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Old 03-23-2003, 11:43 AM   #1
lace
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Evening.....

High on the balcony, the light began to fade and the air grew cold. The last glow of the sun lingered on the curled leaves, rusting the twilight canopy. He sat above it, exposed to the movements of the sky, his face held to the wind - a proud, forgotton king.....proud and forgotton. How many years had past? How many summers had gorged themselves into autumn? How many bleak moonlight skies had witnessed him, alone in this self-imposed exile. More than stone surrounded him now, more than stone.
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Old 03-23-2003, 01:56 PM   #2
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"Your son, traipsing around like a little tart in that getup of his? You know sire, the people don't approve of such things. That...that boy--"

The king turned on his haunches, "That boy is my son. That boy is the prince--whether you or the people like it. He is blood heir to the throne, and I can only do so much to persuade him to live it properly." Defeated in his current age, he sighed a heavy, heaving sigh. His eyes were downcast.

His royal son was a royal...
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Old 03-23-2003, 09:37 PM   #3
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This was the fifth time he'd been called on the carpet to justify his son's admittedly eccentric behaviors. Though he loved him dearly, and secretly vicariously enjoyed his antics (the most recent of which included a virtuostic kite-surfing expedition, his outrageous son dressed in the finest billowing silks and full makeup, as he displayed his almost superhuman abilities to a gathered throng) he knew that unless the young heir gained the respect of those who could not see beyond an unruly sense of humor and flamboyant disregard for stuffy superficial appearances, he was placing their family's claim to royal leadership in jeopardy.
It also didn't help that he had a never-ending stream of women flowing, fascinated, through his apartments; not one of them was suitable to be taken as a wife, although they weren't unpleasant to look at... His mind wandered as he recalled his son's most recent romantic associate - a delightful combination of wit and charm, blue eyes like saucers and lips like plump mounds of strawberry mousse... With a grunt of annoyance he shook himself from his reverie. Like the others, she was only interested in the novelty of playing with one of the most notorious scoundrels in the region... soon gone away, wealthy enough to be independent, not interested in having her fortune tied to a man with such an uncertain future.
Only he knew the vast intelligence and commitment to others that was his son's potential gift to his people... if he would just... focus... No, that wasn't it exactly. And if he knew what it was, maybe he could help him to accept his future responsibility - before the will of the people took away his choice to do so.
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Old 03-28-2003, 10:15 PM   #4
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On the far side of the great hall, his son was telling of his latest invention to a group of blushing courtesians. Quickly, his majesty approached.

"Steve?"
"Oh, Father, I've just been telling these beautiful ladies of the recent advancements I've made with my ...mmm... device."
"Yes. hmm... I see... Yes. Steve, I need a word with you. In private."
"Ladies, please don't go anywhere."
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Old 03-29-2003, 07:47 PM   #5
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"Actually," said the king, broadcasting a regretful smile to the eager young women, "we'll be quite a while." He took his son's arm and steered him quickly away, face immediately becoming grave, ingnoring the small impatient and disappointed sounds the women made as they dispersed.
"You really shouldn't encourage them, Steve," he said under his breath. "They have hopes you'll choose one of them...for... you know..."

"That's just silly," said Steve. "I'm certainly not going to marry any of them, Father. They must know it's all in fun."

"Have you told them that?"

"Oh... they *must* know! How could I possibly marry one of them?"

The king sighed in exasperation. As much as his son knew about women - which was a prodigious amount for his small years - there was much he still didn't know. "Well - let me ask you this, then. What sort of woman do you think you *would* marry? And don't answer 'someone who comes from a good family' or 'someone you'll like, Father' - have you actually thought at all about who you could fall in love with? Spend the rest of your life with? Rule our kingdom with?"

Steve looked at him blankly. After a moment, he said, "No. I really haven't."

Well, at least he's honest, thought the king. He took another deep breath, this time with resolve to say the next thing, which he knew would result in temporary chaos... but it was for the best. He hated to disappoint or upset his son - especially since the Queen's death, he had showered him with love and indulged him in almost everything - to the point that he had never tried to force him to be involved with the political intricacies and necessities of being a ruler - but that was why he was having to do this now. At twenty-two years old, his son should be close to ready to assume leadership, and he was woefully ill-prepared. This was his fault, and he had one more chance to make things right.

"I have considered what I am about to say very carefully. I know you'll think I'm being unfair, but I happen to know that it's the only way to help you acheive your potential. I had hoped this wouldn't be necessary... but to be honest, it's been apparent for a long time that it's the only solution."

As he spoke, Steve's eyes widened more and more. What could it be? he thought. Oh, I hope it isn't a stint at that monastery again...he had spent six months there when he was fifteen to explore spiritual matters... he had enjoyed learning about and discussing the ideas of different philosophies, but it was otherwise quite boring... although they did have wonderful mead... but not a woman in sight for miles... He pulled himself together, and with the least amount of apprehension he could muster said, "All right, father - tell me what it is."

