First Strike

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by TickingTimebomb, Feb 17, 2013.

  1. War. It was all Xavier Shardae knew, and as such, he reveled in it. As prince of the Kingdom of Larigothien, Xavier had been born into royalty, and born into war. This age-old struggle with Acaedia, which had been going on long before Xavier came into the world, seemed to be without end. The kingdoms were quite clearly evenly matched, and not a day went by when blood wasn’t spilled on both sides – another father who would never return to his children, another mother burying her son before his time.

    The roots of this war were ancient in origin. The Acaedians were responsible for the destruction of dozens of races, and the endangerment of dozens more. The Larigoths had been spared the fate of massacre only because of their magical abilities; were it not for witchcraft, there was no doubt that they, too, would have been consigned to the proverbial dustbin of history. All Larigoths were sorcerers, and it had been these powers that allowed them to go head-to-head with their Acaedian aggressors. Who were the real aggressors now, so long into the war, was no longer obvious.

    Since birth, Xavier had been taught that he Acaedians were evil – that they were not to be trusted, that they would go to any end to destroy someone who was different. And since he could walk and talk, Xavier was trained in the art of sorcery. While by no means the most powerful sorcerer in the kingdom, his stature as prince had brought him to the head of the army; he led his battalion of troops into battle every single day, and every night he returned home a victor, more casualties under his belt. He loved war: loved seeing the look in a soldier’s eyes as he used his magic to drain the life out of him, or freeze him in place, or cause his blood to boil. Bright green eyes – which might seem unusual to an outsider but which were quite frequent amongst Larigoths – gleaned with sickening delight as he watched a victim take his last breath. The young man – nineteen years old, entering the prime of his life – stood at a tall six feet, broad-shouldered with pale skin and dark hair. His look was ravishing and intimidating.

    With all of these powers, one might assume the Larigoths were unstoppable. But not so: for a sorcerer of that race could only use so much spiritual energy before becoming weak. At that point, he was forced to retreat, completely defenseless until he had ‘recharged.’ With training, one could become stronger, could conduct more sorcery before needing to recharge, but nobody was immune to exhaustion. Eventually, even the strongest, most powerful of Larigoths needed to rest, and that was when he was in the greatest danger.

    It was during one of these times that Xavier found himself in the middle of the Forest of Rardothiel – the large, wooded stretch of land that lay between Larigothien and Acaedia where most of the warfare took place – having sunk to the ground by a large tree. He was drenched in sweat, having pushed himself to the limit and taken several lives in doing so; black bangs fell in front of his eyes, which were closed tightly as he concentrated on his meditation. He wore the colors of his race – black with traces of purple and green. He had left the company of his men to find a quiet place to recharge; this was foolish, but Xavier was headstrong and refused to believe that a weakling Acaedian could best him in battle, even when he was exhausted. He sat cross-legged, chest rising and falling heavily, hands placed on his knees as he focused on recapturing his spiritual energy. Were his father to find out he was alone right now, he would be absolutely furious. But his father was off doing battle with his own men, leaving Xavier to his own devices.
  2. Peace was a noble ideal, perhaps the most noble of any goal, and yet it had been almost forgotten by the majority of beings in the world. Bloodshed had been rife for so long that the thought of it ending was not only absurd, it was terrifying to those who contemplated it. Any change now would undoubtedly shake any kingdom to its core, as no doubt those once employed to eviscerate the enemy would turn on eachother. And of course, there was the practical element - who would buy the surplus weaponry if no great army was needed? It was a sad truth that many merchants and craftsmen had been borne to higher places by this hell of a war.

    One of the few with a gentle enough soul to still wish for an end to the violence, was one Peter Brigonna. Although he was undoubtedly an accomplished warrior, having been ruthlessly trained since he was old enough to waddle along with a wooden stick clutched in podgy fingers, Peter was not overly keen to stain his heart with the blood of those killed for the heinous crime of being a little different. It was a progressive standpoint, perhaps born out of weakness, or else compassion. It was difficult to say which, particularly when any of these vague feelings were always kept hidden. There was also the issue of the strong fear the teenage prince felt. Although he doubted all this people were completely evil, he was still petrified of them, having had this emotion indoctrinated into him since birth. It was this fear that allowed him to fell other men on the battlefield, adrenaline keeping him from too much self doubt - at least until later on.

    At only just seventeen, Peter was barely a man, though he did his level best to please his father - a man not known for his tolerance. It was as a result of the kings ruthless attitude towards the war -as well as his son - that Peter had been hurled into battle (even if it was under the protection of a guard, and well towards the rear of the field) from the day of his thirteenth birthday. So far he had escaped death, although he did bear a few significant scars, most notably a deep welt that spanned from shoulder to opposite hip, the tight knot of tissue often causing significant discomfort when the young man was required to duck and dive in the full flow of battle.

    With the stalemate of the war showing no signs of breaking any time soon, the prince was once again out to battle the unnatural foes that were the Larigoths. The days death toll was high, as usual, and the fighting had been going on for some hours now. It was now a case of picking through the dead bodies, charging at the spell casters in a rage, rather than holding to any particular formation. Some generals still signalled orders, but few were heeded. The battalion to which the young prince belonged were following orders, lurking in the woodland in wait of deserters. Whether they belonged to the Acaedian army, or the Larigoths - there were to be no survivors.

    This assignment did not fit well with the honest hearted prince, who believed that anything as grisly as war should at least be fought on open terms. That was why Peter situated himself on the end of the line, hoping that no one would pass him this far out. Despite his doubt over this, equally green eyes surveyed the forest, while he also listened out for any telltale noises. Had it not been for the vibrant red of his tunic - which happened to be decorated with a noble eagle splayed over the chest - the slightly mucky individual might have been well camouflaged in his surroundings. Olive toned skin was covered with fine (but grubby) chainmail armour, though he was not wearing a helmet today - he needed his peripheral vision in these surroundings.

