Author Topic: The Emerald Phoenix- Prologue  (Read 151 times)

Offline Rith

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The Emerald Phoenix- Prologue
« on: June 12, 2008, 12:19:22 am »
The Emerald Phoenix
Prologue
As the sun began its decent into the western sea, its fading light stretched east. It glinted off endless waves, flashed on coastal cliffs, filled serene forests with dappled light, and bathed green fields with its fading warmth. Beyond the fields, the light fell on a black-streaked grey wall, which blazed gold in the sunset. The wall stretched wide, curving around and out of the fading light, holding a great city in its embrace. The sun sank, leaving the fields cold, the forest filled with shadow, and the cliffs dark, but the city continued to glow with its own light, never going dark, never surrendering to the night.
Even as darkness descended, traffic flowed in and out of the Westgate. Merchants’ caravans lumbered into the city, their many wagons hauled by stolid oxen, donkeys pulled carts rumbling over the great grey paving blocks of the Kingsway, and beautiful matched teams of horses drew opulent carriages swiftly along the tree-lined boulevard. Most of the traffic leaving the city was on foot, farmers and craftsmen returning to nearby villages, where warm fires and loving families awaited them. A man moved against the human tide, his back bent, his eyes to the stone of the road. A long, dirty cloak was pulled close around him, its deep hood up. The beggar leaned heavily on a crude staff held in his right hand, and his cloak caught on a long, thin shape which hung to his left. Departing villagers watched him with wary eyes, the reek of him enough to part the throng, but he was pushed aside in turn by wagons and carts overtaking his slow, winding path, one driver cracking his whip at the beggar when he was too slow to make way. The beggar made his way ever deeper into the city, leaving the wide, well-lit thoroughfare to follow lanes which became gradually smaller and darker.
He entered the twisting warren of streets which bordered the waterfront, a maze of narrow lanes and alleyways between massive square warehouses, shuttered shops and grimy taverns, where streetlamp did little to lighten the deepening gloom.  It was fully dark before the beggar finally stopped. Leaning against a weaver’s shop which was already closed for the night, he waited for a pair of patrolling Guardsmen to pass on a crossing street before pulling back into the deeply shadowed alley between the shop and a warehouse.
The beggar moved swiftly down the passage, picking his way over heaped boxes to come to the very end.  He thrust his staff into the mounded refuse which covered the cobblestones at the end of the alley, feeling around until his prodding brought a muffled ring. Using his staff, he began to push the trash aside; the pungent odors in the alley increased as he uncovered old clothes, broken mugs and plates, rotting food, and things unidentifiable from decay. The beggar flicked the last of the litter aside, uncovering a large slab of metal set in the stones, black streaked with rust. knelling down on one knee, he drew a snowy white handkerchief from under his cloak and rubbed the filth from the bottom edge of the plate, stopping only after finding a keyhole. The man reached back under his cloak and brought out a key, fitted it into the hole, and twisted. The key turned with a steely grind, and the beggar removed it and stowed it away again before gripping the edges of the plate and lifting. It stayed in place for a long moment before finally beginning to move with a loud groan; as he lifted, the entrance of a dark tunnel was exposed. The man only lifted it far enough to allow himself to slide into the revealed hole, and let it fall closed behind him with a tortured rasp.
With the door shut, the beggar was plunged into complete darkness, and he groped along the wall, he hand sliding over slime and grease, before finding what he was searching for. The torch was where he had left it, along with the striker. He slid both out of the ancient holder driven into the stone of the wall and clicked the striker several times. Each time flint rubbed on steel, sending a cascade of sparks onto the torch head, which suddenly bloomed with flame. The beggar stuck the lit torch back into its sconce, and then stood up straight, knuckling his back. He leaned his staff against the wall, slid his cloak off and threw it to the ground next to it. The man was taller then most, and broad through the shoulder, with brown curls falling lazily around his shoulders, and a short cropped beard covering his face. His blue eyes frowned as he examined the grime on his hand, and he bent to wipe it on the discarded cloak. pulling the torch back out of its holder and setting off down the tunnel, his right hand resting lightly on his sword hilt, his back straight and his head high. He did not expect to meet anyone in these old tunnels, he had only found mention of the vast subterranean labyrinth by chance, in an ancient book falling apart from age, and he did not think that there was more then one original key to them, plus the ones he had made, now dispersed to others.
