The night had been colder than the night before, and then the night before that. The inaudible whispers of Winter now had become words. Its image softly floating down upon Vanderlyne as willowy drops of white. Within hours the rooftops were covered in its cool blanket of white flesh, and the roads were cool with the combination of watery slush.
The city ran quietly as families cuddled by fires, and lone men drank at the inns enjoying stories and song. And the King Jaques waited in his great hall completely, and utterly… bored.
His knuckles pressed against his right cheekbone had caused a numbness mixed with pressure to reverberate throughout his face. His eyes stared dimly through the smallest slit under the eyelid. And he swore, it was so quiet, he could hear his short beard growing.
This, is beyond ridiculous, he thought bitterly.
Here he had waited all evening for this apparent “King” to come visit him in hopes of alliance. Yet her Jaques sat as he had said he would far past the time he said he would, waiting. Maybe this was some sort of prank. But what kind of fool would gain anything from pulling a stunt such as this? King Marren? No, that fool would never leave his castle for anything less than a mountain of food and no servants to grab it for him. No this had to be someone else. But who? Who would deliberately waste the King’s time?
Then he heard heavy footsteps coming towards him, and when he looked it was one of his guards. A young man with blonde hair running in his orange cloth and shimmering steel armor. His face painted in sweat he still marveled in his uniform making Vanderlyne proud.
“MY KING! MY KING!” He yelled rushing as fast as he could, then practically sliding into a kneel. He breathed heavily.
“What is it my son?” Jaques questioned. Sitting straighter he felt his spine give three cracks, only one of them hurt. Age is starting to gain on me, he thought, if only the gods could feel this then none of us would ever grow old.
“There is an Army coming up the hill, Smith must have let them in but… but their all dressed in red and they have masks that look like sku…” The boy panicked.
“Skulls, yes my boy it is quite alright. That is just my guest arriving.” Jaques said smiling.
The boy cocked his head to the side, completely confused. His baby blue eyes searching his brain for an answer the astonishing amount of questions he must have a had. Then the front doors opened and he straightened and rushed off the grand orange carpet leading to the King’s throne. He stood straight and still facing to the right pillars from the left side. King Jaques felt pride in watching this, for his army, his people, his men, even his dogs were more disciplined than anyone or anything in Windhelm. How it should be.
Then he looked ahead, as a red army of monsters marched down his long hall, past his pillars and only on his carpet, till they stood twenty feet from his throne. And he searched for a King in that grouping, and could not find any sign. His stomach lurching in him as he felt the hundreds of eyes watching him. What a small army, he thought. Yet still he felt thankful, that it was only this many before him and not more. He didn’t think he could handle more.
Then they all dropped to one knee. Their variety of weapons, some long and tall, others short, and others wide all displaced above their heads. Then, in the center of it all, a man stood slowly. His armor much thicker and his helmet customized with two decently long horns jutting from the forehead. The man then began to walk forward, his steps without sound, as his men affront him parted without looking.
“My King of Vanderlyne, my apologies for being later, I am truly honored to be here.” He spoke softly, his voice only slightly muffled behind his mask. King Jaques stared for a moment, then nodded as the Red King moved past the frontline of his men into the open space.
“It is… of no problem fellow King. I was only beginning to think you had forgotten our meeting.” He spoke as wisely as he could. Not wanting to cross any lines, only wanting this to end as quickly as possible.
“I would never forget my lord, never.” The Red King said touching his chest. He did not speak like a King, but he sure did walk as one. Tall and proper and strong he wore himself with honor and respect. His men behind him like animals, watching intently and even lowered when he moved close to them in respect. Then Jaques noticed his men, standing on the other sides of the pillars holding their weapons tightly and at the ready. He had not noticed them before and now thanked the gods they were here and ready. His questioning of his own judgement in allowing them here preceding him.
“I wish to speak to you of alliance against Windhelm. I’m sure my messenger explained and was very courteous and respectful yes?” He asked.
“He was, he was also very convincing and persuasive to get you here.” Jaques responded gathering himself together. Keeping his face stone and his body straight.
“I’m sure he was. You see Windhelm, my friend, is something we both share a great dislike towards. Even more so the ruler of that Kingdom, King Marren. The fat pig of a man has been a thorn in both of our sides for years I regret. And I also regret not coming to you sooner, however now I have seen to it that we both have an opportunity. To take armies to his door and demand what is ours.” The man began.
“Excuse me, what is ours?” King Jaques was not following.
“Yes, you see, we both share something that was taken from us by King Marren, my lord.”
“Which is?” Jaques was not following, the man before him paced back and forth as he spoke and was very moveable with his hands and arms. Yet he was not making sense, and he was beginning to lose his audience.
