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The time was near to the autumn festivals, a time that was generally of much gladness and happiness among the people. However, those gathered in the packed room of the judging chambers were far from joy or happiness. They could be considered to have a grim enthusiasm, a chance to be part of the judging of the character that stood dejectedly in the center of the chamber. There were men and few women in the crowd. They jostled against each other, each shoving and climbing to get a better view of the proceedings. Their fingers dug into the skin of those next to them. Yelps echoed up around the room and at certain times a mini squabble would erupt among the less selfcontrolled members of the mass, but these were easily quelled by the guards who stood at intervals around the room. The guards were not a force to be reckoned with, as was made apparent by the state of the one at trial in the center of the vaulted room. Muscles stood out obviously on their arms and legs, and their highly-armored apparel did nothing to make their bulk any less formidable. Commoners professed to have seen the guards leap entire buildings with a single bound, and some had even said they could fly. However true these stories were, few argued with the rumors as they looked upon these men. The guards of Blackavar were known to be extremely cruel and mighty when they were needed, and they were well-trained to carry out their objectives. True forces of darkness stood behind them, guiding and leading them through their duties. Many of them stood stock still until they were needed in the densely crowded room, and their eyes burned with a certain unrecognizable hunger for something that none others than themselves understood. Rumors spread that this look marked their want for human blood. Others whispered that the guards were actually beasts from some underworld that were only spending their time in human form until they could be unleashed on someone they were meant to capture. Whatever their true reason for their eyes to burn so, this fact helped the men to easily calm the crowds as they pushed incessantly forward. As a tall, black-garbed individual stepped forward and into the center of the chamber, the encompassing crowd came to an almost immediate silence as they watched the judge. The figure was dressed in the clothes of a king, which he was. His cloak was bulky and heavy, made of the finest furs from the farthest reaches of the kingdom, some said to have been killed by the dark king's own hands. More of his form was hard to make out before he came to a halt before the pedestal where the prisoner in chains stood stolidly before him. A dark smile curved to the king's lips as he looked up through the dark shadows beneath his hood, and then he beckoned, a sharp and almost unnoticeable movement in the wide sleeve of his cloak, and a large grating sound filled the chambers. The only figures that did not flinch at the sound were the king and the prisoner on the pedestal that was now lowering into the floor. Granite scraped along granite as the rock moved unnaturally, magically, into the floor to blend in with the continuous pattern on the ground. Now easily visible by the crowd, the prisoner maintained the stance of relative defiance, and the crowd now stood back to their previous attention to get a better look at the rogue. Black robes flowed as the dark king lifted his muscular arms and pushed his hood back to reveal his face. Some in the crowd gasped, some wept, but all bowed at the
command of the burning eyes of the guards stationed around the room. This was the infamous King Blackavar, king of the dark forces and loyal servant to the dark goddess Weshtrel. All were commanded to bow at the revealing of his face. One solitary figure refused to bow, and this was the captive in chains that stared defiantly into Blackavar's face. The dark king smiled. His features truly were not hideous apart from the few scars that traversed his facade. Dark auburn hair grew from his scalp and was surprisingly fine for one that was so harsh and had seen so many battles. One splotch of gray hair stood out like a beacon on the left side of his forehead, but it was forgiven for being so forthright since it soon blended in with the rest of his auburn mop and was soon forgotten. The gray stripe was not caused by old age or even stress but was simply something that had happened to the king by chance, and even he had little idea as to its beginnings or meaning. Glancing around the crowd to assure himself that each and every figure stooped to his presence, Blackavar's dark brown eyes scanned each head, even those of his guards to be sure everything was perfect. This prisoner was far too important, and the death of said prisoner, for proceedings to go differently than planned. With a short nod that once again went almost unnoticed, his loyal guard signaled for the crowd to rise to their feet as the humorless brown eyes of the king looked back at his prey. Three of Blackavar's most trusted and respected military leaders stood behind him on the platform where he had emerged. These generals were the leaders of his army, and they were powerful figures in the