What was I supposed to do?
A lifetime worth of living in the company of the King and Queen and I'd never seen the deepness of emotion before me. The trio, the family reunited, were sobbing together in a circle, intertwined like the thickest of hedges in the royal gardens.
As I watched on, they fell to their knees and it became apparent that they wouldn't be coming apart any time soon. Looking away from them I noticed the four guards in the throne room standing, watching on, blatantly staring. Catching the tear streaked eye of the King, a silent, unspoken order was given.
"Go," I addressed the guards. "Tell everyone! The lost princess has been found! Sound the horns and bells, summon the servants, a feast is to be had! Run! Spread the word! Find the stone masons and the artists! The great mosaic is to be completed with all haste!"
They hesitated for a moment, and I was proud of their vigilance. I loosed my sword in its sheath, "I'll stand guard." I affirmed their unasked question and with that, they sprinted from the room, shouting at the top of their lungs.
The echo of shouted voices could be heard from all corners in the castle, and within the minute the thrum of the great horns resting on the peak of the Crystal Tower reverberated through the entire city. More and more shouts and cries could be heard from outside, and already the magical smells of the finest chefs at work wafted into my senses.
The horns continued, reaching crescendo after crescendo, reinforced by the joyous tolling of the great bells. The family had risen behind me, and were standing together, marveling at what I could only guess was the bliss of life when the great oaken, steel doors were thrown open with a tremendous crash and a blinding light flooded the room.
This would not have been alarming, was it any other doors thrown open. These gold-rimmed doors were three stories high, and two foot thick, made to withstand the greatest siege weaponry of the known world, only open-able from the inside. And yet, the only silhouette in the blinding light was that of a hunched, withered man.
As our eyes adjusted to the new light, and our vision partially returned the old man hobbled across the marble threshold of the Throne doors, cackling with a mad delight. "Welcome home, princess!" he crooned horrifically, "We've been waiting for you, a long, long time." and with that, he brought his staff up from the ground slightly, and when he slammed it back down, the resounding crack was that of an explosion of unimaginable proportion.
The great doors slammed shut, as did all the small side doors, and a twisted black smoke rose up from the base of the twisted mans staff, and settled over the doors, I had a sinking feeling that nothing bar Dragonfire could break the locks now.
With the smoke seals on the door, a silence fell over the room- the horns and bells and cheers and shouts could no longer be heard, even the mad man had stopped his maniacal laughed the only sound came from the crackling torches, which also provided the only light.
The King was standing infront of his wife and child, his arms splayed across them in an attempt to shield them from whatever darkness had found his family. His polished golden crown cast the reflections of the flames dancing across the now black and orange floor.
I slipped into a corner of shadow, and caught Eves eyes locked on me, I didn't know what to do, so I winked at her and put my finger to my lips, she was trembling. The old man didn't seem to notice me when he came in, and he didn't seem to have noticed me disappear either. I slid along the wall, as quiet as I could, until I found myself directly beneath a mounted royal shield.
Still giving guile my best attempt, I unhooked the shield from its place on the wall, and took it onto my left arm. It was heavy, but a good heavy. Perhaps three and a half feet in diameter, it covered a good portion of my body, and I was fairly certain, if needed, I could curl up behind it- completely covering myself.
Tightening the straps to my arm, I took a deep breath- and abandoning any attempt at sneaking, I strode out into the center of the room, and turned upwards to face my monarchs, and their assailant.
I unsheathed my sword, allowing it to slide along the scabbard more then usual, making it ring, assuring the attention would be turned back to me. I felt I should say something Heroic, but couldn't think of anything- So I stood silently, in my black leather armor, sword and shield drawn watching as the bent form slowly turned around to face me.
"Aha!" A sadistic smile split his weathered face. "A hero. I love heros." the undertone of menace in his voice couldn't possibly be ignored. I dropped into a ready stance, practiced daily for years in the cold stone courtyard. "This could be fun." He hissed.
Raising his arms into the air, and muttering words that couldn't stay in my head, a torrent of smoke poured forth from his body, splitting into two, four, eight individual shadows that landed in two rows of four. As they collided with the stone floor, they rose up, molding themselves into humanoid form.
Arms, Legs, Swords, Shields and Armor all materialized from the smoke, compacting and refining until eight knights, clad in obsidian black armor stood between me and the Royal Family.
I smirked, the old man was right. This would be fun.