The Stranger


A king is given three days to prove himself as a test by the assassin hired to kill him.

Day One - Morning
The Stranger Appears

The celebration was well underway. The end of the war and the completion of the castle meant the wearied subjects could finally enjoy some well-deserved rest. The King had declared a week of festivities to commemorate the achievements of his nation and the people responded enthusiastically. It had taken a few days, but all the King's vassals had arrived at the castle from their far-flung posts and a great banquet was being prepared for that evening.
To show that he was a generous and magnanimous ruler, the King had decided to permit the commoners to seek an audience with him in the meantime. Naturally, his ministers carefully chose those who would go before the King in advance, weeding out anyone with unfavorable sentiments or problems that could not be allayed with a few coins or a half-hearted pledge. After a couple hours, the King was beginning to feel the tedium of the audiences and was about to call a break for himself when someone approached the throne unannounced, an old man in black wrapped in a tattered cloak with a blood-red headband tied around his dull grey hair.
He walked with an uprightness not seen in those who came before him and the multitude gathered in the throne room broke into subdued mutterings. The stranger stood before the throne, but he did not kneel. He looked directly into the King's eyes, an unprecedented breach of protocol that stunned the audience even more than his refusal to kneel. Before the King could protest such lack of humility before the Crown, the stranger spoke in a voice as cold as his gaze.
"I am Umbriel, the shadow of God, and I have come to kill you."
The King rose with a start and the multitude erupted in gasps. The guards by the throne rushed at the stranger, drawing their blades to cut him down for his impudence. With a motion that seemed to be little more than the rustling of his cloak, all eight guards fell, crying out in pain and clutching at their eyes and throats. As their bodies stilled in death, one could see the small dirks that had stricken them. With another rustle of his cloak, two dirks flew past either side of the King's head, embedding themselves in the cushioning of the throne.
"Sit," he said coolly, "and listen to what I have to say."
The King instinctively obeyed, slumping into the throne. The cold voice of the stranger continued.
"I am here to kill you, but your death will not come right away. I give you three days to consider your sins and to convince me not to take your life. If you fail, you will not see the sun rise on the fourth day."
While the stranger was speaking, the King had recovered enough of his composure to send subtle hand signals to the guards lining the way to the throne. As quietly as their armor would permit, they closed in on the stranger. Just as they were sliding their blades from their scabbards, the stranger shot out one arm, holding it high above his head. He jerked it back down with great force and a billowing cloud of smoke quickly filled the room in a thick haze.
The guards swung where the stranger had stood, but as the smoke dissipated, they realized they had cut nothing but empty air. They looked around warily, slowly forming into a defensive circle when the voice of the stranger reverberated throughout the throne room.
"You have failed the first test, but it is far from the last. Use your time wisely."
The King, though hardened by dozens of battles, began to sweat profusely. For the first time since his birth, he truly feared for his life.

Day One - Noon
Secret Plans

In the hours following the King's first encounter with the stranger, the mysterious man had been seen casually walking around in the castle as if it were his own home. The guards who attacked him were quickly killed, but those who let him pass were spared. The King realized the risk in trusting the stranger's words, but nevertheless ordered his men not to attack the stranger unless attacked first.
After giving the order, no more men were lost and the stranger roamed free of hindrance. Not content to allow his authority to be undermined any longer, the King began to plot a way to dispose of the stranger. To that end, he gathered his advisors in a sealed room he prayed the stranger could not enter.
"What is to be done with this threat on our king?" an elder advisor asked.
"Surely we can best the stranger if we devote enough men to the task," a younger advisor said. "Perhaps we should consider seeking bounty hunters to limit the losses of the King's men."
The King frowned at the suggestion. He took great pride in the men who helped him win the land and did not like the thought of relying on those driven by greed rather than a sense of duty to the Crown. The younger advisor realized this and did not pursue his suggestion further. A pale advisor spoke up next.
"The man has proven his audacity by the way he walks the halls of the castle," he said. "There is no doubt he will attend the banquet this evening. I say that we prepare a place for him."
"Are you saying that we treat him as a guest of honor among the King's vassals?" the younger advisor asked critically, dubious of the pale advisor's intent.
"You have not heard the whole plan," the pale advisor replied calmly. "Both his food and drink will be poisoned, of course, with the most potent mixture we can conjure."
"Surely he would be too suspicious to take any food we offered him," a plump advisor remarked.
"A man so bold, he will surely take it," the pale advisor said. "Remember, he expects the King to appease him."
The King thought about the plan briefly. It seemed to be the best way to strike at the stranger without putting his own men at any great risk. He nodded to the pale advisor.
"Make it so."

