SEE ALSO THE LILITH GALLERY, THE ART HISTORY ARCHIVE & THE LILITH EZINE.
Word spread like wild fire, Emporer Nebonex the IIX has arrived in Athex. A month earlier King Willium had received a message from the Minotaur Emporer declaring that he would be paying a state visit to Arthian, Colnic, and Kinian. The three kingdoms had been quite surprised by the message, but quickly hastened to make their cities look presentable to the Minotaur Emporer.
King Willium had summoned his highest advisor, Kolad, and gave the instructions to hire the best bards, musicians, more servants, and craftsmen. King Willium thought it extremely important that the entire city was presentable for the Emporer (with the exception of the East Gate district which was slums), despite how much it cost the treasury.
Metal smiths, armourers and swordsmiths were immediately employed to manufacture ornamental armour for several legions of knights. This was the largest toll on the treasury, but King Willium insisted upon it. He also insisted on platinum armour which made it cost it even more since platinum was the most valued metal.
Now as Willium looked proudly at the rows of knights lining the parapets of the city, all shining of silver and gold trimming. The brilliance cast off them seemed to dare the sun to try and outshine them. King Willium and his royal guards however wore complete platinum armour, no one outshone them, except one. The exception was Lord Redhawk, a Kinian Knight who had taken residence in Athex with his friend, the famous royal assassin Wynic Doxon.
The King could not keep his mind off Redhawk's armour, it wasn't ornamental, but to Willium's eyes it still seemed to shine brighter than even his own.
"Where's his friend?" thought Willium.
Wynic Doxon was a strange person, despite the common myth about assassins, Wynic was the opposite. Assassins, according to myth were supposed to be cowards, not that skilled in fighting, and of course evil and untrustworthy. Wynic was so skilled in battle that it had been rumoured no one could beat him in hand to hand combat. He was courageous and daring, that much was certain considering the bard stories about him. He seemed to be the perfect hero, (little boys dreamt of meeting him), however it was also rumoured that he had violent outbursts when someone mentions his father.
Scratching his chin, Willium wondered how a rumour like that started about a famous hero, unless it was true.
Trumpets blared, signaling the opening of the city gates, and the knights raised their arms in salute. Willium winced at the harsh sound of the trumpets, but quickly regained his posture.
The Emporer's carriage drawn by sixteen magnificient white horses rumbled closer to the huge gates. Minotaurs notoriously distrusted horses, but the Emporer had apparently brushed away this prejudice in order to look more regal to the human nobles.
From every tower, rampant and parapet a cheer from the nobles, and courtiers, as they waved, and tried to impress the Emporer. There was a commotion on one of the lower parapets as Wynic Doxon pushed forward to stand beside Redhawk.
Willium couldn't help but grin at the fact that Wynic had recently been in a fight. His silk shirt was torn, and he had a black left eye.
"Where have you been Wynic?" whispered Redhawk, keeping his eyes on the Emperor's carriage which had closed the gap between it and the gate to a hundred yards.
"I had the misfortune of running into a very beautiful female archeress," answered Wynic. "I accidentally startled her, and she was quick to retaliate. She realized I had been just helping her, so she asked me to meet her at the Drunken Dragon Tavern at the second dog."
Redhawk shook his head and glanced at Wynic. Wynic was just over six feet tall, broad shouldered and stealthily built. He had strong cheekbones, an overly large nose, and dark brown eyes. He had short red hair which he usually kept combed back, but was now slightly disheveled.
The two stopped talking, and watched the progression of the Emperor's entourage. He had come with an escort of ten thousand fully armed minotaurs, they marched in five columns of two thousand each. Redhawk marveled at the potential strength of ten thousand minotaurs in their prime, such a small army could attack and ravage a small castle in a single day. And this was but a small sample of the entire Minotaur Army.
The Emperor's escort would camp outside the city tonight, since all the inns and taverns were full due to the festivities. Normally an army would stay in the soldier's barracks but they had been drafted into inns because of the shortage of them.
"Let's go down to the street, and get a good seat for the parade," suggested Wynic. He gestured towards the crowd.
Redhawk glanced back at the carriage rumbling between the gates, and nodded to his dubious friend.
The two warriors pushed their way through the crowd towards the stairs. They climbed down the first flight of stairs, and Redhawk started down the second flight of stairs.
