SEE ALSO THE LILITH GALLERY, THE ART HISTORY ARCHIVE & THE LILITH EZINE.
"Nebonex! Where have you been? We were very worried about you when you ran off," cried King Willium. He rushed across the grand hall to meet them. His face was puffy and red, and he was obviously flustered.
"You haven't moved Nebonex's body, have you?" Wynic demanded, intercepting the King.
"Well no. We've been busy looking for Prince Nebonex," snapped Willium.
"Good. Now where's the servant that found him?" asked Wynic. "Send the servant up to Nebonex's chambers," he said, following Nebonex up the grand staircase. "Redhawk, you and Victoria check Nebonex for bruises," yelled the assassin from the balcony.
"Right," Redhawk called back, already helping Victoria through the broken window frame.
"What's going on here?" yelled Willium, utterly confused.
"Nebonex was assassinated," came the reply.
Redhawk kneeled down, and probed the Emperor's huge chest for broken bones. "Check his head for bruises," he mumbled to Victoria.
She nodded and knelt down beside the knight, and looked the Emperor's huge head over.
"He has three broken ribs, probably broken from the fall," said Redhawk, looking up at Victoria.
"There's a huge bump on the back of his head. His left horn is broken at the tip, and his right cheek is bruised," Victoria glanced back at Redhawk.
"We'll have to wait for the servant, so lets look for any weapons the assassin might have dropped," suggested Wynic, starting to look around the grand chamber.
"Wynic," yelled Redhawk from outside.
"Yeah?" the assassin yelled, going over to look out the window.
"He has three broken ribs, his neck is snapped, there's a huge bump on the back of his head, his left horn is broken at the tip, and he has a bruise on his right cheek," the knight yelled up at Wynic.
"Stand out of the way so I can see," yelled Wynic. "Nebonex how did you find him?"
The minotaur walked over to the window and looked out. "His neck was bent towards the left, and he was lying on his right side with his left arm pinned under his back," he yelled.
Redhawk moved the Emperor's body back to its original position.
"Wynic pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Okay, how did he break his horn, and get his cheek bruise," he yelled.
"Search the bushes for any weapons," the assassin yelled. He turned to the minotaur. "Did you find any weapons?" he asked Nebonex.
"Nothing, but my father's sword, shield, and trident," answered Nebonex, sitting down on the bed.
"You asked to see me, Sire?" said the pale servant, appearing in the doorway.
"Yes, where was everything in the room when you arrive?" asked Wynic, sitting down beside the minotaur to think.
"The windows were open more, and the closet door was open," answered the servant.
Wynic crossed the room quickly, and opened the closet door. The closet was empty. "Why was the closet door open?" he asked, turning to the servant.
The servant shrugged.
"Was there any candles or lamps lit when you entered?" asked Wynic.
"Yes, the one on the night table," replied the servant. The candle was burnt out.
"Nebonex. What height was that candle when you were last in here," the assassin asked.
"About an inch. Wait a minute, that means my father lit the candle this morning about a hour before the servant discovered my father," said Nebonex, leaping to his feet.
"Which means your father was killed less than a hour before the servant discovered him dead. Did anyone visit your father during that time?" asked Wynic, walking over to the window.
"No," answered the minotaur, dismissing the servant.
"That means the intruder came through the window which has a lock," said Wynic, checking the window. "And this one has been picked," he noted.
"Wynic, Nebonex, I found a mace!" yelled Victoria.
"Okay. Bring it up here," yelled Wynic to Redhawk and Victoria. He sat down by the window and pondered why the assassin had left his weapon. Either he was an amateur, which wasn't likely from what Wynic saw of the lock, or it had been left behind on purpose. A calling card perhaps?
"So what do we know?" asked Victoria, when she and Redhawk appeared in the doorway.
"Where would you say the mace was made?" Wynic asked.
"It was made in Avolic," answered Victoria. "The metalsmith carved his name and the date he forged it into the handle."
"Okay, the assassin was likely a Colnician, with the ability to pick locks. Obviously skilled and experienced. He is left handed. He killed the Emperor this morning, so he's probably fleeing right now," explained Wynic.
"How do you know he's left handed?" demanded Nebonex.
