As the rising sun cast it's first rays what once had been the shattered remains of a kingdom, a cool morning breeze carried the sweet scent of blooming Si`Laan flowers across the city of Meronna.
it had been a month since their beloved king Marcus had been put to rest and already the city began to resemble it's former glory. No longer did the bolts of imperial ballista stand erect from the earth or protrude from crumbling ruins. No more did the smoke of a battle lost hang thick in the air.
Where once the common district had been reduced to ash and rubble, new homes now stood. The market district, once shattered and worn, was alive again with merchants from across Ha`Lar.
Above it all, looking down from the height of the castle tower - still marred with the wall agape - Vael stood, his breath stolen by the beauty of it all. Every morning he'd stood here, watching the rising sun and taking in the sweet scents swept in from the vast fields that spanned the horizon.
The white fox had watched the city of Merrona slowly heal - had marveled at the spirit of the people here - every morning since the first night he'd spent in this room with Alexander.
"Will you ever tire of it?" came a familiar voice from behind him, bidding him to glance over his shoulder at the naked fox lain barely covered in their bed.
"It's amazing," Vael admitted, "how much they have achieved in so little time. It's hard to imagine the repairs to the wall are almost finished."
"And it will be stronger than ever." Alex mused through a quiet chuckle. "Now, come back to bed. It's early and it's still too cold to lay here alone."
The comment brought a thin smile to Vael's lips and as he turned to return to bed, he gave the city below one last look before slipping under the exquisite covers and curled up against Alex. As Alex wrapped his strong arms around the white fox, Vael took a long, slow breath, taking in the swordsman's scent, only to let out a quiet, contented sigh.
"Are you excited?" Vael asked at length, glancing up at Alex with those beautiful violet orbs.
Alex just laughed and looked down at Vael, his left ear folding to the side as he shrugged. "I didn't think I'd be taking the throne so soon." He admitted, sighing quietly as he let his eyes once again close. "So no, excited is not quite the word."
"Is the great warrior-prince of Meronna frightened then?" Vael teased, nuzzling in against Alex's collarbone gently.
"Frustrated," Alex corrected, shaking his head slowly. "I still have yet to appoint a new General and even before I'm crowned I have people coming to me with petty issues."
Vael just smiled, giving Alex's chest a quick lick, disturbing the usually flat, white fur. "Such is the life of a king. Why not let your advisor settle the petty disputes?"
"I've yet to appoint an Advisor."
giving a sigh, Vael shifted his weight, pulling himself up over Alex to pin him gently to the bed below. "Then why not send them to me?"
Alex paused a moment, opening one eye to look up into those violet orbs before giving a grin, "I'd rather not have to scrape my subjects off the walls. Honestly, the worst of them is a young woman who insists the Night Watch patrols too loudly."
"Perhaps you should tell them what your father did." Came another familiar voice from the doorway. Alex and Vael both shot a glance to Lyran, leaning in the doorway with his usual grin.
"Don't you ever knock?" grumbled Alexander, rolling his eyes. "What /did/ he tell them anyways?"
Lyran just shook his head and laughed. "To ask powerful men to aid in small conflicts demeans the one you ask." he recited, then gave a grin and added, "usually put an end to the issue. Either way, it's time to get up. You have a long day ahead of you."
As the sun climbed the eastern sky, it's golden glow illuminating the desert sands of Marthala, Sigfried made his approach to the gates of Hathoras. Once, the beautiful city at the heart of the Empire had been his home, but now the guards stationed at the gates lowered their spears to him, glaring at the ferret spell-sword.
"Leave this place, by order of our Emperor, Lord Maximus Renald." one growled, the towering hyena's black eyes staring daggers into Sigfried's chest.
Sigfried simply stopped and looked at he guards, giving a faint smile as he rolled his shoulders. "Let me pass, or you'll meet your fate." he mused simply, not moving for his weapon, nor visibly readying to cast a spell.
"Leave, now," the hyena growled again, "Murderous traitors have no place in the Empire." his words dripping with anger as his eyes narrowed to slits.
Sigfried just gave a bemused smile and shrugged, "Loyal to the end. Commendable." and turned his gaze fully to the Hyena, his red eyes beginning to swirl and writhe with a menacing red light.
"Little wretch!" the Hyena snapped, lunging forward and thrusting his spear towards the ferret. The blow would have killed an ordinary man, the blade of the spear would have sank into flesh and organs, driving past bone but this time? The hyena stood in awe at the weapon that had snapped in half against the ferret's flesh. "But how-?" He began, but his words were abruptly ended.
"Never underestimate the powers granted to the High Priest of our lord!" Sigfried scolded, his eyes flashing a brilliant crimson as the hyena sprawled, as if yanked in all directions by some unseen force. A deafening scream sounded through the streets of the city as the doomed hyena's flesh was ripped cleanly from muscle and bone, left to fall to the ground in a bloody heap as the rest of his body suddenly burst into wicked flames.
The second guard, a young spined lizard, wisely raised his spear, bowing his head to Sigfried as he passed. "Welcome to Hathoras, Lord Renald."he gave to Sigfried as he passed.
