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D.T - Prince Rugal: Chapter 1

Prince Rugal: Chapter 1

Rugal woke up hearing the distant sounds of familiar voices. He opened his eyes slowly and saw two blurry faces in front of him, blinking slowly a few times, his eyes came into focus and he saw Veera and Iris starring down at him. "Rugal can you hear me?" Iris asked. "Are you alright?"

Rugal managed a small smile and said, "A little water logged, but I'll live." He then sat up slowly as the girls helped him. Looking around, he saw they were in a brilliant cavern made entirely of the small sparkling crystals from the floor with the rapid river.

The serene beauty of the place was a nice change of everything, but Rugal couldn't enjoy it long. When he noticed it was just the three of them, he turned to the girls and asked them, "What happened to the others, are there any signs of them?"

"I'm afraid not," Iris said. "When we woke up here, we searched around for them but all we could find were some stairs leading up to the next floor. It's just us now."

"They could have survived though right?" Veera asked concerning.

Rugal climbed to his feet slowly and said, "Honestly I don't know. Garren and Thrain would have trouble swimming with their heavy armor, but then again I managed to survive in mine so maybe they did too. And Adelin, she's tough; a little water wouldn't bring her down."

He took a few steps before he suddenly lost most of his balance and fell to one knee. Iris rushed over to help him, but he held out his hand to stop her. "I'll be fine," he said, "just need a few more minutes to rest... and maybe some food." Iris handed him his bag and he pulled out one of the dark fruits from inside and started eating it.

"We should eat too," Veera suggested as she grabbed her bag. Iris agreed and soon the three of them sat around slowly eating their fruit. When they finished, Rugal tried walking again, he was wobbly at first but oriented himself quickly enough.

"Alright then," he said. "Let's continue up, if the others are alright, then we won't find them down here."

Climbing to the next floor, Iris said, "And coming out of the beautiful and serene caverns, we enter this bleak, dull maze."

"Hey, I will take bleak and dull any day over that forest or the swamp before it," Veera said.

"It's not as pretty as the cave, but it seems to be our only way to continue, or get anywhere," Rugal said.

He looked around; the maze walls reached at least a hundred feet up; maybe higher. "This place most likely doesn't have any dark fruit trees growing in it and it could take us days just to find out way out. So if either of you have any ideas on how we can find the exit right away, I am all ears."

They were quiet, for a good time, but just as Rugal was about to turn away and walk blindly into the maze, Veera spoke up. "I actually may have something like that," She said. Rugal gestured for her to go on when she didn't continue right away.

"It's called spectral walking. I can pass through most solid objects, save for ones magically enchanted, and move about twice the running speed of horses. Depending on how large the maze is. Well, it will take time regardless."

Veera stopped there and Rugal asked, "There is a 'but' coming isn't there?"

"But if there are any demons in this maze, and they attack me, any damage my spectre takes will come back to my physical body. And I can't perform other magic while I'm using spectral walking; aside from running I would be helpless. Also, if there are any demons nearby that come and attack us, I would be useless. There is no way to force me back to my body; I'd just be dead weight for you guys."

Rugal took a long look at the maze ahead of them. Then said, "We have no idea of what lies ahead of us. If it's more demons, I would much rather all of us face it together. But we could too easily starve to death trying to find our way through here. Veera your spectral walking is our best chance of getting out of this floor. It maybe even finding the others if they made it up here.

"So I must insist you do it right away. And if you can, try not to return until you find something worth note."

Veera looked extremely nervous, but she said yes, all the same. So she sat down with her legs crossed and after a minute of silent focus, a humanoid light projected out of her and in a blur of motion raced off into the maze. "There she goes," Iris said unenthusiastically.

She then sat down and rested her back against a wall. Rugal joined her, keeping an eye on Veera and asked, "What's wrong?"

"It's nothing, just the first chance we are alone together and I can't even enjoy it," Iris said.

"Yea, after what's happened lately, I sort of miss the boredom of the earlier floors. Where most of us said nothing and we just searched out for the next stairs; little concern for what lies ahead."

Iris shook her head lightly and said, "It's not that it's... Well after that whole tidal wave incident, I mean we had close calls before but that was somehow the worst one yet. And after we woke in that cave I had a lot of time to think while you and Veera were out." She leaned her head on Rugal's broad shoulder. "I just thought that by now we would be married; now I fear we may never get the chance."

Rugal grabbed Iris' hand and squeezed gently. "I promise you, one of the first things we will do when we get home is get married. Spring, winter, I don't care what the season is we will have ourselves that wedding under the light of the full moon. With the piper's flutes playing their gentle melody."

Iris smiled at the thought of their dream wedding night and asked, "What if there are clouds blocking the sky that night?"