dark kingdom. Each had led the dark minions through battles that had been rough and tightly chosen, and they had always won. Each of them had won every time. The forces of darkness were growing as the leader of the darks, Weshtrel who was the mother of all things evil on the face of the planet, grew in strength over her light sister and neutral brother. Thriving in the darkness of its benefactor, the dark kingdom was more powerful than it had been in ages, and its king, in turn, gained more power from the growth. Along with the incomprehensible power of Blackavar, his generals received a strange amount of this power as well, and they, in turn, passed this strength on to their legions. In short, the whole of the dark kingdom flourished beneath the dark gaze of its goddess, and each member felt the power with which they had been instilled. As their king began his routine of speechmaking which usually made the commoners of the kingdom fall to their knees in unholy worship to him, the three generals shifted their weight but maintained their stoic silence. "My fellow dark followers," the rich yet gravelly voice of the ruler spoke as he took a step to his right to begin a walk around the chained one in the center of the court, "I bring to you today a felon of felons, a villain to be reckoned with. This creature," he said the word with disdain and disgust as he motioned to the prisoner and then continued to circle the room, "has defied the laws of our kingdom. Now imprisoned, the beast will be reckoned with, and I promise you all that our dark ways of life will once more flourish." Blackavar's words were as striking as his appearance; he was a master at speechmaking. The crowd was working into a bit of frenzy now, and the guards of Blackavar looked around rather plaintively, unsure if they were to calm the growing intensity or to push it onward. Looking back to their master, they listened as he continued his speech. "You see, treason and the adjoining of a group of known mutineers is a crime punishable by death. This thing here," Blackavar motioned to the creature tethered in
behind him as he came along the far wall of the room, almost back to his starting place, "has committed both of these crimes." He eyed the crowd that was now swelling close to its apex. Shaking his head ever so slightly to the guards as they questioned him with their eyes, he smiled at the commoners as they cheered him on, bloodthirsty and starving for the words he would give them next. Arriving once more at his judgment platform, he turned with a flourish and a sweep of his heavy robes to face the prisoner in the floor below him. His smile was malicious and thirsty for the blood of the one that had eluded him for so long. Looking away from the prisoner and back to the crowd that was now swept up in the momentum of his words, Blackavar lifted his arms to quiet the mob. They fell into an expectant silence and almost seemed to lean forward as one to hear his next words. "Death is the only answer." The crowd went wild. Waving his hand rather dismissively, Blackavar's evil grin spread wider, and he allowed his subjects to cheer him on, to scream their approval of his decision. The figures that stood behind the king of the darks on his pedestal shifted their weight uneasily, not enjoying the tumultuous proceedings. The three generals shifted their weight once more and coughed slightly to themselves, trying to contain their unease at the entire showcase. They were creatures of war, bred from birth to achieve military goals and to battle their hearts into hell if they must to in order to achieve what they had set out to do. None of them excited in this needless showcase of power and pomp as the king wished to boost his ego. Each of the generals would have preferred a quick hanging or chopping off of the prisoner's head over this over-the-top show that their leader wished to drag on. Sound suddenly ceased in the room as Blackavar raised his arms for silence once more. The dark ruler's gaze turned to the prisoner on the floor, and his evil smile continued. He stepped forward now, his boots clomping heavily on the granite that led up to the felon in the center of the circle. Coming to a halt, he looked down sadistically and chauvinistically upon his prey that knelt before him. Picking up his booted foot, he pressed the base of his foot on the prisoner's shoulder and kicked harshly, sending the already battered human sprawling back on the floor, scrambling desperately to right itself and to maintain its recent stance of defiance and dishonor to the king. "Ladies and gentlemen," Blackavar spoke once more as the crowd leaned over to get a look at the creature on the floor, "I give you your traitor. Zinx Marco." The villain on the floor shifted and struggled to push up on the floor but slipped several times on the slippery, highly polished stone. As the prisoner finally pushed its way to its feet, the crowd went silent with a strange sort of sucking sound that was as if each member of the group had drawn air at precisely the same moment. The reason for this surprise was because of the felon in the center of the chamber. The prisoner was a woman.
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