Said while fireballs and icicles flies back and forth and the palace crumbles under the battle
And does it show whom they’re based on yet? Well, you’ll get a couple more hints here, even if it’s not that apparent. At least on the theme
Marcus really tried to not be impressed by any small things he saw in the underwater palace, wary not to let his guard down as he held no illusions of not being in enemy territory.
But the first time he found himself in the library and the guard troll that kept stalking him sat down on the other side of the round table with a thick book in its huge hands, it was hard not to raise an eyebrow. Even more as the big blue oaf opened the heavy volume by a bookmark placed by the last hundred or so pages and sunk into peaceful reading.
Fingers twice as thick as a grown man’s carefully turned the pages, between longer periods of resting in the bush of seaweed that was supposed to be hair.
Marcus could not help but watch this strange thing everytime the troll moved, glancing at his guard through the corner of his eyes. Eventually he came to the conclusion that not all troll had to be brutes, after all. Not all humans liked fighting or painting or stitching, come to think of it.
Either that or the damn thing was less interested in just watching the wizard read in silent boredom on its own part.
With that theory, Marcus managed to return to focus on his reading. Mere’s library was a quite impressive sight; keeping the thousands of books safe from the palace’s natural dampness must require quite a lot of protective spells. In either case, at least it gave him something to do, even if it couldn’t fully protect him against his worries about the kingdom on dry land. Lord South… right, <I>king</I> South now - Marcus gritted his teeth everytime he thought of it - was surely turning everything upside down in the search for - in your dreams - his wizard.
And Mere hadn’t been able to collect a single tidbit about princess Alexandra, but had promised to send word to somebody who might be closer by the lady’s supposed location.
Marcus closed his eyes.
The poor girl probably didn’t even know that her father was dead, yet. King Christian had fallen for a sudden stroke - or so it had seemed. Marcus was trying to keep his suspicions on a level where they couldn’t torture him too much.
Being the king’s right hand, lord South took over the leadership of the land - “Until Her Highness returns.”
As fate thankfully would have had it, one of South’s own trusted generals had more honor than to keep his mouth shut when he learnt some interesting details on a secret meeting between himself and his lord.
Unless that had been a trap too. Marcus held back a groan, trying to fight the hint of panic with logic. If this was a trap then Mere wouldn’t treat him as gently as she did.
Unless she enjoyed playing with him.
Princess Alexandra should be safe for now, he himself had sent off a messenger towards the point her journey should have brought ger by now, but it would take at least two more days until the courier reached her and her guards.
If he hadn’t been shot down before he even got out of town.
The troll glanced at the wizard as he suddenly pressed a hand against his face.
“Headache?” the creature grunted, its muddy voice startling Marcus out of his concerned thoughts.
“Hm? No, I’m fine…”
The troll shrugged and returned to reading, while the person he was officially “showing around the palace” looked back down at the pages in his lap, faking reading as the thoughts kept coursing through his head.
He needed to go and find the princess before it was too late. But he was, if possible, more wanted caught than the princess was wanted dead.
Subconsciously he rubbed the fingertips of his right hand along his throat, uncomfortable. Upon realizing it he dropped the hand to the book again.
Back to an older dilemma, Mere surely wouldn’t let him go so easily, no matter what she claimed about their current cease fire. He would be right where he was for a while, that much was unquestionable. The only thing she needed to do was claim that it was too dangerous for him to return to the dry land, and that would stand no matter how much he tried to argue. It was her palace. Her land.
She would love the reason to throw him in a cell. “To keep you safe!”
‘Goddamn witch. Okay. You are officially working up a panic. Nice and calm.’
Princess Alexandra has guards. And she can take care of herself.
‘Marcus my friend, <I>you</I> were almost mowed down when you fled from the castle in order to get away from South and his ideas. By soldiers under your own flag, too.’
That had indeed hurt, more than their arrows would have, even. He had been…
'Stop thinking. It was South’s men.
How about Alexandra’s guards? Who employed them, really?’
Marcus didn’t know that.
And didn’t that bird thing show up at a strangely good time, just when you knew they were breathing down your neck.
‘Those things are swarming me whenever I take a step outside, damn it all! It wasn’t just a coincidence!’
Mere has hunted you for years and years. An usurper on the throne forcing you to run for your life, and she changes the “I’m going to gut you alive once I get my hands on you” to “oh, come on in, it’s safer down here”.