"Then we will have the kingdoms magisters clear out a circle in those clouds where just you and I will stand together basking in the blue light. And we will have a row of lamps guiding you to me."

Iris then closed her eyes and let herself stay in that image until Veera returned.

Well over a few hours later Veera’s spectre returned to her and she was active again. At first she was a little shaken up, for a moment or two, but returned to her normal self in no time. "Are you alright?" Iris asked concerned.

Veera got to her feet and said, "Yea it's nothing I just, I saw another spectre in the maze. I mean first of all this place is enormous; there is no way we would find our way out just by wondering. And secondly the other spectre was humanoid; though I only got a glimpse of it."

When Veera didn't elaborate Rugal asked, "I don't know what that means. Is it something we should worry about?"

"Another humanoid spectre would mean there is another magister in this maze right now," Iris explained. "Unless it was a trick of your mind?"

"It definitely was not," Veera affirmed. "There is without a doubt another magister in this maze."

"Then it means someone else must have caught up with us already, maybe more than just one" Rugal said alarmed. "They can't be with us since you two are the only ones with that kind of magic in them."

"Actually it's just Veera," Iris corrected him. "I don't know how to perform the spectral walking magic. My family specializes in combat magic above all; spectral walking is practically the exact opposite of what we strive for."

"Regardless it doesn't sound good for us right now. Veera did you find anything else in the maze? Possible traps, demons?"

"Nothing like that, but I did find the exit, and I made special marks, only I would notice, that will lead us there."

Rugal held his arm out in gesture, "Lead the way. I'll follow beside you and Iris, you cover our backs."

Iris would rather have been up front with Rugal but because it was only the three of them she didn't argue: just pouted a little.

"Magic is weird," Rugal said as Veera led them through the maze.

She scoffed and said, "Yea that's what half of them say, the other half aren't as good at hiding their envy for magisters."

"Don't get me wrong I love magisters, but from my end it's weird. Sometimes magisters are like a foreigner from a whole other world, and everything they do makes sense to them, but you have no idea what the hell is going on."

"I take it you have not seen much magic, outside the battlefield I mean?"

"More than most in the kingdom but, I don't know sometimes I think the world would be better if..." He trailed off at the end.

"If no one had magic?" Veera inquired on what he was going to say.

"No, actually I think it would be better if everyone had magic. If everyone had the same kind of power, maybe we wouldn't have so many wars, maybe the others will leave Evercain alone for once."

"With or without magic people still go to war, Aladorn and Dorgal are proof of that. But you already knew this, and your using 'magic is weird' as the base for you to build up to say what's really on your mind."

"Wow, I see you're not the prodigy magister for nothing." He let that sentence linger for an uncomfortable amount of time before continuing. "When my father passes away, the burden of the throne falls to me, and the truth is I don't really want to be king all that much.

"Evercain has been in more peril these last couple generations than it ever has before since its founding. First the Aladorn invasion: that forced us to destroy two of our great bridges (which have stood for almost as long as the wall before it). Then the Kantor invasion; that by the way little-known fact, wars swallow gold like a sinkhole does land.

"We used to be the wealthiest kingdom in all of Grimnar, but after two wars so close to each other we barely have enough to keep up the illusion of wealth. We could get by with our bounty of great and fertile lands, but now this shit-hole tower appears and starts taking that from us too."

Rugal let out a painful sigh and hung his head low. "I could barely lead a small force into the Keshnir forest when Kantor invaded, how can I lead an entire kingdom, coming to the verge of ruin, into its forming glory?"

"You know strange as it may seem I can understand where you're coming from; and what you're going through," Veera said empathetically.

"Can you now?" Rugal asked sardonically.

Veera glared at him and he turned his head; a little ashamed, about how he posed the question.

"In fact I can, because as you know after Cambren passes away I am his successor to the grand magister of the kingdom. Meaning your father and someday you will come to me for any and all magical problems. But it's more than just that. The grand magister is on the council as a higher spoken advisor. He is in charge of all the magisters around the kingdom. Basically, it's like being king, or queen, but for the magic people of the realm.

"I just... I don't understand why he chose me to be groomed as his replacement in the role. I know I'm talented at magic, in fact, it's the one thing I'm good at. But for everything else I'm just terrible. I would sleep past every council summons if not for Cambren. I have no tactical strategies, and I can't for the life of me be bothered to memorize all the lords and ladies names of great houses.

"Grand Magister is like the crown and ultimate pinnacle for Magister in the kingdom. It's an enormous title to live up to, and I'm just a girl from a small town east of the river who's good at magic. I don't understand why Cambren kept me on as his apprentice for so long when I can't fit all the roles required of me."

"Well, he obviously believes in you. Besides if you can't keep up with all the tedious demands, the title requires you can always pull your own team of assistants to help unload with all the work. Cambren does it whenever he needs a vacation; one time I saw him lounge around for a couple months letting his assistants do all the work for him."

