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The Tale of the Twilight King

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Amarius sat upon his woodland throne in the Glade of Eternal Midnight; Eternal guard stood valiantly on both sides of the darkened hall where once Morlanna and Arias had been seated. The prisoner was brought in.

It was her sheer beauty that struck Amarius first. Despite the heavy chains around her pale-white wrists and ankles, despite the fact that her Bretonnian garbs - those of a lady of noble blood, not a peasant's cloth - were torn and tarnished and muddied, despite the broken twigs and stray remnants of foliage that had nested into her long, pitch-black curls of hair: She was beautiful. As alluring as the midnight skies of Modryn, the glade over which he ruled… And yet, as she looked upward at him, he saw fear in her deep, red eyes. Fear… And, it seemed, resignation. Surrender.

He spoke, his voice deep, yet sultry in a dark, glooming way. "... So then... One tainted by undeath has stepped foot into Athel Loren. Cursed by all, life itself having abandoned you… Reduced to a mere parasite. And then, when the waywatcher struck, as was her duty, you snatched her arrows straight from the blackened skies of the Night Glens. And then when you closed the distance… You spared her, after subduing her, then surrendering on condition that you would be allowed to plead your case before the ruler of the realm you had trespassed into. And so… Here you are. I will admit, your very presence here already makes your tale peculiar… So: Speak, vampire. And after you have spoken, I shall cast my judgement."

Her voice was as alluring as her physique. There was a hint of seduction in it, and one of fearful caution: Not timid, but close… But more striking than both those was the passion in her every word: A fire, burning bright with life and light despite her undead nature.

"... I thank you, mylord, for this… Opportunity, to plead my case before you." - she attempted to cursty, despite her chains, and succeeded partially in the effort, enough so to make the gesture recognizable.

"Acknowledging that you will determine my fate… I argue it would be fair for you to know me, first, to know who I am, before damning me to destruction, or whatever other fate you would see fit to force upon me." - as she paused, Amarius made an affirmative gesture, beckoning her to continue onward. She did, her voice slowly losing the touch of subservience, of submission, that it had held.

"My name is Morrigan, and I hail from far Sylvania… I was born into peasantry during the rule of the elector-count Otto von Drak. My father served as a low-ranked guard of his… My mother as a sewster. When I was a mere five years old, Von Drak decreed my father to be executed, his head placed upon a stake, for "treason" - when all he had done is refused to kill a girl my age who had spoken out of term. Both he and the girl died, despite her daughter, Isabella, disapproving… She took pity on me and my mother, and I was made her chambermaid: My likeable personality and ability to adapt to the courtly setting without too many troubles served me well…" - she paused, seemingly uncertain how to continue before looking up at the Asrai glade lord before her.

"I suspect, mylord, that you are familiar with the tale of how Vlad von Carstein rose to power? I am aware the Fair Folk of these woods keep themselves isolated from the outside world, but an event as grand as this surely echoed even here?"

Amarius frowned. Her words, so far, had seemed truthful; He had always had an affinity for telling if people were or were not being earnest… Yet it was unexpected for a vampiress to speak the full truth. He spoke. "... I am. The elder vampire vampire, created by the dreaded necromancer Nagash, who broke free from his master's leash and married the lady Isabella to gain command over Sylvania."

Morrigan inclined her head in confirmation. "... Vlad and Isabella ruled benignly, compared to Otto. Looking back, I can see plenty of grave injustices, although I have still met plenty of more morally objectionable figures over the years… Yet at the time; I was star-struck by the couple, by those whom I called Master and Mistress. I served them faithfully, catered to their every whim… And then when they went to war, I was left behind as head of the servants at Castle Drakenhof."

Sorrow and grief stood in Morrigan's eyes. "... When reports came in of that Vlad von Carstein had perished in battle, and Isabella had taken her own life, I knew time was short: Whoever would take over would be certain to deal with any loose ends such as myself… I fled north, through the lands of man and into Kislev, into lands where the ice-witches ruled, and I, for a time, learned from the hags that dwelt in those frozen lands, before moving further east, into the mountains… I managed to avoid capture by the goblins of Red Eye Mountain, and came before the lady Neferata, queen of the Lahmian bloodline, in the Silver Pinnacle, where I offered my services."

With eyes narrowed in contemplation, the wood elf raised his voice to interrupt. A single word.

"... Why?"