    Peter was beginning to wonder if he would get away with spilling no blood today, when a ghost of a noise reached him. It was faint, perhaps just a lost animal, but it still warranted investigation. With a sigh, the muscled fellow readied his weapon - a finely crafted claymore fitted with a jeweled pommel. It was unnecessarily flashy, of course, but a father would always dote on his son. At the moment Peter was of an average height and build, though it was likely that within the next year or so he would have another growth spurt, and become a lithely built man, not exactly slender, but certainly escaping the bulk which would prevent him displaying the agile prowess that he now enjoyed.

    The prince walked slowly, attempting to be stealthy, and not doing too badly at it. As he advanced, the familiar noise of laboured breathing was confirmed, and he nervously wrung his hands around the swords grip, knowing what he had to do. His scruffy hair fell into his eyes, which was hardly ideal in this situation, but cutting it properly was just too much of a hassle. The jagged locks were actually a dark brown, though in this light the difference between that and black was pretty much non existent.

    Now, after a time, the source of the sounds became visible. Definitely a Larigoth, certainly not an innocent little deer. What a shame. As Peter approached from behind, his steps as quiet as was humanly possible, his heart beat faster, nerves rising. He had never killed a man out of the heat of battle, and didn't really want to start now. However, this didn't stop him attempting to make his father proud. Given the difficult terrain, Peter decided on abandoning the claymore, in favour of a pair of cruelly formed jagged daggers. They were designed much like a barbed arrow, removal would only cause more damage. The young prince hurled one of these weapons at the exposed arm of this potentially unaware adversary. It wasn't a very well calculated throw, and Peter knew it, he couldn't really stomach this dirty fighting malarky.
  3. Several minutes had passed between the time Xavier had found a place to rest and the time he was discovered. This was not nearly enough time for him to recharge his spiritual energy - it would take far longer for the young man return to full strength - but he wasn't quite as exhausted as he had been when he had first sunk to the ground. By now, the prince was sitting cross-legged, hands on his knees, eyes shut tightly, blocking out what little light filtered down through the thick canopy in this part of the forest. Though he was in repose, his ears were open to sense any approaching danger.

    That said, Peter's attempt at stealth was successful: the dark prince did not hear the other male's quiet footsteps as he stepped over the dead leaves and broken twigs covering the forest floor to stand behind him. No, Xavier was listening, but he simply did not hear. His father would be most displeased with his inability to perceive an Acaedian's approach. That is, if he lived to tell of it.

    But while Xavier did not sense the stranger's arrival, what he did hear was the wind that was created when Peter threw the dagger in his direction. And that was all he needed to spring into action.

    Xavier's eyes opened suddenly, and while he was too tired to stand and defend himself - or even to duck out of the way in time - he had enough energy to craft a little spell to help him. He wasn't entirely sure what was headed his way - for all he knew, it could be a very fast bird darting down from a branch - but he did not have time to consider this as the object rapidly approached. In fact, all he had time to do was create a short burst of wind to carry the object slightly off its course. It was a weak spell, but given the relative lightness of the weapon and the fact that it hadn't been a very forceful throw anyway, it was enough to do the job. The dagger tilted to the right, landing mere inches from Xavier's knee. Had he not thought quickly enough, the dagger likely would have at least grazed him, if not planted itself into the side of his back.

    The Larigoth looked down, pondering the weapon for just a moment; he didn't take long to do so, as for all he knew a second one would soon be on its way. He knew he was fortunate - he did believe in fortune - to have thought quickly enough to literally deflect the attack, but he knew his life was still very much in danger. He reached down, picking up the dagger as he rotated on the ground to face whoever was responsible for the attack. Upon turning - it was fairly obvious that it was a labored effort - his gaze met a young man who appeared to be around his age.

    "I believe this belongs to you," he stated through strained teeth. His words were calculated and very much strategic: if he could start some sort of antagonistic conversation, then perhaps he could fool this man into giving him enough time to regain more energy. As it was, he was in no position now to defend himself, particularly in close-range combat, in which an Acaedian would almost always have the upper hand against a Larigoth. "It's rather nice; I think I'll keep it."
  4. Although the entire episode lasted no more than a second or two, the time between the dagger leaving his hand and the blade settling on the ground seemed to stretch on forever. This wasn't fair. Peter watched with horror as his first reluctant throw missed, playing the moment over and over with such clarity it might as well have happened as many as a dozen times. Although that may have seemed a little on the melodramatic side, it really was that dire for the young man. He was not suited to single combat - well, his disposition wasn't, even if his skills were - and he had hoped to at least immobilise this adversary in one quick and painless jolt. No such luck.

    Now Peter was barely paying attention to his surroundings, instead focusing solely on the man who hadn't even the common courtesy to play dead. It was a cardinal sin of battle, and no doubt had this been a larger scale operation, the error would have ended in the death of the sole heir to the throne. As it was, no one swooped in from the side and lopped his neck off, it was his lucky day. The trees branches did moan in protest to the breeze, the noise still at a low level, but thankfully enough to snatch Peter out of his little wonderland.

    Clenching his free fist, Peter gritted his teeth as the other spoke. He knew never to trust a Larigoth, but that was little use when faced with such an alien situation. Peter had never even seen one off the battlefield, and so had little idea of how to speak to one, or even if he should. Rumour had it that curses rode their voices, and just one seemingly innocent sentence could cause your limbs to rot and die. Hopefully that was a little bit of gruesome propaganda, but one never could tell, and so Peter kept that warning in mind.

    Swallowing down a growing lump in his throat, the somewhat overfaced prince spoke, "No you won't. You have to die." His words were spoken evenly, and without too much emotion. It was a useful strategy, as it could often mask his uncertainty or downright reluctance to harm, as well as appear quite callous - something that often seemed to strike fear into lesser men. Unfortunately, it was unlikely that this one would fall for the trick. Despite his obvious disadvantage, the Larigoth exuded confidence, as well as breeding. He was no commoner, that was for sure.

    Still with a certain amount of reluctance, Peter advanced slowly on the enemy. With any luck one of the others based in the forest would charge in and steal the kill, though unfortunately this was highly unlikely. Oweing to his slightly airy nature, Peter had wandered much further away from his nearest comrade than had been permitted by his officer. It was yet another mistake made by the prince that would be swept under the carpet - at least to the public - his father would lay into him like there was no tomorrow, if the boy returned at all.