He strode for half an hour through the maze of passageways, following a twisting path memorized from previous trips. Even though he thought no one had followed him, or knew about the tunnels, he took no chances; he was a cautious man both by upbringing and necessity, embroiled in a very dangerous endeavor. After a time he could see a slight glow ahead, and when he took the next corner a large room suddenly opened in front of him, torches lining the wall giving good light. A large table nearly filled the space, twelve tall-backed chairs carved from a dark wood lining its sides. The table’s ancient wood was worm-eaten and scared with age, and only its massive scale had saved it from complete disintegration as it lay for centuries in the damp and dark under the city. New chairs to surround the table had been a problem; brought down carefully one by one, with the deaths of the workmen so that they could not speak, and then the deaths of the hired assassins to keep the secret, but it had been worthwhile, a secure meeting place had been needed. The handful of finely dressed men and women around the table whipped around to stare at him as he strode into the room, and the low buzz of conversation cut off, leaving only silence. The staccato tap of his boots on the stone floor echoed unnaturally loudly around the chamber as the man walked to the head of the table and sat down. Finally, the silence was broken by one of the other men.  “Decided to keep us waiting awhile, Thanos?” The man’s voice was rather high pitched, one might think from nerves, but Thanos knew his voice always sounded that way. “Remember, we are all in this together, so don’t you try to hold yourself above us.”
“Sometimes caution is needed, as you would do well to remember, Grien.” Thanos’ voice was deep and carried just a hint of malice. Thanos liked none of the people around the table, but Grien perhaps the least. Where as Thanos looked every inch a Lord of the Land, with his brown pants tucked into knee high leather boots and green silk coat cut nearly knee length with wide turned down collar, the height of fashion in Gresne’eve, somehow scrupulously clean even after wandering through moldering tunnels, Grien looked ridiculous in a short black jacket and orange hose that did nothing but highlight his girly legs. It was said that his preference for little boys was the reason he was ostracized at Court, but Thanos did not think his appearance helped matters. Just the same, he was a powerful Lord as well, one with not love for the current king, much the same as all of those around the table. Thanos would make use of the tools he had until he achieved his goal, and some of those Lords and Ladies would be necessary for years to come, but he would unburden himself of them as he was able.
“Perhaps you do not remember the price of treason? If not, let me remind you. Forfeit of lands and title, and death by the headsman.” Thanos leaned forward to look Grien in the eye, who quickly looked away. “We could never have too much caution.”
“We all remember,” came a wheezy voice from the far end of the table. Lord Trasck sounded as though he was at death’s door, and had sounded that way for some twenty years. With a warm black woolen robe wrapped around his desiccated frame, he looked as though he might die at any moment, but his gaze was still keen as a knife in the back, and his memory was long, especially for a slight to him, real or perceived. “But you must remember too, Lord Thanos, that we risk no less then you, some of us even more. So tell us why you have called this meeting. Although some here could disappear and none would notice or care, I will be missed in a short time, and we do not need suspicion cast on any of us.”
Thanos kept his face neutral as he nodded to Lord Trasck. An insult to him would have meant constantly looking behind his back, waiting for an assassin’s blade, something which Thanos had no time for. Far easier to stay on his good side until their plan came to its culmination, and then it could be arranged for Trasck’s son or grandson to take over the family’s estates after the old man’s tragic, but hardly untimely, death. “My Lords and Ladies, I called this meeting because the time is finally at hand.” Thanos leaned back in his chair and lightly rested his clasped hands on the table. “His Highness, Lord Alaron Silvinias, King of the Plains and Lord of the Clans, will fall, attacked by dwarves as he nears the gates of this very city, when he returns home in two days time from Coldaxe Mountain.”
Several people gasped, some smiled, and two Lords near the end of the table leaned their heads together to whisper excitedly to each other. Thanos noted those who did so; any who had things to say which they did not want to share with the whole group would have to be investigated, and likely more deaths would follow this meeting, as had followed all those previous. One blunt- faced man halfway down the table blurted, “Dwarves! Why those filthy little creatures?”
