Jan. 17th, 2012

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Many thanks to Caddy, of the PPC, for the totally original prompt: Pride, Rock, Scar. Fortunately, I haven't seen that movie in years.

"And I don't care what you have to say," the guard snapped, his position as solid as stone in the narrow arch. "The time is past-- your time is past. Begone, before I take action, fool."

Remus drew a breath, tried to force the fire from his heart, and turned, allowing the wind to whip his cloak aside - he needed something cold right now. He needed a bloody glacier, but those were hard to find in deserts; the night wind would have to do.

He knew what they'd be saying behind those thick stone walls. He'd lost the battle, he'd lost the war, quite possibly - now came the cleaning effort, with any luck.

"You're a fool," he muttered, passing the outer spear-wall. "You're all-- fools!" The wind carried his shout into the empty sands, and he kicked vainly at a piece of the wall as he passed. It had been three days since the failed council...

"...You don't seem to understand, Julian. We don't have any options - what he's advising is sheer madness - folly would be too weak a word!"

Caiaphas simply raised an eyebrow. "Folly, my lord? Folly, to hoard our honor, the honor that our people have upheld with their blood for so many generations? See, how the coward plies for more time, for more time to hide behind walls! He will not rest until the world entire laughs at our cravenness!"

Julian leaned back in his chair, looked between the two of them, and towards the end of the small table, where the third member of that ill-fated council sat. "And what say you, Ronin?"

The battle-worn general shook his head. "I say this war has gone on too long," he said, turning a small knife over and over in his hands. "I say that whatever move we choose must end it, once and for all."

Remus ground his teeth, clenched his fist beneath the table. Did they not understand what was at stake? How could Julian be so blind? "My lord - Ronin," he said, addressing both of them, "The war has been falling to the wolves at both of our heels; we need not act in aggression, to end it - and not there, of all places!"

"Not there? Not there!" Caiaphas turned, his eyes glinting in the sheer and minimal candlelight, to their rightful king. "He wishes us to yield the rock! Leave our most sacred ground to the wolves and the barbarians, my lord! Surely you will not let this monstrous fool stand the point!"

It had been a mistake to mention the rock, he'd realized later. It was high ground, tactically unassailable in most ways, a beautiful piece of land, contested violently for decades, with both sides of this eternal conflict claiming birthrights, there. Personally, he favored their own country - of course - but to attack the place was madness, especially when this drought was calling for an end to the battles anyway. They didn't even need to attack, they had winter stores untapped! If they could only have waited... The drought would've destroyed their enemies, forcing a withdrawal, and the war would be more or less ended.

Now they were wasting their stores, throwing men at a position doomed to fail, for foolish, utterly foolish pride. Remus spit, once, onto the dry ground, and turned into the stables. It was a long journey through to their enemies' capital, but on horseback he'd make it before the winter was out. Diplomacy had failed; damage control must fill the gap.
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Additional Characters:
PIETR: Son of Solon, and heir to the throne of Dochren; tall, comely, and rather hotheaded, if not what you'd call thick.
DAAN: An architect; on the royal purse, and has designed many of the newer roads and cathedrals. Cheerful, clever, and betrothed to Dilys.
WULFRIC: A minor noble of the Islands in the north - come to court to ask for counsel on a curse that has befallen his lands, involving the slow transformation of every firstborn child into a unicorn. Stop laughing!
BJORN: A guard; often present for courtly doings, as he's quite good at intimidation. Stolid, friendly, and quiet.
TORIN: A guard, and a knight; privvy to much that happens at the court, and has the ear of both Julius and Solon, many times.


Scene: A garden path, winding between trellises and ponds and a few small trees. Edan, his hands gesturing gracefully as he speaks, is wandering alongside Dilys, who seems less restless than in other scenes, listening mainly.

EDAN: We just know so little about them! It’s good for the bard in some ways, but for me, I’d rather have something to sing about, instead of simply drawing my songs from the air!

DILYS: Ah, an honest troubadour - will wonders never cease?

EDAN: [rolling his eyes at her] Tact, child! Even southern barbarians should learn things, every other moon.

DILYS: Ah ha, indeed. Will you next teach me the ways of the warriors, o poet mine?

EDAN: Speaking of Southern Barbiarans, in fact, I had a question for you.

DILYS: [suddenly just a tad wary] Ah, did you?

EDAN: I did indeed. It is said, in the songs of Pwyll, of Westron, that the fair Southlands are so fruitful by way of a devil’s bargain - that on your royalty, and some of those common, there is a grave curse.

DILYS: Sounds rather like folly, from here, Edan. And if ‘twere true, I would not be here, would I? The drought is beginning to pass, but it stands as evidence nonetheless.

EDAN: H’m. [thoughtfully] I suppose you are right; a shame.

DILYS: [laughing] A shame indeed?

EDAN: ‘Twould make a lovely epic, m’dear. The fair Southern Lands, under an evil curse, and the tragedy of those caught ‘twixt fate and desire.

DILYS: Hah, trust you to make a curse sound romantic, fop.

[Enter DAAN, from a fork in the path, hidden by dense thickets of holly]

DAAN: Ah, discussing fops, are we? I nominate myself, by dint of debauchery and tomfoolery!

EDAN: Debauchery! You? I think Fool would serve you more as a title.

DAAN: Debauchery! [pulling DILYS towards him by one hand]

DILYS: [pretending to beat him off] Alas! Alack! I am ravished!

EDAN: [cough] Ah, the gardens are so diverting this season. I could spend... hours, staring at these holly bushes. Simply divine.

DAAN: [grinning at him] Ah, poor foppish Edan. Will you come along? The day is fine for riding.

