19 Ch-18 The Crown and The Curse
The court dismissed in absolute silence as advisors and guard captains moved either to their rooms or posts silently. Soon, orders were passed by Sir Peder to increase the patrol and to kill anyone doing anything suspicious. The dead bodies were also cleaned up by the guards and not the maids or servants, to keep the happenings more secretive. Therefore, at the end of the day, the only information that went out of the hall was that there was a huge quarrel or something like that in the hall but only for a short amount of time.
But it didn't take long for rumors to spread in the entire Castle. The rumor exactly stated that Young Lord Felix tried to usurp the throne from his mother using force and that the quarrels were a part of the argument that followed. Nobody knows who spread it or what the result was, but whenever they tried to ask someone who was inside, all they got back was a glare. A deadly glare.
The night of the 12th ended with a rare silence all over the Castle of Cainhorn.
Felix had handled the court meeting a bit too roughly, but it was the best outcome that could be expected from the forsaken situation. He has killed the pest and the source of pestilence, but his job wasn't done. Not entirely. From tomorrow onward, he would need to manipulate the situation of Cainshire and Cainhorn as much as he can to make the most of the situation. But even before that, he needed some answers. From the crown itself.
Felix walked briskly towards the treasury, to the place where he had kept the crown three years ago, away from all people. The treasury was on the basement of the Castle and had the tightest of security. On the way to it, he met the last person he wanted to meet.
She had a terribly angry face on her face and she walked quickly with a broad kitchen knife in her hand. Felix couldn't possibly be afraid of a kitchen knife, but he was indeed afraid of an Angry Lady Yasmina.
"Stop right there, Felix Dean!!!" she shouted from a distance and Felix, like ordered, stopped walking and raised his hands indicating that he was harmless.
"Yes?" he replied.
"Don't try to act dumb!" she spat, closing in on him, clutching one of his arms and placing the knife right across his neck. But even then, it wasn't anything dangerous because he had a mail around his neck.
"How could you act like that to your mother, Felix?" she said angrily.
Felix was still wearing his armet so she couldn't figure what his expression was. Felix shrugged his shoulders and replied, "I did what was necessary."
"What was necessary? Is your mother's life less important than all this? Wasn't it you who told me that you will fight the entire world for her sake? Just because she is your mother!!! Where is that conviction you showed me when you were eight? How could you change so much in just three years' time? Answer me, Felix!!" She shook him by his hand, as if trying to force an answer out from him.
Annoyed, he shook his arm away from her. He pointed at her and said in an annoyed and angry tone, "Don't tell me that I've changed, because I haven't!! It's her! It's simply her, who've changed so much. I can understand that she is sick and weak! But this! This is not sickness! This is madness! Insanity! And I'm not going to let the land which my ancestors protected for years be eaten up due one woman's madness. No! No matter what happens, I'm going to take my revenge. My revenge against all those people who harmed my father, my mother and the people of Cainshire. And no one! Not you! Not her! No one can stop me. Mind it!!"
"One woman's madness? She is YOUR mother, Felix. The one woman you have looked upto and loved for all these years. She is the one who gave birth to you and you are calling her insane. S-she is just … sick. All you need to do is care for her and … and when she gets better, I'm sure she will get revenge for all of us."
"Ha! Revenge!" laughed Felix. "Don't bluff me, Lady Yasmina. I know well enough about mother's condition. She is going to die a-a-and there's nothing we can do. There's nothing I can do. And … grr!" he growled and grabbed his blade tightly in anger. He stared at her through his armet and growled, "Neither a dead woman nor a maniac can help us get revenge. Love, hate, anger and revenge only apply to the sane. Insane and dead people don't know what emotions are and I'm not going to babysit a woman who is hell bent killing her own daughter and the people around her. People are dying outside due to her and I-I can't take this anymore. Now move aside!!"
He pushed her away from his path and walked away, but then he suddenly stopped and said, without turning around, "…Lady Yasmina, the truth is the truth. Miracles can happen but I'm not waiting for one right now. I don't have the time. And I … really can't trust anyone now, can I? Heh!"
"Felix…" muttered Lady Yasmina as she stared at his back.
The basement had numerous checkpoints of guards and soldiers and only a few people could pass through, one of them being Felix. He passed every checkpoint, but right before entering the treasury, he turned towards one of the shadowy corners and smiled lightly, even though, it wasn't visible from within his armet.
"If you've already discovered me, say so!" replied a voice within the shadow.
A small matchstick lit out to reveal a man leaning on the wall, wearing a Knight armor and had a pointy musketeer hat. The man was none other than Aslak and strangely, his armor even though made very shiny and silvery, was completely dark in darkness. It was as if it could suck light into it when in darkness, almost making it invisible and very hard for his enemies to detect. Felix was only able to find Aslak because of experiences and habits.
Felix folded his arms and replied, "I ought to thank you for your help then, but it really wasn't needed."
