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{The Raven, the Swan and Death}

By thelastman
Backup thread

Once, when mythical creatures and demons ruled the world, the father of dark magic Oni made his home amongst the simple people. As he dwelt upon the humans he became amused at their power struggles and watched as kingdoms rose and fell. Eventually, desperate for power, a king sought him out in order to make a deal with the dark deity himself.  

Speak unto me your desire but be warn the sacrifice which ye offer will be death.” As Oni spoke those words to the king who lusted after power he heed it not and said he would give up everything to rule. And so, foolishly, he agreed to create the kingdom of Novus. Unaware that he would regret this.

As soon as he turned thirty a death mark appeared upon his hand and within that year, the King was dead. And so, for generations his ljneage was cursed with the death mark which appeared after thirty years of life; they were given one more year before death consumed them.

A thousand years later, as mother’s love would try to break this curse. Giving birth to two twins, the mother would separate them apart, sending them to different parts of the kingdom. Hiding them from the death demon.

Angered at this betrayal the demon decided to come up with the most cunning of plan.

Extending the life of the king, he allowed him to rule past the age of thirty in hopes thst the twins cursed would eventually be found and to his surprise he was right.
Upon the king’s death the twins are summon to the castle to be told of their birth right  
Ignorant of this curse both accept the invitation to the castle unaware that death is stalking them.
Now, the ultimate game of hide and seek begins. As both twins bump into each other they feel a shadow stalking them.

Will they be able to outrun their family curse?
Or will they succumb to it?

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Swan, the cursed Child

It was said that the four kingdoms of the world were plunged within eternal darkness. The flames of war rage over the realm consuming any and all who lusted for the title of king. Upon the grand plateau of Novus there armies of the now forgotten king lined up one by one. It had been the blaring of trumpets and the cries of young boys forced way too early to become men which provide the symphony of carnaged. The percussive beating of a hundred thousand hooves and feet alight added into the mad cacophony of sound. The plucking of the harp was replaced with the plucking of the blows as arches let loose their arrows. Groans of dying men falling to these arrows replaced the applause and cheers of an audience when it came to the first movement of hell on Earth,  war. The deadly opulence of fancy armor was dyed crimson as blades plunged deeper bodies and axes and war hammers cleaved clean men in two. Not one body was safe in the days where the ground was razed to the ground.

Children wailed out for their mothers as soldiers dragged them by the hair to be slaughtered. The daughters of noble men quaked in fear hiding in their castles built to withstand sieges from foreign kings. Holding fast to the rosemary their prayers were lifted up to the Virgin and other venerated saints for protection and virtue only for them to receive nothing back but deafening silence. Instead they were greeted with the sound of splintering wood and men lusting for payment for the day's hard fought battle. If coin, meat, or mead were not in ample supply then these once brave and holy knights turned into nothing more than licentious perverts. Ripping skirts and taking maidenheads the Earth was no place worthy of life. So, instead of sending a flood to end mankind, it seemed as though God himself would end it with fire. That fire being the eternal flames of war. 

Desperately many pleaded with God to end the suffering of humanity but their replies were met with silence. So was it any wonder why the King of Novus turned to the devil himself after seeing tragedy visited upon his own family. Cursed or no cursed, the king did not matter or care how steep the price or how  long the payment would last. As long as the devil brought  about the end of the suffering of man the King would gladly damn his entire lineage to die an early death. If it meant peace would come. And so the demon, knowing he would forever be given a steady supply of souls to feast upon, agreed.

With the help of demonic magic and evil spirits the king of Novus quenched the fires of wars and gave a decree to all who could hear his voice. His speech forever record in the history books were as followed: 

“Thou who dost desire bloodshed and lust for vengeance let not thine eyes be clouded or thy ears deceived! Hath not this war wrought enough misery and destruction. Behold! Like ravenous beasts we brought death upon many houses. A plague swallowed up our sons, defiled our daughters, and left mothers broken hearted and mourning for her children! Enough of such foolish actions! Go  forth unto thine homes, unto thy families and bury thy dead. Wail to the gods and curse them.

I declare all fighting to be over. Upon the pain of death he who doth raise his sword in order to do harm to his brethren will find himself upon the gallows! Upon the pain of death, I wish for naught more but peace! So I urge thee! Thoust wilst fulfill this request and bequeath to ye children peace for henceforth and forever more!” 

As the king’s speech reached the corners of the world everyone’s hands clapped and cheered in agreement of this plan. For it was a good plan and a righteous plan. Not a single soul rejected and all was pure and well to the christening of the king’s child. It was the winter solstice, the twenty-first of December when the doors flung open and the great spirit known as death walked through the door in his hooded robe and pale figure. The visage of fear was upon everyone’s face as he curled as he shook loose the hood from his face to reveal the pale skin and ghostly white eyes. 

Moving towards the King’s child the figure spoke softly. Reminding the king and all that a deal had been struck in order for peace to be had. A sacrifice must be made. Placing his hand upon the baby's chest the death spoke softly. His words filling everyone with fear and dread. For thirty years the baby will prosper and grow and be given wisdom, courage, and a beautiful wife to call his own and bare children. But upon the stroke of midnight on the first day of his thirty-first year the child would died. 

Thus began the curse. With every christening the robed figured appeared, cursing the baby with success, beauty, charm and grace in exchange for it’s immortal soul becoming a denizen of his domain. None dared defied him and for merely a thousand years nothing changed till a mother’s love shone through the pain of birth.


A miracle which never before existed happened upon the summer solstice. The twentieth of June saw the birth of two twins.  A girl with blonde hair and sweet delicate features and a boy who was her polar opposited. With the last of her dying breath the mother wished for the two babies to be hidden in secret and so it was done.

As usually, when the day of christening happen the figure of Death strolled through the castle searching for the souls which were promised to him to be cursed.. But to his anger and his rage there were none. That which had been promised to him seemingly disappeared into thin air. Enrage he tore through the castle his voice menacing and filled with malice. Approaching the king he spoke to him 
“You life will be prolonged but your days will be filled with suffering. Since you’ve hidden that which was rightfully mine you will not expire to fifty but the next twenty years will be nothing but plague and sickness. No remedy will heal you, no water will be enough to quench your thirst. You will beg for death but I will not hear you. Enjoy the next twenty years.”

And so it was.. 

Delicate hands slammed closed the musty book which was filled to the brim with fairy tales, and stories of knights and princesses and Princes. Despite doing her best to drown out the creaking of the carriage, there was nothing to be done. The heavy leather bound book laid across the lap of the blonde girl as she felt herself wrapped tightly within the bundles upon bundles of tight clothing. Winter had settled upon the world and the entire surface of the earth was seemingly blanketed in white. Such a thing the girl had grown accustomed to since she grew up in the northern Kingdom. Raised a princess to the northern king of Lo’el, she often felt as though she were an insider.

All of her family had dark hair and eyes that mirrored the color of deep mahogany. She on the other hand had eyes which mirror the azure sky. Bright blue eyes saw the world differently than that of her family. Oftentimes she was in a world of her own. Ever since she was a little one, she had been able to see things. Things which shouldn’t have been there. Mainly the visions of the recently deceased and those who had long departed from this world. She was no stranger to the concept of death for the very nature of it seemed to follow her whenever she went. Oftentimes she would be walking by herself only to feel a sudden cold breeze touching her shoulder. When she’d turn there would be nothing there and she would be left demanding why her mind insisted on playing such perverse tricks on her, causing her to fear when there was no reason to fear.

When she was fifteen that’s when the visions got worse. She had a dream of her grandmother falling sick and dying. For weeks she had asked her grandmother to please see a physician or an apothecary to buy medicine but her grandmother refused saying her dreams were just that. Within four weeks of the first dream she was no longer of this world.  In her grief her grandmother had come to her and told her that she’d a gift. She was a medium who could channel the dark arts. Necromancy was the curse which the child had been given and through meditation and practice she would be able to control said gift.

The greatest sorrow the Princess of the North experienced turned to be her greatest joy as her grandmother couldn’t pass onto the other side till she was sure that her Daughter had become proficient in mastering the dark arts which were her’s and hers alone to control and do with as she pleased. Of course, it took time and trial and ever. There were no books from which she could learn from. Her only source were old stories her Grandmother could tell her from beyond and after a year of spending time with the ghost of her dearly beloved she had no other choice but to bid her a tearful goodbye and accept the fact that the time had come for her to move on. 

Now a young woman of Twenty, the princess was just now returning from seeing a suitor who had called upon her. The young man was a charming knight who had been a champion of jousting in the kingdom of Lo’el. She sweetly recalled the first time she’d seen him joust. It had been a year before on her nineteenth birthday that she waited with bated breath. 

Mounted on a fine steed he ready his jousting stick and shield and set to work preparing for the duel. It wasn’t meant to be a duel to death, it was a tournament to win a chance to called themselves suitors of the Princess. Her father, the King, was ready to marry her off at nineteen. Since these were peaceful times and there wss no political advantage to had been gain by marrying her so young like the age of 14 or 13, she was able to keep her stay single and educated herself too her hearts continent. 

As the sound of the horse charging towards each other caught her attention she watched as the sound of wood colliding with wood and steel filled her ears. Jamie was the young Knight’s name. Her heart felt a twang of fear when she watched him take the hit and nearly fall off his horse. Yet he recovered it as the horse circled around and he asked for another jousting lance it was clear that he’d had a most devious plan. Charging at his opponent when his opponent tried to go high, he went how and stumble both him and his horse causing the rider to tumble over his horse to the ground. 

Jumping off his horse the male pulled out his long sword and charged his stunned opponent who was on the ground. In a loud voice he demanded that his fellow jouster yield to him lest he found himself so early to depart from this world. Unable to stay anything he yielded to Sir Jamie and that was the beginning of the courtship. It had lasted a year and six months and it seemed as though soon they would be getting married. That was her hope at any rate.

Jamie was the only one who didn’t fear her for her visions of abilities of necromancy. A secret hidden by both her parents in fear that those who were of the more religious order would charge her with witchcraft and burn her at the stake. It always seemed that people became more and more wary of witchcraft during the winter months and became even more vigilant of wanting to purge their religious society of witches, wizards, and warlocks. Of course, knowing the story of King Arthur and Merlin, the princess didn’t think that all magic was bad. It was just poorly misunderstood. 

A voice woke up from her thought of witches and the good and bad nature of magic. Swan was her name; she answered to that name more than anything else. As the carriage pulled into the massive black castle which was nestled between snow capped mountains she knew that at last she had arrived back home to her tiny little life as Princess. For a moment she was enjoying escaping the mundane life style of being a princess who was also viewed as an outsider and different from those who had raised her. 

Stepping down from the steps of the carriage she exhaled and inhaled, taking note that this was her fate. Life would never change. She would forever be silently feared by her family for being the only one who could see and raise the dead and she would be forced to marry so that she could be forever exiled from the one place she’d ever known to be her home. At least in this story she was able to play the role of the happily ever after bribe. For she loved the male with whom she’d been asked to marry and there was no denying that. A rare gift in a world as isolating, loneliness and malevolent as this. 

Servants reached a hand to her as she stepped down from the carriage and started to head. Already snow was beginning to fall all around them and as the wind billow and the breeze that coldness came around her and chilled her to the bone. Despite having on several layers of clothes it seemed as though tonight would be chilly. She would be sure to ask the servants to put extra hot coals underneath her bed to keep her warm tonight.

“Sawn, welcome home my daughter.” 

Azure eyes lifted upwards as she stared into the topaz eyes of a face of a man who was filled with an array of emotions. What was wrong with him? He seemed to be scared. 

“Father?” the girl spoke before she moved closer to him. 

“The king of Novus is dead..” He spoke plainly and this took the young girl back.

Oftentimes rumors had swirled about the sick king being dead several times. The King of Novus had demanded that every decade each and every king took an oath to swear loyalty to him lest they be cut off from the trading networks that were vastly expanded all across the world.  During the harshness of winter the kingdom of the north relied heavily upon the grains provided graciously from the King. Life without his generosity would be difficult and with him being the first in a long line of kings to have no heir it would surely leave a power vacuum. Now there was a fear as to who would claim the throne and would they be as king and benevolent. 

“What are we to do other than father? Without grain from the kingdom of Novus our people will not survive this winter. It’s looking to be an extremely cold and bitter one…”

Getting involved in political matters was the only way the girl didn’t feel like an outsider. Oftentimes her father looked for her insight more and more than his own counselors. Reading had done her a world of good and she could digest small political matters and spit out compromises which didn’t make them look weak in the eyes of their enemies or oppressive in the eyes of their own people.

“I don’t know.. All I know is that this letter came for you, addressed with the queen's seal upon it.”

The queen's seal? Now that was quite the big deal. It wasn’t weird for the king to summon people to his kingdom but the queen of Noves never did. She was a young woman who was hauntingly beautiful. The king had taken her as his wife when she was just fourteen years of age and he was closer to twenty-nine. The king had been unable to find a woman to bare him a child and so out of desperation he chose him a child who was freshly starting the period of becoming a woman in hopes that her youth would be the key to baring him a child.

Despite the royal court being disgusted and objecting severely to it. Many claimed the sickness was his curse for being lecherous and praying on a maiden so young. Inhaling deep Swan looked to her father and asked him a singular question. “Why me?” 

