by Than Pence
King Sylvester and Tuette, a Cursed sorceress, must save Decennia from Count Roose!
|The murky sea rolled below him, each wave’s crest a dead body. The moonlight glinted on jewels the dead had been buried in. King Sylvester knew that the dead were his ancestors and they always did the same thing: they would rise. Recurring nightmares allow such foreknowledge. On the rocky edge, he stared down, unable to move away from this dead sea cliff. He was inexplicably frozen, unable to move or look away.
With each wave, the corpses slammed against the rocky cliff base. After fathoms of moments, Sylvester watched the kings of the past begin to climb the stone face. Still, he could not turn away. The clear moon above lit up the area below with pristine effect. A chill wind cut across his face, forcing him to blink. In that instant, the leading corpses were at the top, folding their mottled bodies along the edge, digging bony or soggy fingers into the earth. The thought that he could kick them over the edge was there, but only in his mind.
Lumbering along, the corpse kings stood tall on the cliff and surrounded Sylvester. They smelled of bile and excretions, sour water and rotten seaweed. If anything, Sylvester wished he could vomit, but that too was frozen inside, a seed of digested foods and failures.
The dead ambled behind Sylvester, looking at the living king’s neck, at the kingstone there. Usually, his hair was longer, covering the stone. Now it was short, exposing the base of his skull for these rotting relics. “Go ahead and stare. It’s only a showpiece! The almighty kingstone we all share will always be worthless!”
The dead reached for their own necks with waterlogged limbs, causing remnants of the sea they unknowingly carried to fall to the ground with wet slaps and splashes. As each touched his own neck and the kingstone there, twisted crowns appeared on their heads. Unable to move, Sylvester knew no such ornament would materialize on his scalp.
Seeing Sylvester without his crown, the freshest body screamed, a guttural sound that instilled fright. The others joined chorus, compounding his fear. The twisted crowns began to twist further, reaching up and curving back down to dig into the corpse faces. With each puncture, frothy water spewed like blood, like puss. The thick liquid flew at King Sylvester, looking ropy and rancid.
Finally, he buckled and slumped forward. The corpses were upon him, tearing at his neck, trying to remove the kingstone. “Take it,” he muttered gravely. “Take it, take it, take it…” He said this until his own blood mixed with the putrid sea water and tried climbing into his mouth and nose.
Choking on the concoction, Sylvester fought the invasive fluids and the tormenting kings, landing his blows anywhere he could. The moonlight strengthened, reflecting brightly against the crowns and jewels, blinding the king until he was throwing wide punches. The dead have bony fingers primed for digging, for escaping graves, and they used them to dig out his eyes.
King Sylvester screamed, choked, coughed, and screamed again, before succumbing to the salvation of dawn and the dreamless day that would follow.
* ~ * ~ *
King Sylvester awoke, startled. The nightmare was the same, an uninvited guest for years now, but it always made him queasy. Sitting up, he rubbed his neck, touched the kingstone back there, and sighed. “So it’s mine to keep. As always.”
A knock at the double door and the king bellowed, “Come in.” The doors opened wide and Penson, Sylvester’s ever faithful assistant, strode forward.
“You said something, sir?”
“I said you could come on in, Penson.”
“Before that, sir.”
Sylvester rolled his eyes and smirked. “That was muttered. I muttered something to myself. For my ears only.” Only Penson could have heard such a thing. His senses were tuned like a canine on the hunt. He was the same height as the king and kept his brown hair cut short, almost to the scalp.
“Very well, sir. It’s time to awaken either way. The Council is meeting this morning, regarding an incident in the south.”
“Incident? Regarding what?”
Penson paused, looking worried. “Regarding your kingdom, I believe.” With that, he said no more and began aiding the king in washing and dressing. As always, a high-collared coat was chosen to assist in covering the kingstone. Sylvester insisted that attention never be drawn to it and Penson knew why: he was the only other person that knew the kingstone did not work.
Centuries before, so Sylvester was told, Mages convened at the end of the Dissociative War and used powers to cull the proper leader of the land of Decennia. The man was marked with the kingstone, a jewel imbedded at the base of the skull. It was said that since this first king had the gifts and knowledge to manage the kingdom, that it would be passed down through his bloodline, departing his knowledge to his son, who then ruled as king. Over the decades and centuries, it served its purpose and the knowledge base grew and evolved.
King Sylvester had never known any of the experiences firsthand that the royal journals described. He had no insight about political affairs, no visions of what has happened before and how to avoid mistakes again, nothing. He was blind to his blood’s past. But being of King Gould and baring the only kingstone, there was no other to lead Decennia.
His father’s unforeseen death had forced Sylvester to adopt the throne at a young age. The kingdom had no other choice and Sylvester had been stuck ever since, just getting by and listening to anything the Advisory Council had to say.