‘If she wanted me dead I wouldn’t have left that wall she nailed me to. And that was my own fault in the first place.’
Yes, indeed. Note to self; when enemy offers cease fire and you’re on his or her turf, its best not to tell them “I don’t trust you to not want something in return for this”, because they might be prone to answer “well, now that you mention it, there’s one little thing you could do to pay me back for this favor”.
On the other hand, she would have hung him there sooner or later anyway. Like a hunting trofée.
‘Counting the minutes until I find myself there again, permanently…’
Damn, he hated Mere. But he hated South even more right at the moment. Kind of. And all the worries both of them stirred up were going to give him that headache the <I>damn</I> troll had asked about.
But at least, once she did smack him back onto that wall, he’d be sure where she stood. Right now she was just confusing him.
He dearly wished he hadn’t dropped his staff when he fled. As little as it would really help, the assuring feel of the weapon in his hand would have been very welcome.
Well, the idea that the reading might help him was definitely shattered. Marcus was starting to think that he would go on a killing spree any moment unless he got himself to stop thinking.
On the other side of the palace, Mere sighed to herself, seemingly staring off into space. In reality, she was watching Marcus’ expression waver, through farsight (correct me on that word, I can’t remember the English one, I think :P). Though he was good at keeping a straight face he subconsciously didn’t think that needed when bent over a book. Lips tightened and eyes shifted back and forth uneasily, worries apparent on his features.
Blinking a few times, she turned back to the more close-by area of her study, and the thing that watched her curiosly. It was birdlike in shape of body, but instead of feathers it was covered with scales and the wings reminded more a bat’s. Mere met its unfeeling gaze.
“What?” she said.
The thing clicked its beak, thoughtfully.
“Mistress is acting strange about the prisoner,” it claimed in a raspy voice.
The witch’s lips twitched.
“Oh no, he is not our prisoner.”
She tilted her head slightly, glancing at the roof.
“Officially, at least,” she added.
“Not in a cage?”
“Be quiet about Marcus or I’ll make you his dinner.”
The lizard-bird gave a frightened caw and curled up into a small ball on its perch stick. Mere gently poked at the bundle, chuckling.
“Now, now, I wasn’t serious. You’d give him a stomach ache on top of everything, anyway.”
A black eye suspiciously peered up at her from the shadow of a leathery wing. The witch sobered.
“Now, I want you and your siblings to fly over and circle the castle for a while. Not too obviously, just make sure you’re seen, to make South think of me. And see to that none of you are killed, because that’s not part of the plan.”
The creature didn’t move, patiently waiting as the witch paused to tap her cheek with a finger.
“And any news you might catch about the princess is highly desireable. I doubt you’ll hear much but it might keep that wizard of ours from starting to tear down walls too soon. Off you go.”
“As mistress says.”
The lizard-bird spread its wings and disappeared in a flash of blue light, with a slight popping sound.
Mere turned from the empty perch and seemingly spaced out again. Marcus was still trying to read, with little success. He had too much on his mind, and it was almost painfully apparent.
Maybe she should just knock him out until they were ready for the plan…
Her fingers twitched.
No, no. Bad old habits.
Though he was probably cute when sleeping. She would have to have a look into that.
She zoomed her perspective out a little, looking his slumped form over. And she had to smile as he looked up to glance around, frowning. It seemed that he could sense that somebody watched him. Clever little thing.
Poor little wizard who had been blessed with such strong magical powers. If people didn’t befriend him - like king Christian and his ancestors with Marcus’ ancestors - then they wanted to kill him or…
Subconsciously, Mere rubbed the fingertips of her right hand along her throat, slightly uncomfortable. That wasn’t a thought she liked either.
He was in luck with that, but he probably didn’t understand that. She’d have to explain the reason she had taken pity on him, whom she was the sworn enemy of. Just as soon as their next ally arrived, he who knew more… hopefully it wouldn’t take too long.
Hm. South was, in a way, on the right track about Marcus. For the wrong reasons, of course. But still on the right track. A man like him simply couldn’t be left alo…
“What isss that human doing outside of a dungeon?”
Mere almost jumped, ripped from her trance by the voice and the intruding gaze that had followed her magical sight and seen what she saw.
“Speak of the devil…” passed over her lips before she could stop herself, and she quickly added, “I was just thinking of you.”
“I came here as sssoon as I recieved your message. It was quite surprisssing.”
She turned around and faced the newcomer, smiling.
“Good evening, Lizard.”