Three Nights in the Castle
Welcome to The Castle
You live in a world that has been torn apart for the last forty-three years by civil war and famine. This has been devastating to the royal family because up to this point in the history of this land there has been peace and prosperity.
Forty-five years ago, a terrible thing happened: King Necoma, a prosperous and honored man, was brutally murdered in his sleep. His son, twenty year old Echohara, inherited the throne humbly and mourned his fathers passing. In the months that followed Echohara’s coronation, there began a wave of unrest and terrible dreams among all those that lived in the kingdom. On a particularly dull summers day, there was shouting and crowding outside of the castle gates. Throngs of villages were throwing themselves at the guards begging for death and confessing to having each one murdered the king. There was much confusion among those whose minds were not flooded with guilt and grief at having murdered their beloved king. What could all of this mean? Each person confessed individually to having snuck into the castle, past the guards, and driven the Knife of Davenlor through the heart of the gentle old sleeping man. There were many versions of the story as to how the knife was acquired. Some bought it at the market place. Some dove to the bottom of the endless mote to retrieve it from a forgotten place. One even swore under the oath of the gods that he was the direct descendant of Davenlor himself, but when asked for any proof he could not even name his own mother.
Panic broke out among the people. With all of these rumors about it brought the question again to the surface: who was the true murder? In the midst of all the commotion, Echohara had the sight enough to know that his people would not rest easily until someone was punished or the mystery was resolved. So he prepared to make a very strict edict that the murder of his father was a hoax and that the man died peacefully in his sleep. No one would refute the proclamation of the king and he knew it was the only way to put this matter at rest once and for all. But it did not rest. King Necoma’s sister, the Empress Morgandala returned from a very long journey precisely at the moment that the proclamation was to be read in the town square. It is stern custom and tradition that when a member of the royal family returns after a long time away that there must be a banquette for three days and three nights to celebrate their safe travel. On the third night, the traveler must tell the story of their journey and present a gift to those of whom he or she holds dearest. During the time of the celebration there can be no mention of sad things, for no one wants to return home to find sad news. It is all in all a joyous celebration.
At the close of the third day, Morgandala told thrilling stories of dragons and two headed beasts which threatened the lives of she and her party. She recanted memoires of the tribes’ people who took her in when her wagon was spoiled and the party finally over thrown. She relayed incantations she learned and spoke in the foreign tongues she had picked up on her journey. Morgandala was a beautiful and wise, but strange woman. There was an air to her stories that brought joy to tragedy and laughter to death. This began to scare the people. When it came time to present gifts she had only one to give. In Echohara’s hand she placed an object wrapped in cloth. In front of the whole assembly of people Echohara unveiled the Knife of Davenlor. The blade began to glow a crimson red and darkness filled the entire castle. All was silent save for the gory ironic laughter of Empress Morgandala. Finally she narrowed her eyes on Echohara and said one thing “Murderer!” and then disappeared in front of the entire gather assembly. Quickly there was a division among the people. Those that needed someone to blame for all of the heartache and unrest immediately threw to arms and charged toward their new king. Those that were loyal of heart and true of mind threw up shields against them. Fighting broke out everywhere: inside of the castle all the way through to the outskirts of villages. A small group of brave persons gathered together as the kings personal bodyguards. They fought of leagues of angry mobs and waiting catastrophes until finally they secured a bunker to the south of the main castle and for many years their held their ground in that area, protecting Echohara. Echohara was powerless. With all of the unrest how could his people possibly believe that it was not him? Torn apart and helpless, Echohara allowed his guardians to take the lead in these war-like efforts. For twenty three years the loyal followers protected their king and held off intruders. By this time they had set up homes and gardens. Even with the loom of death and unrest outside the barrier walls, those patriots of the royal family were well rewarded with a relatively peaceful life between times of struggle and pain. Those outside of the walls of the barrier too began to feel the weight of the war rise and fall like the tide. It was around this time that Echohara took a wife in hopes that she would bare him a child to take on whatever inheritance the King could give, even if it be a broken country. Princess Kora was born and for a brief moment there was a feeling of hope restored in the followers of Echohara. Even those that were against him felt the joy of new life throughout the kingdom.
