<Wards of the Shadowkin> Ch. 1 Part 1.

<Wards of the Shadowkin> Ch. 1 Part 1.

Two revolutionaries, Fellius and Raven, prepare to destroy the Porkibus estate.


Fantasy / Sci-fi


Jadened (United States)

Balancing atop the castle’s turret, I watched the hemisphere of scarlet sky, painted with hues of purple and pinks that indicated night was falling. The trees below dripped the same reddish watercolors, lighting the forest floor ablaze with fall leaves. Cool air was beginning to replace the scorching heat of day, which still radiated from the stones below me. I sighed, swinging my feet over the edge.
If I fancied myself a poet, I'd write how fire blazes all around this castle. When sunrise comes, the leaves will settle upon the crumbled remains of gray stone, and the sun will laugh as it beats down upon an already beaten ruin.
Gaius is a brilliant leader, but he whips up positively insane plans. Tonight, I’ll meet a troll for the first time in my life. Taller than a house, and dumber than a pebble. It’s hard to believe such a thing would cooperate with revolutionaries, but I do believe in that mad lad of a man.
I lost a coin flip with Harold, which meant infiltrating and scouting the Porcibus estate was my duty. I glanced at the dead guard slouched on the wall next to me. His dull eyes bored into my back.
“Aye, you listen ‘ere pal,” I muttered to him, “The dead can’t judge the living, don't give me that look. Everyone knows that bastard Dracken and his nobles deserve every bitta what we’re given ‘em back.”
A bright light caught the corner of my eye, where I reckoned Harold was hidden among the thicket bordering the castle.
I lit a torch and waved it at him.
His light disappeared for a second, then blinked twice fast, thrice slow.
Flicking my handkerchief, I hid the torch’s light, then flashed it once slowly, twice quickly.
Yes. hurry.
I waited while Harold reported back to Gaius.
Raven to you, follow the plan. 30 minutes.
I felt a chilling cold behind me, as an unnatural breeze drafted out musty air. The sound of two sturdy boots followed, and I turned to watch the black and green mist of a portal dissipating behind a cloaked figure.
We were the same height and wore the same clothes, but anyone could pick Raven out from a crowd and steer clear. His ghostly complexion and sharp, demanding blue eyes were complimented with a black marking that lined his forehead like a circlet. The ink depicted a crescent moon between dangling crystals that fell along his forehead.
There was a time when one would occasionally come across shadowkin, though nowadays it was a rarity. It was possible Raven was the only one still living in Ardelenia.
He said nothing, reaching into his bag for a raven mask. He adjusted it so the feathers and beak covered the top half of his face. It wasn't particularly important to hide his face- rather, the mask itself was an icon of Moonwood rebels. Feather of soaring hope and a sharp beak for tearing apart rotting meat. I waved to Raven, grinning.
“Ready to party?”
“Ready.” He echoed and began climbing down without another word.
I followed behind him, humming the latest drill tune for our soldiers.
Unofficially, Raven's my son. I've raised him since he was six, meaning it was entirely my fault he got tangled up in Moonwood. Truth be told, I know nothing about his birth parents, but Moonwood’s his family now. That's the way it is, so it’s the way it should be.
As we descended, I could hear guards blaring the warning horn, announcing our friends’ arrival on the other side of the castle. A grin worked its way onto my face. Our line of work can be dirty and violent, but justice served sweet as chocolate is a force to be reckoned with. That's why Gaius believed we’d win, in the end (Not the chocolate part, I just really love chocolate).
Stepping into the corridor, I found gold-framed classical art pieces lining the walls. Dim sunlight fell neatly through the window arches, streaking the air with rays of heaven. If we had more time to spare, I wish I could’ve taken the paintings. They’d probably fetch a pretty price.
A scholarly-looking fellow engrossed in his work passed by us, not even looking up but muttering something to himself.
He didn’t seem to mind mysterious strangers loitering in the hall. I shrugged and let a prayer up for our fortune, running to catch up with him and slinging my arm around his shoulder like an old friend.
“Heya there, whatcha writing?”
“Oh, uh. Hello. Sir..” He stuttered, pushing his glasses up.
“A Brief History of the Peoples of Oblian, By Kelion, scholar to the…" I sighed. "Ah geez you’re a nerd, aren't cha? Well, Kelion” I smiled, leaned into him, “Mind pointing us in the direction of the dining hall?”
“It's, well…you go right twice and left and then another…” He trailed off, then pointed back from where he’d come.
“Thanks, pal. If I were you, I’d get out of this place real quick.” I gave him a pat, then let go. Turning back to Raven, I jerked my thumb down the hall. “Let’s get going then, eh?”
We found a pair of tall thick spruce doors propped open at the end of the next corridor, with large iron hinges and a sliding bolt. Beyond it was a festive hall of people in an array of colorful clothing, all preoccupied with their meals. A few women with feathered headdresses leaned close to gossip, while others were busy flirting with elegantly dressed noblemen. There was a noticeable lack of servants, the food and drinks instead stationed on tables at intervals.
We ducked into an alcove, observing the guards leaning against the doors. That bolt was all we needed, really. Marcus and Arnold would bolt close the opposite door, and we’d convinced one of the cooks to lock the kitchen entrance. In return for the servants' help, we’ve taken measures to evacuate them all before the trolls arrive. The nobles would be stuck in the core of the building as it collapsed.
We might be made up of thieves and bandits, but Moonwood has a reputation to uphold. When possible, we keep innocent people out of harm. All the staff should be leaving, but we’d have to hurry before anyone noticed the food and drink tables weren’t being replenished.
The guards were alert, so it might be difficult to take them out and close the doors without anyone inside noticing. Luckily, Gaius had thought of this, and recommended using our torches to catch their attention.
I fished through my leather pack and lit a cloth-wrapped stick with a match since my flint might be too loud. I took a deep breath to calm myself, then chucked it out into the middle of the hall where they’d see it. The flame caught on the velvet carpet and smoke slowly began filling the hall.
One of the guards sniffed loudly as the thick haze wafted towards him. Catching sight of the smoldering carpet, he motioned to his partner before quickly walking over. He pulled off his gold-ladened ornamental cape to blanket it but halted as he noticed the manmade torch, and us in the corner.
Before he could shout, I reached out and yanked him out of sight, cursing that both guards hadn’t come over. I suppose they were just doing their job. As he drew his sword, stumbling, I slit his throat. Wrong place, wrong time, buddy.
Raven brandished his hand towards the other guard, and a misty jade portal like he’d arrived in appeared below the terrified man, dropping him in a heap of combobled limbs in front of us. I didn’t stick around to watch, dashing to the doors and pulling them close quickly, even as they groaned in protest.
I let out a laugh. “Hey now, would ya look at that? I thought invading castles was s’posta’ be hard. Nice going, kid!”
“What’s next?” He asked, bored.
I slammed the bolt through its holds, jiggling the handles to make sure it was closed for good. “I reckon we go find the others and get out of here before the trolls arrive. We paid a hefty deal of money to hire a pair of ‘em. They’ll crush the place to tomato pulp with the Porcibus nobles and their little power plays in the middle of it. Make some nice pig soup, eh?”
We were supposed to meet in the kitchens, the only problem being that the entrance was inside the dining hall. But Gauis thought of everything before sending us off, so a kitchen boy would meet us right here, and we’d get in using one of the secret passageways lining the castle.
I pulled out my pocket watch, which informed me it was 7:30. He had 4 minutes before he was late, so we’d have to wait it out 'till then.

Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 1



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