"Of course, after all, that sh*t was only an Apprentice. His attack wasn't going to hit you anyway. His hand was shaking continuously and it was tilted at an odd angle. Most importantly, what are you doing here?"
"Right back at you!" replied Felix. Aslak shrugged his shoulders and replied, "Guarding. You?"
Felix tilted his head and replied, "And you want me to believe it? Anyway, I'm not too interested in you or your guarding."
"Uh-huh! That's why I'm not gonna tell you! What about you?"
"I'm here to … 'talk' to the Crown."
Aslak, surprised for a moment stood straight and asked, "You mean the Cursed Crown? But why?"
Felix sighed and replied, "Even I don't know, but I need answer. I don't want my mother to die and I'm ready to do anything to save her."
Aslak frowned under his musketeer hat, seemingly unsatisfied, but then he shrugged and replied, "Whatever. As long as you return safely and help me free my father, I will consider guarding you for an eternity."
"Thanks!" replied Felix and went passed him, but before he entered the treasury, Aslak shouted out, "Don't expect me to take care of Cainshire for you. If you also go insane, I'm leaving Cainshire to its fate and going to rescue my dad alone. So, if you wanna save those poor bastards' lives, return SANE."
Felix turned his head back to looked Aslak, who was frowning angrily at him.
"Didn't I say that we're gonna save uncle Julian together. Man… you're so cruel…" he muttered and opened the door.
Crumple… crumple… crumple…
Felix stepped on paper bills, Golds and such things as he made his way to the sealed space which contained the Fabled Crown. When he placed it three years ago, he made sure to lock it in an air-tight Magic chamber, before putting it in a half-a-meter thick steel space, he bought by sneaking a bit of the money from the treasury. This chamber was special and made it impossible for anyone other than Felix to open it. It was like a modern-day vault with a password code. As for the space, it was also locked and only Felix had the key.
The space was as big as a room and only Felix had the key to it. He took out the key and opened the space.
Clank! Creakkk! Bam!
The door opened with a clank, but then a creaking sound escaped its hinges before it came off entirely. It fell with a bam, shocking Felix. Shocked, Felix brought his Greatsword up to his neck-level and took a guard-stance. He advanced slowly, but the sight infront of him completely bewildered and astonished him. The space in which the magical chamber was locked, looked as if there was a beast living in there. there were scratches, blood marks and curses written all over the steel wall. Felix examined the walls slowly, but couldn't deduce anything. A slow creep was rising up his spine and he could do nothing to suppress. Soundless voices echoed through the space, making Felix's hair stand on its end. Felix made several turns, but he couldn't find anything solid. Dismayed, he went near the magic sealed chamber, which housed the crown.
To open the magical sealed chamber, he needed to draw the pattern which was the key but he seriously, didn't want to touch it. Cold air was blowing out from the cracks on it and it froze his bones, which was beneath his skin and armor.
"Focus and Victory!!" Felix cried and touched the chamber, but suddenly his vision turned dark as a creepy laughing voice replied in his mind, "Welcome!!"
The moment Felix touched the box, his vision darkened. The temperature suddenly cooled down tremendously and his heart started to beat furiously in order to fight the coldness. He waited patiently in complete darkness in a faint hope that it was a petty illusion and will eventually clear.
Felix's hunch was correct, the darkness did clear but when it did, he found himself on a strange dimension. The dimension was only a very thin red path, with the sides filled with complete darkness and only a faint light illuminated the red path. The path was completely frozen with hundreds of dead people, soldiers, knights and bones littered everywhere.
He didn't understand what was happening or where he was, but before he could still comprehend all of this as an illusion, a heavy, icy gales filled with Killing Intent erupted from the other end of the trial. Shocked, Felix was caught unprepared and he stumbled back quite a few steps.
The icy winds reduced the temperature of his Knight armor and since most Knight armor make their wearer very hot, they have extremely good air-circulation ways and holes. The icy winds entered those ways and holes and chilled Felix's bones to the core. He could feel his bones and marrow freezing, but then, the thoughts of his family and people of Cainshire erupted in his mind and his heart warmed up. Clenching on that small lit fire in his heart, he steeled himself and using his Greatsword as a cane, he supported himself up.
It was then, a small line of illegible letters caught his eyes. He scrounged his eyes at the letters and magically, the illegible letters started clearing up and a small voice sounded in his mind, clearly explaining what the words meant.
"You walk the Thin Crimson Path. Falter and insanity will consume you. The Unknown is infront but even then, you cannot falter. There is no retreat. There is no turning back … Godspeed!"
The voice was deep and hoarse, but it was kind nonetheless. It ended with a blessing and instilled Felix's heart with confidence. It didn't say anything about what it was to be expected but Felix knew what he needed to do. Do not falter. Do not look back.
And with that thought, Felix picked himself up and started moving.
