Written by Kyonides
Chapter I: His Family
Some Lone Guy
In a boring land, some nobleman did not feel his existence were justified. He knew he had a duty, something he preferred to call a burden. He was a depressed prince who had become a humble baron. Years ago when his parents had deceased he had to make a tough decision. As a responsible adult he could keep reigning over a small principality formerly known as Hirganz or let it become part of the neighbor queendom of Gale. Even if he could truly rely on his royal advisors, he did not think that he could handle such terrible responsibilities.
Being the only survivor of his cursed family, the young man thought he might end up dying just like his parents did. While he was too worried about his own fate, things were getting out of control, everything had been awful for the last few months. Incomes had been decreasing steadily, harvests were not as abundant as expected, and royal seers stated a deluge would make his territory become a barren land thereafter. There was no way to confirm this, and it was probable his seers were plotting against him for any reason. The noble prince could not trust anybody, every single servant was a potential traitor in his own opinion. He had been thinking of ways to punish his people for failing him when he needed them the most, but his three mentors had kept him at bay for his own good.
One day he had recalled that there was one person left he could trust, his lovely cousin Jeanette, a girl he knew since they were eight years old. Without his advisors acknowledgment he had sent her an adorable letter where he had expressed all of his love for her. He had asked her to pay him a visit any time soon, the prince had been expecting her arrival when his serf came in with her response. After reading it carefully, he commanded his servants to prepare a few horses and a royal carriage for he would be visiting her soon. Once they had informed him everything was set to depart at his very command, the nobleman had left, feeling a bit hopeful for the first time in weeks.
While on the road to her small domains, a few riders had passed by as if they did not know there was an actual prince heading to such a wonderful place. It seemed they were in a haste, they only ran faster from the moment onward. After the prince and his small retinue stepped out of the carriage to lodge at a decent hotel of sorts, the same riders had finished their meals and gone straight to their bedrooms.
Later on the nobleman was having his lunch when one of his followers had told him that they were leaving the place. It was strange indeed, still, he had no reason to suspect from them at all; nobody knew who they actually were. Instead of following them at once, he had enjoyed a long afternoon night of pleasure with one of his female servants. At least that is what he let the followers think he had been doing back then, nobody would ever suspect she kind of liked to humiliate him. It was not her own idea, her lord had commanded her to mistreat him as a way to stay as realistic as possible.
When he had finally reached Lady Jeannette's town, the prince had started feeling much better for he would be able to see her after a long wait. He intended to surprise her with his lovely presents, hoping she would agree to marry him and become his lovable princess. Her town's main square did not look as if she had been doing a great work maintaining it, he could only wonder if she was going through a tough situation of her own. At her main gate the guards had rejoiced at the prince's arrival, and had gladly escorted him to the palace. Something made the visitor think they could be trustworthy.
The stay at her palace was just as he had ever expected, except for some minor details here and there. Nobody would care if they were a bit slow at performing tasks like cooking decent meals or trimming the bushes, well, someone had to make their long walks pleasant enough for the loving couple to enjoy them. Even if he did not want to admit it, she had had some serious financial troubles since the current prince had stopped making the traditional tax exemptions that had let her effectively administrate her lands. The main reason for ignoring her situation was that he had never handled any tax related issues, the Chief Tax Advisor had been in charge of them ever since the previous prince had appointed him long time ago.
One of the gardener's sons reminded him of his young and distant relative, Prince Althus. That child had once commented something about some of his subjects, he had thought they had been stealing from his treasury for quite a long time. At first the prince would never find a single reason to pay attention to an ignorant kid, even if he was a royal prince. Sadly, some strange events had led him to suspect from them and he had later ended up uncovering a horrible conspiracy. Over fifteen royal subjects had been arrested and sent straight to the Faintlit dungeon, where they would never breath any fresh air ever again. That loathsome list of betrayers included the name of one of his childhood friends, Chad, Sir Corvin's second son.
Against all traditions their families had always observed, the couple had spent a night all alone. Lady Jeanette had been enjoying her cousin's company, but it was clear that she was worrying sick about him. After they had tasted some high quality wine, the prince had not figured out what her issue might be. He had to ask her "what's wrong with you tonight, dear Jeanette?" The lovely noblewoman answered "it's nothing, Prince Lynces, everything's completely fine!" Lynces had to insist "whenever you say things are fine, I know for sure it's quite the opposite so be honest with me, darling." She finally made a confession "it's not that I don't love you, even so there are people who are against our future marriage, my dear soulmate."