    Now, his steps were much louder, leaves and twigs crunching regularly under foot. "You know only one of us can make it out of this." That was said more for his own benefit, in truth, as Peter was constantly reiterating to himself that it was 'him or me', the enemy would definitely do his utmost to obliterate him, or so he had been told. So, not really thinking terribly straight about what had just happened, Peter raised his second dagger at closer range, perhaps deep down knowing that the throw was even less likely to succeed than the first.
  5. Xavier was unfamiliar with whatever rumors were swirling in Acaedia regarding the Larigoths - but the notion that an incantation could cause one's limbs to wither away wasn't entirely inaccurate. For his part, Xavier - and all over young Larigoths - had been taught at an early age that the Acaedians possessed physical weapons so sharp that one touch could pierce one's skin to the bone and cause one's blood to exit the body. The Larigoths, having no need for such weaponry, never truly got used to defending themselves against an attack by a sword or dagger, and in fact often did their best to keep their distance while engaging the Acaedians in combat. Now that he had been to war many times over, Xavier was familiar with these weapons and knew of their 'powers.' He had seen them take many lives, though fortunately not yet his own. It was almost pretty, were it not so morbid, how a sword would run with crimson fluid after claiming a life.

    War had, quite clearly, hardened Xavier to such imagery.

    He looked down at the dagger held in his hands. He knew of the harm it could cause, and based on the way it was built he had a feeling that if it entered his body, it would not easily be brought out. He turned it over in his gloved hand, observing the way the light bounced off the shiny metal. He finally looked up when he heard the young man's voice. He sounded sure of himself, Xavier noted, but he approached slowly, as though considering how to go about dispatching him. He wasn't sure whether Aecadians - or this one, at any rate - were aware of how useless a Larigoth was when he was weak from over-use, but he certainly wasn't going to hint at it. For all this boy knew, he was strong as ever.

    "I wouldn't try it," he shot back, lifting the dagger to point it at the brunette. He didn't know how to use it, though how hard could it be? But no, even the headstrong prince knew it would be a very foolish idea to get into hand-to-hand combat with someone clearly more skilled in the technique. "You don't know what I'm capable of," he added as a warning: perhaps it wasn't too late to scare the man off.

    He looked around the foliage quickly, determining that they were, in fact, alone: so this boy was just as headstrong as he was, was he? His mind began to race as the dagger got pointed at him. Were this boy to throw the second dagger, Xavier could probably deflect it, but he wasn't sure given his physical exhaustion. He looked down at the ground, noticing all of the dead leaves and sticks. Perhaps he could stir them up, block the boy's vision for a while. But then what? That was a dead end as well. Deciding not to let this newcomer claim the higher ground, he rose to a stand, hoping that it wasn't obvious how much he had to struggle to do so. "Leave me," he stated as strongly as he could. "I'm not above killing a child." They were of similar age, it seemed, but it was a mind game at this point.
  6. Continuing the stalemate might not have been the most sensible option, but it was all Peter could bring himself to do. Although he was well aware that he had a considerable advantage over this rogue, it was actually this unbalanced equation that was a large part of the problem. It just wasn't honourable, and of course, that was what the naive young man believed in wholeheartedly. One day his chivalry would no doubt see him killed, perhaps even today would be the day. Perhaps not, Peter had the feeling that this man was not at his best, and so if necessary, he reckoned he'd be able to make a relatively quick escape. It would probably be seen as tremendously cowardly, should the flight come to light, but of course, that wasn't going to happen.

    "You're very presumptious." Peter retorted, if a little weakly. He was ever so slightly intimidated by this loner, but for the time being he was wonderfully brave. Although animosity was in the air, thick enough to taste, there was little palpable violent intent, at least on Peter's part. He had made up his mind. He simply couldn't kill this man, under these circumstances it was tantamount to murder. Not many would have seen it that way, as of course the Larigoths were not fit to be called human - they were barbarian magic users full of nothing but evil.

    The prince bristled as his adversary had the audacity to call him a child, even if it wasn't all that far from the truth. Peter had been declared a young man little over a year ago, at the age of sixteen. Despite this change in status, his duties had changed little, causing the emerald eyed prince to still feel very much like a boy - perhaps that was why he took such exception to being called such. "Mind who you call boy." He growled, eyes hardening as he growled the words. "If I am a child, then you are a dog." And that, was a very childish retort. It appeared that he had resorted to name calling far too quickly, but aside from lopping the ebony haired mans head off, he was left with little choice.

    Almoat immediately after this little slanging match, Peter began to regret his words. Would it not have been better to just leave? In fact, why hadn't he thought of just scarpering the moment he had seen this lone soldier? Peter knew himself well enough to be aware that he was not suited to killing without the madness of battle. It was always about defending oneself, rather than wanting to steal the life from another. This attitude did at least make him a sensible soldier, he was never one to rush into battle in a mad and unruly manner, unlike many of the new recruits. It was not uncommon for those experiencing their first dry and heavy silence before battle to charge in before the order was given. A combination of fear, hatred and simple adrenaline caused them to completely lose their heads, sometimes literally. These men always died a few strides into their insane charge, used as target practice by the Larigoths before the real action started.

    "You are in a bad way, so if it suits you, which I'm sure it does, you can just return my weapon, and we will forget we ever saw eachother." At least Peter was direct, if nothing else. It was just unfortunate that his idea was so outlandish that it was unlikely to be taken seriously, or else thought of as some mad ploy to lull Xavier into a false sense of security. Hopefully the sincerity in those green eyes would be enough to convince him. Peter was not one for deception, as anyone with half a brain might have guessed. He was a straightforward young man, suited far more to diplomacy than war.
  7. In Xavier's perception, continuing the stalemate was the only option - at least, the only one that would allow him to live. He was not so stubborn that he couldn't admit, even now, that wandering off alone in his current state had been an unwise move. He could only hope now that he would live long enough to hear his father, the king, yelling at him over such a foolish move. Frankly, he wasn't sure what the king would have done to anyone other than his own son that had been spared by an Acaedian. Suffice it to say that if he could start this day over and make a different set of decisions, he would have.