The king drew his robes around him and turned to his son with an expression devoid of softness; the first time in many years he had assumed such an expression, usually reserved to deliver sentences to criminals or send his military into battle. "Since you have not shown that you are capable of effecting your progress toward manhood with the resources of the court at your disposal, you shall be sent out of the court for the duration of no less than two years, on a quest of your choosing, from those I set before you. There are issues that must be dealt with within the scope of our kingdom that I would normally assign to a member of the Royal Military, but seeing as you have all the training necessary, and even more intelligence and imagination than most," he struggled not to smile with pride, "I believe you will be more than capable of accomplishing them. If you complete one before the two years have finished, you will be allowed to choose another, and so forth, until the time I have stated is complete. If you do not complete the first task within two years, you shall continue to pursue its resolution until you have accomplished it."

Steve looked down with some confusion, then stammered, "A qu- a quest?" Not with fear, really - it was more the novelty of doing anything that required planning...

"Yes, a quest," said the king, becoming, if possible, even more serious. "Now, there are some especially pressing issues which will require the use of everything you've learned, all your talents - and some things you haven't learned yet. I will assign two companions to you who will be able to assist you and provide some guidance - but in the end, you will be responsible for all decisions made.
I have begun to make preparations for your departure. You will leave in three days."

"But -"
"I will not change my mind."
"But I'm taking a group of friends to - "
"Steve. There will be no discussion. Make your regrets and say your goodbyes. I will send a packet with information about your possible choices for your quest up to your rooms within the hour. We will meet tomorrow morning, and I will hear your decision. You can share any questions and concerns with me then - until then I want you to concentrate on preparing to leave."
Steve stood, mouth slightly open, caught between excitement and confusion. Then he closed his mouth and looked at his father squarely. "All right then," he said, with a bit more certainty than he felt. "I will do as you say."
As Steve turned and made his way across the great hall, the king finally allowed himself to relax and feel the painful effort of sending his only son away. Even knowing that it was for the best didn't alleviate the fear he felt - each of the tasks he was to set before his son was a challenge fraught with danger. If he accomplished them, he would simultaneously gain the manly character he lacked, and prove to their subjects that he was capable of continuing to provide the kind of leadership they had become used to. If he was unsuccessful... The king felt his scalp constrict painfully. That was something else he didn't want to think about.
If only he'd had a daughter. Finally chuckling a little, he headed toward the kitchen to check on the preparations for dinner. Perhaps there was something to taste.

Last edited by lapietra : 04-03-2003 at 07:48 PM.
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Old 03-29-2003, 10:06 PM   #6
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The last time Steve had felt his father's stern gaze, he was but twelve years old. Then the cause was well worth it, yet the end of his lovely nursemaid's time at the castle. He couldn't fathom what his quest would entail. 'Surely, he thought, there would be danger, excitement and damsels. Why there is nothing to fear.' 'Oh, yes there is.' he realized as he saw his best friend, Tim, approaching.

"Steve! Good lad, have you seen the sights that been set before us this fine, fine evening? You must remind me to thank your father for inviting me." Tim greeted Steve, while grabbing a full wine goblet from the hands of the Duke of Hollinshire. "Cheers"

"He didn't" replied Steve. Taking the goblet from Tim and returning it to the Duke. "I apologize, sir."

"Hmm, yes. Well. I must thank him for not having me forcefully removed. So, why are we standing here and not over there with such luscious ladies?" said Tim.

"My father. He is sending me away. On a quest."

"You don't say! How thrilling! Where are we off to then?"

"I don't believe that you are to go with me. He spoke of choosing my companions himself."

"Of course he would choose me as one of them, Steve. Don't be daft! I'm your dearest friend. Your best bud. Your partner in crime. Your wing man!"

"I'm sure that is exactly why he wouldn't. He seems to want to teach me a lesson."

"It won't be to that dreary monastary again, will it?"

"No. No. Come Tim. Let us not speak of this more this evening. I saw the sweetest little blonde earlier. She seemed almost a pixie. I do believe she would catch your eye."

"Good lad, good lad! Shall we?"

Last edited by sybil : 03-29-2003 at 10:10 PM.
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Old 04-03-2003, 07:07 PM   #7
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The pale morning light crept across the floor of Steve's bedchamber, finally coming to rest to illuminate the tousled dark hair and finely chiseled cheek of the bed's occupant. "Mmmmmrph," quoth Steve, as he slowly drifted away from a wonderful dream, the details of which he regretfully surrendered as the impending events of the day imposed themselves on him. "Ow," he said next, as he turned his head slightly, and the full impact of the previous evening's farewell celebration - a bottomless goblet of wine and unending line of women communicating their forget-me-nots with soft lips and arms - joined those impending events in an unpleasant conference. His stomach lurched as he heaved himself upright on the bed and blearily looked across the room to his desk. There lay the packet, as yet unopened, next to a large carafe of coffee and a tray of eggs and toast.
"Guess I'd better take a look," he said to himself, launching himself up unsteadily. Placing the food out of sight behind a vase of fresh flowers, he poured a cup of coffee and settled in to read.

