Jonathan stalked out into the corridor, his face set in a grim scowl.
"Leave me, I wish to walk on my own." He barked at the duo of guards that attempted to begin shadowing him.
He would really prefer not to have eyes on him for just a little while. All the stress of being a good leader, a good husband, and a good father was wearing him down to the bone. He needed to be able to be a little less than composed and think about what he was doing as a father.
Do I love my kids?
He stopped short on the walkway. He did not even remember taking the stairs and ending up on the parapet. It was late and not many people would be up here.
There were no guards here at the crest of the main Keep. The guards that stood guard at this late hour would be stationed at the gates and at intervals around the perimeter. His wife had laughed at him when he suggested how many guards he wanted to be posted at night since there was no longer any war for him to fight and to protect against.
Of course, I love them. Heaven's above. Of course, I love them...
There was a burning in his heart and his conscience. The feeling that he was just behaving wrongly to his children. He wanted so much for them to be what the Kingdom meant but hardly at all what they themselves wanted to be.
Movement between the outside wall and the main Keep far below him caught his eye and snapped him out of his brooding. A chill wind blew up his spine. He was not sure what he was looking at but it looked... unnatural.
"Something's not right here." He grumbled and left the conversation with himself on the parapets for another night.
The arcane door banged open and he found himself staring straight into the milky dead eyes of a dessicated corpse.
Adrian shrieked and fell over onto his back and tried to scramble away from it.
"What are you doing here boy?" A gruff voice asked him and the head swung closer to Adrian.
Adrian stared up as the head swung away and he looked at the bristly long beard of his uncle. Adrian had not seen the mysterious Adiran for weeks. The man had always been that way, disappearing for a month or close to a year and then returning without fanfare. Sometimes nobody knew he was back and without ceremony, he could be spotted leaving the castle again.
Soon enough, nobody in the castle really cared about the brother of the King. He was considered an odd ball and a loner. He had one admirer who watched him come and go and was tracking his movements as much as possible.
"I have been waiting for you uncle" Adrian said as he scrambled to his feet, still shaky after seeing the desiccated grey head. He decided to ignore the head. It was merely a distraction. He had waited months to see his uncle.
His uncle was also a mage. The castle mages would not teach Adrian because his father, the king, had forbidden it. Jonathan had believed that if there was nobody to teach and encourage the boy, the Prince would give up on it and return to other boyish interests.
His uncle would understand and he was so secrative that he would probably be able to teach Adrian without anyone knowing. The castle mages did not seem to think that the strange man had much power, but Adrian did not care.
Besides, Adrian had strange feelings about his uncle and whatever was behind that door.
This was his shot. He had waited for ages for this, playing out the scenario in his head over and over. He knew what he would say. His uncle would understand. Who else would know the pain of being blessed with this talent and nothing else? Who else other than the man he was named after.
"Uncle, there is nobody else for me to turn to..." Adrian began. "Please will you teach me about magic? I have to..."
"No." The reply cut him sharp and the inscripted door slammed shut before his face.
The sudden crash of noise was followed by an echoing silence. Adrian stared at the door for a while and then down at his toes. His vision blurred with tears that he fought to control.
He began running. He didn't know where he was going. He just did not want anyone to find him crying in the hallway.
Down a corridor he went, there was a right hand turn he was blearily aware of as he tried to wipe his eyes.
He came to an iron bound door that was barred from this side. This opened up on the green mustering field. This green swathe was where the knights jousted and the soldiers went through their drills with sword, spear and bow.
Adrian hated going there during the day, for it was permanently filled with boisterous muscleheads who made jokes about him when none of the royal family or commanders could hear.
Similarly, he had suffered some of his most degrading moments on this field under the wrath of his father and the dismayed diligence of the old Master at Arms.
At night it was empty. Adrian liked it here at night because he could step as far away from torchlight as a Prince possibly could and he could see the stars so much better. Both moons had set tonight, making the starlit display that much brighter.
It was somewhat rare for both moons to be down at the same time. The larger of the two, Helios, was lazy in the sky. It travelled slowly and would not be seen for several days now.
The other moon travelled much faster. Ranos spend through the night sky so fast that you could watch it move. It set more than once a day. Luckily, this moon was small and Helios large so it did not disturb the tides greatly.
Something scraped in the darkness.
Adrian would have stared up at the night sky for hours, watching Ranos rise again. The sound that made him look around him in the darkness had broken that soothing distraction.
Nothing ever moved out here this time of night. Suddenly the fact that neither moon shone became a frightening reality as visibility of the ground was badly obscured.
There was another scrape and a ping of metal on metal. There came another sound, like footsteps. Adrian realized that whatever was making the noise, there was more than one source of the scrapes and steps.
"Hello?" He called. "I am Prince Adrian. Who goes there?"
The shuffling and clanking stopped all at once. After a painfully long moment the footsteps returned, hurried and coming in his direction.
He saw them then, shambling, stumbling figures. Three, four, five and more coming up behind them. They seemed like men but moved strangely.
A smell assaulted Adrian. It was rotten and dusty all at the same time. The first face Adrian saw drew forth a scream from the boy and he turned and ran.
The image was burned into his mind: the empty pale eyes, the jaw that was detached on the one side of its face and the wisps of long thin hair that unevenly framed its face.
Adrian's running was caught short as he came up to the blank wall of the Keep. He screamed again. He had lost his way back! He must have run at an angle and missed the door.
They were coming. Left or right?
He ran left. Hoping that the door would be nearby. His breathing came fast and his legs felt like would come off. He nearly fell on his face when he had to stop suddenly.
Out of the darkness came gnarled hands, filthy with dirt. They belonged to another dead man who had chunks of its chest and arms missing. It made for a lunge and Adrian pushed himself away.
Backtracking but realizing his doom, they were to his left now, before him and behind him. He turned and set his back against the Keep wall.
All around him, they were coming. Not at a run, but instead an urgent shuffle that seemed painful and unnatural. Adrian could not move.
The closest hand reached ever closer to him and Adrian managed one final scream.
An inch before his nose the hand and the arm it was attached to dissapeared. Adrian barely recognized the whipping and singing voice of honed steel.
The blade traced an arch and turned back to the dead man, parting its head from its shoulders and the nightmarish creature fell inertly to the ground.
"Get behind me son!" The King commanded and took a fighting stance before Adrian.
What a cliffhanger! Aaaaand I will leave it just like that mid-action for @lex-zaiya to continue with! Enjoy!
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