    Now standing, the dark prince gave a toothy, malicious grin as this stranger called him presumptuous. He thought he heard uncertainty in those words; yes, it was there, but not much. That was all Xavier needed to hear, though, to know that this boy was not confident with his own abilities. Still, even a weak Acaedian could defeat him in this exhausted state, so he wasn't letting his guard down. He chuckled lowly at the boy's anger at being called a boy; condescension had been his intention, and he was happy that the boy was tweaked. What's more, his strategy of distracting the other male from killing him immediately appeared to be working. He attempted to ignore the name-calling; he was a bit insulted, but he knew what he Acaedians thought of those who used magic, and he had a feeling that was not the worst he had been called by a non-magic user. "I would rather be last among dogs than first among your kind," he shot back, virtually spitting the words out. Of course, he was not last among the Larigoths; quite the contrary, he was third after his father and mother.

    His smile fell, though, when the man pointed out that he was weak. Was it that obvious? He should have just staid on the ground, he realized, instead of risking the betrayal of his weakened physical state. That was his second mistake that day, and perhaps it would be his last. But no, this man was offering to leave him alone. He mistook this for condescension, as though egging him on by saying he was too weak to even waste time on, and that made him quite angry. Brow furrowing, he tossed the dagger aside with a loud, anguished cry. "You underestimate me!" He shouted. Not that Peter knew this, but he had pushed Xavier's biggest button, which was having his abilities called into question. "And you do so at your own peril." He stood tall, puffing his chest out and lifting his arms out at his sides as though beckoning the other forward. "Come at me." It was a simple request. Most Larigoths had to, by design, retreat from battle after exhausting their spiritual energies, but it was unlike an honorable soldier to accept mercy. While Xavier was too weak to put up much of a fight, he was confident in his ability to think of something on the spot, should the Acaedian accept his challenge. "Prove your worth."
  8. As all this was going on, Peter was finally beginning to widen his field of consciousness, bothering to listen out for any telltale sounds such as those of footsteps, or worse, nearby fighting. If anyone stumbled across these two whilst their blood was up, it was unlikely that they would pause to think about whose side they were on. It was logical for any soldier to assume that any two hiding out here in the woodland were comrades, and so would most likely be felled before the colourings of their clothes were taken into account. It was an unfortunate fact that those engaged in battle rarely took very much notice of who they were killing.

    Pushing this thought aside, Peter focused a little bit more again, watching the taller man carefully, wondering if perhaps he should just kill him. No. It just wasn't in him. Even as the dog comment was responded to, the young prince did not see red. He remained calm and relatively focused, replying without too much concern. "The feeling is mutual, I assure you." That would most likely go for every man out on the field today. It was probably the feeling of most women and children left at home too, such was the strength of the various pieces of propaganda that were so carelessly flung about. By now, centuries after magic had been outlawed, Acaedia had forgotten the good that magic had once done for them. The rate of production had slowed considerably, technology had taken a huge hit without the aid of the gifted other races. Also, diseases that had once been at least manageable with the help of those schooled in healing, had now become a painful death sentence. All this had been swept carefully under the carpet, in favour of preaching fear of dark arts such as necromancy and the obligatory stories of virgin sacrifices.

    The moment Xavier raised his voice, Peter increased his guard yet again, raising his dagger without really knowing what he was doing. He was so used to defending himself that the movements necessary for such survival barely even registered with him half the time. It was the mark of a skilled warrior, or else a complacent one. It was often difficult to spot the difference between the two, though thankfully Peter fell into the former category. He was a fool in many respects, but he did not rest on his laurels, at least not in situations such as these. He knew that these dark people of Larigothian were capable of changing tack at any second, and any movement had to be watched ever so carefully.

    He toyed with the idea of taking the other up on the offer, but soon thought better of it. "I won't fight you. This is not the battlefield, so it is not right." Although he had only just sorted this out in his head, he said this with total conviction. He would never kill anyone in cold blood, off the field of battle. Well, there was a chance he would kill in self defence, but this certainly wasn't a case that warranted it. "Just give me my weapon. We both still live, is that not proof enough?" Peter knew that boys began active duty at a young age, and so the fact that they had both survived this long was certainly proof that they could handle themselves.
  9. Xavier frowned, looking down at the ground for a moment before returning the other boy's gaze. He was starting to think that this male was refusing to fight him not out of condescension, not out of weakness, but out of valour. That was... interesting. Rare in these times, certainly. He had to be grateful, though: really, if it wasn't for the fact that he did not want to fight, the Larigoth prince would probably be dead by now, and it would have been all his own fault. "That is noble," he offered, kicking a few dead leaves by his feet. "For an Acaedian," he added quickly. For while he was secretly grateful that his life was spared, there was no way he was softening towards their race. This particular moment aside, there was still a war going on, a war Xavier supported.

    Deciding there was no risk, Xavier lowered himself back to the ground, returning to his cross-legged position. He kept his eyes open, though, and focused them solely on this man in front of him. He still wasn't sure he was trustworthy. "Your dagger is there," he said, nodding towards the spot on the ground where he had thrown it just moments earlier. He figured the male would be taking it and leaving. But a thought popped into his mind: if he could keep the brunette with him for a little while, then perhaps he could regain enough strength to dispatch him in time. Hell, his gratitude certainly didn't trump his bloodlust, and nothing would be more sickeningly delightful than to take advantage of this boy's foolish kindness. "Who are you?" He asked suddenly; that was an innocent enough question (well, it would be for one commoner to ask another, which was what he assumed this man would think it was) and might keep him in the area. He wasn't that interested in knowing the answer - again, he assumed this was just some commoner who had happened upon him - but it could start a conversation that could kill some time. Time wasn't on Xavier's side that day, but now he would try to stretch it out as long as he could while he continued his rejuvenation.
  10. His expression did not change for some time. He had barely shown any emotion here, perhaps mostly because he really didn't know how Xavier would react to any displays of happiness or anger. It was better to stick to safe ground, especially in a situation as precarious as this one. However, when the Larigoth finally spoke, Peter couldn't help but deliver a wry smile. The reluctance to admit that one of his race could even possess knowledge of the word 'noble' was somewhat amusing, and Peter could often find merriment in the most inappropriate of places, this being one of them. Of course, the movement of his lips soon reversed itself, a neutral expression replacing what might be seen as a mockery of a smile, almost as soon as it had first come to fruition. "Thankyou, your admission of my nobility is also noble, for a Larigoth." Well, that was definitely a bit antagonistic. Peter wasn't the best at behaving himself. He tried, but sometimes things just slipped out. It wasn't usually over anything too important, but the prince had a habit of blurting out such silly lines as had just been spoken, usually in the comfort of the kings court, where only stern glares could be received, rather than out here where he was truly vulnerable.