Averting his eyes he shifted his feet from one to another before stepping back as though he hadn’t heard her. Clearly she was not blind, deaf, or stupid. She could see with clarity that her father knew why she was summoned but refused to say anything. Widening her eyes the Princess stepped back in horror. Was it because… had he told her secretly that she was able to summon the dead? If the power vaccum was to come true and many sought to murder the queen in an attempt to vye for power would Swan be forced to protect her? Fight against her own will and use her curse against her own wishes? Was that supposed to be her fate? What of Jamie? Her marriage?

As though her father heard her thoughts he reached out towards her and offered words of comfort meant to smooth and ease her concern all at once. “I would never allow such a thing to happen… I may not know what is to come, but we cannot deny the Queen her audience.. If you wish to see Jamie one more time before we go then do so..” 

Swan had resolved herself not to cry in face of aversion. The child had accepted that life was cruel and this was to be expected but this seemed to be too much. Biting her lip she tried her best to deny the fact that her heart ached in her chest as she spoke. “We must be positive that this is not what we think it is. I will see my beloved Jamie again. But for now we must do what we have been called to do.. We must humble ourselves before the queen and set out to see what her desires are.” s

It was the hardest call to make but she had no chance but to do it.


“O’ hark thy child whose birth it is a delight,
And lend me now thy infantile ear.
For I must teach the death’s wings that take flight
But as, thou are precious thy shalt not fear.

Beware thee of him whose cloak doth hides ashen skin
And whose eyes burn the color of darken ember coal
For he was born of greed; the fifth sin
And comes to feasts upon many a men’s soul.

Disguising himself as a honest man
He’ll offer they whatever thine heart’s desire
But do not fall pray for his desire
For in exchange he’ll drag you down into hell’s fire.

Hades, Pluto, Satan, Lucifer, his name is none of four
He only goes by the name of Death.
Cold hearted, rotten, black to the core.
He’s only desire is to steal one’s breath.

So beware ye, a man who cloaks himself in garbs of dark
And fly as fast as you can like a lark
For he eagerly awaits thy doom
And will cut you down as you begin to bloom”

The reading of poetry to pass the time always helped Swan during these long carriage rides. Shivering inside she wrapped tighter the blankets around her as she continued to stare out at the land which was blanketed in snow. The leather pages of the bound book had faded yellow from the many times she’d read it and had stains from when she spilled her drink whilst reading. But still she cherished them more than anything else in the world. Her books were here one escape from the world and that poem about death always resonated with her. Perhaps it was because she was a necromancy, or perhaps she always felt the presence of death, she wasn’t sure why. But she took that poem to heart deeply. 

Leaning her head against the window she slowly drifted off to sleep. She knew that the journey to Novus would be long and it would take days so there was no reason in not catching up on sleep when she knew that she would probably spend the next few nights awake due to her anxiety and nervousness. Before sleep consumed her she slipped a small prayer to the gods above praying that she would be wrong about being nervous and her nerves would steady and everything would be alright. She prayed for it. She desired it. She wanted it to be true more than anything else in the world.

“Honestly child, you’re too old to be drooling like a slob..” 

Blue orbs fluttered open as digits ran through locks of blonde. In her dream world she was holding hands with Jamie and they were enjoying a picnic by the willow tree. It was summer and the threat of a war or worse didn’t hang above their clouds as storm clouds. Waking up, she looked at her father who held the door open to for her and was scolding her. Rolling her eyes she got out of the carriage and turned to look at the castle of Novus.

The kingdom was absolutely beautiful. The entire castle is clearly opulent and yet modest at the same time. It had been destroyed, rebuilt, added on and subtracted from over the past thousand years. As her breath hitched into her breath she could no longer deny the fact that it was time for her to enter into the castle. It was said that the queen was a beautiful raven hair beauty with piercing eyes and as she came closer and closer towards her she exhaled. 

The anxiety of waiting to meet the queen was killing her and she couldn’t wait to see what the former teenage bribe had grown into. As the gates to the castle open and they are led to the great dinning hall she gasps as she saw a young lady standing there. Her eyes glowed the coal of fiery red coals and her cascaded down her back like dark waters. Skin matched the color or lifeless corpses and she was sure that if she were to touch her skin would match their warmth as well. No blood flushed her cheeks and as she moved closer and closer she held out her arms and spoke. 
“Daughter Embrace your mother.” 


Swan step back but the Queen step forward. “Just like your brother, are you afraid to embrace your mother? Do I reek of the smell of death just like that?” 

She hadn’t notice but the smell of decaying flesh suddenly hit her nose and she crinkled it. Indeed, there was a distinct stench of rot in the hair. “Come, we have a lot to discuss..”

Leading her away from her Father Swan followed the queen down a series of halls to a crypt to where another man had been waiting for them. Laying before them was a stone table and on that table was the corpse of the king. Or rather, it should’ve been the corpse of the king. Swan wasn’t sure what she was looking at. 

The king’s eyes were open and as the Queen snapped her fingers the body of the king sat up and slowly turned to face them. Necromancy!? It wasn’t possible! The queen surely did not possess such powers! 

“Children… My flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone.. We’ve not much time here… Death searchees for you, to continue thee curse put on both of you because you were born into the lineage of the Novus family..” 
Novus family? Lineage?
This was too much yet it made sense. Somewhere deep within her heart the Princess couldn’t deny it.

“Swan, introduce yourself to your twin brother.. I birthed both of you.. I named you.. But you two have never met till now..” 

“Why keep us apart till now?” Swan manage to spit out as he tried to graps hold of the situation. 

“Because… it was the only way to prevent the black mark appearing on you..” The king spoke as he slide of the table and stood now before them. “It’s time we explained the secret of our kingdom..” 


A thousand years...A thousand years of peace and prosperity, destroyed by a single waif of a girl. Death was not pleased with this outcome. But he wasn't ruthless, he was fair, for no matter the upbringing he'd claim all in due time. The King would suffer for this indiscretion, but he'd hold his end of the deal. End the suffering of man, such a lofty dream for one man to sell his linage to uphold...

The land will be safe...for now. However, there was no longer a need to save them from themselves. Wickedness has always lived in the hearts of men. Many would deny it, saying they were above such primal instincts. Death would say they were nothing but vessels of self-destruction…


As the newborn princess was whisked away to the northern lands, the prince was taken to the southern coast with hopes of crossing the ocean and beyond. Alas the coast was as far as he was going to get. 

The queen entrusted the babies to her closest attendants, the midwife Seren took the boy to raise as her own, having had lost her own baby at childbirth earlier in the year. They left by horse bringing only the barest of essentials to last the first leg of the journey, it would have been too suspicious to take more than that and rode hard away from the Kingdom of Novus. Seren pushed the horse as hard as she could, only stopping for the smallest of breaks, until they reached the southern border of the kingdom. No pursuers, the coast a week away. Seren released a deep breath, resupplying at the small village.

"We're almost there little one, then you can see the ocean, it's peaceful this time of year, with a breeze that makes you feel some much freer," she spoke jovially rubbing her nose against his, he cooed and smiled as well. The lands were at peace, have been far longer than any could rightly remember, but just because there was no war, there were other forms of evil to take its place. 

Rather it was necessity or just a sick thrill, the two were ambushed three days out from the village. They had nothing of value, Seren pleaded, but it did not matter. She was slain as they took the horse, a mercy if any that it was quick, and they left her body unsullied on the side of the road. Four days later Raven was found crying on the steps of the temple in the coastal town of Altun. The baby was malnourished, some scrapes, but most prominently were the bruises that were found on his body as though he was being held tightly. Seren continued to take care of him for the next five years.



It was painfully obvious how different Raven was compared to the other children at the temple. Looks weren’t even top on that list, kids from all over found their way here. He saw people that shouldn't be there, Seren a top culprit. She wore the same apron and slacks she had when they fled the castle, stained red from the stab wounds in her chest, the collar crimson from her slit throat. He'd have dreams that weren't his own, places he'd never seen so vivid as though they were memories, not dreams. Those were the issues he had with the dead. As for the living, he recoiled from physical touch, emotions that weren't his would threaten to take over, he'd see images from their pasts, often he'd catch flashes of their deaths as well. Problematic for him certainly, but it mostly affected just him. The real mystery was he just knew things. At five he had the mannerisms and speech pattern of someone far older, at first the adults found it endearing, it didn't take long for that to change to hesitation. 

"Chin up, we'll figure this out," Seren stated pulling his chin up from the ground. Whenever she touched him, faint purple marks appeared, they'd vanish within the day but others still clung to him. 

"What makes you so sure," he asked hastily. Talking to the dead didn't win him any fans either since it appeared he was talking to himself. 

"Mother's intuition," she smiled pulling on his wrist. She wasn't his, but he found comfort in that belief all the same. 


As outcast as he was the cemetery was his solace. He'd speak to its residents, try to help where he could, most were content with just talking to him. Some required a little more nudging for them to open to him. 

"Ah, there's Edwin, let's give it a shot," Seren pointed out the carpenter. Raven sighed but obeyed her nudging, nonetheless.

"Wasn't expecting you back so soon boy," Ewin scoffed at him. He had no children of his own so was unable to pass on his trade, even if it wasn't a unique one, he held pride in it.

"Seren told me to," Raven stated sitting in front of him as he pulled out a small block of wood and sculpting knife. Raven tuned out what Seren and Edwin were talking about, he just allowed his hands to work the knife and began to carve.

"Well, I'll be," Edwin whistled snapping Raven out of his trance. He couldn't have been there long but in his hand was a small statue of a dog. Raven looked confused between the two spirits and went back to the statue. It was too good for a kid to have done that.

"Maybe that's how it works. You said you have vivid dreams that seem too real for you, and you've never held a carving knife before but look at that. I think you have a gift for acquiring knowledge just by being near us. I wasn't sure how to test it, but if you think back, it certainly seems to fit the bill. Especially your language comprehension, I may have helped with that," Seren smiled. Her form shimmered causing Raven to nearly drop the statue, Edwin grabbed it. "Ah, seems it’s my time," Seren spoke again although there was a sadness to her words. She shimmered again and her form changed as though she had no injuries.

"Don't go," Raven pleaded grabbing her wrist,

"I must, they have already granted more time than I deserved, and I was so fortunate to have spent them with you. I know you'll be okay, I'll be at peace, now you need to find your own peace little one," she knelt and kissed his head, her wrist slipping out of his grasp.

"Please, Mama," he whispered but she was already gone. A heavy hand landed on his head ruffling his hair.

"We all have to pass on at some point, treasure the times you do get with it, and it will get you through the dark times," Edwin stated before he passed on as well.



It was rudimentary at the very least, but it did give Raven something to try and perfect. Sadly, anyone that could further guide him were too wise to allow some paltry necromancy tricks to utilize their skills after death. He wasn't going to learn any more dark arts at his current state. 

Some could almost consider his gift to cheat through life. That was mostly a no, some skills were useless, but if he wanted to maintain the more valuable skills, they required practice. 

As he got older Raven joined any convoy that would take a kid to further his gifts. He traveled up and down the coast. Something compelled him to keep moving, yet something else prevented him from leaving the Kingdom entirely. It wasn't the most concerning thing he had going for him. Stefan was a soldier from some bygone age he'd forgotten where his home was and how he died. At ten, Raven found him on the side of the road. Stefan latched onto him, joining him in his travels, it worked out for him in the beginning, Stefan knew many weapon skills, his strongest was the sword, Raven easily gained proficiency with them. But he felt a certain...madness with Stefan. Something that he felt bled into his own mannerisms at times. The leader of the convoy asked if he was okay, he couldn't remember what he said. 


The next moment Raven woke up as if from a dream.

"Man, that was quite the spectacle, didn't think you had it in you kid," Stefan chortled at him. 

"What," Raven asked but couldn't finish as the smell of blood nearly knocked him off his feet. He stabbed the sword he didn't realize he held into the ground to steady himself. Corpses littered the ground. He recognized every single one of them, he was going to hurl as he brought his hand to his mouth, nearly gagging on the blood. "What did you do," he wheezed attempting to regain some composure.

"Me? I can't do anything kiddo, that was you," Stefan giggled. Raven dropped his hand seeing the obvious purple bruises and felt a sick streak of sadism run down his back. A harsh lesson learned that day.

"Clearly you can't, but obviously something was done. Well, no point crying over it," Raven replied almost whimsically. He felt his hand grow hot; Stefan knelt over one of the corpses. "So, I imagine no hard feelings between us then," Stefan looked up briefly only for Raven to slam on top of him. His hand covered in purple flames as they ate away at his very soul from where Raven had him pinned by his throat.

"Nah, it's all good. Nice to see that killer instinct go unchecked. You'll survive, because you must," Stefan laughed as he turned to ash to be taken by the wind.


Raven breathed heavily, a tightness in his chest as he felt his face hot with tears. He knew the other members of the convoy lingered around him. He wanted to feel their rage against him, maybe that would justify the sick pleasure he felt as he killed Stefan. No, he only felt their sympathy for such a sickly child. 

"I'm sorry, I won't allow this to happen again," he promised them and himself as he gave each member a proper burial.



"It might be better to say you act as a medium between this world and the next," Libra offered.

