Sage huddled in her usual corner, a small spot warmed from a crevice of sunlight that leaked through a keyhole sized window in her cell. Asides from her corner, the dungeon was dark and moist. A breeding ground for mold and sickness. Five years in this hell was enough to crush anyone's spirit, even that of a rambunctious, once jaded Empress.
The only other face she had seen in the last five years, was that of her guard, but it was Lord Remerez, whose scowl and cold beady eyes, burned bright in her memory. It was his face that haunted her nightmares. It was his blood on her hands that coveted her day dreams.
The heavy iron door to her cell opened, as per usual this time of day. It was her one and only meal, which sadly only consisted of a few morsels of food.
"Cousin!" Sage leapt to her feet, wrapping the guard in a tight embrace. Her loneliness had no standards. She'd be happy to be in the presence of scalpers and gypsies right now if it meant human contact. Maverk, however, truly was a happy sight.
Her cousin, once commander of the Galabrian army was appointed prison guard upon the end of her Dynasty. Little did Remerez know that Maverk's loyalty was as strong as the rest of the Rosewoods', and that under his armour he wore the Rosewood crest; A painting of a small sun encased in a compass.
Behind Maverk, a small brass, mechanic hummingbird buzzed in mock representation of a real bird. Gadget was Maverk's prized possession. Used instead of a carrier pigeon, the robotic bird, was much more efficient and trained to be more precise, or at least that was the plan for its make and model.
Gadget, was a defect bird in a line of tester models that her cousin had received for free. He had a habit of stealing things and bringing them back to Maverick. Not that her cousin complained all that much of the flaw.
Maverick peeled off a layer of armour, revealing the Rosewood compass. Sage had grown tired and weary from warning him not to wear it. "What's the point?" She grumbled, retreating back into her corner.
"Cousin something has happened. I fear for your safety." Maverk reached into his satchel bag, the same long blonde hair that Sage was adorned with, fell over his shoulders as he wrestled a large object from its confinement. He presented her with a large tattered book. She was all too familiar with the tome, and being in its presence seemed a bit taboo.
"Where, did you get that?"
Maverk held out the tome. "After the raid, I stole it from your Mother's chambers. I knew it was important to her. I think you should have it."
"And why would I want that damn book? Do you realize that thing was the catalyst in my parents' death and the demise of my Dynasty?"
Maverk offered her a sympathetic look. "I know this is hard, but you need this tome."
Sage was mortified."Honestly Cousin, do you have a death wish? How long do you think you can get away with wearing the crest, and waving these family objects around before it gets you killed?"
"No sooner than it takes for your sharp tongue to kill you." He retorted.
Sage crossed her arms, and Gadget buzzed around her head. "Fair enough."
Maverk set the tome down in her corner. "Anyway I'm here, because there's been a shift in Lord Remerez's attitude. He suspects that your mother was on to something with her ramblings."
Sage tried not to look hurt. She swatted at the bird. " Where are you going with this?"
"Since your absence, there has been some odd... Occurrences."
She fixed him with a dark look, prompting him to continue.
"Lord Remerez is assembling a crew, out of common prisoners, to test the waters so to speak. He's ordered me to come fetch and ready you for a meeting."
Minutes later, a very solemn Maverick lead his Cousin to the servant's quarters, where she was scrubbed and groomed for her meeting with the Tyrant Lord himself.
She was dressed in a snug green tunic and a pair of cow hide boots, that came to her knees. The skin between her thigh and knees, was exposed in ridicule. In Galabria this was how common whores had dressed to lure their clientele. On a former Empress, the outfit was disgraceful, just as Remerez intended it to be.
Soon after, the Emperor's advisor retrieved her and led her to another wing of the castle. Without saying a word, he motioned for her to stay put. She stood outside, the room of thrones studying the bricks on the now bare walks. It wasn't long before she was overcome with nostalgia at being inside her childhood home.
A few more minutes went by before the Emperor's Advisor beckoned her into the room to meet with Lord Remerez.
Five years had done nothing to calm the rage and animosity within her. The Tyrant Lord, looked her up and down, accessing the humiliation he had bestowed upon her. A rigid young girl, sat in what was once her mother's thrown. She had raven black hair, offset by pale skin. She laid her hand possessively on Lord Remerez's arm. He shot her a glare and she instantly removed it.
"Sage Rosewood." Her name sat like a curse on his tongue. Perhaps he was remembering their last encounter, where she had spit in his face in front of his entire court. She smiled at the memory.
"Tyrant Lord. What can I do for you? Would you like me to fetch some puppies for target practice?"
He smiled at her dry humor."Perhaps later. Right now I'd ask only one thing of you."
She laughed humorlessly. "What would that be?"
"Well, while you've been stowed away for your childish behavior, my army and I have been cleaning up the curse that your Dynasty has jinxed us with?"
Sage clicked her tongue. "You poor thing."
Fed up, Remerez stood and smashed his fist into the wall besides him. "That is enough of your insolence! For the last five years, I have dealt with the mysterious deaths of my soldiers, reported sightings of Devil people, letters written in blood. Nearby Kingdoms completely obliterated by means of m- monsters, and I'll be damned if-"
Sage growled and leapt for the mans throat."You damned yourself!" A guard pulled her off the Tyrant Lord before she could do any real damage.
"Restrain the little bitch!" Remerez beckoned. The girl at his side rubbed his back soothingly in efforts to calm him down. He waved her off after a few moments. "Your Mother, though unworthy of the throne was not entirely inaccurate in her suspicions."
Sage bit her lip to keep from lashing out at the man. As sick and demented as he was, she desperately wanted to hear what he had to say.
"We believe these monsters, that she spoke of, have resurfaced with a vengeance for Galabria."
Served him right, Sage thought, although she doubted that what he was saying was true.
"Now I don't know what kind of witch you spawn from-"
"I'm not a witch!" She rushed."Nor was my mother. Don't try pinning your crazed theories on my family. It's enough that you stole their home and riches!"
Lord Remerez didn't even blink. "I prefer to use the word conquer, it feels more victorious. Either way, I am holding you accountable for the luring of these demon, devil, monsters, whatever name you want to call your pets."
"Indeed, they are yours just as they were your mothers. Therefore I've taken the liberty of making you a head Hunter."
Her bravado began to fade and was replaced with fear for her future. "Hunter?"
"That's right Empress, I'm sure you can call upon the devil and figure out a way to dispel these creatures."
She balled her hands into fists. She wasn't sure how her mother knew of the monsters, or if in fact they even existed, but she knew she was not a witch or a devil worshiper, though arguing that point seemed futile.
"My caravan leaves in the morning to track down the Hell Hounds. I'll allow you one last night's rest in your humble abode."
She shook her head incredulously.
-"Guards, take this Heathen to the dungeon, serve her a nice meal, just in case its her last."
He winked at her as the two guards clutched even harder on her trembling arms. She struggled against their restraint, to no avail and then turned her attention back to the ruthless Remerez with parting words. "I hope you choke on my Fathers gold!"