    Brushing off this comment, and attempting to forget it had been said at all, Peter moved to fetch his dagger, once his new best friend was seated again. He moved carefully, his movements deliberate and sweeping, avoiding anything sudden that might raise alarm bells in the others head. It was sensible, thank god. Once the blade was sheathed again, along with its mate, Peter was all but ready to make his move to leave, but then the unassuming and cunning prince spoke once more. Should he answer? Peter saw no reason not to, although someone slightly more aware of the brutal ways of the world, might have realised that revealing his identity could well make him a target. Taking the head of the prince was undoubtedly an honour, and letting him go - well, that was just foolish beyond measure. Still, Peter hadn't worked this small detail out, and so he spoke.

    "My name is Peter Brigonna. Son of Ulrich Brigonna." He was proud of his heritage, and spoke as such. Peter loved his father as the figurehead that he was, and in another life might have also loved him as a son loves his daddy, but unfortunately that was not possible in these hard times. Ulrich was not interested in a son to love, he was a practical man, and although he was proud of his sons achievements, that was all it extended to. Peter was the heir to his throne, and nothing more. "And who might you be?" Peter finally asked, oblivious to the bombshell he had just dropped.
  11. Xavier placed his hands back on his knees, assuming the position he usually took while meditating. In this position, he was fully relaxed, yet upright enough to react to any stimuli that might merit action - for instance, like a dagger to the back - thus it got the job done. He wasn't entirely certain that this young man would answer his question, but when he did, the Larigoth was completely blown away. He didn't allow his reaction to show on his face, though, merely tightening his grip on his own knees as though willing himself to keep a straight face. "I see," he stated evenly, processing this. They were both princes, it turned out, but he doubted Peter knew this. Xavier now had the informational upper hand, but how he would use the advantage would have to be seen.

    Then, the dark prince had an idea. He would wait to regain his strength, but he wouldn't use it to kill the Acaedian prince. No, he would disable the other and capture him, bring him back to Larigothien has his prisoner. With a royal hostage, the tide of this war could certainly change dramatically. Thinking this caused him to smile, but he wiped it off his face as soon as he could.

    "I am Claudius," he stated just as evenly, giving a nod for emphasis. "Claudius Longfellow." He wasn't particularly proud of this pseudonym - the first name was common enough to be real, but the last name seemed a bit manufactured - but it would have to do. "A member of the King's Royal Guard." That would explain his fairly upscale garments, if Peter had even taken notice of them. "I am surprised to see a prince out here in the woods all alone," he prodded, more than a bit ironically. "Where are your men?" He wasn't sure he could get honest answers to these questions, but he was interested in seeing how much information he could get out of the prince, now that he knew his identity. And again, anything that could prolong the conversation was fair game to him.
  12. Peter really needed an advisor. He needed one specifically for the purpose of lying. Part of the reason he so rarely attempted to lie was the fact that he was so abismally bad at it. Of course, there was also the matter of his sensibilities, which actually formed the major cause of his lack of deception skills. At least if he survived long enough to become king, the prince was likely to be well favoured by his subjects. An honest king would be more than refreshing, though perhaps in this time of war his kind heart was not what was needed. Someone as ruthless as his father needed to end this war, so it could only be hoped that the whole horrible thing ended before the rise of Peter. More than unlikely, although at least Acaedia would probably be destroyed nice and quickly once the son succeeded his father.

    Still not quite understanding what a stupid mistake this honesty was, and also not noticing the wily expression on Xaviers face, Peter stood by. He was not quite relaxed, his guard had to be kept up at all times, though he wasn't as alert as many would have been in his situation. He didn't show any impatience at the conversation, as might have been sensible, instead he actually showed interest. That was not wise, nor was ignoring his gut instinct. Claudius Longfellow. Something didn't sit right there, and yet, Peter made the decision to brush this doubt aside. Of course the name would seem odd, a Larigoth name would always sound strange to a citizen of Acaedia. Obviously, this was false logic, but what Peter didn't know, wouldn't hurt him.

    He again listened with interest, and answered nice and truthfully. "Honestly, I'm not sure." He glanced around, just in case someone was coming, "We were guarding the perimeter, taking out any deserters." Peter shrugged then, actually becoming fairly casual now, "If you are supposed to be guarding the king, why on earth are you here?" That was an apt question, and there was a slim chance that the incongruity of the story might cause Peter to realise something was truly amiss here.
  13. While lying may have been a difficult feat for Peter, it came almost too naturally for Xavier. He lied for all sorts of reasons: to get himself out of trouble with his parents, to exaggerate a war story, or apparently to invent an identity for use with an Acaedian prince. So long as he kept careful track of what he was saying and to whom, it wasn't that difficult for him to bend the truth to his will. He was certainly far less benevolent than his Acaedian counterpart. At any rate, it seemed that this boy was buying his story so far, which was a good sign. Perhaps he could come out of this encounter unscathed after all - and with some precious cargo to boot.

    Xavier nodded; based on what Peter had just said, he could fill in the rest of the blanks pretty easily. "So you saw me sitting here and thought you would come over," he stated, assuming that was the correct series of events. "And... do what, exactly?" He asked. He had to admit he was exceedingly curious. Weren't all Acaedians blood-thirsty savages who would sooner kill a magic wielder than engage him in conversation? "I must admit, your reluctance to do me harm surprises me."