The Thin Crimson Path, a path which leads to Death at both end with hallucinations everywhere. Utilizing one of the most basic emotion of humans, companionship, it tested the mettle of one's heart and destiny. Created using a millennium ancient illusion magic, it doesn't discriminate between good or bad, right or wrong, light or dark and can show both the future and the past.
Felix walked slowly in the icy cold gales, while battering the millions of illusions that were striking him. Most of the illusions showed him the apparent death scenes of his parents, families and siblings. All of them were too detailed to be even true and each one of them, wrecked his heart out, but even then, he kept on repeating the words. Do not falter. Don not retreat…Godspeed.
He didn't know who wrote the words or what that person's intentions were, but he did know that that person wasn't weak. He was powerful, immensely powerful, powerful enough for his voice to fuel his heart. That person's voice had a strange feel which naturally gave others confidence and strength to move and Felix was grateful to that unknown person.
The path seemed infinite and curved at every ten minutes. Everytime the paths curved, the gales would make a weird tornado-like gale to throw him off, but everytime Felix was able to get away.
After scenes, he started hallucinating live scenes and instances. Each of them also had the same theme, family, but after that many scenes and images of dead family, Felix was near immune to them, when a certain scene almost rocked him.
A scene where his sister, Erika was torn open by Hendrickson.
Felix knew that it was a hallucination and false, but even then, blood rushed to his head and he cried out aloud, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!"
Suddenly, the strength of the gales increased and like blades, they nearly sliced Felix's off mouth from within his armor. He spat a mouthful of blood and crumpled into a heap to shield himself. Sounds of sobbing came out, as he tried to calm his fluttering heart by flushing all his emotions through tears, but within these moments, another message caught his eyes. He frowned at it and another string of letters became visible.
"Use your Aura."
It said, but Felix wasn't a Lord. Not completely. But right now, he didn't have a choice. He fueled all of his emotions and converted them into anger. Deep red anger. Anger directed towards the world. Towards Hendrickson. Towards himself.
A small sizzling sound escaped as deep black flames erupted out of his freezing armor, cloaking it in warm fire. Infact, the fire was terribly hot but the icy gales took away most of its warmth.
"Fire…" muttered Felix as he stared at the apparently small beacon of flame which was swaying calmly on his palms, seemingly unafraid of the gales outside.
"Fire is strength… fire is power… fire is hope!!" he muttered and clenched his fists. With renewed warmth and vigor and casting all disrupting thoughts away from his mind, Felix walked forward.
To the end.
To the darkness.
To the Unknown.
An unknown amount of time passed since Felix started his journey. He didn't know why he was walking this path, nor was it necessary. All he remembers is the few words of instructions.
Do not Falter.
Do not Retreat.
Use your Aura.
Use your Fire.
But even then, he couldn't. He couldn't walk anymore. The coldness has reached his heart and was slowing his blood flow, not to mention the tremendous amount of fatigue and hunger that was wrecking his insides and it was only his willpower which was keeping him alive. The hallucinations had all numbed down all the parts of his brain and in response, it was beginning to shut itself down. All of his thoughts started vanishing and blankness spread all around himself. Within that moment, all of his flames started coagulated into a small sigil of black fire in the shape of a snarling wolf. It sizzled proudly for a moment, apparently showing its prowess to the darkness infront of it before attaching itself right up on his breastplate, where his heart should be. This was the Sigil of Lord, the sign of someone entering the stage of Lords. And Felix's sigil was the Sigil of Wolf.
Felix had successfully entered the ranks of Lords without him even realizing it. His power had increase manifold but the fatigue and coldness had numbed all of his senses, even the sense of his skin which has started bulging inside his armor. All that was left in his head was the coldness.
He had cried a lot of time in this infinite time he spent here but all of his tears had frozen. They had frozen in their tracks and the frozen tear streak had even penetrated his eyes. He was starting to go blind and even though, his feets refused to move forward, it was only his will and Greatsword which was keeping his move forward.
Finally, when he reached the end of the Thin Crimson Path, he wasn't met with a door to either hell or heaven. He was met with a cliff with an endless darkness infront and under it. Despair spread across his heart and he dropped on his knees. His breathing started to slow down and the darkness of cliff had started to roll in. He looked meekly at the immense darkness when he noticed something bizarre. He scrounged his eyes and pushed himself towards the edge to get a glimpse of what it and he saw something white… something bizarre and … bony in nature, but very bizarre. It was particularly attention-catching in the pitch-black darkness and he pushed himself to the edges to get a clear view when suddenly, that creature turned around and an eye stared back at him. A pitch-black eye, the darkness of which even swallowed the entire darkness around it. The view rocked his entire body and it erupted out in flames. An insanely loud cry of shock and terror escaped Felix's mouth, as he felt ants digging into his skin. His armor and hair, eyes which were all brown, started turning white as if ageing. The vitality of his body and cells started to drain at an astonishing rate and it seemed that death was imminent when a loud cracking noise erupted out, followed by a landslide.