The streets of Hathoras were empty, so early in the morning it wasn't uncommon but even the few who would already have been awake seemed absent. The screams had told them to hide, but from what the could not know. Now, as Sigfried passed through the streets, countless eyes stared from beyond windows in awe at the spell-sword. They marveled at how the shadows twisted in his wake, as if to form some ethereal cape behind the ferret to prove to all his power.
When the doors of the imperial palace swung open, Sigfried found himself greeted by a dozen or more soldiers, all armed and heavily armored, standing between him and a sable ferret in flowing robes and a beautiful golden crown.
"Sigfried," growled the sable ferret, his golden eyes seeking out the crimson eyes of the trespasser. "You were exiled from these lands, Sigfried, on pain of death should you ever return."
Sigfried just smiled and looked to the other ferret with an amused sparkle in his wicked eye. "Come now, Maximus, did you think I could stay away from my home so very long?"
"You know the price for returning!" Maximus snapped, one paw moving to the sword beside his throne.
For a moment, Sigfried just stood and smirked, his crimson eyes slowly twisting and swirling with a crimson light. "Death," he said at length and as if the word itself had power, it heralded the shadows from outside to swarm into the room, forced into the armor and down the throats of each guard. The sound of men and women choking, their screams muffled by the gurgling sounds of blood rushing from their throats as they fell limp filled the room and one by one, a dozen or more soldiers, armed and armored, fell dead to the floor.
Maximus could hardly believe what he'd witnessed. "Coward!" he snarled, his sword yanked from it's sheath. "Is that all you are my brother? Tricks granted by false gods!?"
Sigfried's smile faded then as he stepped over the dead, his sword pulled slowly from it's scabbard as he moved. "False gods?" he questioned, his tone carrying a hint of anger. "Rage blessed me with his divine power, from the day I was born. It was his will that I rule these lands!"
"You cling to ancient tales, brother!" Maximus snapped, "Rage is no god! It was not his voice that told you to kill our father, it was your own madness!"
"Our father had strayed!" Sigfried snapped, his voice matching the intensity of his brother. "He betrayed a god, his death was the consequence!" With a flick of his wrist, Sigfried sent a wave of energy from his paw, snatching the sword from Maximus' hand and embedding it in the wall behind him. "He betrayed our Lord, as you have, brother. Rage gave us the power to rule without equal, we owe him everything."
"We owe it nothing!" scolded Maximus, his voice dripping with anger as he stares his brother down, "That thing is no god! It's a De-!" His words were cut short as a wave of sudden pain ripped through him as Sigfried's sword slammed into him with enough force to lift him off his feet, the blade holding him off the ground, hooked on the bones of his spine.
Sigfried stared up at his newly impaled brother, reaching up to rip the crown from his head as he snickered. "Just like our father. You betrayed our lord, the one true god, now you will pay for it with your life. Goodbye, my brother." With that, Sigfried jerked the blade, pushing it through entirely, staring up into his brothers eyes to watch the last flicker of life leave those golden orbs.
With Maximus dead, Sigfried set the corpse to the floor and yanked his sword free, placing the crown on his head as he sat in the throne, surveying the corpses strewn around the palace, blood dripping from his blade. Took it all in and for the first time in years, truly smiled.
The fires of the Great Forge of Meronna burned bright, brighter now than ever before as the smiths of Meronna worked tirelessly. Nearly the whole of Meronna stood watching this day, having set aside their work repairing the great city walls to bare witness to the events about to unfold.
One particular smith, a burly but short old raccoon, stood firing a small piece of steel. Though his task seemed small, no other soul in the forge - smith or commoner alike - would have dared step in his way or hinder his precious work.
The thin circlet slowly formed under the masterful hands of the stout coon, his ancient tools working the metal as a sculptor worked clay and as the simple thing neared it's completion, Alex took his place, clad in not but his armor. From near the bellows, Lyran took up a small wooden box, walking towards the prince and the smith, bowing his head to both as he came near.
"My prince," said the old coon, his voice raspy and quiet, "It was I who crafted your father's crown. It is my honor now, to have crafted yours." Setting the metal to anvil, the blacksmith held out his hand, offering Alex his hammer with a low bow of his head.
As the young prince took the hammer, bowing his head to the old coon, Lyran opened the box, revealing a simple steel coin emblazoned with a phoenix behind a shining sword, it's wings spread wide and held it high for all to see. "With this emblem, our prince shall take his rightful place!" he announced, his voice carrying only pride as he once again lowered the box and took the coin from within, setting the thing carefully against the anvil, emblazoned emblem against the hard iron.
"Let your hammer strike true, my prince, and seal your place as King." said the smith, setting the metal to the emblem's flat side.
Without a word, Alex stepped beside the anvil, across from the smith and steadied his hand. Taking his time, the young prince raised his hammer, envisioning the path the ancient thing would take and as the sound of his strike rang out, so to did the cheers and sounds of joy from the assembled masses.
With the final strike to forge the new crown, it was dropped into a large stone basin filled with water. The red-hot metal roared as the cooling waters stole the life from it's glowing form, hardening the steel and sealing the metal emblem in place.
Once the last glow of the metal faded away, Lyran stuck his paw into the basin, pulling out the crown and walked to Alex, setting the magnificent thing atop the young swordsman's head as he turned to the crowds. Again the sound of cheers erupted throughout the forge, their joyous cries welcoming their new king.