    With regards to his own intentions, he merely shrugged; this would be an easy enough question to answer. "I was doing battle with one of your kind and thought he had injured me," he stated carefully. "I separated myself from the group so that I could check myself for wounds." The truth was that he had gone off on his own to meditate - a necessary procedure for an exhausted Larigoth who needed to regain his spiritual energy - but if Peter didn't already know that about Larigoths, then he didn't want to be the one to disclose that information. "Our king is well-protected as always," he added. He was starting to feel a bit stronger, but he still wasn't at the point where he could easily dispatch of the Acaedian. He would have to come up with something else to talk about that wasn't overly antagonistic. "And what is it like?" He asked, feigning innocent curiosity. "Being a prince? Having the weight of your people on your shoulders?" He figured this was a fairly astute question to ask, as it was one he often wrestled with himself. With any luck, the boy would become pensive and leave him with some more time to recuperate.
  14. Showing this amount of interest in what should only be a hated enemy was incredibly foolish, and yet Peter found himself enthralled by this conversation. He knew that he really needed to get back to the contingent of men with which he had been stationed, and yet, for some strange reason he chose to stay here. Why this was, he couldn't quite decide, and although this bothered him a little, he chose to ignore it once again. Peter was slipping down a dangerous slope, and at the bottom of the slide would come the jaws of the Larigoths. It was difficult to say what would happen to him, should he reach the end of this fall, and Peter hadn't yet realised the potential dnager he was in. So, he'd probably find out what happened to prisoners of war, sooner or later.

    Instead of dwelling on the unknown, Peter answered once again, barely even hesitating. "I was going to kill you. But...I changed my mind." He was actually a little embarrassed now. He felt a bit of failure, showing all this mercy. The young prince still stood by his morals, but he was still aware that any other man would see his mercy as weakness. It was a shame, but times would not change for a long while, most likely long after the deaths of all here.

    "Should you not be able to recognise injury immediately? It's hardly an advanced skill." Peter raised an eyebrow quizzically, wondering just how strange these people were. Although, if he was being honest, in the heat of battle he himself had not quite noticed a good many injuries. Adrenaline was a double edged sword, and although it dulled much pain, it could also lead to a man bleeding to death without even realising it.

    Moving on to this idea of princehood. Peter actually sort of liked this man, he was surprisingly pleasant. Of course, he still knew he should hate him, and just about managed it, but the civility of the Larigoth was just - uncanny. "It is a blessing and a curse." Peter sighed, thinking about the terrible dissapointment he could be responsible for, as well as the damage his actions could do. He could also inspire citizens with a word, it was impossible to say whether the benefits outweighed the costs. "I have responsibilities, whether or not I revel in them or despise them is irrelevant." Peter shrugged at that, not wishing to share any more than these vague details.
  15. Oops. Well, this could still be salvaged, even if the idea of not noticing a personal injury seemed a bit odd. But based on the fact that Peter didn't understand why he was in the forest alone in the first place, it seemed the Acaedian didn't know much about the Larigoths. That was to his folly: the smartest way to best an opponent was to know as much about him as possible, and it certainly seemed that Peter was at an informational disadvantage. "Your weaponry is... foreign to us," Xavier explained, definitely making it up as he went along but figured this path would lead to a satisfactory response. "Even though I have been injured by one of your swords before, I still do not recognize the... sting." He shrugged, deciding he wasn't willing to put any more effort into his answer than he just had. "And I know you changed your mind," he said, gesturing with one hand towards the daggers Peter was still holding. "I assume that, were it up to you, that first blow would have landed." But it wasn't up to him, which was the only reason Xavier was still sitting there: because he had been able to deflect that attack.

    Xavier nodded with understanding: he certainly knew of the costs and benefits of being royalty, not that Peter knew he could actually sympathize with him. The way Xavier saw it, it was nice to be put on a pedestal, to receive everything he wanted, but with the war, his responsibilities greatly outweight the perks. Leading his men into battle every day was not always so joyously thrilling. Some days, he returned with fewer than half of the men he had left with. While he did enjoy the adrenaline rush that came with doing battle, he knew it would not always go so well. Fortune alone had kept him on this earth for as long as it had. He was running out of subject matter, though, so he figured it was about time to wrap this up. Were he to be gone too long, he would have more to explain than just how he had come across the Acaedian prince.

    Which was when he got the idea that, were they to shake hands as though ending the conversation, the young sorcerer might be able to perform a tactile spell causing the boy's blood to run cold. It wouldn't kill him, but rather would have the effect of temporarily freezing him internally, thus rendering him unconscious and unable to move. In that state, he would be easily brought back to the Liragoth camp and then transported back to the palace. Yes, that would do. And so he stood, brushing the dirt and dead leaves off his pants before extending a hand in the Acaedian's direction. "Well, prince," he stated, "you and I had best be off before we are both missed." He looked down at his hand, wondering if Peter would take it. Could it really be that easy? Whether fortune would shine down on him now, was out of his own hands.
  16. Unfortunately, Peter just wasn't all that great at paying attention to the details in life. He was a useful soldier, but his immaturity had not yet allowed him to master the intricacies of battle, be that in the planning or in the fighting. Nor had he spent enough time listeneing to the various tacticians that spouted information about the enemy, usually spreading more fear than was actually necessary. He was young though, and perhaps in the coming years he would mature enough to become the alert and observant leader he was expected to be. Of course, the assumption that he would succeed in this, relied on him surviving long enough to do so. Having dived headlong into this odd meeting, Peter was unaware that he was well out of his depth, something that would most likely be his undoing.

    As this Claudius fellow spoke of his unfamiliarity with Acaedian weaponry, Peter thought about this carefully. It had never occurred to him that the Larigoths would not use blades and arrows at all. Of course, it made perfect sense now that he thought of it, it had just taken it staring him in the face for the thought to actually make itself known. Peter wondered if they even used knives to cut bread, or if everything was done with their evil magic. He pondered this for far too long, wondering if this story was indeed plausible. To him, pain was pain, whatever it was caused by. However, he had no knowledge of what these men felt, and so perhaps they experienced things differently. Yes, that was probably it. The prince was far too trusting for his own good.