Dressed and ready, the king was going to meet with that same council.
* ~ * ~ *
When Sylvester had been called to the throne in his early teens, old decrees had to be revived and the Advisory Council was created. He had scarcely started his schooling in the Fortright Isles in the north when King Gould had accidently fallen from a cliff in Serres Mor. With so little formal education, the laws stated that the council would be made up of each region’s governing tent.
A decade later, the former tents – current advisors – were still residing on Mount Reign, Decennia’s ruling capital. Sylvester did not have nice things to say about any of them, but Penson said there was important news and he needed to hear it.
They met in Wakefield Hall with Sylvester arriving last. He did not care about being punctual with these people who always attempted to treat him like a child. “Greetings, all,” he stated while walking quickly to his elevated seat at the head of the hall’s elongated table. Upon sitting, the eight advisors lazily took their seats.
Trisden Fellowes of Fortright Isle was the first to speak, as always. “Greetings, milord. And what a fine late summer morning it is –”
“Quiet,” interrupted Sylvester. Trisden looked stunned, as if smacked. “No pleasant salutations, no dialogue, nothing. I’m told there’s news of import from the south. What is it?”
The council stared blankly for several moments before the man from Whismerl, Dothel op Prissen, spoke up. “Sir, a man from the Seagulf Islands has sent word to Gale Marsht stating that he has set into motion a Curse that will affect all of Decennia.
King Sylvester was still and silent, sharing glances with each advisor. Trisden patted down his straight, blonde hair and the king finally spoke. “What does that mean?”
Dothel spoke. “By the next full moon, this Curse will take effect.”
After many questions, Sylvester learned the details: Count Roose of the Seagulf Islands was threatening the Kingdom of Decennia with a Curse that would have each and every citizen lose their thumbs. “This sounds absurd,” said Sylvester, plainly. “Is it a joke?”
Shaking his head, Dothel said, “No, milord. Cafeglian Dormaset himself has affirmed that a powerful Curse has been set into motion and that it will culminate with the full moon.”
Sylvester nodded. Maperryta Dormaset was the leading practitioner of the Magikals. His knowledge was insurmountable. “How can it be stopped? I don’t want my kingdom to be absent its thumbs, do I?”
Weak smiles broke the faces of the solemn group and Trisden spoke up. “A Curse Reverse must be performed, sir. An action that will break the Curse before it is completed.” Trisden frowned for a moment. “If need be, it can be carried out after the Curse has been enacted, but I don’t see –”
“What’s this Reverse?”
“It’s a specified action that –”
“I know what it is,” grumbled Sylvester. “I recall basic Magik teachings offered at Majramdic. I mean, what is the action that has to be performed.”
The advisors shared a glance. It was the portly Misren OkLat, former-tent of Javal’ta, where the Seagulf Islands were positioned, that spoke. “You have to Freeze a flock of chickens.”
“Freeze chickens? I know they’re an endangered species but surely Dormaset has the means to carry this task out.”
Misren shook his head and started to gesture at Sylvester. “No, sir. You have to Freeze them.”
“I don’t understand.”
“King, sir,” started Dothel. “Since this Curse has been cast towards the kingdom as a whole, it is Decennia’s rightful leader that has to carry out the Reverse.”
“Oh. I have to Freeze the chickens.” He felt foolish for not understanding it immediately, but it quickly passed. “But this is a Curse, yes? As I recall, killing the caster is just as effective, no?” Again, the Advisory Council shared their glances. Sylvester guess this was a subject more sensitive than they were letting on. He looked to Dothel of Whismerl. “Isn’t that right, Mage? Can’t I order this Count Roose fellow to be executed and spare my kingdom this absurd threat? I mean, he can Curse people. That means he himself is Cursed. We’ll be saving any unfortunates that have crossed his path already.”
“Yes, milord. Although I am no Mage.”
“Begging your pardon. I guess I am relying on the presumptions of you being from Whismerl.”
Dothel smiled tightly. “It’s my apology to bear, sir. But you have revealed the finer details of the problem. This avenue has already been tried. Count Roose is a very powerful Mage. He is well defended on his island and has Magik on his side. Word has already returned concerning agents that have failed, and fatally so.”
Frowning, Sylvester stood. “Then that’s it. First, we need to have a flock of chickens located. Then someone needs to instruct me with how to Freeze them. Finally, a plan needs to be put into place regarding the elimination of this renegade count. I will not have my kingdom be threatened by means of Magik, let alone anything else.”
Without waiting for replies, Sylvester left Wakefield Hall, feeling angry about the threat, but unsure of how he would be carrying it out. Magik made him nervous, but he did like the idea of doing something important and meaningful for the sake of his kingdom.