It had been hard to ignore what she had told him the night before, still, he was in need of returning to the royal city of Nornwells at once. The prince had received a notification asking of him to come back in a timely fashion for he was required to preside an important trial. Call it a strange coincidence if you want to, but it was a real event indeed so he could not postpone it. Her kiss was the most emotive he had ever had in his short life, Prince Lynces had then promised her to return as soon as the trials had ended. Stepping up into his carriage had been one of the hardest moments that he had ever faced.
The trip back to the capital city was quite boring, there was no other traveler to look at, even cattle was too far away to stare at it. Nonetheless there was a distraction, those mysterious riders they had met at the not really luxurious hotel where he and his followers had been staying then. They were so silent that the prince had to do something to find out their actual identities. If they were total strangers, why would they not care to salute him? Any other loyal subject would do it for sure, but the riders had preferred to remain in the dense mist as long as possible.
About the cases Prince Lynces had to handle back then, there is not much to tell you, my dear readers. That Monday there was one concerning a thief that had robbed a local moneylender, followed by a kidnapper who had never revealed his hostage's whereabouts. On Saturday he had ordered his advisors to let him take a break he badly needed already, it was nothing but an excuse to escape from his royal duties. Of course, he found it strange that such trials were not presided by some judge. Actually he could clearly remember he had appointed a new judge a few days after he was crowned as the new prince of Hirganz. Could several of them have quit in the last month without him noticing that?
You better recall now that he was in dire need of making up excuses so he could get some spare time for his personal affairs. It meant he was getting everything ready to leave the royal palace in order to surprise the lovable Lady Jeanette with an unexpected visit. The only person who learned about his true intentions was the servant that he had taken with him that night. She was the same girl that used to humiliate him as per his royal request. Obviously he would let her stay at the hotel while he were visiting his cousin, there was no other way to avoid troubles according to the prince.
While his advisors were busy looking for him under every single stone, Lynces was arriving at his lover's main gate for a second time that month. The guards were not as pleased to see him as before, they had bad news to tell. In his absence some strangers had infiltrated the gardens and managed to attack their lady. At first they seemed to be quite dangerous, although she did not get seriously wounded as they had imagined. Two days later she collapsed, but it was no common faintness. Lady Jeanette was getting worse so they started summoning as many doctors and white mages as they could ever find in the surroundings. For some unclear reason the royal doctors refused to travel to her lands, no matter how serious her condition was right then.
One of those days a man that looked more like a black mage had showed up there. Since the noblewoman's health was declining speedily, they let him make an attempt to heal her. Their first impression was that he was a real medicine man for saving her life. Nobody had ever suspected at all that he had arrived only to make her get worse in no time. Prince Lynces would never tolerate such a failure nor admit there was nothing else he could do to save her. Soon he had met an apprentice of the mage academy in Aunis, capital city of the queendom of Gale. That guy had to contact his superiors and even the head priestess of the White Shrine of Purity, a beautiful woman named Claudia Sophie. Since it was clear it would take them over a week to arrive at her palace, the prince could only try to keep her alive by any means available at that time.
The first guest to appear was some girl called Gia Melissa, she was one of the shrine's advanced students. The head priestess entrusted her the mission of safely retrieving the patient so they could later send her to a secret chamber, some mystic place better known as the Chamber of White Winds. Such an weird and extreme measure would be the only way to keep Lady Jeanette alive till they could be able to find a definitive cure. That was not exactly what the prince had been waiting for, but he allowed her to transport her to their so called holy shrine. "Will I ever get a chance to see her while she's still resting?" the worried prince asked. Gia could only tell him "it's not recommendable to expose her to any mundane influence, meaning we can't let you pay her a visit before she had begun recovering from her magic imbued illness."
Later that afternoon the prince had say goodbye to a strange machine where they had placed his lovely lover. For them it looked like a large and horrible can, to us outsiders it could be nothing but a magic version of a stasis chamber. Only then some academy's envoy arrived to take a look at the patient. After watching the strange procession he verified that they were doing everything they could to help Lady Jeanette, even so he asked the Lynces to summon him immediately if she did not recover in the next three months or so. To the prince that would be the kind of promise he would make him keep at all costs. Would he ever need a second opinion?
That night he had slipped into his hotel room and had had sex with his female servant. She was a bit surprised at the fact he did not dare to ask her to mistreat him as usual. The girl could not guess what was troubling his crazy mind. "You don't need to tell me what happened earlier today, just remember I'll always be there for you, my dear lordship!" the servant stated without hesitating even a little bit.