The leader of the resistance, the Lady Gray, sent an envoy to Lord Latimer (Echohara’s Chief General) to declare that for one day, peace shall be granted so that all the land may welcome the new child. Arrangements were made and on Princess Kora’s third birthday, there was a small parade across the barricade of flowers and fruits. Kora was allowed that one day to meet the masses of people that she would one day rule. Echohara did not attend this celebration, but let Lord Latimer take his place. All was well and it was a dawning of a new age among the people. As the day started to come to an end, Princess Kora lay curled up on Latimer’s lap fast asleep. But, as the sun sank over the horizon, a darkness followed its passing. Not a darkness of night, but blacker. Black as pitch. Suddenly all around there came a hideous familiar laughter… Empress Morgandala.
“Look, you people, how lazy you have become. Where is your love for your king? The true king and my brother Necoma! How can you forget his brutal death? Murder!”
A hush came over both sides of the crowd. Out of the darkness a figure materialized. She was aged and brittle, yet the beauty never left her. She wore dark downs close to her skin and she held her head high, proud.
“You praise the child of his killer. The blood-thirsty tyrant, Echohara!”
Some shouted “No! No! She’s just a child!” from the crowd, but suddenly all was silenced, save for the savory seductive sound of Morgandala’s voice: “You are correct. She is just a child. Perhaps she has not inherited the wickedness that flows through Echohara’s veins.”
A moment past, in silence.
“We must restore this girl to her rightful place, on the throne of her forefathers. Princess Kora must unite the people! Quick! Lady Gray, command your army to save the girl!”
There was a great clamor and Lord Latimer stood abruptly with the girl in his arms and began to run, but was stopped short. In a flash of red, the girl was left in the still arms of a dead man. One of Gray’s men took hold of the child as Latimers blood-stained body sunk to the ground. Everything went dark once again. When the blackness lifted, Morgandala and Princess Kora were gone. Each side quickly took their posts on either side of the wall, and a messenger was sent directly to the king.
King Echohara’s heart sunk once again. His one joy, one hope, was now in the hands of a people who hated him.
It was then that Echohara decided that this war must end. He could not force the people to believe him, but he did have a plan. He could persuade the people to stop believing Morgandala and to let the truth shine through the broken holes in her story. In order to do that, Echohara had to know where Morgandala had journeyed. He had his men gather what they could remember of the Empress’s story. He also had them gather a large portion of silver from the gathered treasury. From the silver he had two hundred pendants carved: one for every loyal member of his original guard. Of those, twelve were marked with the kings own seal. Those were the twelve inner circle members of his captains, generals, and advisors (one was buried with Lord Latimer’s body in a stone grave). He told his guardians that to them he was more thankful than the heavens could bless. His life depended on their leadership and that they have never once faltered or failed him. This pendant was not much, but it was a sign of the most precious bond that any man could have with others. He then had the pendants of the 12 advisors sealed with unknown magic and he left that night in disguise to find out the answer to these undying questions.
That was seventeen years afore. You are now in common time. Morgandala and Kora reappeared in the Castle main where Morgandala sat the princess on the throne. The Lady Gray was charged with primary care and protection of the princess and Morgandala spent most of her time in the western tower, cackling like a mad fool from time to time. As the days drove onward, the Princess Kora grew into an elegant and remarkable young woman. She was quiet and watchful and did not speak often. She did not address the people directly, but often sent messages to be proclaimed from the town square about how much love she had for the people and that gave them hope. The barricaded south section of the castle had all but lost any sort of hope at all. Many were so far gone that they stole away and rebuilt their lives outside the barricade. Quietly they hid their silver pendants and prayed nightly that the gods would not strike them down for their disloyalty.
The 12 pendants of the advisors, however, remained until they couldn’t hold the ground any longer. Three years ago a final force swept through the south wing and scattered any survivors to the wind.