"A medium? Why do you say that," Raven asked over his shoulder to the priestess. At fifteen Raven was getting a stronger understanding of his powers, he didn't have another incident like Stefan's. He could ignore most of the visions he got as he spoke with the living, even exchanging handshakes and the like, without flinching away. That first kiss could have gone much worse. There was still a lingering of emotions but something like that was easier to identify and isolate away from himself.

"Well, you can interact easily with us, gaining skills along the way," Libra spoke gently grabbing Raven's hands and pulling him over to the stream. She placed his hands in the water. "Imagine spirits like me, are the water. Notice how we pass through your fingers; I imagine this is most of your interactions with us. You see us, we see you, we go our ways, maybe speak briefly before continuing. Much like going through a crowd. Others may linger, or get tangled up in your soul," Libra dropped a small fishing net into the stream to make her point. "Sometimes we might cling to you longer than usual, before eventually moving on, perhaps like Seren." She released some of his fingers while letting the net tangle tighter. "Others might latch on purposefully perhaps even violently." she pulled harder on the knots. "Here it might become more of a battle to stay you and in charge as it were, like Stefan," Libra finished.

"Rather blasphemous talk coming from a priestess isn't it," Raven asked dryly carefully untangling his fingers from the net before setting it back down.

"I'm dead and talking with you as though I was alive, doesn't seem so blasphemous to me," she smiled. "Alas to help you more, you'd probably need the help of a witch or warlock. Most magic users like to stay hidden."

"And I've tried and failed to meet people like that, I've joined would be hunts for such beings just to get answers. Might have better luck in the north since I very much doubt, I'm the only one."

"Caged animals are at their most violent."

"Don't make me sound like the villain here. I'm trying to understand whatever this is before I lose control again," Raven sighed rubbing his face. The bruises from Stefan were still fairly evident on his arms. It seems the stronger the emotion, rather positive or negative left a lasting mark.

"I wouldn't easily advise this but there were talks of a witch to the northern woods back when I was a little girl, perhaps a day maybe two days walk from this town."

"Wasn't that...a long time ago," even dead it was rude to ask a woman her age. 

"Indeed, but there were no signs that she passed on or if she even existed. Merely rumors and stories to keep children out of the woods, especially at night. Superstitions if you will, but most of those have some truth to them. I can't stop you, but I certainly hope I don't see you on this side anytime soon," she stated turning her back on him as she vanished inside the temple.


It wasn't his best idea. Raven kept up his training with weaponry and defense from other soldiers and warriors he encountered. He still lacked more magical measures, but perhaps he'd find nothing, and it would be another dead end for him. It was a bit more than he bargained for. 

Very much against Libra's more than obvious wishes, two days later Raven found himself in the northern woods. It was very apparent he entered someone's domain as he reached the furthest section of the woods. Up until then he could still hear creatures of the night, owls in the trees, wolves in the distance, crickets underfoot. He fortunately didn't see any spirits, but he saw markers for their graves, no doubt the spirits themselves moved on or perhaps traveled elsewhere. As soon as he stepped over the threshold, silence. Nothing but the ringing in his ears, his boots didn't make a sound as he walked through the grass.

"I despise trespassers, especially those that reek of death." a melodic voice sounding quite annoyed echoed in the trees.

"I apologize for the intrusion, I'm seeking answers, nothing more, nothing less," he spoke leveled.

"You'll get none from me."

"Then I'll be on my way," he bowed turning to leave. Something sharp grazed his cheek. "I wish no trouble."

"You shouldn't have come then, for you'll need to be made an example of," the witch showed herself as she stood on a branch. She was beautiful, silver hair braided over one shoulder, a black dress with tight pants to match, clearly amplifying her generous curves. His attention went past her to the tops of the trees, he began hearing rattling after she spoke, the source came from the skeletons hanging above. Most were bare, some still had bits of clothing hung to them dating them from before his time, some he noticed were a little more recent, not fully decomposed, or tattered. 

"We might have more in common than originally thought, so will you answer my questions," this time he saw what grazed him the first time. He drew his sword deflecting the bone projectile from his face. She lunged; a beautiful rapier posed to strike. He guarded and pushed her off as more projectiles fell from the canopy. He dodged most, caught one in the shoulder, he snapped it off and rolled to the side from her swing. He recovered, throwing daggers as a distraction, grabbing one of the projectiles as he attacked with the bone and his sword pushing her back.

"You steal from the dead," she accused him. 

"I borrow what I need," he replied switching his fighting style as needed to keep her on the defensive. It worked for a time, until his stamina was wearing out. He lost the use of his dominant arm as she caught on to his exhaustion, nearly slicing it off. She thrust it into his stomach, as another bone projectile pierced his shoulder. “Sorry, Libra.”

"This one is mine."

Something threw him out of the domain, out of the forest as he opened his eyes to the night sky. He felt the blood on him but not the wounds, he should have been dead, but why wasn't he?


"Libra! Good work out there, you saved us with those potions, quick thinking on your end we didn't lose anyone," Garrett stated clapping him on the shoulder.

"Just doing my part," Raven said with a smile.

"How long you are staying in town this time?"

"Only a few days, there are other places that need me, I'll be back before you know it though," Raven assured him. 

"You better be, definitely come back for the fishing festival."

"I wouldn't miss it," Raven waved him off as Garrett headed back to town. Raven lingered on the coast resting against one of the fence posts overlooking the ocean.

Twenty years old, he'd say he gave up on trying to understand what happened then. A miracle that was undeserved and plenty unnerving. He felt a presence besides the witch when it happened, but he hadn't been able to sense it ever since. It was plenty of reason to go into hiding though. The encounter ended in failure, but it wasn't completely fruitless. He said he borrowed from the dead, it was true, but it went deeper than he thought it could go. He was able to borrow the appearance of them as well. So, he dropped his name and took up Libra's, he didn't think she'd mine. As for his physical appearance he blended a few together. He had green eyes like spring leaves, with chestnut hair with traces of blond in it. The disguise served him well. That being done, he kept learning what he could, enhancing his skills, doing more trial and error for some of them to get a better repertoire to use. He kept traveling to further educate himself. Some subjects were still out of his reach, but he made do with what he had. 

He'd help locals, living and dead to the best of his ability, he didn't stay long in any one place. Raven breathed deep the salty air; a small chill chased after it. He pulled his cloak tighter against his body, turning around to head towards the tavern.


The fireplace roared against the wall as Raven stood near it rubbing his hands. He knew most of the locals, but one caught his eye. He wasn't local, he recognized the clothing of a courier, he had the Novus Kingdom Emblem on his cloak. The Kingdom of Novus...certainly the most influential of the surrounding kingdoms. They were the life blood for many kingdoms large or small, to the castle towns to these small coastal villages. But for a royal courier to be this far out...

"Ah Libra, finally decided to join us eh," Garrett spotted him against the wall. Raven watched as the courier left.

"For a moment perhaps, I don't see many royal messengers out this far," Raven walked to the bar watching the door.

"Aye, not too often but with news like this it's no surprise," Garrett pushed over the scroll.

"The King of Novus deceased," Raven read the headline aloud. Certainly not good news, he heard nothing but ill rumors about the king. He was rather detached from any overarching politics, but even he knew this was going to brew trouble. The king had no known heirs, so it would more than likely fall to the young Queen to rule, but he didn't know how strong her sway was without the king. Who knows if the king had any bastard children from his younger days that would enter the political ring. "Well sadly not much we can do out here, hopefully whatever happens, happens swiftly without too much infighting."

"I'll drink to that," Garrett agreed ordering drinks for the two of them.


Raven walked Garrett home after a few too many drinks. His wife apologized for him, but Raven waved it off and bid them good night. A frigid breeze blew through town, Raven wrapped his arms around himself rubbing his shoulders as he quickly headed back to the inn.

"Raven." He stopped dead in his tracks, he hadn’t heard his name in five years. He looked cautiously before quickening his pace towards the temple. He paused at the cemetery. Perhaps rude of him, but he lied to the spirits about his name as well, they particularly didn't seem to mind. "My, oh my you've grown to be quite the handsome young man haven't you," she giggled, he spun around to face her.

"Seren," he breathed a flood of emotions threatening to breach. "Why? I... I thought you passed on."

"I did but the Queen had a request of me, since you were even tricky for her to track down," she handed him an envelope specifically with the Queen's seal on it, although it looked different...

"Which Queen?"

"You'll meet her for yourself, I can't say any more and wouldn't want to ruin it anyways."

"How did you find me?"

"You'll always be my son, I'll always be with you right here," she spoke pressing a hand against his chest. Raven tucked the envelope in his pocket as he embraced her. His disguise slowly faded away. A shaggy mess of black hair on his head, deep blue eyes that almost looked purple depending on how the light hit them. "That's better," she returned the hug tightly petting his head. She kissed his forehead. "I'll see you in the next life." Just like fifteen years ago she smiled as she disappeared. He released a shaky breath wiping his face free of any would be tears.

“Until then.”


Raven grabbed his usual travel bag, left a note at the temple, and borrowed the first horse he could find. He rode off into the night, whatever was going to happen, it didn't seem right to wait any longer. He made it to the next town by midday, he left the horse to rest as he secured passage via carriage towards Castle Novus.

He attempted to sleep on the way there, it was going to be a long journey regardless but sleep barely came. The carriage stopped a couple of times along the way to drop off and pick up passengers. They were mostly the working class, there were a few higher-class passengers judging by their clothing, but Raven was trying to distract himself so everything and then nothing registered. The closer they got to the castle the higher the class of passengers. It took the coachmen banging on the door to finally wake him from his umpteenth attempt at sleep.

Leaving the cloying scent of perfume from the carriage helped to clear the headache as more dread rested in his stomach. He was going to need a drink when this was done. Raven dusted off his clothing the best he could. The town was extravagant but still inviting, the castle rose in the distance. Despite the news of the King there were still the daily activities going on, perhaps more muted, darker colors for mourning but still thriving. He walked through the town as quickly as he could. He'd rather prolong this meeting indefinitely, but it would have been rude, Seren raised him to be polite.


Entry inside the castle was almost effortless, there were some people, but none bothered to give Raven a second glance, the spirits were more attentive to him than the living but there weren’t as many here as he thought. The castle was a thousand years old, perhaps for the best that they were able to move on, but that didn't seem like the case. Were they scared of something? 

"Or perhaps scared of you," Raven suggested spying a young woman standing near the edge of the dining hall.

"Bold accusation, my son."

"Perhaps, but nonetheless true ma'am," Raven responded politely for the most part. He'd seen his fair share of spirits in varying degrees of decay, but what he saw couldn't reveal anything like a time of death or cause. She was certainly restless, but that was putting it mildly. "My what fiery eyes you have."

"Come now, do you fear your own mother my little Raven," amusement flickered across her features. 

"I do not know you, and my run in with witches and their ilk has never bode well with me, so yes I fear you," he proclaimed but nonetheless walked closer to the figure as she turned her back to walk down a series of halls. 

"It's not wise to admit such things, child. It gives an opening to attack."

"Indeed, it does, but surely Mother you would not attack your own son. It may not bode well for either of us. I know the monster that I've become, I don't know how it'd react to you. Surely you wouldn't want to further my damnation?"

"Your way is certainly dangerous and reckless."

"But I'm still alive," Raven remarked coolly. His mother chuckled to herself letting the silence hang in the air as she navigated them deeper into the castle and into the crypt. The scent of death was heavy on her, it was far worse in the crypt. The recently deceased king, no doubt being that reason, his body laid out on the stone slab. Clearly it was to be a private viewing, there was little makeup on the King to make him handsome in death. There were a few stone benches, Raven opted to lean against the wall. His mother didn't say anything to him, which suited him just fine, he attempted to rest his eyes, but something flashed against his mind as he looked towards the stairs he entered from. "She's here."

"Perceptive, son," his mother spoke with a nod of approval as she slowly vanished up the stairs.


Raven could have gotten some insight from the King, but it still seemed a bit rude to disturb the body. He didn't have to wait long. A jolt of familiarity raced down his spine as he watched the woman slowly enter the crypt. They briefly locked eyes, but he tore his away as the King suddenly sat up by the Queen's command. He spoke, what was said made little sense rationally, but irrationally it would explain a lot. Mother spoke to his sister...Swan? He allowed her to question their parents as he looked at this family reunion.

"My name is Raven," he bowed deeply to her. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you...Sister," he spoke softly. "Tell us what you can then, we'll figure out the rest as needed."

Swan, the cursed Child

The way the male bowed low before her as he humbled himself caught the girl by surprise. How was she supposed to react in turn to the way he introduced herself? Whilst it is true that she had been raised in luxury she could see that the same couldn’t be said for her brother. Lo’el customs dictated that the princess always offer her hand out to be kissed before dipping down at the knee and raising their skirts a little bit in a curtsy. However, she felt it a tad bit incestuous to insist that her brother went too far and so instead she curtsy just plain and simple before turning her head back to the reanimated body of the king. The queen clearly was the puppet master pulling the strings and it made no sense for her to summon the two if the goal was to save them from the curse of death. So now all eyes landed upon the King as she his stiff corpses slowly began to become left stiff. Waving a hand he beckons them to come further and further deeper into the crypt. As though it weren’t enough that they’d already ventured deep into the musty air. Exhaling and inhaling she ventured for partially because she was dying from morbid curiosity. How powerful would the curse of necromancy go? Sure, it came in various gifts and shapes. The cursed child, as the queen of the North often called her, hadn’t only just used her gifts to converse with the spirit of her dead grandmother. No..

