal certainty.

'No.' Admonished Lord Erol. 'This woman is a Shapeshifter her very nature will allow her to easily get out the castle and the company she keeps will not hesitate to tear down your palace to find her. We will need to offer her something else for her co-operation or she will continue to fight us.'

'Jewels? Weapons? What will she need?'

'She won't be satisfied with things like that. She is more feral than some of the beasts the Blood Kingdom have been experimenting with.'

'Why can we not employ our Shadowers to infiltrate?' Prince Isard looked over to Silas's face as he said those words and Silas looked down.

'They have ways of dispelling the cloaks of Shadowers. Even if you send the strongest and most skilled you will not be able to get into the Crimson Court.'

'Then what do you suggest with this Shapeshifter?'

There was a pause as Lord Erol savoured his next words. 'I suggest we allow her to reclaim the Last Kingdom of the Asperati… As Queen… And allow some control over the Dark Kingdom.'

'No.' Growled Isard immediately as he turned upon Lord Erol. 'This is my Kingdom by the blood of the Great Mother, how could I give up something which is rightfully mine by blood? And what says she will even accept these terms?'

'When you obtain the Lost Relic, this whole realm will become rightfully yours just as the Great Mother had originally intended. And once the Blood Kingdom becomes subservient to you, then why will a small portion of your Kingdom matter to you? Tell me Isard, which do you prefer? The world, or just this small patch of land?'

'I will not give up any part of my Kingdom to a two-faced Shapeshifter and a savage woman at that!'

Lord Erol crossed his hands behind his back as he took two steps away from Prince Isard.

'I suggest my Dear Prince that you think long and hard about my suggestion before you make any sort of decision. This Kingdom will soon crumble. The Blood Kingdom has great plans that involve more than this realm and this small Kingdom. The Black Wind may bay that it will not happen, but the future is certain my liege, before your coronation, this Kingdom will be no longer. The less you offer to this 'savage' the less likely you will even have your Kingdom come the next Purple Moon.' Lightly, Lord Erol made his way towards the doors to exit the Royal Hall. The words hung heavy in the atmosphere, a dark pressure settling upon Isard as he watched him take his leave.

'…And this Carrier?' Said Isard in a tense low voice. 'Who killed her brother? What is her purpose to the Blood Kingdom?'

Lord Erol shrugged before pushing the doors open.

'That is a question we're all struggling to answer my liege.'

He closed the door behind him leaving Prince Isard pensive in thought. Isard turned to face the painting of the Eternal Mother and placed a hand over her breast.

'Give me strength and guidance.' He whispered as he closed his eyes and placed his other hand over the Royal Crest on his breast.

'Silas.' Said Prince Isard suddenly. 'I will be going to see my brother in the Human Realm. It's time he acts like true descendant of the Great Mother and Dark Prince. Send for my stewards to provide me with human clothing. I need some time to think.'

'Certainly Sire.' Said Silas as he bowed deeply. 'And will you be calling your council?'

'Not today.' Said Isard solemnly as he walked into his chambers and unfastened his breastplate and pulled off his shirt exposing his muscular torso. 'I will need to arrange to meet with this Shapeshifter first.'