SEE ALSO THE LILITH GALLERY, THE ART HISTORY ARCHIVE & THE LILITH EZINE.
In the middle of the night, Wynic woke as usual and crawled out from under the warm silk sheets. He pulled on a robe, gently kissed Victoria on the cheek, and ruffled her beautiful hair. Not wanting to wake her, he moved quickly and silently with the ease of a veteran burglar. He opened the door, stepped quickly past it and closed it behind him. His eyes adjusted to the darkness as he made his way to his study. Entering the shadowy room, he went over to the window, and sat down in a comfortable, black leather covered chair.
Wynic had went through this process almost every night with no real reason, other than he couldn't sleep unless he did. Now it felt as normal as taking his next breath.
Silently, he drifted into a state of half consciousness, and remained that way until the first specks of light appeared on the eastern horizon. From here he could see the main bulk of the city and even Lake Vormia. After awhile, smoke started to rise from chimneys, and people started to appear on the streets, starting their day.
A knock on the door startled the semi-comatose assassin. "Enter," he called.
Redhawk strolled in with heavy lines under his eyes. His hair was untidy and his mustaches were crooked.
"Did you sleep well?" Wynic greeted the knight.
"No," replied Redhawk. "It had to do with what Lady Bardelias said to me."
"But don't worry about it. I had Gith put a snake in her bed. I'm kinda surprised we didn't hear the scream last night!" laughed Redhawk, sitting down in a seat beside him.
Wynic grinned. "You don't need to cheer me up. Lady Victoria took care of that!"
"Yes. Devid said you two were in a fight last night?" asked Redhawk, grabbing a bottle of Kinian Red and a goblet.
"You've heard of that band of rogues preying on people during the twilight hours?" asked Wynic. "That was probably them."
"Well, they tried jumping Victoria and I in the park. You can't see exactly where from here, but I'm pretty sure none of them have moved since," explained Wynic, trying to point out the tree in the distance.
"Did you get the reward?" asked Redhawk. He poured another goblet of wine.
"Devid sent a servant down to the city patrol office for me. The fellow will explain what happened and retrieve Victoria's Stornium Star as well as collect the reward for me," Wynic said, picking up an empty goblet.
"Wantsum? So speaking of your Lady friend when do I get to meet the lovely girl?" asked Redhawk, filling the proffered goblet.
"As soon as she awakes to join us in breaking the fast," replied Wynic, taking a sip.
"What was all that racket last night?" shouted Willium, sitting down at his fasting table to eat. He shivered in the chill morning air and regretted not wearing one of his thicker tunics.
"It seems your daughter's pet snake somehow got into Lady Bardelias' bed. The Lady fainted I'm afraid and according to your daughter, the young man accompanying the Lady stomped on her 'poor baby snake's tail and murdered her'. Your daughter is at this moment out in the garden with all her dolls and other pets performing a little funeral for the snake, or what's left of him, in the bulb bed," Gith explained solemnly. "Her poor little heart is broken Sire," he sighed. Inwardly, he regretted making the princess so sad, but it had to be done before the gardener finally got so angry as to depose of the troublesome snake.
"What do you think I should do? I would hate to have her so sad for the rest of the month? Even though the snake has become a hassle in the last few days," Willium asked with a semi-sad sigh.
"If I were you sire, I would dress up as if I was grieving, go out and attend the funeral. Two weeks from now, when she's happier, buy her a pony," replied Gith.
"Gith, if you weren't my retainer and I didn't have a high advisor, I'd make you my high advisor in a flash," grinned Willium.
"Complement accepted, Sire," answered Gith. "Though I doubt I'd accept. The palace would be in ruins without me I'm afraid."
"Where is Nebonex? He was supposed to meet me here to break the fast?" Willium said impatiently.
"I shall send a servant up to check on him Sire," Gith said. "Perhaps he has gotten lost, the grounds are fairly large after all!" He bowed and left to carry out his other duties.
"Emperor Nebonex," said a servant, patiently knocking on the door to the Emperor's guest chambers. "King Willium has grown quite worried about you, and has sent me to check on you." When there was no answer the servant pounded on the door.
"Good servant," cried Prince Nebonex in disdain. "Would you mind keeping it down?"