Thanos nearly smiled, he had known Andric would disapprove of using Dwarves. His undisguised hatred towards a longtime friend of the throne as well as important trading partner had made sure he was never allowed time with the King, and his isolation had only led to further bitterness and hatred. “To take the blame for the King’s death, of course.” Now, Thanos really did smile, hardly having to force it upon his face. “The fall of our beloved ruler will whip the people into a fervor, and their anger will need a release, a target, and war with Coldaxe Mountain will give them just that. Plus, war will give me the excuse to make any change I want once I have the throne, all for the good of the people of course.”
“War with the Dwarves, never would have thought of that,” Andric said, gazing at Thanos with admiration. Thanos gazed back at Andric levelly. The man was far more comfortable with a sword in hand then with thoughts in his head; he was a hammer, a blunt instrument, and he could not find his own ass with both hands and a manservant.
“What makes these Dwarves want to attack the King?” Lord Trasck rasped. “They must know that they will be hunted down should they slay him, either by us or by the Mountain. It is suicide.”
“Just the same, they will attack and kill the King, before being killed themselves by the Royal Guard.” Thanos nodded to Andric. “Thanks to your ‘accidental” wounding of the Captain- General, we have a replacement who responds much better to the feel of gold in his hand. It will be his handpicked men guarding the King and Queen, and those men will be sure to put up a good fight, but just the same our Liege will be dead.”
“What of Raello? Even if he is not travelling with the King, he might somehow interfere.” Lord Trasck’s eyes narrowed, and his brows drew down. Signs of fear, though likely only Thanos knew this, and Trasck would never admit it. Thanos understood such fear, Raello was a man to be frightened of, a man who often knew more then you thought he could, and whose reach was always greater then you hoped or feared.
“Raello left Gresne’eve this morning. His granddaughter has a birthday coming up, and she wants to see him, even if she does live all the way on the coast.” Thanos looked once more at Grien. “That is what her letter said, was it not?”
Grien giggled, a high-pitched sound far more suitable coming from a little girl. “Yes, and she goes on to say that she misses him quite terribly, never gets to see him at all, and it is such a special day, her tenth birthday!” Grien giggled again. “He is well gone from the city, and will not be able to return in less then ten days, maybe even longer if he does not discover the forgery.”
“Time enough that events will have far outpaced even his clever touch.” Thanos leaned towards Grien once more, who leaned far back in his chair. “He had no suspicion, he will not come crashing into the city in two days time?”
“No, no need to worry about that.” Grien grinned widely. “My young friend has handwriting that looks very much like a little girl’s, as well he should. Plus I have it from reliable sources that Raello told more then one person about his trip, and how excited he was to see the family. He had no suspicions.”
“Good.” Thanos leaned back in his seat, allowing himself to relax slightly. “So there is the plan. The King and Queen are killed within sight of the city walls by Dwarves, the Guardsmen allows it to happen before killing the Dwarves in retaliation, and with the prospect of war looming I will be crowned as quickly as possible. Once I hold the throne, the war will give me excuse to make or ignore any law that I so choose. Raello will be too far away to have any effect until to late.” Thanos forced another smile. “Those in this room will be my new advisors, as well as public officers, and we will all enjoy the power and influence which has been denied us, but which we so rightly deserve.”
“A moment,” said a new voice from near Lord Trasck, and Thanos focused his attention on one of the few women in the room. The Lady Elsia had a voice which was low and sultry, and a gaze like frozen crystal. At little over thirty, she was young to be widowed three times, as well as very wealthy from it. Although she was one of the great beauties at court, she was now avoided, by women who feared the association, and by men who feared death. “There is a child, is there not? You might be Regent for ten or more years, but in the end I suspect the majority of the Nobles, as well as the army, will turn against you if you tried to hold on to power after the boy had grown. Your brother and his family are quite beloved by the people, even if you are not.”
Thanos ignored the insult. Sparring with Elsia would do him no good, and might possibly bring him to great harm; she was more dangerous then even Trasck. “Yes, my dear nephew, only three years old and already so charming, so precocious, very much my brother’s son.” Thanos’ face turned almost sorrowful. “When he is found strangled to death in his crib, his death will only fan the flames of outrage and hatred. You see, the Dwarves had this all planned from the beginning. They not only wanted to kill our King, but his whole family. They wanted us leaderless and weak, and because their ways are not our ways, they believe we will fight amongst ourselves to pick a new King, not knowing that we are civilized, that we live by the rule of law. But we will need to enact that law as soon as possible, so that we can have strong leadership before the Dwarves strike us. At least, this is what the people will believe.”