There was that one time when she helped ease the grief of her lover Jamie. It had been a massive risk but she needed him to know that she wasn’t crazy when she told him she had had dreams of the dead and could converse with them. The deeper she went into the crypt the deeper in the past her mind began to wonder. But that was quickly cut off when the young queen, (her mother?), turned upon her heels and spoke sharply. “One mustn't regress too deeply into their own mind when dealing with the dead. It is a great danger. At last, we are here..” 

Eyes of azure grazed upon ashen dried bones. It seemed as though no life had been breathed into them for nearly a thousand years and as both the king and the queen step forth towards the ashen bones Swan stepped back. Her eyes terrified and her stomach beginning to grip tighter and tighter into her stomach. A coldness was creeping all around her seeping deep into her bones. It felt as though her very breath was being stolen and as she could hear the whispering of a foreign language. It wasn’t reality. It was just the fear of the unknown and anxiety causing her to feel as though there was a foulness in the air. Exhaling she calmed herself once the worst of it was over and the bones which they had been led to was slowly beginning to move according to its own accord.

It moved eerily as though it were a puppet on a string. It had no sinew or muscle to make it able to move on its own, so it hung animated in the air as though some sick puppeteer was putting on a show. Lifting up its head the chattel and rattle of the bones was sickeningly loud. Still no voice could be heard… As the Bones rattled and moved once more a low hissing could be heard and suddenly the impossible was becoming possible. 

“Here, supported by the energy of a hundred generations of necromancy, our magic is the strongest. Resurrection is the most forbidden of spells.  It requires a willing sacrifice and two powerful necromancers who are familiar with the art of raising the dead.. It has long been tradition that upon the death of the King, his wife would one day give up her own life so that the kings of the pass could guide the new king, giving him wisdom far beyond his years. That, and that alone, is our darkest secret.. You’re great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great,grandfather, spanning back ten generations. He’d lived over two centuries ago and was considered the wises.” 
Looking up, Swan couldn’t believe her eyes. Flesh was becoming real and as the king of old was becoming more and more awake and aware it became clear that this was the famous king. King Stefen II the young boy king who took to the throne when he was no more than Nine years old. For twenty one years he ruled and the land prosper more than it ever had. As the ritual was completed, their father turned to his children and gave them one last word of advice. “Listen to Stefen, for he will not fail you..”  And with that the king slowly fell down.

Looking to her children the queen offered them a look which bordered on being apologetic before her skin began to age before them. In a span of a few seconds she went from being a beautiful young woman to that of an elderly lady to turning into nothing more but dust by which all were created and form by. How much more of this horror could Swan take? The dead coming back from being dried bone. Witness both their “parents” drop down. It was all a bad dream! Taking a step back the world seemed to swirl around her as she saw the remains of bones stacked tall. The world smelt of death and decay and the darkness which permeated was vast. There was nothing that could reach out and grab her, nothing to steady her and as she fell backwards she felt as though she would soon join the rank of the dead. Eternal damnation, Hells fire.. 

Worms…. Maggots..  All around her were burning coal and blacken smoke that obscured her vision. The scent of sulfur was so great that it choked her and no matter how hard she tried all she could do was take short breaths. Her back felt as though hot irons were being pressed against despite how intense the pain was she couldn’t scream. Her voice would not let her scream. Worst of all, a thousand tiny holes were sprinkle across her body. Inside the holds she could feel insects crawling, biting, gnawing, chewing at her inners and veins. Such Terrible and awful pain! This was what hell was. No matter how much agony she was in she couldn’t scream. Her breath was near impossible to catch so she had no way of lifting herself up from the ground. Lifting a hand, she could barely see it. Insects crawling out from where her fingers had been, only to turn around and burrow themselves deeper into the palm of her hands. They would eat at her flrsh to she was nothing but bone.. Only for her flesh to return to normal and the next twenty-four hours of torture would begin again.

Swan shot out of bed screaming. Her eyes bulge as she screamed and thrashed around in bed. Hands grabbed at her locks as she leaned forward and screamed out as loud as she could. She wanted no part of this curse. No part of being royalty and no part of being a necromancer. Thrashing out of bed she landed upon the cold stone floor of the bedchamber and curled up. As the room to her bed chamber flew open her eyes fluttered to the figure of the formerly dead king Stefan. His eyes were cold as he dropped to one knee and grabbed Swan by her shoulders. Lifting a hand he promptly slapped her and ended the screaming once and for all. Gasping for breath Swan leaned forward and wrapped her hands around the male sobbing into his chest for comfort. Ginger hands wrapped around her as he began to stroke her hair gingerly. He had sympathies for her but there was no time for this. Leaning forward he cleared his throat and spoke to her “Gather thyself! Now is not the time to fall apart or lose heart you silly child! Gather thyself and show me that thou art truly a child of the Novus clan!” 

“I’m not!” Swan sobbed as she gripped tighter to the male. 

“Poor child… should I end your suffering and kill you right now?

 “NO!” Swan screamed. “I don’t want to go to hell! I don’t want to be damned! I don’t want to suffer hellfire and have my flesh devoured by maggots and worms for all eternity..” 

“Foolish child! What did the queen warn you off? She told you not to regress deep inside you mind. Those are false visions sent to you by death himself! When you die there is no heaven or hell. Only Darkness..” 

“How would you know!?” Swan sobbed as she held onto him. 

“Because, child, I have been dead for several hundred years.” 

Looking upwards into the dark emerald eyes of Stefen, she nodded her head and exhaled before accepting her reality. Fear would profit them nothing. Now, now, wasn’t the time to give into that foolish emotion. Taking his hand the Princess slowly grabbed hold of his and watched as he led her into another room where her brother had been waiting for them. Raven was also sleeping by the time they came into his room. “Not you too. Damn it all!”
Stefen cursed as he rushed over to her sleeping brother. Pressing a hand upon his chest, the king exhaled and before inhaling. “Listen to me, oh my great grandson! Death visit those in nightmares to weaken their resolve to stay among the living. This vision of hell is not real. You must awake and find yourself back among the living or forever be trapped in that dark realm until you die. Listen to my voice. And let me guide you back.”

Swan’s breath hitched her breath and watched as her brother soon rejoined them once more in the land of the living. 

Clasping his hands together King Stefan II sat down upon a chair and slowly pulled down his shirt revealing a grotesque mark on his chest. The mark looked like a brand was placed upon him in the shape of an X. Leaning back into his chair Stefan spoke up to everyone who was now in the room. 


“You’re parents betrayed you both by trying to hide you from your duties.. I’m sure that you’ve all read the fairy tale known as the “Damned king.” It’s a short tale.. If not, than let me recite it to you both. 


Once upon a time, there lived a king who was damned to die. But, as he looked upon all his wealth and all his power he declared to himself. “Surely, surely, it will not be I who was born to die. For all my riches will keep me safe and I will buy an elixir of life.” 

And so the king came to a man who was known for selling potions and demaned that he selled him an elixir, but when the man told him that this would no save him. He had him hanged. 

Than the king decided “what if run to a far away land? Than death will not find me there!” And so he got on his horse and rode it as far east as he could. Pushing the horse to it limits he didn’t care for it’s safety. And the king was thrown from his horse as soon as he landed by the sea for the horse had died under the stress of the king’s cruelty.

Enrage by this, he stomped his feet and declared. “I have not gone far enough! I will not accept my fate!” And so he came across a widow who was elderly living by the sea. Stealing what little food she had left he declared “I need this more than thee!” and ran away leaving her to starve to death.

And that was when he met a figure who was cloaked and darkness and that spoke unto him. “You could’ve lived a longer life if you had but accepted you fate. But now because of the carnage you have done it is all to late. I followed the trail you’ve made of suffering and now your soul is mine.” 


The story served as a warning to children that instead of trying to run away from the inevitable it is better to do acts of kindness and death will take a kindness to you. There have been times throughout the history of the kingdom that a ruler, who great ruler, has had his life extended due to how well of a ruler he’s become. I, myself, was offered an extension by death for how well I was able to rule despite being young. He extended the curse for me for nearly forty years. I did not see death till I was in my eighties. Other kings, who were cruel and malicious, were found dead sooner than the curse promised them. 

Many generations of Kings have tried to fight the curse and it seems that the harder they fight it the sooner their curse is extinguished. I’ve come to suspect that this curse feeds of the fear of our ancestors. They are several diaries that you can find in the library written by former kings, myself included. The more fearful they are of the curse the more it eats them alive and kills them. The less fearful they are, the longer they can hide from death.

Either way, Death always shows himself when a new king of Novus is crowed. Because you two have not been crowned yet, death hasn’t shown himself to you.. But I do not know how wise it is to keep him waiting.. We never know what will happen if we continue to play this waiting game. As someone who was able to “cheat death” so to speak that is my greatest advice.. Control your fear and rule this kingdom as justly as you can..” 

“Rule!?” Swan spat as he laughed almost incredulously. “Did we just not hear you say, clear as day, that Death will not come for us if we refuse to take hold of the crown? Why should we willingly accept our fate? I didn’t know I was even of Novus blood till the crazy queen summoned me here. Why not let this kingdom, which was built on witchcraft and sorcery and eviliness fall and let another kingdom take over? My father, the king of Lo’el is benevolent and kind and just! I should ask if he will sit on the throne!”

“Wise words. Except you fail to understand that it is the very crown of Novus which is cursed. Anyone who accepts the crown of Novus has died. Why do you think our kingdom hasn’t been attack in over a thousand years? Why do you think Kings and Armies hesitate to send their armies against us? Because they know full well that he who wears the crown of Novus… will die. So tell me, my great granddaughter, will you sacrifice your father’s life for your own? Or will you accept death and be the just ruler you were born to be?”

This was all insanity and craziness! This wasn’t happening! 

As the world once more spun around the Princess she brought a hand to her head before leaning forward and collapsing onto the floor again. All the strength from her legs was taken from her and as the words of the fairytale the damned prince echoed in her mind she felt her chest tighten. Clutching her chest she breathed in and than she breathed out and exhaled trying to steady herself.. 

“Two days.. Give me two days..” 


On these rare occasions when the male left his domain he’d felt himself the need to  dress in the opulence. Gold, white and black were the colors which he felt himself most comfortable with wearing in an event such as this. A duel coronation of a Queen and a king. Invitations had already been sent out across the land and of course, the male had gotten one. He’d always got one. The gentlemen hadn’t missed a coronation of a King of Novus since its foundation. The only thing that he did miss, however, were the twins which eluded him for over two decades.

When the queen first came into his domain he’d had thought of exquisite ways to torment her for pulling such a devious twist on him. But that wouldn’t have been fair for she was acting with the heart of a mother and had only wanted to secure a future that was best for her children. So instead, he decided to amuse himself with those who had already entered into his domain. He’d offered rewards to any and all who could help him locate the twins which eluded him. 

Of course there was everything and nothing the Demon could offer the souls who crossed over into his realm. When that failed he went to the land of the living and walked amongst the witches who praised him and practiced his dark arts. Eventually he met one who was all too willing to bring him one of the Twins.. Or, so she claimed. Death had been there, that day. 

But something about Raven had seen off to him. Was such a weakling the offspring of the King of Novus? Curiosity got the best of him and he’d ended up saving him just once. A mistake he would later grow to regret deeply as with the passage of years it became clear that that truly was the one of the Twins.

And ah, as for the second one. He’d catch glimpses of the girl and oftentimes whispered upon the wind of how excited he would be to finally place his mark on her. She was quite a ravenous figure who made him salivate. She was the first female directly born into the Novus line in quite some time.. And so Death decided that if he ever found her then he’d be sure to take care of her extra well in the death. 

And found her he did.. At first he thought that one who had the ability to raise the dead would be resilient to the fear of death. And he was right; she had no fear of dying. But the one thing which scarred her was hellsfire. The moment she began to regress inside her mind was the moment he could see into it clearly, the memories she had as a child. She’d been nine years old when a woman was accused of cursing her neighbor’s out of jealousy. A witch she had been called.

The local Priest had given quiet the fiery speech as they tied her to the pyre and prepared to set her alight for the world to see. He spoke of eternal damnation and how those who did dark arts and witchcraft would be exposed to the eternal flames of hell. But even that, as grotesque and torturous as eternal burning was, was not enough to satisfy his preaching. In that moment the preacher added in worms and maggots feasting upon the souls of the damned, and for nine year old Swan, as she watched the burning of the witch after hearing such things, she was never the same again. It fractured her and made her scared of her own gifts. Which was why she’d tried to hide it, but that dam broke when she was fifteen and she’d thought she’d had gotten over her feel of eternal damnation. Apparantly not.

