More world-building today. Last week’s episode can be found here. Hope you enjoy this!
Prince Hygasie loved being heir apparent to King Hyrdon of Lanuman. He went everywhere with his father, visiting all the cities and castles of the kingdom. He loved especially the castles, with their tall towers and wide walls and intimidating appearance, but he loved more the call gardens, where there was not a sound save for the occasional twitter of birds or squeak of some rodent as it scuttled through the hedges. There was peace there, in an ever-busy life as his father prepared him to inherit the throne.
Hygasie was completely content. If one were to ask if he desired anything, he would be hard-pressed to think of something, for he had a hundred servants at his beck and call, the endearing love of his father, and the praise thousands of subjects. He spent most of the day doing nothing in particular, merely walking around the palace grounds, or riding across the country, or else fencing with his friends.
He had many friends, and there was always a couple of them that would accompany him on his travels with his father. They were the sons of lords and dukes, and they made sure there was never a dull moment for the prince.
One day, he rode through the country with only a single companion, Corval, son of the Lord Amorin Karkomin. Of all his friends, Corval was perhaps the most mischievous, but at least he had enough sense never to do irreparable damage – largely because Hygasie and his other friends restrained him. They came into a village just over the hill from the palace where the king was staying this month. They had arrived only recently, and the prince desired to get a lay of the land, since one day it would be his.
As they trotted through the village, passing between small buildings and people going to and fro on business, Hygasie espied a shriveled, shrewd man behind a cart pulled by a farmer’s horse. The farmer was speaking to some neighbor, and the man behind the cart stealthily took advantage of the situation to take some of the fruits and herbs from the cart.
Hygasie beckoned Corval, and they followed the man behind one of the buildings. He drew his sword and, coming up behind the thief, pointed his sword at his throat.
“I would return those, if I were you,” the prince hissed.
The thief turned around. “Oh, Prince Hygasie! We did not expect to see your majesty in our lowly village! What an honor!”
“Silence! Again, you had better return what you have stolen, or else I will cut your head off where you stand.”
“How about not,” replied the thief, his tone changing suddenly. “I have need of these, and I would buy your pardon at a price.”
“There is no price that could buy off justice.”
“Perhaps. But I have something of great value, that could make you more powerful than even your father. And only I know where I put it.”
Hygasie regarded him suspiciously, but could find no lie in the man’s eyes. His other concern was whether it would even be worth taking such an object.
“Do you think we should trust him?” asked Corval.
“He has it, I’m sure,” replied the prince. “But if it’s really worth his life is another story. Lead on.”
The thief bowed, and hurried away, the two riders close behind him. They left the village, taking an old road toward the forest near the village. Hygasie looked at it, feeling a chill emanating from its dark depths. There was some malice in it, he was sure.
“What do they call this wood again, Corval?” he asked.
“Tormorzen Forest,” replied his friend. “Few ever enter there – it is a wicked place.”
“Wicked, ha!” laughed the thief before them. “At least the rumors give one a little peace and quiet.”
He led them to the very eaves of the forest, where they came upon a small, dark hut. Dismounting, they followed the thief inside. There, he showed them the fireplace, and spoke something in a strange tongue. At once, the stones about the fireplace shifted, protruding forth until they formed a sort of table, upon which lay an ancient book, marked with strange runes.
“I have only learned a few pieces in there,” remarked the thief. “But I’m sure a wise man like yourself could unlock the full potential within it.”
“Yes,” said Hygasie, picking up the book. “Even now I recognize some of these runes. I shall take this, but if I ever catch you again, it will be your head.”
“No worries, sir. Thank you.”
Back at the palace, he spent his time locked up, brooding over the new text. Slowly, he learned what it all meant, page by page. The first chapters concerned simple spells, allowing him to move objects with his mind for example. Later chapters were more difficult, and grew steadily more disquieting, as the requirements of their powers became more sinister. But it was a very gradual slope. The ninth chapter required a live squirrel, by the twenty-first every spell required some live sacrifice. But he had to stop, for a time, at chapter twenty-six.
That was largely because it required not some animal part, but a real, human skull. Had he read this chapter three months ago, when he had first obtained it, he would have blanched and tossed the book aside. But now he was immersed in it, and he was becoming quite powerful. He would not back down now.
However, his friends had noticed a change in him. Most were utterly perplexed, but Corval knew the reason, though he spoke not a word of it. But as the weeks and months passed, he grew to fear Hygasie more and more, especially since the prince was in the habit of showing off his new powers to the friend who had seen him take the book.
He got cold feet just as Hygasie ruminated on finding a way to obtain a human skull. The king summoned his son to the throne room, his guards all about the dais, Corval sitting nervously beside the king.
“I hear that you have been practicing the dark arts, my son. Is this true?” said the king.
“Of course it isn’t true!” lied Hygasie. “What would I have to gain from them? You have given me all I need!”
“Then why was this found in your room?” At this the king produced the book, which had doubtless been given to him by Corval. Hygasie leered angrily, turning to his former friend.
“Curse you!” he snarled. “I should have dealt with you a long time ago!”
He reached up his hand, tightening Corval’s throat. The boy choked for air, clutching his neck in surprise at the power taking hold of it. But before the prince could finish him off, there was a slash through the air, and the spell was broken. Hygasie stood in shock, staring at a man before the dais, holding a red sword that flickered like candlelight.
“Thank you, Endremzo,” said the king, breathing deep. “I had feared we would have difficulty without the Casecaron.”
“Yes, sire,” replied the guard. “Now what shall we do with this boy?”
Hydron sighed. “I cannot bear to slay my son, my only son. But he cannot stay here, and he would break from any chains that we put on him. Therefore, let us send him to exile. Endremzo, escort him out!”
“Yes, sire!” Endremzo walked forward, sword at the ready. But he needn’t have bothered with it. Hygasie was on his way out. He just had one final word.
“You will all rue this day!” he said. “I curse you all!”
“That’s enough!” snapped the guard, and he escorted him out of the palace, though the garden, and into the wild. He set his sword in the ground. “Go, and never return.”
Hygasie didn’t need to return, though he would have liked to. No, he was sure that he was now powerful enough to make his own nation. Then his lieutenants could take back Lanuman. One day.