How could a simple serf be worth the incredible privilege of loving a noble prince like him? He had been too busy dealing with his cousin's crisis as to look for that mysterious answer. Late that sorrowful night he could only lean his head on her lap before crying like a baby boy. From that moment on, she would not let him travel alone for she would always assert her prince would surely break down without her company to support him in the middle of his lonely nights.
Under Extreme Pressure
Realizing he had practically lost his loved one, the prince was determined to find the culprits. His first decision was to assign the remaining trials to some of his royal judges. Then he had personally interviewed all of his advisors one by one. Lynces knew for sure his cousin's grave malady could never be something merely fortuitous, somebody like a close friend or a respectable mentor had to be behind all of her suffering. The nameless riders, the trivial trials, the evil mage, all of them were connected by invisible threads. His Highness had stopped believing it could be the work of any outsider, only someone powerful enough to hire all of them could have planned it in such a detailed manner.
Letters, he had been reading them ever since he had returned from his last visit to his lovely Jeanette's palace. The very same news he had been waiting for a long time, were the only one that had never arrived. One of them was very close from being disposed of without him ever reading it until some servant recognized the seal while picking it up. It was Queen Mia's royal seal! Prince Lynces found it quite eerie to see one of her letters, things could not have been as bad as he had foreseen so far. He opened it, wishing it were nothing but a humble invitation to a wedding or any of her royal banquet. Very few parts of its original contents had been recovered by historians.
"I have been fearing you will not fulfill your goals in a timely fashion for you have been going through a very difficult situation. Yes, my dear prince, I have learned all about your sweet Lady Jeanette. I got to admit it is painful indeed, I would have been one of your few friends that would have rejoiced at the fact that you both could have organized your own wedding. Now we can only pray for her to recover some day, still, I will be waiting for you to send me a formal invitation once everything is back to normal."
At this point we would only think she was seriously afflicted to hear from them and how much he had been enduring such a painful situation. To our fearful prince it could actually mean she was one of those who could do anything in their power to prevent them from pursuing their own happiness. According to some stories that the descendants of his servants had kept alive, he had not finished reading that letter. He had been busy dealing with his advisors., believing there was a second and more dangerous conspiracy than the first one. That had made him take aggressive measures to put a stop to their evil ambitions. His first decision was to execute the royal advisors of Treasury, who had been arrested some time ago, and the one in charge of Foreign Politics. Nothing could have saved those poor men for he would do it himself if deemed necessary.
Weeks later he had resumed the reading of his letters, when he had suddenly discovered the one he had never finished included a formal petition. There Her Majesty Queen Mia requested that he should send all of his advisors to her capital city of Aunis in three months time. What a shame it should have been for the young prince to notify her of the unexpected deceases of two of his royal advisors. Half a month later, another minister had been killed in dubious circumstances. Lynces had let some local rebels take the infamous credit for his assassination. Just few days before the time had come to send the remaining advisors to the queendom of Gale, the fourth decease had been reported. The official explanation was that he had been delving in the dark secrets of necromancy, forcing the monarch to put and end to that pathetic wretch's life at once. You can be entirely sure that the queen had not been pleased to hear that kind of news from the Principality of Hirganz.
Even if it seemed impossible to refrain her from annexing his lands to her queendom, Prince Lynces would make sure that she would regret conceiving such a reckless idea for the rest of her life. In secret he had supported several of his serfs to abandoned his territory in order to inhabit some forgotten lonely or even forgotten lands in the nearby kingdoms of Fountain and Larkmar. He had also forced his managers to secure some percent of his grains in places that had never been reported to his own advisors nor any of Queen Mia's servants.
Since Lynces had not heard anything from his beloved Jeanette, he once visited the queendom in order to infiltrate the shrine. No matter how peaceful and lonely the holy place seemed to be at first sight, it was protected by a strange shield of sorts. He had lost all hopes till some young girl had showed up right in front of it. "My name's Sylvia, it's a short one because I've not passed many exams so far, what's yours, young man?" she had then dared to ask him. "I'm sorry, but I need to ask you two favors instead, first forget I was here today, and the latter would be to ask you to pay a short visit to a close friend of mine…" the prince commented. His worried face let her guess it was the young woman imprisoned in the secret chamber she was not supposed to know anything about.
Two days had passed and he had not seen that young girl. Lynces was finishing his last lunch when cute Sylvia arrived with bad news. Lady Jeanette's condition had not improved at all in the last months. The foreign prince started considering the need to contact the mage that had once promised him to support them in case nothing had ever changed. He had later thanked the child by kissing her on her tender nose and paid her a silver coin as well. The young man had even invited her to pay him a visit once she had become a beautiful grownup.