“Lloyd! Lloyd! Wake up! Aldwyn’s here,” called Ralph. Lloyd grumbled a bit and flopped out of bed, hitting his head on the floor. That caused more grumbling, and Lloyd dragged himself upright and stumbled out the door, still sleepy.
“Why does he have to come so early in the morning?” mumbled Lloyd to himself. “It’s not even light out yet.” He opened a shuttered window to make sure, and light came pouring in. That caused even more grumbling. He started heading downstairs and went past a banner that had the necromancer symbol on it, which is a green snake curled around a black sword in an S shape, with a grey background.
He finally came downstairs and cheered up to the smells of Ralph cooking the deer Lloyd had caught yesterday. He went past the delicious smells of the kitchen and out into the courtyard, where he kept going until he arrived at the battlements. He ordered the skeleton to raise the drawbridge, letting the tall, silver haired elf in.
“So, what happened yesterday?” asked Aldwyn. “I found the king’s bad-tempered captain of the guard heading back from your fortress, and I wondered how that went.”
Lloyd grinned. By this time, he had properly woken up. “Oh, I just sent my shade after them. I hope it will finally scare them off.”
“You really shouldn’t be consorting with dark creatures such as shades. They can be quite deadly,” said Aldwyn sternly.
“I know you disapprove of dark magic, but I am a necromancer, after all. Controlling spectral beings and the undead is my specialty,” explained Lloyd. “Besides, mine is well under control.”
“I’m just worried that someday you will get overconfident and summon something that you can’t control and contain,” warned Aldwyn.
“What? Are you saying that you think I’ll summon a demon or something?” asked Lloyd indignantly. “I know the limits of my own power, thank you very much.”
“I hope so,” said Aldwyn.
“You just don’t like dark magic,” teased Lloyd.
“Of course I don’t like dark magic, it’s dangerous and destructive,” answered Aldwyn. “I’m just saying to not get overconfident.”
“Good.” There was an awkward silence. Finally, Aldwyn spoke. “Would you like any apple mushroom soup? I have leftovers.
“Uh, no thanks, I think I’ll go hunting again today,” said Lloyd quickly, trying not to make a face.
Back at George’s castle, there was a great commotion. The cause of this was Darreck, who had just arrived back from the war. He rode through the gates holding a sword aloft, with the cheers of the peasants following him. He had a warm welcome from George, who told him he was proud of him.
Irvina had to meet him sooner or later, and when she finally did meet Darreck in the courtyard he said to her; “Hello Irvina, I so missed you,” like he didn’t miss her at all. He smirked, and she suddenly felt a cold shiver run down her spine. Whenever Darreck did that smirk, it almost always meant something bad.
“Why, how sweet of you!” exclaimed the king, beaming at his favorite son.
“Thank you, father,” said Darreck with fake humbleness.
“So, how went the war?” asked George. Darreck started talking about how they won back an imperial stronghold that had been captured by the Blood King, and about his great deeds in battle. He said that if it wasn’t for him the battle would’ve been lost, but because he slew the enemy general, they ended up winning.
All this time Dale listened to Darreck with a mix of jealousy and respect in his eyes. “He’s probably exaggerating,” Irvina told him.
“What? Of course not. Darreck would never lie,” defended Dale.
“If you say so,” said Irvina. As Darreck continued amazing the king with stories about his heroics, Irvina went back into the palace. She barely took one step inside when she heard Darreck’s smooth voice coming from the courtyard;
“Where are you heading to, sister? Come back over here; I’ve got a big surprise for you.”
Irvina felt that shiver down her spine again. Darreck sounded horribly gleeful, which was almost always a bad thing, especially if it had to do with her. She turned around, and reluctantly headed back over to the royal group.
“What’s this big surprise?” she asked, dreading the answer.
“Oh, nothing much. Just that when I was away fighting in the war, I convinced Prince Bob the Rich to agree to an arranged marriage… between him and you,” said Darreck with a wide grin.
“W-what?” gasped Irvina. This was even worse than she was preparing herself to hear. “Bob the Rich? More like Bob the Cruel,”
“Oh, it’s wonderful! Absolutely splendid!” exclaimed George, not hearing her. “An alliance with King Bob is wonderful! Plus, I’m sure you’ll love him, Irvina, I hear he’s dashingly handsome and rich.”
“I could never love someone so horrible!” Irvina screamed as she fled to her room.
When she arrived at her room, she collapsed into her bed and started sobbing. She started to feel claustrophobic, drowning in helpless frustration. She couldn’t think of any way out of this horrible marriage. She heard the door creak open and she looked up. It was Darreck. She could barely restrain herself from throwing a pillow at him.
“Why?” She yelled at him. “Why him? Out of all the different princes and kings, it had to be him? Why?”
“Because, dear darling sister, he’s the most powerful monarch around here. Marrying you to him will create an alliance between our kingdoms, and if it makes you unhappy, so what? It will help me gain power, and I don’t care what happens to you in the process,” answered Darreck.
As he turned to leave room, Irvina decided to through the pillow at him anyway. It hit him on the back and fell onto the floor. He picked it up and threw it back at her, hitting her in the face.
“You know, sister, I have no qualms about hitting a girl.” He said. She glared at him as he left the room.