"Nebonex," said Redhawk. "Stand in front of me, and try to punch me in the right cheek with your right fist." The minotaur tried, but couldn't, it was too awkward.
"So. I just use my left hand."
"Since you're right handed, that means that your left arm is weaker than your right so you can't really cause much damage with your left as you could with your right," explained Wynic, from down the hall.
Nebonex stopped suddenly and looked thoughtful.
"Come on. What are you waiting for? We have to go check the city guard records, and see how many Colnic's left the city this morning," yelled Redhawk impatiently.
"I just thought of something," said Nebonex, looking at Wynic.
"What?" asked the assassin.
"Do you know what would happen if word of this reaches my mother in Evicoth?" the minotaur asked.
"No," shrugged Wynic.
"My mother stayed in Evicoth to watch over my younger brothers and sisters, as well as take care of the politics in my father's absence. She has a terrible temper, and would almost certainly declare war on Arthian," explained Nebonex.
"Undoubtedly, the news of your father's death has already spread to the minotaurs and messengers have been sent already to tell the Empress," said Wynic thoughtfully. He dreaded politics even though it was usually involved in his line of work.
"I'll go talk to King Willium, and take care of this matter of war. You, Victoria and Redhawk, go to the city guards and find this assassin," said Nebonex, adopting an official tone.
"Right, let's go," cried Wynic, racing down the grand staircase, Redhawk and Victoria right behind him.
"King Willium," yelled the minotaur. "I wish to speak with you in your study."
"I don't understand! Why would your mother declare war on Arthian? We didn't do anything," complained Willium, leaning forward in his chair.
"My mother doesn't need a reason, her wrath is so great that she'd likely tear Arthian apart herself, if she didn't have an army to do it for her. Now what we have to do is send for aid from Colnic and Kinian in this matter. You have more experience in these matters, so I'm asking you to help me?" explained Nebonex, standing up and pacing.
"I'll do it for you Nebonex, but what are you going to do?" replied Willium, looking about his study.
The King's study was white washed with a marble pillar on either side of the huge oak door. Facing the door was a giant window, which overlooked the royal gardens, and the southern corner of the city. The other two walls were covered with shelves filled with books and scrolls. the only thing that made the study truly unique was that the desk and the King's chair were raised about two feet above the floor so that the King looked more domineering, this however had no effect on Nebonex due to his height.
"I will be grieving, may I ask to use the royal catacombs below the palace to store my father's body?" asked Nebonex hoarsely.
"Yes, of course you may. You may use my crypt, I'm not using it!" said Willium, making an attempt to cheer Nebonex up.
"Don't bother. Right now the only thing that could do that would be knowing that the bastard who did this is dead," replied the Prince, reaching for the door. "That or killing him myself!"
"Gith will show you to the catacombs."
"Victoria. What are you doing here? You don't have work today," cried the captain harshly.
"You've heard of Nebonex's death?" asked Victoria, placing her hands on her hips.
"Of course! It's all over the city! Now what's going on?" yelled the captain, his face turning red.
"We're looking for the Emperor's assassin. We need to see your records from this morning," said Wynic, pushing past Victoria.
"He wasn't assassinated! He fell out the window," declared the captain.
"Then why did we find this near the Emperor's body?" asked Wynic, holding the mace in front of the captain's face.
"So he dropped it when he fell," spat the captain.
"The Emperor doesn't even own a mace!" argued Wynic.
"So what? You still can't see the records. Only guards of high rank can see them," answered the captain smugly.
"I insist," said Wynic, his hand closing over the hilt of his sword.
"Who are you, and by what right do you order me about?" snorted the captain, signaling the guards to be ready.
"Wynic Doxon, by direct orders of King Willium, the Emperor's son Prince Nebonex and Lord Blackaxe!" spat Wynic, adding Lord Blackaxe's name, the most intimidating man in the world. Everyone was afraid of Lord Blackaxe.
The captain and his guards trembled slightly when Wynic mentioned the Black Lord. "Roberts," cried the captain. "Bring this morning's records." One of the guards went into the tower and returned a moment later with a small stack of paper.
Taking the stack from the guard, Wynic sat down cross-legged on the ground.