"I'm terribly sorry, Sire, but your father isn't answering, and King Willium has grown worried about him," replied the servant.
"Then just go in and wake him. My father won't mind," snorted Nebonex angrily. He muttered in old Minotaur.
"If you wish, Sire," replied the servant, opening the door, and stepping inside. A breeze of fresh air, from the open window, tuned the servant's senses, and he recognized the wonderful aroma of bacon. Somehow the breeze had carried the smell all the way from the nearest tavern, which was obviously serving the first meal of the day. The smell made the servant suddenly hungry as he looked about the room.
Walking over to the window he started to close it, and suddenly cried out. "Oh no!" he screamed. "Emperor!"
"Lady Victoria," cried Redhawk merrily. "So you are as beautiful as a blood rose in full blossom covered in sparkling morning dew, like Wynic said."
"Wynic said that?" Victoria asked surprised.
"I didn't say that," Wynic admitted. "But it's more than true."
Victoria blushed, and sat down.
"So this is the woman who gave Wynic his first black eye," said Redhawk. "Wynic must've been distracted by your outrageous beauty to have been hit so hard. You should be proud of yourself."
"Who says I'm not?" asked Victoria innocently.
"Excuse me milady. I have brought you your meal. I trust you're feeling well this morning?" asked Devid, setting down a plate of potatoes, toast, eggs and bacon.
"Thank you, and yes, I'm feeling much better!" replied Victoria, sniffing at the wonderful aroma of bacon.
"Is there anything else any of you would like?" asked Devid.
"Thank you, Devid. I'll have some more Kinian toast," said Redhawk. He leaned back in his chair and politely stifled a belch. Taking the plate from Devid, he looked up at him. "Dev' for your lack of experience making Kinian food, you would make the most experienced Kinian chefs jealous with just the smell."
"You better take the complement Dev' before he eats it like everything else in the place," chuckled Wynic.
The walls of the dining room were paneled oak and polished to a shine, but the significant thing was they had cut each individual panel from one huge Arthian oak in a fashion so the grain went all the way around the room. It gave the impression that you were inside some great trunk of a tree, much like Kinian Hollowwood in which some Kinians made cottages out of. Wynic liked the cozy atmosphere of the room.
"So what are you doing today?" asked Redhawk, finishing off the last of his food.
"I don't know. I had figured on going down to the market, and shopping. Since my funds are so high, I won't need to work for several months," mumbled Wynic, shoving his chair away from the table.
"I don't see why you couldn't hold a steady job. Like I don't know, captain of a city patrol or something," suggested Victoria, taking a sip of wine.
"Perhaps, but wouldn't that be a waste of my skills?" Wynic asked, standing up and walking over to the heavy oaken door.
"Maybe you could buy a business or something so that you have money coming in everyday and you still don't do any work," suggested Victoria. "I'm not a business type, but I do own several shops, the archery shop that the assassin broke a window in yesterday, a little sword shop north of here, a glass blowing shop, and a Stornium metalshop."
"Actually," Redhawk cleared his throat. "I neglected to return something to your archery shop," he said, getting up and leaving the room.
"Why would you buy all those shops?" asked Wynic inquisitively.
"Because now I have something to fall back on when I retire or if I'm injured and can't work. Besides, I get free weapons," shrugged Victoria.
"Why did you bring this up?" asked Wynic, leaning against the door frame.
Victoria grinned seductively. "Lets go shop shopping!"
The thought struck Wynic as funny and he burst out laughing.
"Here's your bow," said Redhawk, returning with a finely crafted bow. He looked at Wynic curiously. "I'm terribly sorry, I forgot to return it afterwards!"
"Apology accepted," Victoria said, accepting the bow.
"What's wrong with Wynic?" asked Redhawk, staring at the assassin who was by now clutching his sides as if to keep his laughter suppressed.
"Nothing. We're just going shopping," said Victoria standing up.
"What's going on?" yelled Prince Nebonex, snorting fiercely and swearing in old Minotaur.
"Your father!" cried the servant, his voice hoarse as he struggled to draw breath. "He's dead!"