Day One - Afternoon
Confrontation

As the stranger walked through one of the corridors of the castle, a voice cried out behind him.
"Halt!"
The stranger stopped, but he did not turn to face the voice. It was the third son of the King, the youngest prince, a brash and doughty youth. The stranger recognized the familiar sound of a sword being drawn.
"I won't let you do it," the young prince said bitterly. "I won't let you kill my father! Now face me!"
The Prince rushed at his opponent without an instant's hesitation. The stranger remained motionless until the Prince's sword had all but touched his body. In a swift motion, he turned to meet steel with steel, drawing a short curved blade from a hidden scabbard at his back. The Prince swung with the ferocity of a beast, with a strength and skill that belied his years, but the stranger's masterful swordsmanship easily parried every blow. When the Prince's blade was down, the stranger gave him a hard kick to the chest, knocking him to the floor and separating him from his weapon.
As the Prince rose, the stranger sprang upon him with a second blade drawn and crossed with the first as a pair of fatal scissors at his neck. Fearing neither pain nor death, the Prince glared defiantly at the stranger and their eyes locked. To the youth's surprise, his opponent rose and sheathed the blades under his cloak. As the stranger turned to walk away, the Prince cried out again.
"I won't stop until one of us is dead."
The stranger looked over his shoulder at the Prince. The look of defiance remained on the youth's face and a great fire burned in his eyes.
"Young Prince," the stranger said coolly, "before you throw your life away, you must ask yourself if the cause is worth fighting for."
Without another word, the stranger walked away.

Day One - Evening
The Baited Lure

The King held the banquet as planned. In spite of their misgivings, all the vassals faithfully attended. At the end of the table, a place had been set for the stranger, with food and drink awaiting his arrival. Little more than lulled mutterings came from the guests, a great disappointment for the King, who had been looking forward to a lively feast.
After about a half hour, the stranger appeared and silence filled the room. He saw the place set for him and sat down. Pulling down the mask that covered his nose and mouth, he began to eat. The King and those privy to the plan watched with great anticipation. The stranger was playing his part flawlessly. Surely he would be dead within moments and the whole mess would become a humorous topic for the dinner conversation.
The stranger left not a crumb on his plate nor a drop in his cup. When he had finished, he restored his mask and rose from his seat. He looked at the King in silence for a few moments before speaking.
"It would have been an excellent meal, but the nightshade made it bitter."
The King began to sweat in discomfort. He eyed the pale advisor, who seemed even more nervous. The stranger turned to walk away.
"You have failed the second test," he said. "You cannot afford to make many more mistakes."

Day One - Night
No Rest for the Wicked

The pale advisor was thrown into the dungeon as soon as the guests had dispersed. The King would see the man pay dearly for his failure. For the time being, though, the King was content to retire for the night. He hoped to wake up in the morning and find that the whole ordeal had been a bad dream.
Though he had given orders to his men allowing the stranger uninhibited passage throughout the castle, his chambers was the one place the guards were ordered to defend at all costs. After changing out of his robes, he entered the bedchamber.
Reclining on the large pile of furs that served as the bed was his concubine, dressed in a sheer, gauzy gown he had chosen especially for her. As he eagerly approached the bed, he realized the look of fear on his concubine's face. Lying next to her was the stranger. Propping himself up on his elbows, the stranger observed the mix of emotions on the King's face.
"Come, you must be tired," the stranger said. "You need to be well-rested if you want to avert Death's hand. Or..." He glanced at the concubine. "Did you have other plans?"
Though he could not tell through the mask, the King was certain the stranger was grinning smugly. He burned with anger but was all too aware of his helplessness. He made a curt nod and his concubine hesitantly responded in kind. Sliding her hand under the layers of furs, she drew out a small dagger and stabbed at the stranger. The stranger grabbed her wrist with the speed of a viper and rolled on top of her to keep her from moving. All it took was a quick squeeze of her wrist to make her let go of the dagger. The stranger then lowered his head and whispered something into her ear. Standing up, he turned to face the King with a look that betrayed a hint of anger.
"This is your third failure. There is no hope for you at this rate."
The stranger sat cross-legged at the edge of the bed, his eyes fixed on the King. The King sat on the opposite end, refusing to show his back to the stranger. For hours, the King and the stranger sat, neither moving nor averting their eyes for even an instant. However, the King's weariness eventually got the better of him. His lids became heavy and his focus blurred. He soon fell over asleep, but the stranger's gaze never wavered.