As the King of Death exited from his carriage he turned his head and tutted. Of course. The coronation was a masquerade. As a myriad of people excitedly entered into the castle whispering about the rumors of the new King and Queen of Novus being Brother and Sister instead of Lovers, the male reached into the hair and pulled out a bird’s beak and adorned it as his mask. It was bad enough that they’d hidden from him for two decades. Why was it that they had to hide even more than they did before. Weaving in and out of the bodies which all were excited for the masquerade he sniffed the air and closed his eyes.. There was a distinct smell which excited him and delighted him like no other. Sniffing the air again he purred menacingly. Fear… It seemed as though one of the little pups was fearful.

Poor little girl.. Death would be the ultimate comfort and hold her in his arms for all eternity. Making sure that nothing came between her and his new sick obsession with her.. 



The coronation couldn’t be stopped. Stefan wouldn’t abandon his two descendants till the mark of death was passed on to them. It was the least he could do as when he was a young boy he had no one to mentor him, at least, not properly till he was in his late teens. Then, oftentimes, he ventured into the crypt to talk to the kings of old to get their advice so that he could rule with wisdom that surpassed his years until he grew and cultivated his own.. 

Swan’s nightmares were attracting Death and the male could see the figure himself dressed in that gaudy outfit from afar. It seemed as though he spotted him for at that moment the male lifted his mask off and bowed to both him and Swan. Gripping the railing tight, Swan masked her emotions and went off to find her twin. He'd been so good at controlling his emotions and not letting them consume him. How? It plagued her mind with how calm and collected he’d been throughout the entire situation and how prepared he’d  been to seemingly assume his role as co-ruler of the Kingdom of Novus. Though it could’ve all been a clever facade and she was just too much of an ignorant child to see through his well put together and held together Facade. 

She prayed that it was the latter… 


You Sickly Raven

If their names were any indicator, the two couldn't have had any further upbringings if they tried. They both did what was necessary out of politeness but neither seemed the most willing to go beyond that for introductions. Perhaps fortunately then their mother was keen on leading the twins further into the pits of hell. Raven looked over his shoulder as they delved deeper into the crypt. He missed this passage when he first entered. The reanimation of their father drawing all his attention as well as their mother's ambiguous words. He referenced these corpses so easily as his parents. The dead rarely lie, for what benefit would they gain from it? Lying was a tool for living. Even so he felt no familial connection with them, her words certainly didn't feel very motherly either to him. Maybe she regretted that, spirits were keen on regrets, but even if she did, she didn't show it. It was all rather businesslike; it was almost laughably easy to detach himself from these family connections. His eye trailed after Swan, far ruder of him to attempt to assume the thoughts of the living, especially his sister. was slightly harder to swallow that fact than the corpses. It was easier to be on his own, but turns out he wasn't suffering alone, they both had their demons. 

Those were dangerous thoughts. The king led, as the queen followed as though holding a string, clearly the puppet master, Swan was next as he brought up the rear. Further and further, they delved into the depths of the crypt. Each step felt harder and harder to breathe as though he was drowning. His lungs were burning for air, he twisted his wrist slamming a small knife into his thigh, his took a deep breath letting out a quiet hiss as he rested his hand against the handle of the knife. Pain, pain was the easiest thing to focus on to stay in the present. As if on cue, their mother turned on her heel to chastise Swan, he may have felt a fiery gaze his way as well, but he was in the now as much as he could. If he felt he was drifting he'd move the handle slightly to send another jolt of pain through his system.


Honestly, he needed the knife to anchor him when they finally reached their destination, he intentionally braced himself as though a wave was crashing into him. He'd ventured into heavily spiritual grounds before, it was a requirement if he wanted any substantial information on what he was and what he could do. None of that could have rightly prepared him for this. Their parents walked forward to what looked like a pedestal of ashen bones. That was where the focal point was, but he could feel a lingering presence of so much more than just that, clearly these crypts were vast with many souls buried within its halls. Some peaceful, many with regrets, perhaps it was the queen that was keeping the brunt of the restless spirits at bay, may have even been the king. Chills made his body break into a cold sweat, nausea was making him dizzy as he twisted the knife; Raven took a few deep breaths, releasing slowly as he walked steadily behind Swan.

"Just breathe, whatever you are seeing or hearing, just breathe and focus on your own breath, it helps," he spoke softly so as not to alert her any further. He took a small step back to not crowd her as he took his own advice to focus on the whole process to help settle himself. 


Evidently, their mother had other plans as he watched the pile of bones slowly begin to move, at least he believed it to be their mother as the skeleton hung in the air. The rattling and crackling of the bone reverberated hundred-fold in the crypt, in a flash he thought he was back in the bone forest with the witch. He bit hard on his lip drawing blood as their mother's words helped bring him back to the present. 

And somehow, they thought it wise to bring two fledgling necromancers to the heart of generations worth of magic. Without prior knowledge, with the bare amount of preparation, Raven couldn't help but feel a twisted smirk grace his lips, he wiped the blood away with his free hand. It was almost like they wanted to set them up for failure. The dead should be left to rest, they have lived their lives however long or short to whatever capacity they could. Spirits remain for whatever reason, usually unwilling to move on, but eventually they find peace. Resurrection just seemed sacrilegious to the deceased, to force them through life again. Perhaps some would beg for resurrection, but Raven couldn't do that. Those he did help, he helped to move on, accept what happened, even if there was nothing at the end, he strongly believed it fell to the individual and they would reach wherever they honestly felt they deserved, rather heaven, hell, or silence. But he was being pompous in trying to explain someone else’s feelings, really, he was trying to make sense of it for himself, a rather selfish ideology. 

Of course, their lineage would just be a cycle of death of those caught up in this mess. No surprise there was anger in the crypt willing sacrifice or not, death to bring about some temporary life for the decease to repeat it again, and again. Quite the self-sacrificing lineage they were a part of, give it all for the people. Might be admirable to some, it seemed like sick masochism to Raven. Coming from the person with a self-inflicted knife wound, seems he didn't fall far from the tree. He moved the knife in question slightly to get out of his head glancing at the resurrection of the supposedly wisest king of them all. He took another breath glancing downwards seeing the flesh, muscle, reapply itself was turning his stomach worse than he thought it would. Seeing corpses in varying degrees of decay he was used to. The reverse of that not so much as he probably would have thrown up if he had anything in his stomach to do so. When it seemed done, Raven chanced another look at the new king as he was gaining his bearings. Stefen? The name sounded vaguely familiar, but he couldn't get any clarity as he saw their father fall, nothing but bones, his strings cut, a puppet that was no longer needed. 


Their mother remained, perhaps a flicker of maternal love danced across her features, before it turned to apologetic as she changed from a vibrant beauty to an old crone within a few moments. Nothing but dust to prove she was even among them however briefly. All that remained was the living, Raven looked cautiously to Stefen, or some twisted form of the living. He needed time to process this, he needed to get out of the crypt, whatever peace they may have had with their parents was gone. He leaned against the wall trying to get some bearing on his psyche as he felt his mind begin to wander to the low rumble of spirits in the room. 

"If you can walk, we need to get out of here," Raven said, nearly flinching at the sound of his own voice. "Sister," he questioned as he straightened up. "Swan!" He dove behind her slamming on his bad leg to prevent her from cracking her head against the stone floor. He cursed but caught her. He was as gentle as he could feeling for a pulse at her neck, he quickly placed his hand near her mouth feeling her breath. He released a sigh, realizing she was alive. Maybe that was his current anchor dealing with so much death he could feel the obvious warmth of life.  It was eerie how he could find some of his features on her face, far more delicate than his rugged ones, it shouldn't be, but she was one of the harder things to believe as being real. He grunted through his own pain as he managed to get to his feet again. "Stefen, if you are able, she needs rest, somewhere safe. Save all the other talk for later," he pleaded if not for the harsher tone he used to end it. Raven swore he saw Stefen shake away some dust and bone from his hair straightening his rather modest attire for one who was just dead. Raven was in no mood for conversation, fortunately Stefen caught onto that very quickly as he brushed past them and headed back up the stairs. 


Each step his thigh throbbed but it was enough to stay in the present and keep moving. If he didn't witness Stefen's revival for himself, he wouldn't have known he was recently a pile of bones, the spell clearly doing its job but was it a temporary spell? Or something more permanent? Neither option seemed the most pleasant, a sacrifice for a temporary fix or grave robbing to get a more permanent solution. Raven shook his head gently securing his grip around Swan as he quickened his pace out of the crypt, Stefen matching his pace. The ascent took far less time than the descent, only being slightly less jarring. He didn't trust his ability to navigate so he unwillingly followed Stefen. They were able to easily traverse the halls, avoiding any prying eyes. It didn't take too long to find a modest bed chamber. Raven did his best and got no blood on Swan, for fear that could set her off more when she woke up. He laid her gently on the bed, he kept his eyes on Stefen. Their father said to listen to him, Raven rather be his own judge on the trustworthiness of another instead of having blind faith in what others say. That way he'd only have himself to blame if things went wrong. He may have been a lot of things, but he believed he could at least take responsibility for his actions. 

He left the room and found one not too far down from Swan's. Exhaustion slammed into him like a ton of bricks as he barely landed on the bed. He pulled the knife out, wiping the blood off the tail of his shirt. His pants absorbed most of the blood, but it wouldn't be enough to kill him. He pulled his bag across his shoulder finding some spare bandages from his journey here. It was shoddy at best, but he just couldn't care, he wedged the bandage into the wound, his fingers running across some similar scars on his thigh as he tightened another bandage around his pants. Satisfied he wasn't going to lose the leg any time soon he stretched out on the bed and laid his arm across his face. He never should have responded to the letter, even if it was delivered by Seren he should have just thrown it in the fire. Death was going to claim all in due time, why serve themselves up on a platter for the king of the damned? Lambs for sacrifice to an insatiable god? 


Freezing...crushing... burning...

He was drowning. The water wrapped around him to pull him further and further into the depths. His body screamed against his efforts to break the grip, to swim back to the surface. His lungs burned for air; his body chilled from the waters. He gasped, expecting water to fill his lungs. Instead, the coppery taste of blood filled his throat and burned his nose. Infinite hands clawed and tore at his flesh. Silent screams ripped from his throat as he was mutilated...over...and over again. He couldn't even get numbed to the pain, because deep down he knew he deserved this...The lives he took when he wasn't in control, the lives he couldn't save. It was a fitting end, for regrets don't only belong to the dead... 


Raven gasped for air, too much at once led to a coughing fit as he leaned his head against the king's shoulder. His hand tightly grasped Stefen's shirt, he could feel faint flames and a flicker of purple dance across his fingers until he slowly unclenched his fist.

"We are the makers of our own hells; Death just watches the show. Don't underestimate how destructive we are to ourselves," Raven whispered taking a few unsteady breaths. He looked around the now quite crowded room, Stefen stepped back as Raven saw Swan stood in the doorframe. She was more put together, but she still looked a little unsteady on her feet. Clearly having dealt with her own nightmare. Raven could still taste the blood on his lips, he covered his face taking a deep breath. Stefen sat down in the chair, Raven offered the bed as a seat for Swan if she wanted it. 


So that was the mark. Depending how he saw it, it looked like a hot iron brand, or a grotesquely drawn X in black ink.

"No good deed goes unpunished," Raven sneered at Stefen's remark about their parents. Maybe that's where their familial love came from. 


A tale he may have heard from Libra, but other than that what they were told was lunacy. He couldn't agree more with Swan's counter point. He may have looked more composed, but he felt him chuckle to himself. Madness is what it was, for it was deceptively simple. Live a good life and you are blessed in the afterlife, there were countless scriptures that supported that very pure ideal. But of course, a kingdom's whose very foundation was necromancy and sorcery would twist such a small concept into being a damnation. A curse that drove some of their ancestors mad to an early grave. What on earth could have been the pact that started all this?

There was the wrinkle, so it was the crown that was cursed. Leaving such a large kingdom on its own would be worse than having children in charge of it. So many of the other nations relied on Novus in times of need. From what little information he could recall, Lo'el was one of them, many of the coastal towns and smaller villages he frequented also relied on Novus for protection as well as goods during the winter months or when poor harvests or bad weather struck. If they wanted to let the kingdom fall, it would have to be done slowly, careful planning to prevent a major fall out... 

Something Raven did not have the mental fortitude to attempt at this time. He rested his elbows on his knees, interlocking his fingers as he rested his forehead against them. By now he was using the throbbing in his thigh to keep him conscious. He did offer Swan the bed to sit on. Stefen was harsh but didn't make his words any less true. Most parents would do anything for their children, the fact their mother tried to keep them away should be an obvious show of that characteristic. If she asked him, Raven didn't doubt for a moment that her father wouldn't accept the responsibility of ruling Novus, regardless of whatever curse laid on the crown. 

Everyone dies, Death should be the epitome of patience so what would it matter if he had to wait a little longer for them? There had to be something else that was driving Death, was it something that Stefen feared? Raven and Swan didn't even know of the other's existence let alone the curse until today. To drop everything and just accept it, that was just cruel. 

"There are some reasons why the dead should stay dead and buried. Namely your piss poor handling of delicate situations involving the living. Especially family, Grandfather," Raven spoke coolly at Stefen. "I've dealt with complete strangers amongst spirits and the living, both have shown far better tact than you practiced for supposedly being the wisest king. I understand we are not children; you cannot coddle us. However, we are still alive, and time hasn't stopped for us as it has for you." Slowly Raven stood up as Swan fell. It may have been cruel on his end but he slowly walked around her, this was something he couldn't do for her. She had to make up her own mind. "You may want to remember that," he finished. Raven reached the doorway, steadily he turned and bowed at Swan, before leaving the room.