It seemed to the servant that Nebonex was the fastest thing in the world, so quick did the Prince bust the oak doors off their hinges. He ran across the hallway to his father's chamber. The doors landing only after he had crossed the huge chamber completely and collapsed in a splintered heap.
"Father," cried Nebonex, quickly searching the room.
The servant cried, frantically pointing at the window with shaking limbs.
The great minotaur rushed to the open window and cried out in horror. Emperor Nebonex lay on the marble cobblestone several floors down. His neck was twisted awkwardly.
"Father!" screamed Nebonex, sprinting from the room.
Chancellor Adams stepped into the hall. "What's all the damn ruckus?" he shouted.
Nebonex snorted fiercely, lifting Adams above his head, never breaking his stride, high above his head and throwing him against the wall, out of his way. Nebonex continued to the grand staircase. He hurdled the balcony, landing on a servant and cushioning his fall.
"What the hell is going on?" cried King Willium, appearing in a doorway.
Nebonex ran across the grand hall and leaped through a window, breaking the very frame of it with his huge bulk. Shaking glass shards off, Nebonex ran across the marble cobblestones to his father's body.
"No!" cried Nebonex, cradling his father's head in his huge arms. "No!" he screamed out in dispair.
The doors to Wynic Doxon's mansion burst open and Prince Nebonex rushed into the hall. "Wynic," he screamed hoarsely.
"Nebonex! What's going on?" shouted Wynic, emerging with Victoria and Redhawk from the dining hall.
"My father's dead," cried Nebonex, sobbing uncontrollably.
"What? What are you doing here?" asked Redhawk, taking Nebonex's arm and steadying the shaking Prince.
"I didn't know where else to go!" cried the minotaur, trembling.
"Come in here, and sit down. Tell us what happened?" said Victoria, trying to calm him down. Motioning him into the dining hall. Wynic and Redhawk followed, taking an arm each and helped the minotaur into a chair.
"Okay now, calm down, and tell us what happened," said Redhawk, pouring the Prince a goblet of Kinian Red.
Nebonex took a deep breath. "My father's dead. The servant found him. He was lying on the ground outside his window. His neck was broken." Nebonex started to sob uncontrollably again.
"Here, drink this," said Victoria, taking the goblet of wine from Redhawk. She held it up to Nebonex's lips. The minotaur took the goblet with a shaking hand, spilling half of it, but managed to drink the rest.
"Okay, now tell us everything," said Wynic soothingly.
"The servant screamed, and I ran into my father's room to see what was going on. My father was outside, on the ground. His neck was twisted," explained Nebonex, noticeably calmer.
Redhawk glanced questioning at Wynic. The assassin nodded in reply.
"What happened then?" asked Victoria, refilling Nebonex's goblet.
"I ran down there, and then I came here," said Nebonex, starting to sob again.
"How did you get here?" asked Redhawk, pouring himself a goblet of wine.
"I ran," cried Nebonex, taking a sip of wine.
"All the way?" Victoria asked surprised.
"Yes," mumbled Nebonex.
"Nebonex, you do realize your father was assassinated?" asked Wynic, startling the huge minotaur.
"If we can get there before anyone moves his body and talk to the servant, we might be able to find the bastard that killed your father," said Wynic, standing up.
"You're right," said Nebonex, standing up somewhat unsteadily, but with powerful determination. Victoria saw the fierce fire in Nebonex's eyes grow, and realized what a great leader this young minotaur Prince would become.
"Redhawk, go get a taxi carriage. I'll go get our swords. I have a feeling we may need them," said the assassin, leaving the room. "Right," agreed the knight, heading for the door.
"Do you need a weapon Nebonex? I don't know if we'll need it, but I trust Wynic's instinct," asked Victoria, picking up the finely crafted bow off the table.
"Yes, I do," replied Nebonex. "Oh, gods, what am I going to do?" he sobbed suddenly.
"You're going to find whoever killed your father and the bastard who hired him," answered Victoria, sensing the minotaur's worries. She handed him the bow. "You're going to do what your father would have done if it had been you. Tear the countryside apart until you find the murderer!"
The fire in Nebonex's eyes grew to a roar. "What's your name?" he asked suddenly.
"Victoria," she said, holding out her hand.
"Thank you, Victoria!" said Nebonex, shaking her hand.