EDAN: I suppose so, if only to keep you two from mischief. The court entire knows you cannot be trusted.


Scene: The forest, in early afternoon. A very small clearing by a brook-side; a deer is dead, wounded bloodily by the water’s edge, and the foliage much disturbed and broken. The company rides up, hard and fast - consists, this time, of DARIUS, with a lot more gray in his hair than the last time we saw him, SOLON, as in the scene with Julius and fire-stoking, PIETR, looking exhausted but triumphant, and EDAN, sporting a beard and a semi-fresh scar across his left cheek.

DARIUS: Wait, Sire! Something is not right. [dismounts, beckoning the company wait, and goes to the deer]

DARIUS kneels by the dead deer and surveys it for a moment, before turning to where it looks like the underbrush has been crushed away. He pushes his way through, following the trail, and is not entirely surprised to find an enormous bear lying dead in the midst of the trail, gaunt, bleeding, with reddened eyes and foam around its jaws. Approaching with some caution, he is rather more surprised to note that its throat appears to have been cut-- the blood is still warm, and has not yet dried. He looks around, sees nothing, and after a moment’s quiet thought, returns to the company.

DARIUS: Sire, we should not touch this animal - ‘twas killed by a mad bear in her death throes; that body lies in the bushes beside. We may come upon better game in the course of the hunt.

PIETR: A shame we arrived no sooner! I had looked forward to the kill, and would have welcomed the challenge of a mad bear!

DARIUS: [hiding his expression, one of perplexity and some annoyance] Begging your pardon, Prince, that is spoken folly. Even if we could have taken the bear down - doubtful, as they are hardy fighters at their worst, one wounding blow from its claws would infect you with the madness as well. It is... providential, in fact, that we did not follow the deer into a death trap.

SOLON: Aye. What he says is wisdom, son; you would do well to listen. Let us ride on, then!

DARIUS: I will catch up, Sire - the deer as it lies may leak the bear’s poison into our water.

SOLON: Ride quickly, then! We may all be outstripped by this young devil of speed, but you should not be last among us!

The company kicks their spurs and rides off, at the same hard pace, clearly set by Pietr. Darius lays a hand on his mount’s neck and speaks softly to it before turning to the scene once more, setting carefully to the deer, avoiding any open wounds.

DARIUS: I will not fault you for hiding your face, for we’d both be in danger to meet - but that was a neat piece of work. [carefully pulling the deer - he is much, much stronger than he looks]

DILYS appears on a limb above him, watching silently. As in the first scene, she is gaunt and ragged, holding a wild sort of air.

DARIUS: I cannot help but wonder how long you’ve been shadowing this forest, against all counsel and decree. But today, and ever after, I am glad of the fact. [mounts, having removed the corpse from the stream’s radius, and exits]

DILYS: [drops to the ground] Since the day he had me exiled, of course. The mad bear, perhaps, was a coincidence. But you are no fool, Darius, and I don’t doubt you know, somewhere, why my shadow lies across the land. Would that we could speak! I shall depend on your loyalty, when this reaches its peak, as we both know it will. [reaches down, closes the deer’s eyes, and exits as well]


Scene: SOLON’s court. He sits, at attention, on a spare and simple throne, with three wide steps leading up, and Julius and Edan on either side. A guard, TORIN, enters with DILYS, who he escorts up to the foot of the stairs.

TORIN: Dilys, of the Southron Forests, the court of Dion and Edgar, and the line of Cania, for an audience with His Majesty, King Solon, of the throne of Dochren! [having said his piece, takes a step back and stands at attention]

SOLON: [gesturing] Speak, Dilys, of Cania. I will hear.

DILYS: Your Majesty, I come with the message of Dion and Edgar - a plea. Our lands have been seized with great drought, and as we speak, our people dwindle away into nothing. The people of the Lands Cania beg you remember that we have never been slow to join your armies in battle; that we have always been forthright in fealty, and in tribute; that when the need was great, we have never been lax in answering. If it please your majesty, we would have some assistance - any aid that can be sent will be a boon in keeping our people alive. [bows deeply, and kneels at the steps]

SOLON: You were sent by Dion and Edgar, personally?

DILYS: Aye, Sire.

SOLON: I sent them a courier some months ago, inquiring after their lands. I had long required that some representative of the Canian territories be present in court; had I known your peril was so dire, I might have been more quick. Tell me, Dilys of Cania, why have they sent no word until now?

DILYS: The people of Cania are proud, Sire. We had no reason to suspect the drought would continue for as long as it has, and had hoped to stave off famine ourselves - we have always set great stores, remembering the droughts that have come and gone.

SOLON: Aha, their pride. Foolish, Dion! I could have done much to spare this. Dilys, what position of Cania are you?

DILYS: Cousin to Dion, Sire. The second daughter of her aunt, the Duchess Serai.

SOLON: That is well. Aid shall be sent, and quickly - Julius, arrange for stores to begin transport as soon as it can be managed. Dilys-- you shall stay, and hold a place for Dion and Edgar in my court. All is settled; Torin will take you back to your quarters. You are dismissed!

DILYS: [clearly startled] Th-- thank you, Sire. [stands, follows Torin from the room]

EDAN: Interesting - you have heard what they say of the Southern royalty?

JULIUS: Edan, as nothing of import is forthcoming from your mouth, you may as well store your lute there.

[Second guard, BJORN, enters with a tall, gangly man, who seems to have a small, curling horn sprouting from his forehead]

BJORN: Wulfric, of the Island Territories, to seek audience with His Majesty, King Solon, of the throne of Dochren! [as before, takes a step back]

WULFRIC: Your Majesty, I come with news of a curse that has befallen our firstborn...



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