"They didn't even give time for the king's corpse to grow cold. I'm no expert but for a coronation so soon, it feels...unnatural," Raven spoke to himself.

"As unnatural as me," Lapis asked with a bright smile. She was a servant girl Raven managed to stumble on as he left Swan and Stefen. Probably for the best since he very much doubted, he wouldn't have just collapse in the hallway.  Before he'd only see how the spirits looked when they died, it didn't take too long until he was able to see them how they were in life. It seemed it was more of a problem with his perception than the spirits. Seren was his first spirit and bearing witness to her death even as a baby left an impression on that part of him. Lapis was young, maybe thirteen or fourteen, if he'd guess it was probably disease that took her. She had short rose-colored hair that shimmered more with her ethereal form than the sun. 

"Not fair."

"Plenty fair, and I don't think it’s that odd. People want to move on as soon as they can, why worry about the dead with the promise of a brighter tomorrow especially with two living heirs? Many people thought the kingdom was going to be finished or pawned off to some distant lord. It's a miracle." That was the part that bothered him. He was a nobody, yet just a day later the servants treated him as the heir he was. How did that information go out so fast? Was it another spell, but then by whose hand? He chose to ignore Lapis' own irony of not moving on. But it seemed harder for children to move on, than adults. They were also far more understanding, clearly naiveté at work there.


Raven barely spoke a word to Swan after that whole ordeal. She had far more affairs to settle than he did. One of the few perks he had going for him. Instead, he wandered the halls of the castle, pulling one disguise after the next to avoid confrontation with the current residents, gathering as much information as he could. His passive learning helped with some of the more generalizations of Novus, but it wasn't enough to deal with the root of their problem. 

He was not going back to the crypt. Despite being his best option, he didn't trust himself to walk away as fortunately as he did last time, and that was an understatement. The farthest he went was the first room where they held their family reunion. Obligation demanded he offered something for them, he didn't know them, but they were still his parents. A modest bouquet and a small prayer would have to suffice.   

After that he spent most of his time in the library, Raven took a more neutral approach to Stefen which the king seemed to honor without pressing him for much. Raven knew past kings' journals would help to understand some aspects of the curse, but he was more curious about those that married into the Novus line. What would attract them to a kingdom of death? Especially with necromancy being so prevalent in the underbelly of it with spells requiring multiple necromancers to even attempt. Magic wasn't necessarily rare, as it was hidden. Granted Raven could count on one hand how many witches and wizards he met. Excluding his sister, those exchanges hadn’t boded well for him, he was still in the middle of his current one so there was still a chance of it turning out equally terrible. But his sister and himself were the only ones he could think of that had dark arts, a true rarity. The witch from the woods could have had some dark art to her name, but it felt vastly different from theirs. He didn't even know the extent of Swan's abilities, but she didn't know his either. It wasn't exactly a topic Raven felt he could bring up now, she had enough on her plate as is.

But if it was inbreeding that was drawing the lineage together, it would have died out centuries ago. Were people just attracted to Death? Was it His powers that manifested into select individuals the world over and they were simply drawn to each other? He'd probably have to speak to Death himself about that. Raven stopped dead at the end of a bookshelf, Lapis bumped into him. 

"This one is mine."

"Some memories are better left forgotten," he whispered trailing his hand to his stomach. Some days he felt the scar, other days it wasn't even there, today it was a gaping wound, he collapsed against the bookshelf, his entire right side numb from exhaustion, his breathing ragged. 

"Raven," he barely heard Lapis cry his name. "Come on, snap out of it!" Her voice sounded so far away. He wasn't regressing in a memory, he had to navigate it. The encounter, the battle, the wounds...what next? Someone grabbed the back of his neck, and he was thrown as though thru a mirror. He heard shattering, the shards danced in front of his eyes, his back impacted the ground.

"Ouch," he hissed focusing his eyes on Lapis. She had tears down her face and a rather hefty book in her hand. His hand flew to his head where he felt a sizable lump begin to form, he stopped the book as she was ready to slam his head again with it. "I'm fine. I'm here. I'm fine," he repeated.

"You idiot," she curled against him pounding her fist against his chest. Raven set the book on the floor; his arm rested on her shoulders.

"Thank you, Lapis, I didn't mean to scare you. I'll be fine, it was just a memory I needed to remember. Now," he turned Lapis' face towards him. "How about you start our plan in the meantime as I get ready for the guests." She pushed off him as she wiped her face, giving her bravest smile as she turned and vanished from his sight. Slowly Raven stood up using the bookshelf as support. They may have been sacrifices of their lineage; it didn't mean he couldn’t become the wolf in sheep’s clothing.




A masquerade party for the coronation, Raven could almost admire the irony with the planning. It wasn't going to fool Death, but it might annoy him, and that was a small victory. Raven mingled with the guests with a practiced flare; changing his features along with the masks and other costumes that Lapis hid for him. Probably driving the tailor mad with missing outfits, but it was a small price to pay. He'd speak casually with any party goer, shake hands, and gleam some insight into their person. It was almost scary how comfortable he was being in anyone else's skin but his own, it was how he lived his life the last five years. No one was going to know his true face until the moment was right.

Honestly it probably would have been far easier to convince the people they were lovers than siblings. He was a nobody and she an heir to the Kingdom of Lo'el, people did love their gossip circles. Raven politely excused himself from the current conversation as he saw Lapis through the corner of his eye. He kept his current mask on as he casually walked over to her and leaned against the wall, appearing to speak with the men around him. 

"Do you see him?"

"I think it's that man, his outfit looks familiar from the last coronation," she tried to not obviously point at the man in question as Raven trailed his eyes after him. He turned his back to him as he rested a hand on Lapis' shoulder, guiding her in front of him to block her from view. So, was it their father's coronation? Or was it the day of their birth?

"Good call, now return to the library, stay out of sight, I'll handle this from here," he nudged her along silencing any protests she may have had. Raven nodded towards the men as he took his leave. 


Raven sighed running a hand through his hair removing the false color as he closed his eyes to dispel his disguise. He may have been more sensitive of the two as that jolt danced across his arm again from when they first met. He tapped the cane against the floor so as not to come around the bend and startle her. He didn't need the cane, his thigh no longer bothering him, but Lapis insisted he bring it with him. He did make her cry and he owed her one, so it was an easy compromise. 

"Sister," he spoke softly as he saw her round the corner, he bowed once more to her. She offered a curtsy in response. Politeness met, now what? He walked next to her offering his arm. "We might have a few moments of respite before the inevitable chaos, I don't think either of us will be missed quite yet. Come, you look as though you have something you wish to talk with me about, I cannot offer much, but I can lend an ear," he remarked with a small smile. He guided them to a more secluded balcony that Lapis told him about. There was a gentle breeze, but it wasn't too cold that they would be forced to return inside immediately. It did offer a beautiful view of the kingdom, the town sprawled out below them, he could see plains and mountains past that, he may have even caught a glimpse of the ocean, but that may have been a twinge of homesickness coming through. 

He slowly released her arm as he stepped further onto the balcony he turned his back to rest against the parapet, the cane leaning against his leg. Raven fished through the pockets of his jacket pulling out a small deck of cards. He shuffled them, bridged them, did some sleight of hand, and repeated the process. Keeping his hands busy was better than doing nothing. The silence wasn't as bad as he thought it would be for their more official private meeting, no parents, no Stefen, just two kids who didn't know what the hell they were going to do next. Who was going to break silence?

"I'm not," he decided to break it. "I'm put together as I look. You're giving me too much credit there. I assumed you needed space; you didn't need any unnecessary baggage to complicate that. It's arrogant to make assumptions, but I can usually read a room well enough. I grew up near Altun, the temple took me in as well as a handful of other people. Some living, some deceased," keep it simple, the details didn't matter at the time. "As I got older, I traveled, never really settling down, doing what I could to survive. Please, I don't need sympathy for that. I was content, it worked out for me," he shrugged his shoulders. "I've always been adaptable, it's very easy to wear a mask and take a role if you have nothing to lose. Think of it as a game, if we win, we get a kind death, if we lose a cruel one. No matter how you look at it, Death is the outcome, funny isn't it? That's how life works for everyone," he chuckled slightly at the simplicity. "There’s obvious complications for our game, but remove all of that, it's just living. I rather not make it easy for Death, he's complicated things far beyond our comprehension, so why not make him work for it," he smirked clasping his hands around the deck setting it down on the railing as he offered the deck to Swan. "Talk or ask whatever you wish of me, I only ask is you do so plainly. We aren't trying to impress anyone, no point wearing a mask now."

Swan, the cursed Child

A part of her felt bad when she saw the way her brother walked with the cane, even though she understood that the fault was not her own. During the two weeks she’d learned that he had injured himself in an attempt to rescue her. Had not he dove to catch her when Swan might not even be in this world at this very moment. In the past two weeks she’d seen very little of her mysterious counterpart; it was not his fault. She’d been busy composing letters to the people she’d love explaining that her duties could no long be hidden or shy away from. Despite the fact that she didn’t want to accept the mantle of being a Princess to the Kingdom of Novus there was nothing else to be done. Now, feeling the comforting touch of her brother and taking a walk with him she felt it easier to breathe. It felt ironic that being raised as the daughter of a royal king did nothing to prepare her for being royalty of her own kingdom. In the end though she guessed she truly was a stranger child within an even stranger land.

As he spoke her name the female responded in kind. “Brother, thank you for attending to me in my time of weakness. I fear as though I’m… not well fitted or even prepared for the journey by which we are to embark on. How do you manage to stay so put together?” As she filled the air with her voice she fell to silence once again. She was struggling to find the words to convey the conflict of emotions which were brewing within her heart so instead she continued to walk with her brother absent minded in thought. What she needed was for someone to break the silence and when he did she thanked him silently for the voice that came out. Despite them both being the same age he spoke as though he’d had wisdom far beyond his years. 

At first she was shocked by his admission to the fact that he wasn’t as put together as he looked on the outside. She’d just assumed that he was. Than when she heard him go on about his upbringing she let out a soft gasps. Even though she was told not to pity him a twinge of pain flowed through her heart at the fact that her brother had been through so much. He’d had to struggle and fight to survive. Something was the complete opposite of the life that she’d had to live. And in the end as he explained to her that his philosophy was that life was all a game to her. That brought a smile to her face which then turned into a chuckle. 

Indeed.. Some do view life as a game. I wish I'd been taught to view life in the same mannerism of speaking. Unfortunately I was not. I was raised as a Princess to the northern kingdom of Lo’rel.. By my mother always made sure that I understood that I was cursed. From the moment I remember to me, life seemed to be nothing more but a series of test. A test to prove one’s intelligence, a test to prove one’s honesty, and a test to prove one’s unyielding devotion and love to one another. That was how I met me beloved, through a test of strength during a jousting tournament for the right to have my hand in marriage…” She could almost laugh as she talked about marriage. To her such a thing seemed so distant and far removed from her current realities. She had harden her heart and resolve to decided firmly that she would no longer chase after happiness the moment she was summoned to this damnable castle and it’s kingdom.

Novus had been bless with green farm lands and it’s beautiful rivers were fresh fish could be caught and sold and traded. With such blessings the previous kings had share their blessings with the other kingdoms to the point that most began to depend upon it. Like her kingdom up north which had been cursed with harsh winters and times of were nothing could grow to do the severity of the cold. Even the trees seemed to wither and bow underneath the oppressive nature of it all. Shivering from the memories of the winter she once more inhales and exhales. Now was not the time to be lost in memories. Afterall, she’d been practicing. Practicing how to shield her mind from the encroaching shadows of death. 

“Even now I feel as though life is testing our resolve as to how resilient we will be when facing death himself. But I must agree, we ought to make him work hard for his claim over us. Such a complicated man granting necromancy and the powers to communicate with the dead. I don’t know about you; I couldn’t tell Stefan. But it seems like a violation of one’s own will. I fear death. If I had any wish it would be to wish for immortality and so that I will never have to fear anything.” It was wishful thinking. Deep down within her heart of hearts Swan knew that such a thing wasn’t possible for they all had a role to play when it came to this. 

Stopping suddenly she turned to him and looked him in the eye. She had one more question which she wanted to ask him but that question was cut short by the loudness of a cough and the sight of the former resurrected king walking their way. His demeanor had changed; he looked more thoughtful. In the past two weeks king Stefan II had taken a more hands off approach when it came to helping Swan prepare for her role as the Twin ruler of Novus. Whenever she needed help focusing on fortifying her mind so that Death would invade it with visions of horrific scenes of her worst nightmares he was there. Helping here every single step of the way. A thing that she couldn’t deny that she was grateful for. 

Moving towards the Twins he bowed his head low before them before he spoke up. “It is soon going to be time for the ceremony to commence. Please, take all the time you need to get ready. The night will be long.” And with that he slowly left the two alone to continue their discussions.