“Not a bad story, but do you think that people will accept it, especially the Nobles?” Elsia leaned forward in her seat, her dark eyes examining Thanos. “Many of them have been to Coldaxe Mountain and know the Dwarves. Suspicion is bound to fall on you Thanos; you have been too open with some about your feelings. Even if you are next in line to the throne, some of the Nobles will council caution, block the coronation, try to calm the people with reason. Before long, Raello will be back with a forged letter in hand, the crown still not on your head. Are you prepared for that, Thanos? Can you face an enraged Archmage?”
“I have resources at my disposal should the need arise which would help should such a situation occur, but it will not. And it will not for a very simple reason, fear. The uneducated masses fear the unknown, and very few people have seen a Dwarf in recent years. But they have all heard stories of the hairy little people to the north, how they differ from us, how strange they are.” Thanos slowly started to meet the eye of every man and woman at the table, one by one. “This is what each of you can do to make this plan work. Talk to the Nobles after the King’s death. Make sure that they know that it must have been planned by the Dwarven King himself, in an attempt to weaken us before a full attack. They are going to attack us soon, any day. And remember, the Dwarves are different from us, and who knows what they are capable of doing. Whisper this to the Nobles, tell this to your servants, and make sure they spread it to the people. Let them all know that each and every one of you are afraid, and that they should be to. Keep the fear up, keep it at a fever pitch, and they will run to stick that crown on my head.”
Lord Trasck laughed, a dry, dusty chuckle. “You are right, fear will win over reason every time. The plan is solid.”
Thanos inclined his head towards Trasck. “I am gratified that you think so. Your skills in subtlety are well known. So for now all we must do now is wait. In two days the King will lay dead, and by two days after that I intent on having the crown on my own head. Until then, act normally, make sure that you do not betray any impatience, and give no hint of what is to come. After the King’s fall, all I ask is for you to spread fear far and wide, and that should be plenty.” Thanos stood and leaned his fists on the table. “If all goes according to plan, the next time we meet, it will be in the council chambers in the palace.”
Smiles and excited whispering met these words, and some of the Lords and Ladies looked as though they wished to speak more, but Thanos wheeled about and began to stride back out of the chamber, gathering up his torch and disappearing into the tunnels. He would have preferred to make a more leisurely exit, but the meeting had gone on for far too long. Thanos had known there would be some discussion, but now he was running dangerously late. The meeting with the Nobles was not the only one he had that night, and he dare not be late to the next one.
   The rest of the Nobles took their time about departing, standing and rearranging clothes, whispering here and there about the night’s revelations, making a show of unconcernedly departing down the other tunnels that led from the room. It was over an hour before the light from torches faded, and only then did a figure emerge, swinging silently out of a pipe set overhead and out of sight on the wall. The young man stood for several minutes, listening, and then silently ran down one of the tunnels, into the deep dark.
Your god can suck my Scrotum

Offline The new Olli (with hair)

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The Emerald Phoenix- Prologue
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2008, 01:02:51 am »
Thanos? Is that the guy that had that gauntlet of power or some shit and fought spiderman and wolverine to a stand still?
Hunchback: Repent

I repent every day Hunchie. And every day god makes me newer, faster, smarter, sexier, and ready to sin again.

Offline Rith

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The Emerald Phoenix- Prologue
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2008, 01:46:56 am »
Possibly, and if so, for much the same reason, as i was diriving from greek mythos as was Marvel. You know, you have a point, of sorts. The name does seem to stand out a bit, maybe i should tweak it a bit more, or go for a more obscure religion.


By the way, i have missed the love all this time
Your god can suck my Scrotum

Offline Rith

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The Emerald Phoenix- Prologue
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2008, 02:05:45 am »
oh, and thank you for reading
Your god can suck my Scrotum

Offline The new Olli (with hair)

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The Emerald Phoenix- Prologue
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2008, 02:15:08 am »
Thank you for writing
Hunchback: Repent

I repent every day Hunchie. And every day god makes me newer, faster, smarter, sexier, and ready to sin again.