A short snippet, based on the backstory of one of my major off-site WIPs.
It was a wintry day in Syracethra, and silence reigned in the darkening streets of the capital. The city’s smallfolk sat in their homes, talking in low, hushed voices, as if they wanted no one to overhear – though, ironically, they were all talking of exactly the same thing. Beyond the soft puddles of light from their windows, the festival banners stirred listlessly as the mournful evening breeze trailed its fingers through their multi-coloured strands. Like the people, the bright banners seemed like mourners at a funeral. Solemn. Stunned. Silent.
High above the city streets, its red stone faded and marked from years of standing against the elements, the great castle of Farlaen brooded in the quiet. The sprawling fortress appeared ghostly and abandoned, save for the yellow glow spilling out over the hillside from the few small windows of the inner vestry. It was from here that a sound – scarcely audible outside, little more than a soft whisper on the wind – was coming from. For within the little vestry, the most powerful names in the kingdom were kneeling in prayer. All were beautifully dressed; their long cloaks spilling over the floor in all shades; from dusky violet to blazing orange to shades of blue so dark they seemed to swallow all the light around them. Gold and silver brooches glittered in the light, and many of the women wore fine hairnets of shining pearls and diamonds.
However, in the front row, his hands clasped before him in prayer and face etched with deep lines, was a single plainly-dressed figure. His long dark hair was greying at the temples, and his hands were gnarled and notched with age. He was dressed in dull tones of brown and green, and his boots were smirched with dark mud and bits of leaf, twig and forest debris. Save for the simple gold band he wore on his head, no one would ever have guessed that this muddy hunter was none other than the High King of Syracethra himself. At his side, looking very small in comparison to the broad-shouldered figure of his father, the ten-year-old Crown Prince screwed up his face and bit his lip hard, desperately trying not to cry. He hid his face as best he could behind his clasped hands – his knuckles turning white as he dug his nails into the back of his hands to distract himself from the tears that were beginning to well up in his eyes.
At the head of the congregation, the priest continued his sermon in his low, measured voice, gently intoning the names of the Nine Gods, and calling upon their mercy to lend comfort and support to those who needed it. His words were repeated by seven men who stood around a marble dais at the head of the hall, their right hands resting on the stone, their heads bowed.
Eventually, the priest’s voice died away and the congregation rose to their feet and filed silently out of the vestry, their cloaks swishing gently against the stone floor. As they left, the vestry cat ambled in and padded across the floor to settle itself against the knee of the Crown Prince. The High King heaved a sigh, then got to his feet and strode out after his courtiers, muttering softly to himself. With a little sob, the boy reached down and stroked the thick grey fur, though his eyes never left the seven silent figures at the dais. Unlike him, their grief ran too deep for tears to ever tell.
From somewhere overhead, the death bell began to toll.