Without surprise he noted the first three quests were all ambassadorial missions; they didn't seem especially dangerous at first, until he noted the locations - all in outlying regions of the kingdom, whose inhabitants didn't necessarily acknowledge the supremacy of their rulership. There was a dragon negotiation - they had a longstanding agreement that the dragon would only make off with up to and not exceeding 7 cows, sheep, pigs and/or goats total per month - the dragon's argument was that it couldn't live on that amount and didn't enjoy supplementing its diet with vegetation or beans, even if they were magic beans. The fact that throughout the kingdom people went to a great deal of trouble planting dragon gardens for his use was escaping him; it also didn't help that he had a congenital mental disorder and kept making off with young women. (He hardly ever actually *ate* them - just enjoyed looking at them, playing with their jewelry and poking them to hear them squeal - but it wasn't especially pleasant for the young women. Most of them, anyway.) That appealed to Steve, especially since the outcome would probably include the eternal gratitude of whatever young woman the dragon was playing with that month... gratitude was a powerful aphrodesiac, he thought, smiling to himself. There was always the off-chance that the dragon would be in schizoid mode and would attempt to eat *him*, which would make the job much more difficult - but then again, it might end up being an enjoyable debate followed by bawdy anecdotes, beer, and roast mutton. A gamble one took in dragon negotiations.
The most attractive option to him was also the most dangerous - retrieval of the Calixa Naden Posidant Promena - the famed magic stone belonging to their family that had been lost for many generations. Its beauty was legendary, its worth impossible to calculate. It was said that the stone had magical properties - apparently it would amplify the will of whoever used it properly - and like all properly powerful things it had its positives and negatives. The king wanted to secure possession of it to avoid it falling into the wrong hands - for there were others who would attempt to use it for their own ends.
At the time of its loss (the events of which were now buried in obscurity - many conflicting tales existed - but most likely the ring it was set in fell from the narrow finger of its then current wearer on a hunt) the character of the stone was positive - hence its name, which, in the old tongue, meant "good change". But this could be converted by one who had a great enough will and intelligence to do so - and there was talk that the stone had been found and was in the possession of someone with those qualities - the Empress Arswyda, the ruler of Anghelacara, a kingdom that rivaled Steve's father's in scope and power - but not in pleasant freedom and civil liberty. She ruled with an iron fist, communicated with cards close to the chest, paranoia seeming to rule all her decisions.
If it was true that she had the stone, it was only a matter of time before she unlocked its potential. And no one knew what she would choose to do with it. A dangerous unknown.
Besides the obvious glamour of the quest, what drew Steve most to it was that Arswyda had a very beautiful daughter, Lydia, who was hardly ever allowed to make public appearances. Rumor had it that Arswyda, once a tender, uncertain, trusting girl, had been subjected to mental cruelty by the now deceased Emperor, and had transformed in maturity to her now powerful but tragically inflexible and fearful state, controlling everything in her reach, including her daughter, as if her life depended on it.
Steve had briefly spoken to Lydia once at a rare interkingdom function, and had never recovered. All women were to be judged by her standard. But there was never an opportunity to speak with her again, not even to write, for any communication sent to that palace was screened by Arswyda's advisors.
This could be his chance. He was immediately resolved. Steve of Ynbuchara would retrieve the Calixa Naden Posidant Promena, save the world from possible disaster - and maybe even get the girl.

Last edited by lapietra : 04-03-2003 at 08:58 PM.
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Old 04-04-2003, 08:40 PM   #8
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Steve gazed at the mountains in the distance beyond the kingdom. His kingdom. He could fail. The self doubt that racked his mind, body and soul was a new invader. His entire life has thus far been filled with triumph, courage and love. But for the loss of his dear mother, he had never the need to shed a tear.

Why then, he asked himself, is this quest so daunting. He knew that the right choice was the quest for the stone. The others would pose difficulties, but nothing insurmountable. But, this one, the one he knows he must choose will not require bravery on the battlefield or prowess against a deranged old dragon. He doesn't even know what such a quest will entail.

'Steve" spoke his father, interupting his thoughts.

"Father".

"I see you've found your choices. Have you made a decision?" The King feared his son, his handsome, brilliant, selfish and vain son would take the dragon. Steve had probably heard stories of the rickety old lizard, flying into trees and trying to burn down rocks. It was the easy way out.
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