    It was this trust that led to him taking the hand of the other. "Yes. We have been gone for far too long already." Peter hesitated, wondering if he should offer one more courtesy that was far too polite to be extending to a Larigoth. He actually didn't speak again, as he felt that any honourable words would not be reciprocated. Still, Peter did feel he wouldn't particularly like to meet this man on the battlefield. It was easy to kill a faceless stranger, but now this was a man - Larigoth or not. So, Peter took the mans hand, no doubt sealing his fate. If he survived, he'd be mocked for his trusting stupidity.
  17. ((There's a bunch of godmodding in this post. If you don't like the direction I'm taking it in, let me know and I'm happy to change it! But I figured this was an interesting plot twist.))

    Xavier attempted to conceal his excitement as he watched Peter's hand approach his. Just a little closer... he thought to himself, smile growing on his face as their hands connected. He grabbed a hold of the younger male's hand fairly strongly, keeping it in his own. He looked up into Peter's eyes, watching as the brunette's muscles all began to tense simultaneously, his body trying to fight off the sudden sharp drop in temperature it was now experiencing. Freeze spells were quite easy, and most importantly also quite easy to reverse: he would do so as soon as they were back at the palace, the Acaedian prince safely in Larigoth territory. Such a spell required this physical connection, though, which was why it was so infrequently used in battle. "Sleep well, prince," the sorcerer muttered through a grin as the other male's internal systems went into hibernation.

    Once the boy was completely frozen, it was easy to take him back to Larigoth's base camp. It annoyed Xavier that he had to explain the situation to nearly every soldier he passed along the way, but once he was back at camp, it was simply a matter of getting the boy back to the palace. It was a trip of several hours by horseback, but the Larigoths tried to keep the war as far from their own borders as possible; such was a necessity when one's powers did not lend themselves to close-range combat.

    After a few hours, the palace came into view, the high stone walls rising up over the hills to stand imposingly against the sky. A moat - which was dug and filled only after several years of war against the Acaedians, when the thread of invasion had been particularly high - surrounded these walls, and a drawbridge lowered itself as several horses rode up to it. Crossing the bridge, Xavier led a few other soldiers - who had been brought along in case any enemies should see them taking one of their own hostage - across the moat and into the palace. As Larigoths did not wear the same sort of heavy armor that other races did - to their folly, really - the prince was recognized nearly instantly as they rode through the marketplace outside the castle. He ignored the occasional cheer, though: he had work to do, work that could very possibly benefit all of Larigothien.

    Dismounting his horse at the stables outside the castle, the dark prince led his men - two of whom were carrying a still-unconscious Peter - past a few royal guards and into the castle. "Put the boy somewhere," he said to them as he left their company to go to the throne room on his own. "I don't care where." The soldiers looked at one another, shrugging their shoulders as they decided where to put their captive. The dungeons weren't in the castle proper, so they figured Xavier's intention was to keep him close until they had decided what to do with him. They brought him to a spare bedroom, reversing the freeze spell as previously instructed and standing guard for when the boy awoke.

    Inside the throne room, Xavier found his mother sitting with several handmaidens at her side. "Mother," he said, as he walked in through the large oak door into the grandest room in the palace to find the queen sitting in her large, red, cushioned chair. "I've brought you a present."

    Queen Aligale quirked a thin eyebrow, surprised to see her son back from battle so early in the day. "A present?" She asked curiously. She stood, walking briskly down to where her son was standing, a long train of purple silk flowing behind her. "What is it?"

    The prince smiled proudly. "I've brought home with me Peter Brigonna, heir to the Acaedian throne."

    It did not take the queen long to realize the implications of this development. "My boy!" She exclaimed, throwing her arms up at her sides. "You've done it now! This is ours!" Her arms came to rest on her hips. "Bring him to me as soon as you can. We'll decide what to do with him when Daddy returns home. In the meantime, we'll need to send a delegation over to Acaedia to inform them of this new development: what good is a hostage situation if nobody knows about it?" She was smiling proudly, the cogwheels already turning in her mind. "Dismissed," she said, before moving back to her throne, her handmaidens already moving in to assault her with fragrances and sweets.

    Xavier smiled, turning to exit the throne room. "Take me to our captive," he said to one of the guards standing in the doorway.
  18. Even as their palms touched, Peter was unaware of what the true motive of this gesture was. Of course, realisation did come to him eventually, a few precious minutes too late. His green eyes widened ever so slightly, and the prince did make a small attempt to release himself from the grip. No such luck. The spell was already working its magic. His jaw set in futile resistance, Peter gritted his teeth as his body attempted to shrink away from the icy cold filling him entirely. This panicked reaction lasted little more than a few seconds, as it did not take long for the cooling to take full effect, the young man falling out of consciousness, much like a man who had fallen into a river during the winter. It had happened a few times, usually to fishermen fighting a catch far too strong for him. At least for Peter he got to avoid hypothermia, although perhaps death by that illness would be more pleasant than the imprisonment that awaited him.

    The ride back to Larigothian territory passed by in ccomplete blackness. Peter would feel the jolts of the journey later on, as of course his muscles were still present, even if his mind wasn't at the time. With his body unable to adjust to absorb the shock of the horses gait over rough terrain, once he awoke he would feel the ache and stiffness that usually came with a huge amount of over indulgence in exercise. Feeling like that was usually at least a sign of effort to maintain ones health, this time it was just going to be a sign of his idiocy.

    A short while after the magic had worn off, Peter began swimming out of the sea of unconsciousness, his thoughts at first hazy - little more than a swirling group of colours and images. The confusion didn't wear off immediately, and for what must have been several minutes, Peter struggled to gain full wakefulness. He moaned slightly in his deep sleep, despite not truly knowing what was going on, instinct told him that it was bad - even before the memories returned. It was this that caused him to writhe a little, slowly clambering up to the land of the awake.

    The moment he remembered that trusting handshake, Peter shot awake. He was still bleary eyed and confused, but he knew what had happened. Frantically, the young prince looked about the strange room, hoping like hell that he had simply been clocked on the head and returned home. No such. Everything was alien. Despite the short distance between the two nations, the decor was entirely different, the fashions, everything. Peter instantly recognised that this was not home, and as such, he began to panic ever so slightly.