As he did so Swan sighed. A part of her still felt thinking back to her childish days as a young maiden when she was sixteen years of age. How she’d met her beloved Jamie three years later and told him how valiantly he’d fought in the jousting tournament. She’d always enjoyed a good jousting and a skilled display of talent when it came to it, but there was something different about the male all together. The way he caught the light and the way he smiled so confidently as if he knew that he was incapable of doing any wrong. It arrested her heart and made her feel as though for the first time she had come to known love. Love for the living instead of love for the dead. Before that moment the only person whom she’d loved was her grandmother. Of course she was not hers by blood but by adoption. Her gentle smile and gray hair had always been a welcoming sight which she’d looked back upon fondly.

“You said I am able to speak freely? Might I ask for your advice then? I do not know how knowledgeable you are when it comes to the game of romance and love.. But I had a suitor who won my hand at a jousting tournament. Jamie was his name. For over just barely a year we’d enjoyed each other’s company. When word was sent that I had a duty to fulfill I decided to harden my heart. I didn’t… couldn’t see myself loving someone in the midst of entering into a world that was filled with unknowable outcomes. I do not know if that was the right choice or not. But when we were given this… ability to converse with the dead sometimes it’s nearly impossible to not neglect the living.” 

Her words came out softly as though she was lamenting the simple fact that that was the truth of their world. She’d not chosen that truth for herself and yet it would be foolish to deny it. She couldn’t deny that she was more in tune with the dead than the living. It would be as though calling herself a brunette when she was blonde! 

With that she’d spoken her heart felt lighter but her stomach still felt as though there were a lead weight deep within it. Tonight she opted to wear a flowy white dress with a black corset which had golden laces stitching it up. She’d hadn’t even chosen a mask to do her face since no one seemed to notice who she was yet. Even though she could already hear gossip and rumors as to who the female twin could be. Speculations often proved poor. Releasing her grip from her brother she’d gone back to the banister which separated her from the floor below. Down below she’d sworn that she had seen a gentleman who’d chilled her to the bone. A man who was dressed in more opulence than anyone here. A gentleman who everyone knew but was too afraid to speak of. Death was here. She knew that her brother had already noticed it and as the night wane on she knew that he would be growing impatient.

A game.. A test. Both thoughts did naught to alleviate the fear which she’d suffered but a handful of moments ago. That fear was what caused her to search for her brother and find him as quickly as possible. Now that she’d found him and they had converse her anxiety had been calm. Looking down upon the people below she looked to her brother and slowly exhaled. Breathing had been one of the many ways suggested for her to control her breath and not have every singular thing go to waste. So, as she looked to her brother for support one more time she spoke up. “Let the royal games begin.. I guess..” 

The descent down the staircase was much easier than the descent down to the crypt two weeks prior. At least now she knew that she was surrounded by the bones of the dead and the forgotten. Instead she was surrounded by the living who view her and her brother with morbid curiosity. As the resurrected King led the pair down the stairs gasp and murmurs were could be heard going through the crowd. The man’s likeness was found on wall as paintings of kings from a era long before the modern. Was it no wonder that many were gossiping and speculating if the man was, indeed, one of the forgotten kings brought back from the dead?

Necromancy, witchcraft, such things were the only perversities punishable by death it seemed like. The abusing of the weak or young, the soiling of the innocent against their wishes, the thief of virtue, all if these things were also perverse but if done by the rich and wealthy were nothing more but things to be laughed at and scoffed at. But find any noble and loyal man whom found himself accused of witchcraft and sorcery than the price to pay was a heavy one indeed. 

The movement had started in the northern region of the land. Holy Priest who found themselves at odds with those who practiced the demonic arts. Witches and spell casters. Healers who claimed to use herbs but were actually liars who prayed on the vulnerable to expose their soul to the devil. For to long the remedy for the poor had been to rely on those who took advantage of their ignorance and poverty. Where, the religious order decided that they would put a stop to that soon.

They called themselves the sons and fathers of the most high. Preachers ordain to track down these so-called practitioners of the dark art and see them affixed to stakes. Most took pleasure in seeing these witches purified by Heaven’s holy flame. Death by fire was not a punishment, it was a gift to try to give the sinner a chance to purify their souls. Burning at the stake was just a small example of what awiated them in hellfire below so it was best that they asked for forgiveness during the burning than died and not repent at all. So were the beliefs of those who followed the religious orders of the “Most High.”

They’d been rumors that these priests were traveling south towards the kingdom of Novus. Once word was spread that the coronation of the two twins were to be made public it was determined that the coronation was a facade. In fact it was clearly obvious that these two were innocent children who would be sacrifice to the occult in order to “blessed” the lands of Novus. The belief that the kingdom of Novus ran on child sacrifice and the spells of witches was something which the rational minds rejected. For many had seen Death at the last ceremony and spread tales of how he sauntered about quite pleased with himself. But, as those eyewitnesses began to die out from old age more and more ignorance began to spread throughout the land.

In the coming two weeks Swan had forgotten to mention that this order had been the very one to scar her as a child. These deep traumatic scars hadn’t heal properly and the man still persisted in hunting down witches with zeal. Despite him appearing to be fragile and able to be blown about by the wind, the man was anything but. He’d had but one resolve and one desire.. To stop the coronation and prove once and for all that Novus was evil. To do this he would happily see to it that both of the twins were burnt alive at the stake for trying to sway the masses into believing that the royal family of Novus was anything but a demonic line of witches.

The very thought of that chilled Swan to the bone as she finally touched the final steps upon the ground. As she did so the blonde locks on her hair stood up as she felt the feeling of animosity and self-righteousness in the air. She’d still hadn’t done a mask and she needed to do so in this moment before anyone else could spot her out just as Death had before. It was the passing of a servant girl holding a beautiful blue and green masquerade mask which caught Swan’s attention. Reaching out she plucked it from the pillow which it rested on and adorn her face with it. 

Now that she’d finally don the mask it was time for her to enter into the crowd and begin the night’s celebration. Even though her fear and anxiety seized her she would swallow it. She wouldn’t allow it to take hold of her instead she would take everything in stride and make the best of the cards life dealt to her. She wouldn’t lose this game. She would pass this test. 

“Here we go brother.. Now it’s time that we face whatever fate's put in front of us to endure.” 

Trepidation and a will to put on a bright face caused her to step out into the crowd and get lost within the sea of people. Vibrant and rich colors adorned the nobles who-just weeks earlier-had been wearing black. With the passing of the queen so suddenly, many had come to mourn her. Rain had splatter upon the pavement as though the gods were taking a piss in mockery of the struggles of mankind. Those merry faces who looked behind Swan behind the dress, we now so eager to dance with her. For those who’d known the girl, it was impossible for her to hide herself. She’d always worn her hair in the braided style and had curly locks at the top of her hair.  

So it was no wonder that when a gentleman had come upon her and asked for her hand to dance, the girl would find a familiarity to it. Taking hold of the firm hand, a gasp left he lips as she felt a loving hand move to her hip and another interlacing their fingers together. No mask or visage could hide the boyish face which she’d had hope to look upon once more but knew she couldn’t. Even obscured by a black mase the face of her handsome knight shone through. Her stomach felt like it had been dropped from a cliff and for a second she thought that the world was going to spin away but his grip upon her held her grounded in the here or now.

It was hard to say whether she felt a sense of betrayal or a sense of relief as she found herself back into the arms of her dearest. She’d adore him so, wished for a family with him, but knew that she would soon become a marked woman. Death’s selfishness knew no bounds. He took whomever he fancied at whatever time he’d pleased. It didn’t matter if it was at the most inopportune time, or the promise of tomorrow which that person had made. Life stopped at the moment that death lifts his hands and says “Sorry brother, your authority of this one ends now. I will take him back to my domain.”

Leaning forward she rested her head upon her shoulders before softly speaking up to him. “You shouldn’t have come for me Jamie… It’s dangerous tonight. After tonight I will be a marked woman..” 

As those words left her lips a tear threaten to fall as Jamie gripped her hands tighter. Leaning back down he spoke softly in her ear. “I fear as though you are already a mark man…” Jamie spoke as he twirled around and brought her back to him. 

Eyes looked upwards into his eyes on able to understand what he’d said. But she soon came to realize what he’d meant when the doors burst open and a suddenly the sound of screams filled the evening air.

The sound of tables crashing and servants chattering turned the joyous night into that of confusion as the several hundreds of people came storming into the ballroom. They were led by a man who was all too familiar whose eyes had sunken in. His face had been the stuff of nightmares for Swan when she’d been a child. How could she not fear the very man whom had come for her numerous times after preaching at the burning of that witch long ago. 

Oft times he’d come demanding to see that cursed child who’d been delivered to the realm of the North. He’d claim that she would bring about ruin to the world and that he and only he was capable of cleansing her of the sins by which she was born into. When she’d began to able to speak to the dead and was getting helped by her Grandma he’d happen upon her and asked her what she had been doing alone in the cemetery which had is where the dead laid to rest. “Praying” Swan had lied to him. The elder man had leered over her and gave her a dubious glare as though he was trying to discern for himself how deep the lie went. Lifting a hand he placed it upon her head and spoke to her softly. What he’d said sent chills down her spine. “Even the wicked can pray for more wickedness. One day, I will reveal to the world why you are a cursed child… and one that day you will burn.”

The elder Priest saw the display to be that of gluttony and black magic. People donning masks to hide who they were. The passing of the glasses of wine and the sound of the orchestra all playing as entertainment disgust him. To him this scene was that of a demonic ritual meant to summon the devil who was the king of all sins. Pride, gluttony, lies, and much more. Why else would the kingdom need to throw a huge celebration after the king and queen had pass so young and so quickly. Not even two weeks have passed since the news broke out and as the elder man stood with more close to eighty or so men of the cloth he gripped he lifted his hands and swept it over towards the crowd. 

With a snap of his fingers, a three dozen of the men of cloth step forth only this time they were wearing red and drew daggers. This brought about the hushing of the murmuring of the crowd. Where were the castle guards? One voice cried out. Who are these weirdos. Another yelled. 

Sweeping his hands the leader looked to the crowd and lifted his hands up high. He was the only one dressed in white and the eldest of them all. “Do not be alarm…. My children!” He spoke as eyes turned towards him. 

“You have all been gathered here under a grave and perverse deception.. Do not allow yourselves to fall victims to the lies spoken by that of a cursed child. When first I laid my eyes upon her, she was just a young maiden… Undeveloped and yet she’d had the eyes of a seductress and the lips of a temptress. She felt sympathy for the witch which was burned at the stake.. I saw her body shake in anger, her eyes widened as though she knew… that she would one day join said fate!”

“What is going on is a demonic blood ritual; the wine that you drink is no normal wine, but wine that has had her blood added to it!” With that a gasps went from the crowd and Swan tensed. She felt an indignity rise up from her and as Jamie reached out for her she pulled off her masked and shouted. 

“Lies! Slander! And you call yourself a man of the cloth!? You are nothing more but a power hungry fool! A pyromaniac that enjoys burning alive the innocent, the beautiful, the different, and those who are too wise that they see through your tricks! I’ve-no! Hand’s off me! Stop!” 

Swan hadn’t mean to explode in the middle of the crowd but her nerves had turn to anger. Her anxiety had gotten the best of her and as she spoke, the men in the red cloth had suddenly descended upon her and were not grabbing hold of her. As she struggled and fought against them, Jamie suddenly yelled and attacked those who were holding her. As the young boy fought to get to Swan, hands restrained and tackled her to the ground.

As a hands yanked the hair of Swan back, the let out a shriek. “Ah! Do you all see now? The power of her bewitchment! How she seduced a noble man to come to her aid the moment she seemed pretends to be in distressed.” 

“I AM IN DISTRESSED” Swan spat as and to that her hair was yank harder and and yet she refused to cry out. As she struggled against the men, several hands grabbed her, and eventually one tore her dress from the back causing her to escape. As she fell forward and reached out to her beloved Jamie, she was once more seized and this time rough hands moved to bring about chords to be tied around her wrist. Screaming out in frustration she was about to ask for help before a gag was placed in her mouth and she was stood up. 

“SEE! How violently she resisted! It is as though she was possessed by a myriad of demons! She has lied with the dead countless time in order to steal power from the King of Novus and rule over our lands as an evil Queen! And this young boy, who was once dead, was brought back to life in order to do her bidding! But tonight we will return him!”

NO! No! NO! Screaming through her gag Swan’s eyes widen as she saw the men in red grab Jamie by his hair and hold a dagger to his throat. Her eyes screamed out in horror as she struggled against the constraints and hands which grabbed her. This couldn’t happen, she wouldn’t allow this to happen. As she screamed through her gag and yelled she watched as a dagger was dragged against his throat… but nothing happened. The skin did not tear. The knife did no harm and once more there was a gasps, which was followed by a low chuckle. It started off as a hum, but then it grew to a loud voice. That loud voice soon crescendo into a wave of sound which shook the castle like thunder and was inside everyone’s head. None could escape it and it only dissipated when a man step forth and tapped his cane across the floor and turned his head towards the older men.

“How dare you! How dare you laugh as we do the work of God!” The Priest shouted but the man looked to the priest and with a tap of his cane the holy man fell down. 

“You mortals are a…. most entertaining lot. I knew that If I sat back and did nothing that the things which were hidden to me would reveal thyselves. Unfortunately, I am, Death in the flesh. This event is no ploy, no devious plot to lead the people astray.. My mark is not a game or something to which be magic. No, I contain power beyond the realm of human comprehension. I am the end, the author of finality, and the deliverer of eternal darkness. I only say when one’s life ends. And I only will take the life of anyone here tonight. 

