In the shadows between two kingdoms, two monarchs were meeting. On a night when the moon remained dormant behind dark clouds and all the stars were sleeping. Both remained hidden among the trees of the Boundless Forest, each with their own secrets, their own legacies to worry about.
‘King Marcus,’ a smooth voice called, cutting through the moonless night and drawing another from the shadows.
‘King Aiden, I trust you have come alone,’ the young voice of the child king replied. Not yet old enough to rule but thrust into the position through necessity. Without a king, a nation could fall, but in the hands of the wrong ruler, a nation would crumble from within.
Early in young King Marcus’s rule, he was eager to make his mark, eager to fix the mistakes of his father. He was eager to find what had been taken from his family years ago.
‘I come with as many warriors as you hide among the trees.’ King Aiden smirked gesturing behind him. ‘We are both important men young king.’ As his own warriors emerged king Marcus’s did the same until the dark clearing was filled with armed men, poised for a battle to protect their ruler.
Leaves rustled in the soundless night and branches snapped. The clearing was tense, the rulers ready to exchange words while their warriors were ready to exchange blows.
‘What do you have to say?’ King Marcus asked impatiently, showing his full set of years. He was yet to gain a wisdom the challenging older king possessed and it was clear the ageing king could sense his vulnerability.
‘Formalities are over I assume,’ the older man chuckled, his greying beard twitching in the darkness. His laughter swept across King Marcus and his men until they were all tense and prepared for an attack at any moment.
‘What do you have to say King Aiden?’ Marcus ground out, his fists clenched tightly by his sides. As the opposing king stepped forward and young Marcus’s hand twitched around the hilt of his sword but even he knew a fight was not what they needed tonight. His country was in turmoil, there was a war and this was his only option.
‘From what I’ve heard you are struggling under the weight of the war you inherited.’ The king began, straightening the cuffs of his jacket as he took several more steps towards the opposing warriors.
‘We can manage,’ Marcus answered, trying to keep his voice level but his anger quickly seeped through until he unknowingly took a step closer to the enemy king. His hand tightened around the hilt of his sword and within seconds the clearing was alight with the drawing of swords. Each side moving to their fighting stance as the older king remained calmly in the centre of it all.
‘You only have months until you are finally overrun by your hostile neighbour. Your kingdom will fall and your legacy will be the king who failed his people. The pages of history are unkind to those who lead their nations into ruin.’
‘We will fight until the last man, I will not give up my kingdom easily.’
‘And yet, they will still win. Citra Colonia will be relentless with a king far more fearsome than you could ever hope to be. Without the princess-’
‘Do not speak of Princess Arlarose,’ Marcus shouted, his grip tightening on his sword.
‘Still unable to find your dear sister,’ he mocked, resting his hands lightly on his stomach. King Marcus remained stoic in response, his glare stronger than any words he could have spat at the king.
‘She is key to everything,’ King Aiden mused, walking slowly in front of King Marcus’s men. ‘She is key to either, Paca Territorus’s victory or your defeat. Citra Colonia will win no matter whether the rumours of her death are true or false, but for you...she could be your one salvation. The mystery card you could hold against your enemies.’
‘She is dead,’ Marcus yelled, raw emotion spilling from him in waves as his men shifted uncomfortably behind him.
‘What if you gave up hope too soon?’ King Aiden challenged, looking down at his hands as if they held the secrets to all the treasure in the world. King Marcus watched on, sceptical of the king’s words as a ripple of movement travelled through his men. King Aiden held his tongue, waiting for the perfect moment. Poised as he held his audience captive.
‘What if I told you the princess was alive?’
‘Impossible,’ Marcus breathed, letting his hand fall from his sword.
‘What if I told you I knew where she has been hiding?’