There once was a hero in the times of old
He had a blade made of iron and a shield made of gold
The Hero was born to the high king and queen
He was raised in the largest palace ever to be seen
Romulus shivered and yawned at the same time.
How did it come to this? He thought. Everyone else in the entire kingdom of Lorule are at home sleeping now, and I’m standing here freezing half to death.
He sighed and sat down next to a lonely looking gravestone, his black cloak and short blonde hair flowing in the wind. Only a Shiekah would be dramatic enough to hold a business meeting in a graveyard. At midnight. On the night before the...
The sound of a snapping twig shattered his thoughts.
Romulus threw himself to his feet and spun around towards the sound...
...only to see a squirrel, the likely source of the sound, scurry away.
Contrary to what most people would’ve done, had they been in his place, Romulus stayed where he was, standing and staring at the bushery where the twig snapped. Waiting.
It took nearly ten minutes of waiting, but finally it happened.
From the bushes, a soft, raspy voice asked “Link?”
“Saria,” Romulus replied.
The voice in the bushes stayed quiet for the longest time, before again asking, “Link?”
Romulus sighed, and then again replied “Saria and YuGanon.”
Wrapped in the traditional blue and red Shiekah tunic, Nanja stepped out of the bushes.
“You have the stupidest code ever.” Romulus remarked.
Nanja smiled and stepped out of the bushes, snickering to herself.
Romulus was not as amused, “You know, I have a kingdom to protect, and it’s really hard to protect it when I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep. So this better be important.”
Nanja stopped laughing and glared at him, as if offended, “You know this is important,” her scratched voice turned the low statement into a loud whisper, “There are people I know who would kill to have this information,” she paused for effect, “or kill for you to not have it.”
Romulus rolled his eyes at the obvious exaggeration, “So are you going to tell me this information?”
Nanja held out her hand in mock politeness, “As soon as you fulfil your end of the bargain.”
He snorted, “If you think I trust you, you’re even more messed up in the head than I thought you were.
With lightning-quick reflexes, Nanja snatched her hand back and shot Romulus a disgusted look, “That’s not how you get what you want.”
“Well, you want to stay out of prison, and you’re not going to get that if you keep this charade up.” Romulus spat.
Nanja gave Romulus the dirtiest look he had seen in some time.
“Now, what do you need to tell me?”
His informant’s stare did not break. Romulus could almost hear the gears turning inside her head, visualising every possible scenario. She had obviously not expected his refusal to pay first, which meant
a.) she planned on not fully honouring her side of the deal and,
b.) she did not know Romulus as well as she thought she did, and as well as he knew her.
“Fine.” She said in a defeated tone. Romulus smirked. Nanja was a Shiekah, and Shiekah always took the easy way out of a conflict.
Nanja close her eyes and sighed for a few seconds, then opened them and began. “I pose as Annabeth Graves, the Warden’s right-hand-woman for three days,” she held up three fingers on her right hand to illustrate, “During these three days, I learned lots of valuable information, including his next target.” The way she said ‘including’ gave a clear impression that Nanja thought her other information was much more valuable.
Nanja looked almost disappointed at his lack of interest.
“My talents are wasted here,” she said disapprovingly, before adding, “Raven Silk, the CEO of Peacekeeper Industries.”
Romulus nodded at the familiar Company name, but was slightly confused at the CEO’s, “Raven Silk, is that her real name?”
A snicker escaped Nanja, “Obviously not, it’s a public alias, no one knows her real name. Now, can you please pay Me?” She had obviously run out of patients.
Silently, Romulus reached into his dark cloak and produced a long, thin, silver sword, decorated with numerous multicoloured gems. The sword was far too small for combat, it was only used for formal purposes, such as knighting and de-knighting.
It was also worth a fortune to collectors.
Nanja looked at the sword, then looked up a Romulus as if he’d just cracked a sick joke.
“You promised Me three of these,” she said in a deadly calm, “Enough to pay all of my debts.”
Romulus was not intimidated, “There are still things I need you to do for Me, and when you do those things, you will be rewarded.”
Nanja opened her mouth in protest, but before she could say anything, Romulus cut her off.
“If you want, you can get the alternative and get put in the same prison as all the criminals you helped catch.”
Angrily, Nanja snatched her ‘reward,’ said “You have no honour,” and disappeared back into the forest.
Romulus chuckled to himself, “Lousy Shak,”
Aethra was in a dream.
The wooden table in front of her looked just like the one she had all her meals at as a child. The wooden room she was in looked just like the one she had all her meals at as a child. The wooden room she was in looked just like the one she ate in as a child. The tomato soup in front of her was identical to the tomato soup she always loved as a child. Looking down at herself, Aethra realised that she too looked exactly like she did when she was six, she was even wearing her then favourite purple dress.
The only indication that this was not a simple dream/memory was the man sitting across from her.
The man was obviously not human, his ash-grey skin and too-angular features were clear evidence of that. However, his thick orange dreadlocks and skinny torso greatly resembled a human’s. The only clothing he wore that Aethra could see was a Lorule knight training tunic, except this one was blood-red instead of the usual grass-green.
In front of him, was also a bowl of tomato soup, which he was currently eating from.
“What’s the matter darling?” His deep voice was strange in that it seemed to come front the walls, and not his moving mouth, “Not hungry?”
Aethra groaned and leaned back in her chair, trying not to think about how hungry she suddenly was. “I thought I-” Aethra paused for a second. She had the same squeaky, shaky voice she had when she was six. “I thought I told you to stay out of My childhood memories. And can you please make my voice normal?” The serious tone Aethra always used when talking sounded comical in a child’s voice. Not ideal for having a serious discussion (which they were supposed to be doing).
When the man was done laughing hysterically at her (which was quite some time,) he looked her right in the eyes and said, “One sip of that,” he gestured towards the soup, “will transport us to a memory of when you’re older.”
As soon as he was done talking, the smell of the tomato soup flooded Aethra’s nostrils, intensifying her hunger.
Still, she did not give in.
“Nyx,” She said as calmly as she could, “I gave you an entrance into My mind so you could tell Me of anything that might threaten My kingdom. Not,” she spat, “so you could dig through it and play you sick games with Me.” Her words sounded a lot less intimidating in a child’s voice, but it was enough to take the smile off of Nyx’s face.
After a few second of silence he spoke, “Romulus wanted Me to tell you he got the Warden’s next target from his Shak associate.”
Aethra rolled her eyes at the racist term, but did acknowledge the useful information given, “Who is it?”
Nyx took a sip of his soup, “Didn’t say. He told Me he’d rather tell you in person, and then said you need to meet him tomorrow, right after the festival, in the usual place.” He pause, before adding, in a slightly detached voice, “Wherever that is.”
Aethra chuckled to herself (though it sounded more like a giggle in her little voice), “Can’t say I blame him. Is that all?” she added in a more serious tone.
Nyx took another sip of his soup, “One more thing. Romulus said he’s going to need another one of your knighting swords.”
Aethra nodded, “Okay, I can do that.”
The last four words Aethra heard before the dream meeting ended did not come from her or Nyx. They came from an unknown source in a monster’s voice.
“YOU CAN’T HIDE PRINCESS!!”
Aethra screamed and woke up.