“Our home, and our honor. I know that you and King Thoric were not anything close to friends but at one point, long before either of you took the throne this land was all shared. Under one family was Marren and Foeir. And only a horrible night, one single night, ended that unification. I do not remember it personally but ever since then the Great Marren Family House has become a disaster, a sore spot in a once great land. And I am truly, and utterly sickened by its existence.
“That is why I wish to take it back. You and your House have done wonders with Vanderlyne. Its men are strong, its women are pure, and its children are disciplined. It is a sight to see I must say.” He bathed King Jaques in words, but they were just that… words. He was beginning to sense something with this man, he just could not understand, what.
“Thank you.” Jaques spoke, his brow furrowing, “please do explain to me… how you fit into all this? Where is your Kingdom?”
The Red King stopped walking, and he slowly… turned.
His eyes glinted red in the dark shadows beneath his mask, and his next words hung so thick in the air they were almost visible. Their ability to penetrate so deep Jaques could feel them encircle his very soul. Within a flash he was inches away from Jaques face, his hot breath practically cooking the hairs from the old man’s face.
“I am the King of all you see before you, my Kingdom is the land you call your flesh, my water is what flows within your veins, your children what fill my people’s bellies, and my throne built from your bones.”
Jaques tries to breath, but his chest… his chest is too tight.
“G… Gu… Guards.” He says, then his eyes snap shut and, “GUARDS! GUARDS!”
Hands grasp his face and he looks out behind the pillars, his men are all missing.
He grabs for his sword but it is not there, his fingers slapping onto the Red King’s wrists he freezes when he realizes the Red King isn’t there. And the hands, the hands that grips his face and squeeze his bones have no owner. Their forearms reaching up to a bloody mess of a stump. And as he yanks them away they still reach, the fingers wriggling after him.
“AHHHHH!” He screams rushing forward and falling down his steps. He hits the floor hard sprawling out, “HELP ME! HELP ME!” He screams.
His eyes dart around the room, all the men are standing outside the pillars, and he is standing… on the rug. The banners of his Royal House, his Kingdom are now a darken red with sickening tongues from the head of a dog. The men stand as if they’ve been there for years, and they look at him like he is a stranger among this place. He looks back down the hall to the front doors as two men dressed in long red robes lock it closed. They turn to face him holding large staffs with wickedly angled blades at the end. Their gauntlets, shin guards and chest armor are all a pale white. And their masks are different, for they have no features, no skull. Just two large eyes staring almost surprised at him. Their small pupils sitting neatly in their big circle.
Then he looks back to his throne…
And there sits the Red King, eating an apple. His body splayed out in utter relaxation his has set his left leg on the arm rest dangling outward. His right arm posturing him up and his neck rested upon the upper cushion where the chair bends and sinks in. His mask upturned the horns are now twice as long and are beginning to curve. Jaques watches his chin, thin brown hair coating stubble across his neck and jaw. His pearly white teeth brightening and shining out, yet he still is something Jaques cannot say is human.
“What have you done! What are you!” Jaques demands, his hands and arms shaking.
Then the corners of the Red King’s mouth upturn devilishly. He lowers the apple from his face letting it drop to the floor, and rolls down the steps and out into the main floor almost to the orange carpet that is now a dark red.
“Dion…” He says with charm, “I’m afraid Jaques Foeir’s nerves are troubling him, maybe an apple would calm them. Would you be so kind?” He then gives his toothy smile again and closes the mask over his mouth. His head now bends back and a guard, just like the ones at the door, takes a human head and lifts it high above. The blood spatters down like a leaking faucet onto the face of the helmet. It runs down his chest and into his seat pouring over and down the throne. And as the blood reaches the steps and begins to reach for Jaques with crimson fingers he recognizes the face to the head.
“Ma… Maestar Williams.” He gasps, his childhood teacher now staring back at him with wide eyes. The man who had taught him to a sword, to a horse and had laughed with him all his childhood. The only man he had ever truly known as a father, and the man who he himself had ignored while he rested in a windowless room in sickness. Now, Jaques had repaid him, he had repaid him with a terrible death not suit for even a raper. He drops to his knees sobbing and a man steps in front of him. But he can’t look up, he can’t control himself. His world crashing around him and his guilt strangles his body and all he can muster to say in response is a weak…
“Pl…please don’t. Don’t hurt me.” He says reaching out. And his hand touches steel. He looks up, and standing above him is the boy guard who had come to him earlier. The boy guard he had look so fondly over, who he had enjoyed being in the company of for even just a brief moment. Now the boy looks down at him, his white eyes pulsing… and he smiles as he lifts the apple up.
“My King is right Jaques, food should help your nerves.”
Then the apple is shoved down into the Old King’s throat. His screams are muffled as his throat and jaw expand, their ligaments tearing as they adjust to the width of arm being shoved down inside. And all that can be heard, are the faint sounds of kicking boots and gnarling grunts as King Jaques Foeir of Vanderlyne dies…