Wynic leapt from the stairs landing, and landed lightly on all fours on the roof of a nearby building. "Come on. What are you waiting for?" he called.
Redhawk took a step back from the landing and leapt. He landed somewhat off balance, waving his arms until he managed to stay up right.
Wynic grinned and shook his head.
The two made it from roof to roof to South Street, the street where the Emporer would pass through with his carriage and the parade would go by in a few minutes.
The streets had already started to crowd with people looking for places to watch the parade.
Sitting with their legs dangling over the edge of the roof, the two warriors watched the Emperor's progress through the streets. The usual bands and circus entertainers were around a corner near the gates waiting for the Emporer and his body guards to pass by.
Banners and streamers had been tied from building to building across the street, Redhawk noted and looked down. Teeth chattering, he slowly crawled back from the edge.
Wynic looked down and back at Redhawk. "Don't tell me you're afraid of a thirtyfive-forty foot drop?"
"Laugh if you will, but I once saw a man fall off the roof of a tower and smash his head on a rock. Let's just say I don't want to look like something more resembling a rotten apple. I had never seen more blood at one time than I did then," shuddered Redhawk, moving back another foot from the edge.
"I thought a trained knight wouldn't be afraid of a bunch of blood?" teased Wynic.
"That's different!" mumbled Redhawk shamefacedly.
Wynic decided to change the subject. "Look there's Nebonex!" he pointed.
The great Minotaur had climbed out of the carriage, and stood with his son, Nebonex the IX the future Emporer, waving his great trident above his head, on top of the carriage.
The Emporer was almost eight feet tall with huge arms and legs, looking like he could crush a wagon without trying. He had a huge bull head and two pure white horns sprouting from his head. He wore a silvery surplice and a platinum breastplate strapped across his broad chest.
His son, Nebonex the IX was about a foot shorter, but had a matching muscular build, horns, and head. Indeed he looked like a younger version of his father. He wore a matching robe and breastplate, and carried an identical trident. He however also wore a huge broadsword lashed across his back. Redhawk noted all this from his seat ten feet back from the edge.
Wynic looked across the street at a figure walking across the roof of an inn.
"Redhawk," said Wynic.
"What's the figure over there carrying?" pointed Wynic.
Redhawk raised his hand so the sun wasn't in his eyes. "I can't tell, he's standing the wrong way, wait...it's a crossbow!"
"I figured. What kind?" asked Wynic, rising to his feet.
"Colnic, poison tipped," muttered Redhawk also rising to his feet.
The figure raised the crossbow, and turned to face the Emporer.
"Nebonex look out!" Wynic cried, testing the strength of a banner.
Nebonex and his son didn't need to be told twice. They didn't even look at Wynic, but leaped from the carriage into the crowd.
The figure had been caught off guard by Wynic's shout, and pulled the trigger on the crossbow. The crossbow bolt whizzed by where Nebonex's son had been, and broke the glass window of the store below Redhawk.
The knight watched as Wynic started to carry himself across the banner. The banner was swinging wildly as the assassin dangling from it continued to pull himself across.
Wynic was half way across the banner before the figure realized it was in immediate danger. He quickly pulled out a knife, and began sawing through the rope that was holding the banner.
Redhawk finally got out of his dazed state, and started trying to find a safe way to help Wynic. Tying some left over rope from the banners around a chimney, he closed his eyes and climbed hand over hand down the rope. He crawled through the broken window, and into the store. An archery store.
"I need more time," thought Wynic, grabbing a dagger from his sleeve. In one fluid motion, he threw the blade end over end, stabbing the man in the right shoulder. The man gasped in pain, stepped back from the banner, and dropped his knife.
Swinging his legs up, Wynic crawled onto the roof.
Wynic's opponent had drawn a shortsword, and was standing over Wynic's exposed back.
Redhawk notched an arrow to a finely crafted bow and pulled back on the bow string. It had been several years since he had last used a bow. He saw the man standing over Wynic, and quickly let go of the bowstring, shooting the arrow.
He swore viciously as the arrow flew harmlessly by the man's head.
Wynic leapt to his feet, as the arrow flew by his opponent's head, distracting him and buying Wynic some valuable time.
Drawing his shortsword, he deflected a stab with his boot. He stepped into the man's swing, his sword leading to the man's heart. A short stab and it was over.
The street was deathly quiet.