A young knight stood atop a small hall on-looking the Shattered Kingdom. It stood before him, a mountain of worlds in frozen collision. Truly it was the horror that all kings feared in this slowly dying world, but luckily, it looked to be the only one to have such a fate.
“If you raise your eyes to the top of the kingdom you may see the castle still,” the hag told the knight. “There you will find the Prince with the Warlock, watching down upon his kingdom with a broken mind and an empty heart.”
“The Prince brought much suffering unto his people, but that does not matter now,” the knight grunted.
“You know what has happened to them then?” the hag inquired.
“All who heard of the Shattered Kingdom know the fate of those who follow a tyrant,” the knight nodded. “Being a monarch in these times requires strength that so few have and compassion that nobody has.”
“I sense compassion within thee, young warrior.”
“Not compassion, crone, but empathy. I understand the common man’s problem, but I will not go out of my way to free them of it.”
“Oh, pity,” the hag murmured. “Pity you cannot see your potential for compassion.”
The knight grunted the smallest laugh.
“I thank thee, but now I give you a warning as well,” the knight began. “Return to your hovel, away from this place. If I am to succeed...”
“I know, child, I know,” the hag nodded enthusiastically. “And I wish you the strength to be victorious. Farewell, young king.”
The knight did not return the favour, instead ignoring the hag’s words and climbing down the hill. The Kingdom was still far off from the hill, a swamp between it and the first gate. The knight’s boots hit the swampy ground, his armour slowing him down, but each step was just as strong as the last. He could feel the wet coldness of the muck seep into every crack of his plated boots, chilling him to the bone. The swamp however, was nothing to him and would not stop the young knight.
After a two our slog through the dissolved mass of bodies the knight stepped onto solid ground once more. It was a set of cracked flagstone steps that lead up to the first gate. There, the gate stood open, it’s wood doors decrepit and aged by all kinds of weather. The knight stepped through into a dark chamber, although he could see light pour in from an arch on the other side. He took this moment of reprieve to cleanse himself and his boots of the muck before marching onwards. The air held a sinister tinge that caused the knight to tense his arm, ready to reach over his shoulder and draw the long-sword strapped to his back.
This caution was well-founded, as when the first clink of his boots hitting the ground beyond the arch a troop of undead crawled from the holes in stone and from the dead trees; each with grey skin that clung limply to the rotted meat and yellow bone. The knight raised his arm quickly, drawing the blade with a long motion, hefting it into both hands, wielding with surety and fierceness of an animal. The undead stood no chance as he swung the might steel in a deathly arc, cutting its way through the shambling corpses. The sword split them like it was nothing, but knowing the dead well-enough, the knight stepped forward quickly, stomping his boots on their skulls, destroying the spirits within so the remains may not strike at his ankles.
The battle was short, but careful. The knight was fully aware of his own mortality and would not be killed by the underlings of a long-lost kingdom. One the last corpse was smote the knight took a moment to catch his breath. The journey he had set before him could not be done so quickly, he knew that, but in an attempt to regain his energy, he felt weakness drape over his shoulders. The knight buckled, falling to his knees, his face growing hot within the helmet. He unfastened and removed the head protection.
“What manner of magic is this?” the knight asked himself. The power wasn’t the strongest he felt, but it was certainly the most evil. As he collected himself he heard something below him. “That...that is the words of darkest magic...”
The knight lowered himself, his ear close to the ground. Indeed, the mutterings from below were that of truest evil. The voice was deep and penetrating. The voice came from great depths below, but spoke with such power that the knight could hear it where he was. The knight knew who the mutterings belonged too, recalling the legends.
These were not the incantations of the Warlock, who stood higher on the Shattered Kingdom. These were the dark prayers of the King, imprisoned and cursed within the deepest cell. The knight shook himself, regaining his will and strength with sure breaths and a strong heart. He now stood once more on his feet, a cool sense of calm washing over him as his faith was stronger than that of ancient magic. He sheathed his sword and climbed the steps towards the next segment of appeared to be a village area. The King could wait till the end of the journey, for now, the Warlock was to be slain and the Prince’s corruption halted. The swamps shall not stretch further beyond the hill.
The higher the knight climbed the more he realized that this was his world now. He had to succeed within it, for he would not turn back and go home. The first gate is where he was born and only covered in the blood of royalty will he return himself to the man that he was on the hill. The hag’s words stuck with him however, like a spell of their own. Did he truly have such compassion of a king? If so, may it hid itself until he needed it, because there was no room for compassion in a war.
Be sure to follow!