"Remember, we're looking for a Colnic, probably dressed like a mercenary, probably with his pockets loaded down with gold coins," Redhawk reminded them, sitting down beside Wynic, and taking a third of the stack from the assassin.
Sitting down, Victoria took the other third of the stack.
"This is perfect Wynic, a complete description of each person, where they're from, their age, and where they're going. We'll find the bastard in no time!" remarked Redhawk, holding up a sheet for Wynic to see.
"Shut up, Redhawk, and look," snapped Wynic.
"Watch your head young sire," said Gith, pointing at a stalactite hanging from the ceiling of the cavern.
Nebonex looked up from carrying his father and ducked just in time.
"You really should keep your head up so you can see where you're going," said Gith, holding up the torch so he could see if Nebonex was not injured.
"Old man, you scampered across those slippery rocks with no trouble at all! How do you do it?" asked Nebonex, slumping against the cave wall.
"I'm a painter. I come down here often to find inspiration from the beauty of the place," replied Gith with a shrug.
"What beauty? It would be pitch black down here if not for your torch. As it is you can barely see ten feet ahead of you!" snapped Nebonex, standing back up straight.
"You will see the beauty, Sire, as soon as you go around that curve ahead. Which is why the Arthian royalty decided to bury their dead down here. The part of the cave ahead widens to about two hundred feet wide and fifty feet high. It also has a natural light which seems to come from the rocks themselves," explained Gith, walking ahead.
"Whatever! But I won't believe it until I see it!" replied Nebonex, following the retainer.
"This, Sire, is to me the most beautiful place in the world," said Gith, rounding the corner to the left.
Nebonex's eyes widened in astonishment, and his mouth gaped open.
"Seeing is believing. I see that you're speechless," remarked Gith with obvious pleasure.
At the far left of the cave a beautiful turquoise waterfall fell from an unseen alcove in the ceiling. The water from the falls rushed across the surface of the cave floor, and disappeared into a turquoise whirlpool at the far right end of the cavern. The ceiling of the cave was filled with stalactites almost twenty feet long. The stalactites were beautiful blues, greens, purples, and whites. But the special effect was that the underground river that flowed the length of the cavern reflected the ceiling. The entire effect was dazzling.
"It's the most wondrous thing I've ever seen!" murmured Nebonex.
"Wait till you see some of the other chambers. Like that one up there!" said Gith, pointing to a cave entrance jutting out of the far wall of the cavern. "That's where the crypts are!"
"How do we get up there?" asked Nebonex, looking around anxiously.
"King Darlyrel had stairs carved out of the rock four hundred years ago, that leads up there. Darlyrel's father was a very fat man as you will soon see, and fell through the a patch of soft ground, killed himself on the rocks below, and discovered this cavern. Darlyrel, and several knights explored the cavern, and the new king became determined to make this the final resting place for all the royal family," explained Gith, walking towards the falls.
"Where's the stairs?" Nebonex demanded.
"Oh, did I forget to mention that?" asked Gith. "It's behind the waterfalls."
Following Gith, Nebonex asked: "What causes the light?" He looked at the glowing walls curiously.
"It's been suggested that this place is sacred to the Lord. But I believe it goes farther than that," Gith answered, disappearing behind the falls.
"How far down are we?" Nebonex asked, joining Gith behind the falls.
"Right here? I'd estimate about six or seven hundred feet," said Gith, shrugging.
"That's impossible!" argued Nebonex, following the retainer up the narrow stairway.
"One of the past Kings had it measured, so argue with him," shrugged Gith. "Ah, here we are, the royal crypts!"
The colours in the crypt were limited to blue and white, the effect giving a chilly appearance and dulling the cavern below. Stalactites covered a ceiling about forty feet up, and stalagmites dotted the floor. In between the two largest stalagmites was a large stone platform covered with a thick silk cloth from the Minotaur Isles.
Removing the cloth, Gith said: "Place your father here. The torch is starting to go out. I'd like to give you a tour, but we really must leave so we're able to make it back through the part of the cave that is without light."
Lifting the Emperor onto the platform, Nebonex whispered: "I'll make you proud father, so proud."
Gith placed the silk cloth over the great minotaurs body.
"Let's go," said Nebonex, the fire in his eyes burning proudly.