When Lloyd left to go hunting, Aldwyn decided he would go to George’s castle next. He liked to check in on all his neighbors, which were pretty much just Lloyd and everybody at George’s castle. All the other castles were in other kingdoms and were too far away to be called “neighbors”. It would be a several days journey, maybe even a several week journey, to visit a castle from another kingdom.
He wondered when George would give up assaulting Lloyd. It wasn’t as if the king had infinite time and money. Well, if the king either ran out of money or was attacked by another kingdom, he would have to stop bugging the young necromancer.
As Aldwyn thought these thoughts, he arrived at the castle. The guards all knew who he was, so they let him in. He went to the marketplace, which was bustling with all kinds of smells and noises, and Aldwyn got jostled by the crowd who were trying to find certain products in the stalls of sellers. Occasionally a cart would roll by filled with goods, or some soldiers would be chasing a thief, or a beggar would wander around looking for a rich looking person to ask for a crust of bread.
Aldwyn hunted down an herb seller, and he bought more thyme. He normally liked to find his herbs and other goods in the wild but buying things he was out of on occasion didn’t hurt. He squabbled with the price of the thyme half for fun, finally agreeing on a price. He handed over the money, took the jar of thyme, and wove his way through the crowd towards the palace.
He walked up to the palace and asked; “Permission to enter?”
“Sure, why not?” one of them replied.
“I wouldn’t know why not, but I’m supposed to ask,” Aldwyn answered.
“Well, in you go, Aldwyn,” said another guard as he began cranking up the portcullis. As Aldwyn entered the palace, he was struck by all the gold and silver intricately carved decorations, and wondered, not for the first time, why humans liked shiny things so much. He started heading towards the throne room. Servants and palace guards said hi to him as he passed, and he said hi back. He was known by almost everybody, being the only elf in the kingdom and all.
He walked through a gilded hall, with a throne and the king on the other side. “Greetings your majesty,” he said formally, with a bow. “Any news?”
“Hmph,” grunted George. “Why should I tell you anything? You tolerate that necromancer. In fact, you’re his friend, even, but fine, I’ll tell you since you insist. Today has actually been quite eventful, what with Darreck coming home and all…”
“Wait, Darreck came back from the wars?” interjected Aldwyn.
“Of course. Anyway, like I was telling you, Bob the Rich has proposed to marry my daughter, which is absolutely splendid! An alliance with such a powerful kingdom such as Bob’s would be great for my dwindling finances,” said George.
Aldwyn paled. He knew the reputation of Bob the Rich, which was not pleasant. Bob was notorious for his cruelty and ruthless tyranny. Aldwyn had heard horrifying stories about what Bob did to people who didn’t obey him. Apparently, George had not heard these stories, or did not think much of them.
“that is… excellent news your majesty,” said Aldwyn.
“It totally is, isn’t it? Actually…” George stopped and contemplated something for a second. “I should probably start preparing for Bob’s arrival. He’s going to be arriving in a few days, maybe tomorrow, and I should probably start preparing a feast,” George stood up from his chair and turned to a servant. “Go tell the cooks to start preparing a feast.”
“Yes sir,” the servant replied as he scurried off. George began to exit the throne room.
“I’ve got work to do, but I hope to see you at the feast, Aldwyn,” said the king as he left.
Aldwyn exited the throne room as well, and went straight to Irvina’s chambers, which was up in a tower. He knocked on the door.
“go away,” came Irvina’s voice through the door.
“It’s Aldwyn,” He told her.
“Oh,” she said. Then she opened the door. Her blue eyes were tearstained from crying, and her dark brown hair was half combed. “My father is marrying me to… to…” she broke off into a sob.
“I heard.” He said. “Is there anything I can do to help? I could perhaps hide you somewhere, or… something.” He suddenly had a flashback of helping a young necromancer run away from an unpleasant society. “I suppose you could run away. It’s not the first time I’ve helped someone escape from somewhere or something miserable.”
“No. It’s a good idea, I guess, but it’s way too extreme, and I would be caught immediately. If you really wanted to help, you could…um… you could…” she stopped to think. “Oh, I don’t know! I just wish I didn’t have to marry Bob,” the tears started welling up in her eyes again.
“Well, if I think of something, I’ll tell you,” said Aldwyn.
“I’m pretty sure it’s hopeless,” she spoke. “but thanks anyway.”
As Irvina closed the door, Aldwyn left, thinking over the unpleasant thing that just transpired. He then began racking his brain over some way to help Irvina. Aldwyn always helped people wherever and whenever he could, almost without even realizing it. That was just the most way elves were, and it was almost like an instinct.
By the time Aldwyn left the castle, it was getting dark, so he quickly headed back to his leafy home. As he pulled out some of the apple mushroom soup leftovers, he thought hard about some way to help Irvina. Every idea that was thought of got scrutinized very carefully for some flaw that could backfire in a devastating way. Some ideas were risky, some wouldn’t actually do anything to change the situation, and some would only work in the short run.
He took a bite of soup. He considered several more options, but none of them were quite right. While he continued working his brain around ideas, he realized that he had finished his meal. Aldwyn picked up the pot, and put it back in storage, hoping it wouldn’t go bad overnight.
When he had finished cleaning up, he hopped into his tree trunk bed. He fell asleep listening to an owl hooting outside, along with a chorus of crickets.