    With some effort, Peter sat up, punished abdominal muscles creaking in protest as the man moved. He also reached for a weapon at his hip, though no doubt they had been removed upon his capture. Not yet speaking, Peter glanced around, finally spotting those that watched over him - certainly not his guardian angels. Now, he needed a weapon. Of course, Peter was well aware that there would be no escape for him, but he had to at least make some sort of effort. He would not die on his knees, and he wasn't sure he wanted to risk being held captive here. The cruelty of these people knew no bounds, and the brunette prince just didn't know if he would be able to handle it.
  19. As Peter soon discovered, the Acaedian was not alone in the room: one guard stood in each of the two corners of the room closest to the hallway, watching the young man as he woke up from his enchanted slumber. Two additional guards stood on the other side of the door should the hostage try anything foolish. "He's awake," one of the guards said to the other when the brunette was just starting to come up. "Shall I fetch the prince?" Asked the other, taking a step towards the young man. "Not yet," advised the first, "he isn't fully awake just yet." But soon after he said this, the prince was sitting up rather quickly, and both guards bore down on him. "You're in Larigoth," said the first, older guard. "You've been taken captive by the prince." This was not the first time he had witnessed someone come out of a freeze spell, and he knew it could be quite disconcerting to suddenly come to in a strange place. The guard did not know, of course, that Xavier had lied about his identity to Peter before casting the spell on him.

    Soon after he said this, the door swung open, and Prince Xavier came striding in. "Ah, I see our little prince is awake," he said with an impish little grin. One of the guards nodded his head. "He's just waking up now," he stated with a bow. "We disarmed him upon his arrival at the castle and placed him here to thaw." Xavier nodded. "Excellent," he replied simply, placing his hands on his hips and puffing out his chest proudly as he approached the captive.

    "Peter, I must apologize," he said, though sarcasm was simply oozing out of his voice. "I suppose you've deduced this by now, but my intentions on the battlefield were not exactly pure." His men didn't need to know that he'd essentially sucker-punched the poor lad in the middle of the woods; they could just go on assuming he had captured him in battle. "What's more, I haven't been entirely truthful with you," he went on. "I do not work for the Royal Guard; rather, the Royal Guard works for me." He leaned in just slightly over the bed, his smile suddenly disappearing. "I feel safe telling you this now, since there's no way in Hell you're getting out of here anytime soon." He stood straight once more, taking a few steps towards the door. "You might as well know that we plan on using you as a hostage. Perhaps the Larigothians will finally bring the Acaedian's reign of terror to an end - once and for all time." He chuckled lowly. "My mother will want a word with you, when you're sufficiently recovered to form any. Until then, rest up... prince." And with that, he was out the door. "Bring him to the throne room when he is ready," he muttered to the guards standing outside as he departed.

    It was about ten minutes later that the door opened once more - much more gently this time - and a nurse who looked roughly twice the prince's ages walked in, pushing in front of her a hovering cart that had on it a goblet with steam rising up off it and a porcelain plate that was covered with a silver lid to keep the heat in, and a folded-up stack of clothing. "This is for you," she said, gesturing towards goblet and tray. "Her Royal Highness requests that you be sufficiently cared for, so that you may recover from your spell and be of use to her."
  20. The words of the guard, though useful, were hardly comforting. The eyes of the prince were wide with anxiety, he was little more than a panicked animal backed into a corner at this point. With luck he would gain control of his faculties soon enough, but it was unlikely that he would remain truly calm. In all honesty, it would have been foolish to be completely at ease, and for once it seemed that Peter was finished with his foolishness. He struggled for breath for a little while, still fighting stiff muscles and the last of the icy spell. He made a conscious effort to breathe slowly, attempting to mask the fact that he was feeling pretty damn awful, not that his skills of deception were particularly good. Really, they were pretty much non-existent.

    Thankfully, over time, although he was still tense, Peter did manage to manage his breathing, and eventualy feel at least a little more in control. It was shortly after this that his attention wavered from the two guards over to the one who entered with such confidence it was impossible to mistake his heritage. Only Royalty had the audacity to command a room like that. Still, it was a kick in the teeth for the young brunette. He felt physically sick, truly disgusted with himself for trusting this piece of slime. He had to grit his teeth in an effort to remain silent, finally showing a bit of animal instinct rage. Why he couldn't have done this a few hours ago, when he had a chance to kill the elder prince, he didn't know - but hindsight is a cruel thing. In the future, Peter would not be a changed man, and no amount of this deception would change that.

    Only after the Larigothian had finished his little condescending speech, and was on his way out, did Peter feel he had built up enough strength and anger to reply. He hastily shouted (or croaked, as he was still not exactly in peak condition), "You are the evil in this! We will not bow to your tricks." And that was probably true. Although the king would not enjoy the predicament, he would certainly not put his son before his country. Of course, there would be alot of tactical meetings in the coming days, and rescue efforts would be mounted, but the likelihood of success was minimal. Larigoths were not stupid, and their defences were anything but rudimentary.

    Still seething, but not showing it quite so much now, the eyes of the prince focused once more on the door as it was opened. He felt a stone in the pit of his stomach, and was quite disconcerted by the unnatural propulsion of that cart. Unfortunately, there was little he could do, aside from just sit there and brood. Thankfully, even seventeen year old princes were excellent at sulking when the need arose. So, he did just that. Drawing his knees up to his chest, young Peter set about damning himself and the Larigoths - occassionally thinking of escape, though mostly just cursing in his head.

    The words of the woman did register with him, but he spared her little attention. He simply glanced at her out of the corner of one eye, briefly grumbling, "I won't take your poison." It could kill him, or turn him into a toad for all he knew, and he had commited far more than enough foolish actions for one day. For a lifetime, in all honesty. "If your bitch of a queen wishes to speak with me, then take me to her." Those words were very much unlike him, but it was fair to say that he had been through a slight ordeal today, and could be granted a little leniency in his language. His father would most likely have been proud of him for such loutishness, but unfortunately he was not there to see this anger, which was more as a result of exhaustion than any true feelings.