"I think I remember that he said he was working on a secret project at the time."

"Yes, it was called 'becoming wise, and lazy.'"

"That old coot, I knew something was up when he didn't let me in on the project."

"Yes the burdens of leadership: telling others what to do while you relax."

They both laughed at Rugal's comment. It had been a while since either of them laughed; it felt good.

"We've been walking for hours," Rugal said, "how much further do we have left to go?"

"I only have a few more markers left, I told you this place was enormous," Veera said.

Their next turn led them to a long corridor, looking exactly the same as all the others. "Alright we just passed my last marker, we turn right at the end here and the stairs leading up are there."

"I said it before I'll say it again, I hate mazes," Iris said.

"Well it's a good thing we're almost out of this-" Rugal started to say as they turned the corner until he saw what lay on the other side and stopped.

Around the corner were the stairs leading straight up, with golden light pouring down on them from the floor above. And on the stairwell lay a man with frizzy white hair and a thin grey beard; bleeding out.

"Cambren?" Veera gasped at the sight of him. She rushed to him without a second thought and Rugal and Iris followed her.

Cambren's eyes snapped open at the sound of Veera's voice. She kneeled down to him and asked, "Is it really you?"

He strained a smile and said, "Yes, yes my dear it's really me. I'm so happy to see you're alive and well."

"God of light, Cambren what are you doing here and what the hell happened to you?" Rugal asked as he looked over Veera to Cambren's wounds.

Setting his eyes on Rugal a wave of guilt washed over his face; guilt and partial regret. "I failed; I failed out there, so I raced up here to finish what I started. But here I am, just as much of a failure as before."

Veera could no longer hold back the tears welling in her eyes as she tried in vain to heal her master's wounds. Cambren grabbed her hands and gently squeezed, telling her to stop.

"I don't understand what happened to you?"

"I tried," Cambren paused to take in a deep breath and let it out. "I tried to make a better world out there, for Magisters everywhere. To do so I aligned myself with Lord Tarbeck, and we made a secret alliance with Kantor, and when you went up into the tower, we let their forces in.

"It was supposed to be a simple coupe, but Tarbeck betrayed me. And Kantor started laying siege to the capitol while their splinter force went around the kingdom burning towns and villages. With Tarbecks knowledge aiding them, there was little we could do to stop them.

"By the time I realized what was happening it was too late, the Capitol was overthrown and they slaughtered all the lords and when they finished raping them, they murdered the ladies too. I'm sorry Rugal… your father Aldon is dead."

Rugal then pulled out his blade and jabbed it through the stairs by Cambren's head. He was struggling to breath properly now and said, "No, no no no this is all a lie. It's a trick of the tower. You're not really here. This is just an illusion, a grand deception." He didn't sound very assured of himself even as he spoke.

Cambren too started to cry and said, "I am so sorry my prince. You would have made a wonderful king, perhaps though it's not too late to undo what I have done. Up these stairs is the final floor, there are monsters up there though. Find the temple in the center of the ruined city: that's where you should find the wish."

Rugal pulled his blade up and held it over his head ready to strike Cambren down. But his hands were shaking so much he couldn't do it. Instead, he snarled and raced up the stairs; Iris was chasing after him.

"Cambren why, why did you do this?"

"Because us magisters are treated like tools more than humans. We get taken from our homes and families the moment it's discovered we have magic potential. We don't get a choice. We either become soldiers, or healers, or whatever the king demands of us; and if we say no they beat us until we say yes or die.

"I wanted to create a world where people like us can have the freedom to choose what we want to do with our gifts. I got you in time before you had to go through too much of that system. Veera in the years we spent together, I have come to love you like a daughter. You make me so proud of how far you have come. I only wish I could have done more for you."

Veera shook her head sobbing, "No don't say that I'm going to heal you up and then you'll be all better."

"Veera listen to me carefully now; time is not on our side. You need to help Rugal get to the temple and change things; get that wish and undo my mistakes."

"I won't leave you here to die."

"You don't understand Thrain is coming, but he's been consumed by madness. And there is a strange power fueling him, I can't explain it, but somehow he's tapping into some ancient magic: not even I could beat him now. He will kill anyone who gets in his way, he can't tell the difference between friend or foe, so you must leave now before he gets here."

"Thrain? Wait what about the others are they also alive?"

Cambren remained silent. "Cambren please they're my friends."

"I saw Garren and the ranger, but I think Thrain killed her. Please hurry on now, the king is dead and only the prince remains. It's your responsibility to look after him: you're grand magister now. Rugal is your first and top priority, he needs your help so go."

Veera whispered one last thing quietly in Cambren's ear before forcing herself to move on to the final floor.

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Copyright © © Jake Pendragon all rights reserved 2015

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