Everyone here is under my protection tonight for it would be bad manners to die without seeing the new King and Queen crowned. So try such a thing again. Try and take what is rightfully mine to take; try and pronounce a sentence of death when you are not the judge over it.. And see your life paid for such arrogance!”

As he spoke those whom had came with the priest all stepped back and shivered. He’d been real. They had unknowingly provoked the wrath of the one thing which could not be stopped or halted. Dropping the girl they all suddenly step back but one cried out. “Heretics! All of you! We will not forget this night! We will come back when death’s protection has left. And There will be a mass burning of the stake for it is clear that all of Novus has decided to give itself up to the whims of witches and the demonic!” 

As Swan fell to her knees and gasp for air she slowly reached for her beloved who was eyes widen as though he two were in complete and total disbelief. His life had been spared and by no other but death himself. Or a man who claimed to be death but if he had been an imposter than how was he possible that he was alive when the man who tried to take his life was not. 

Now, all eyes were upon the man who claimed to be Death. As he tapped his cane upon the throne he looked to the audience and spoke in a low and commanding voice. “Now, let us all to the throne room so that we might crown the new King and Queen of Novus.”

She was exhausted.

As she leaned upon the arms of her beloved and that of Stefan to guide them to the throne room she barely remembered the events that transpired after she was told to sit upon the throne. She’d remember an elaborate speech being give and the sound of clapping and the sound of voices giving praise to the birth of a new reign of the Twin royals of Novus.

She remember hearing Death say to here that his brand would not be placed upon her body anywhere she’d liked and she remembered asking for it to be in place no one but her could see it. Afterwards she felt a burning sensation at the base of her neck, a throbbing pain as though one were carving an “X” into her. Than a mirror was brought up and as she moved her long locks of hair she could see that Death’s brand upon her. 

Than she was taken to bed. Stefan had told them that his time in the world had now come to an end, that he’d only stayed to see them crowned rulers and that they now had a new threat to worry about. But even that was lost to her. 

Falling into her bed she closed her eyes and drifted away thinking that everything which transpired that day had been nothing more but a dream. A dream and nothing more. 

You Sickly Raven

Raven grabbed the deck leaning against the parapet as he shuffled the cards. He wasn't ignoring Swan by any light, it was occasionally a nervous tick of his to keep his hands busy, it beat injuring himself. It was almost rhythmic, able to fall back on silly habits to try and have even a temporary reprieve from the duties that were only moments away. He felt comfortable being in any skin but his own, but constantly being on guard, wearing a mask, it was exhausting. Something he's had the stamina to do for years but with all the information that was thrust upon them it was nice to have a simple chat with her. He told her not to, but it was expected a small flicker of concern danced across her features, if he wasn't expecting it, he would have missed it; she was also skilled with wearing masks. So, she had been thrust through trials to just prove her worth. Seems he lucked out on that, but from what little he knew of him, Swan was blessed with a caring father, comparable to how Seren was to him. At least she had someone. She was trying to hide it, but Raven chuckled softly to himself. What girl didn't dream of marriage? 

"You shouldn't let duty dictate your happiness," he slipped in between. She was composed, quickly discarding the thought of marriage. Her eyes lingered across the expanse of Novus, he followed her gaze trailing the rivers and some of the rolling plains. He was watching her, as she took a few breaths to right herself. Seems Stefen's training has been working, Swan was a quick learner. 


"I very much doubt Stefen would take offense. I can agree with parts of that," he added. Necromancy certainly deserved its poor reputation, those skilled enough to fully utilize it didn't seem to mind its powers. His thoughts wandered back to their mother. It didn't seem like she enjoyed it, but she wasn't exactly hiding from her powers either. Wonder how it was for her when she discovered her powers? Was she as unsure of herself as her children? He scoffed, she may have been deceased, but she certainly held pride with what she was doing, nothing fearful about it, if she was ever afraid of it. 

Raven didn't think he feared death, it was the expected outcome of all living things. Even with Death bearing down their backs, he didn't feel fearful. Perhaps he grew up so closely with it. it didn't affect him as much? Swan had plenty of other distractions away from death. That sounded rude of him, she was living her own life almost in a shade of semi normalcy. He clicked his tongue shaking his head it was the epitome of selfish to try and rate another's life compared to his own. They each had their own path. But for that path to never end. Raven couldn't really agree with immortality being the solution to death. It was a solution, just not his. 


Raven stopped his shuffling as he felt Swan's eyes on him, he looked. He turned from Swan as he felt Stefen's approach. Stefen had offered a few more tips to Raven but most of his time went to Swan. It didn't bother him in the least, and despite his annoyances with the wisest king, he was grateful for her sake. Raven could teach some things, but he was unsure of some of his own education on the dark arts, it wouldn’t be wise to pass on faulty information. But he felt confident he could answer some of her questions, for whenever Stefen decided to leave them for good. But was anything like death even an obstacle for them? Raven returned the bow to Stefen, perhaps he wanted to see them off before the evening turned hectic?

It wasn't exactly the question he was expecting, but probably could have seen it coming with their previous conversation. 

"That is a game I have partook in, but certainly haven't gotten as far as you have.," he answered with a small shrug. Raven has had various attempts with different partners, but none that lasted long. Perhaps a part of him was chained to the dead, another he didn't have an interest in it. He's gotten along well with the living and the dead, but intimacy wasn't something he was looking for. "Perhaps I'm not the best person to ask on the topic, but I still believe you shouldn't let duty dictate your happiness. Besides, it sounds like it shouldn't only be up to you. Life is full of unknowns, even without our circumstances. When you see him next, why not ask Jamie yourself," he suggested with a smile. The conversation was brief, but it was the well needed respite both needed before the inevitable plunge.




In contrast to Swan's outfit, Raven opted for a black suit and jacket with silver trimmings, Lapis made sure his cane matched. Seems gold was already taken by the arrogant Death lingering in the crowds. By now Raven shouldn’t be surprised by the tactless King, but there Stefen was leading the two down the staircase, an improvement from the last staircase, but the gasps were hard to ignore as the dead was clearly walking amongst them. They weren't certain it was the king, but the similarities were hard to miss. Perhaps he shouldn't be so harsh since Raven could easily hide himself but they weren’t exactly easing the populace into the acceptance of the new rulers. Raven felt a small tremor through his body. He hadn't realized he was touching Swan's bare arm as the briefest of images danced across his mind. He'd trained himself to not be lost in another's life, he could do so with so much ease, but something seemed to have tugged at the corner of Swan's mind, drawing him ever briefly. He was gentle, as she slowly slipped out of his grasp and mingled with the crowds. His eyes trailed after her sweeping her gown, he grabbed a silver heron mask from another of Lapis' hiding spots. He could have hidden entirely in the crowd, but it was very unwise to reveal his hand in case he needed it. He kept conversations brief with those that engaged him, never letting Swan fully leave his sight. He felt a flicker of fear and rolling flames against his skin as he held her. He couldn't fathom their meaning without the context and now wasn't the time to question her. Raven got pulled into a short dance with a duchess from the south, clearly enjoying the party early, the smell of wine heavy on her breath. He'd lost sight of Swan for a moment but spied the man dancing with her. that must be Jamie. Raven could tell on how protectively he held her, he could be no one else. It wasn't his place to eavesdrop further on her, she was in the arms of her beloved.

"Perhaps she'll speak her heart to him," he spoke softly spinning the duchess and getting into another dance. May she fine some peace, but he should have known it wouldn't last.


The atmosphere was almost joyous despite the grim circumstances that led them here, but he felt a shudder of fear roll through the crowds and before he could fathom it the doors burst open as screams filled the halls. The "Most High" their garb was unmistakable, Libra warned him of them. He was fortunate to avoid most of their witch hunts, even though he partook in some to get answers. Their targets were just normal humans, that he easily helped escaped to freedom. After those attempts Raven struck out on his own for better answers. From what little he spoke with the priests; they were zealots to the most extreme. He couldn't reason with the ones he did speak with and decided to avoid them in their entirely. Their claims were ridiculous, any sane person wouldn't give them a second thought, but feelings were already high with the rumors of the heirs, the recent deaths of the King and Queen, they weren't holy men, they were monsters thriving on fear, yet they had the gall to accuse them of heinous acts. But no one reacted to them? Did the guests believe their blatant lies? Raven was fuming beneath as he felt his hands grow hot, if they wanted fire, he'd gladly oblige them.

"Cool down little pup, you're ruining the show," someone grabbed his wrist yanking him to the ground as sharp pain blossomed in his thigh where his cane was now residing.

"Bastard," Raven snarled up at the man but felt magic engulf him to silence him. Death rested his hand on the cane in his thigh twisting it slightly. Of course, not a spot of blood fell on the floor, but he could feel his pant leg sopping it up. 

"Humans are so entertaining, not doing a thing to help a woman in distress. Glare all you want at me, I'm only keeping you in your place," Death replied with a wicked smile, enjoying the show. Raven felt that anger again, almost a hint of that madness ten years ago, he didn't care about the consequences. The man ranted and ranted about the most absurd of claims, yet the guests were lapping it up as gospel! Raven clawed against the ground as he saw Jamie at knife point. He wasn't going to do nothing! "Have some faith in your benefactor boy, I know when something has gone too far," Death spoke serenely to Raven though he was a stupid child. Raven was ready to lunge at the priest, but Death's power rippled in the ballroom, stopping everyone and everything. Raven yanked the cane out of his thigh as he dove to Swan and Jamie. Cautiously, to not alert either he checked them for wounds as Death gave his speech and made the spectacle of the "Most High."


Death led them to the throne room as he took over the coronation, Stefen thankfully stood by Swan's side to help steady her with Jamie at her side. Raven couldn't recall if it was Death or Stefen that gave the speech, but the audience reacted in joyous applause as though they didn't witness the horrors mere moments ago. Raven was supposed to rule them? After their cowardice he wouldn't have minded killing them himself. They were fortunately given some privacy after most of the guests were ushered out as the missing guards suddenly reappeared, rather it was Death's or Stefen's trick he wasn't sure. Raven spied Lapis behind one of the pillars, he gestured for her to stop some of the guests, she nodded eagerly following his directions.

Raven sat on the opposite throne as Stefen drew some curtains to hide them from prying eyes as the more pressing matter arrived with Death branding them. 

"Well, you seem to love to injure my leg, so why not cauterize it with your brand," he spoke ruefully pulling the hem of his pants down enough for Death to add his mark amongst the pockets of similar scars. "Please make yourself comfortable, Lord Death. I doubt you'll let us out of your sights so easily after your hunt. Pardon my rudeness, but I imagine you can make yourself at home, rather here or in your own realm," Raven spoke towards Death rather casually as though they were old friends. Seems the cane was going to get more use than he figured. "We have words after this Stefen, please go to the kitchen before you decide to vanish on us," he ordered. 


Raven helped Swan to her room as Jamie followed them, he bowed to Swan as he left her in the room.

"I understand you have many questions after just cheating Death, Sir Jamie. I can answer some of them, but they can wait. Can you please stay by her side tonight? I'm a stranger to her, and I can't support her as you can. I beg of you to stay for her sake," Raven pleaded offering a deep bow to the knight. He wasn't expecting him to refuse so he slowly turned and headed back to the ballroom.

"Your Majesty, I apologize for holding you up. I had sent a servant girl to try to keep you, but she can be rather playful," Raven explained as he saw the King of Lo'el. Death may have prevented Raven from acted, but he saw the King trying to fight through the crowds to reach his daughter. Lapis was skipping around just keeping his jacket out of his reach. "Lapis, thank you, please could you brew some tea, we'll meet you in the kitchen," he spoke as she handed the king's jacket to him. "I apologize again from preventing you from returning home so soon after this ordeal. If I can implore you, could you please postpone travel back for a day or so? For Swan's sake," he asked with a bow. "Or at least til she wakes tomorrow morning?"


It didn't take long to reach the kitchen, Raven saw Stefen was holding in there as Lapis was pouring a couple cups of tea with a whiskey chaser for Raven. If only this could all be glanced over as a nightmare, but this was going to be their new reality.

"You said you had a limit to how long you could linger in this world, I don't approve of this method, but I can act as your anchor if you need more time with us. You’ll reside in part of my soul, so to speak, if you don't take control of my body without explicit permission, I can postpone your crossing over. As Mother said it's a risky move to partake in, but I don't think you'd drive me to my death as others have tried. But if you wish nothing more of us, try and say a proper farewell to Swan before you vanish, you have helped her greatly, she will probably want to properly express her gratitude," he suggested as the King of Lo'el rounded the corner and took the seat by the cup of tea. “Your Majesty, thank you for allowing me some more of your time. I assume you can see Stefen, the one pouring your tea is the spirit of a servant girl, her name is Lapis. I don't know how familiar you are with Swan's gifts of necromancy; I imagine mine are similar to some degree. I understand we are to rule now, without much guidance but could either of you tell me of the Most High? My knowledge is dated, as I chose to not deal with them to the best of my ability. Namely what is Swan's connection with the Most High.”


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