She smiled calmly. "... Mylord, to serve is all I truly knew. All I truly know, even… I was, and am, unfamiliar with being free. And my experiences with Vlad and Isabella had influenced me deeply; In Neferata, I sought that familiar comfort."

Amarius nodded several times, slowly, processing her words. "... And so, you entered into her service. You integrated well, I suspect. After all… She, in the end, 'rewarded' you with the Blood Kiss, no? And so, you were trained… Sent out to infiltrate nations abroad, after that. To serve as the puppet-queen's eyes and ears… And dagger, when need be. Neferata has not been bold enough to send one of her agents into the Woodland Realm so far. And we of Modryn may be the darkest of our kin, and explore some of the darker mysteries of life, but we do not dabble in the unnatural, human art of necromancy. Give me one good reason, Morrigan, not to behead you and send your corpse in pieces back to your queen."

Morrigan narrowed her eyes, anger birthing in her eyes. She spat onto the ground, then spoke.

"... I was not, mylord, sent to Athel Loren. Queen Neferata is many things, but she is not an idiot, and there is reason why she has not bothered to try and infiltrate your backwater forest. You are of little interest to her: She concerns herself with the affairs of man, not elf. Will you allow me to finish my tale, now, or are you so eager to see me bleed and die that you'd rather just execute me on the spot?"

Shocked silence spread through the hallway, as a myriad of emotions flowed through Amarius's heart. Outrage at the woman's insolence, birthed from injured pride. Pain at how deep and hard the truth in her words had struck… And, most strangely, admiration of her passion and fury, even in the face of such threats while she was defenceless. He swallowed his pride, and spoke, eyes narrowed. "... Continue, vampire. We've come this far, it would be a pity to behead you now before knowing your full story" - hiding his true feelings behind hostile words and cruel insinuations.

She continued. "... I was indeed trained by Neferata, taught the finer details of intrigue by her hand. Taught how to spy, how to guide a conversation towards what I'd want to know. Taught how to poison, how to seduce. How to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses. I learned well, but one thing remained a weakness as well as a strength: My passion. And, I suppose, my empathy… Although the latter I kept hidden. As if I knew that, if shown, it would cause my queen to crush it like a beetle. I was sent out, to Bretonnia. My first true mission - so far, I had been kept close, sent to Kislev at furthest, always… Leashed. In Bretonnia I was to spy on, and bring to yield, a knight of the realm whose castle stands in southern Carcassonne: Michêl Dumal. He was a… Cruel, man. He treated the peasantry with disdain, if not disgust, sinking to depravities even Otto von Drak had not yet reached. I served my queen faithfully for a time… For a year and a half, I intergrated myself into his court. For a year and a half, I hid my disgust at his heinous deeds. For a year and a half… And then, when we were out in the village, a pregnant woman - a peasant - stumbled over a loose rock in the street, and he ordered her beaten to death. My patience broke; I killed him, tearing out his throat with a single hand. I provoked his guard, baring my fangs and revealing my true nature. I fled, then. The soldiers followed, allowing the woman a chance to escape. I ran, knowing…"

She broke, then, a sob escaping her. "... I knew I had failed. Mylord… Kill me, if you wish. If you let me free, I will die either way; Neferata does not condone failure of my sort. And I am fairly certain that you will be more merciful in my death than she would be."

Amarius sat in doubt. Her tale at an end, he had not anticipated this. She had impressed him: Her fire, her compassion… Her bravery. And, he realized: Her beauty, too… He spoke, then, carefully. "... You will be punished for your trespasses against the Asrai. I, lord Amarius of Modryn… Hereby sentence you to indefinite imprisonment, within the Night Glens. Until such time that I, or one of higher authority than myself, decrees otherwise, you will remain a prisoner of my realm, forbidden from leaving the confines of the glade, on pain of death. Such is my judgement."

It took Morrigan a moment to grasp what had happened. A look of shock, surprise and, even, gratitude sparkled in red eyes as she looked up at him. A wide, amused smile stood on his face. "... Guards!", he called, levity in his voice. "... Take the prisoner to the guest chambers. Ensure her needs are catered to, and remove her shackles. She will require new clothes. As for her… Dietary needs? I will provide myself."

She was lead away, shock still dazing her mind. She turned her head. "... Thank you, mylord. I will ensure you do not regret your choice. I swear it upon my father's grave."

The young glade lord smiled, and bowed his head, before the vampiress was lead away.

Advisors and counsellors flocked to his throne.

"... Lord Amarius! Was that truly wise?"