Day Two - Early Morning
Prayer of the Forsaken

The monks and priests of the chapel were absorbed in their prayers. Among them was the second son of the King, the middle prince. He had an air of serenity about him that was a far cry from the unrestrained passions of his younger brother. Feeling the presence of someone behind him, he opened his eyes and turned his head, but remained kneeling. Looming over him was the stranger.
"Why did you come here?" he asked. "Do you seek atonement for your sins?"
Looking at the priests, the stranger replied, "I have slain many who bear that sigil. Their blood was spilled on the altars of their holy places for the sin of their hypocrisy."
"Do you hate the faith?" the Prince asked.
The stranger's eyes narrowed. "No, I hate the false and the wicked who gorge themselves with self-righteousness. They are an abomination before God."
"Why do you seek my father's life?"
"He is one of those people. His hubris will not be broken until he realizes his helplessness."
"But must you kill him?"
"He could save himself, if he was not what he is. He will not see the way, even at the end."
"You need not follow this path," the Prince said, clutching the crucifix dangling from his neck. "I think you know who can lead you from your blood-stained ways. Salvation is never too far away."
The stranger bowed his head. "I have been forsaken by God. There is no salvation for me. I walk the earth as a fallen angel. My fate is sealed."
The stranger walked away. The Prince tried to return to his prayers, but could not focus. He looked up to the priests and saw the altar bathed in blood. Was there no way to avoid this fate? Was there truly no hope for salvation?

Day Two - Midmorning
The Lonely Tower

While exploring the castle, the stranger found the entrance to the far tower sealed. Since he could not allow anything to be left unknown to him, he scaled the walls from the outside and entered through the window at the top of the tower. To say the least, he was unprepared for what he saw. Sitting at a golden harp was an Elf, a Light Elf to be precise. Her willowy frame was clad in a gown of snowy white linen almost the same hue as her milky complexion. Her long golden hair flowed around a jeweled circlet that rested upon her brow.
The stranger's eyes widened at the sight of her. Truly he would have never imagined to find one such as her, here of all places. The Elf stopped playing the instrument and looked at him, showing neither fear nor surprise at his arrival.
"Why did you come here?" she asked.
The stranger was unable to respond. The Elf's unnaturally blue eyes seared him as if they were peering into his very soul.
"Your mind is closed to me," she said, "but I know why you are here. For now, you have my thanks."
"For what?" asked the stranger.
"For sparing him," she replied, "the youngest son of the man you mean to kill. Your mind is closed, but I can feel your heart. Had you intended to kill him, I would have intervened."
"And you do not mean to interfere with what I have come to do?"
"My loyalty is to the son, not the father."
The stranger looked aside. "I cannot penetrate minds as you can, but I know he will try to stop me again."
"He most certainly will," the Elf said.
She rose up from her seat and took a few steps toward the stranger, who stepped back reflexively. He knew that a touch was all it would take for a mind-walker like herself to invade his mind. As strong as his mind was, he did not dare take that risk.
The Elf started to stretch out her hand, as if she meant to touch him, but quickly withdrew it. "I can sense that you are a good man," she said, "but the path of destruction you walk will only rob you of all you hold dear."
In an uncharacteristic display of emotion, the stranger's face was stricken with pain and his voice faltered.
"I've... I've already lost that... so long ago..."
Regaining control of himself, the stranger bowed to the Elf and left the way he came. Even after he was well out of sight, the Elf continued to stare at the window.
"Like me," she mused, "you have made yourself a prisoner..."

Day Two - Late Morning
The Lustful Heart

Even while he slumbered, the King decided that he would no longer consult his advisors, fearing their ideas would spawn another failure. After all, his mind crafted the plans that conquered the indigenous people of the land and routed the monstrous hordes of the south. Surely he could outwit a single man. Victory or defeat would lie in his hands alone.
When he had woken up, the stranger was gone and his concubine had not moved from the place she was that night. He asked her what the stranger told her and she repeated his words exactly, as he had etched them into her mind.
"I have no desire to take your life, but no one shall interfere with my mission. Do not do anything like this again. He is not worth the sacrifice."
The King had heard from the guards on the ramparts that the stranger was seen around the Elf's tower earlier that morning. The wheels in his mind began to turn. Perhaps the stranger had a weakness for women. He was an old man and clearly a solitary figure. Perhaps he would be satisfied if he was given something to meet his carnal desires. His selective restraint hinted at some sort of personal code. Perhaps he could be made vulnerable in a woman's defense. The possibilities continued to build on each other, one after the next.
Before long, the King devised a plan to utilize all these possibilities, and with the perfect pawn to execute it. In all his territory, there were none he wanted to be rid of more than the Elf. He wasted no time setting his plan into motion. In no other time in his life had the phrase "two birds with one stone" ever been so relevant.

Day Two - Afternoon
The Sacrifice

The Elf had put up quite a struggle, but she was finally subdued by the King's men and drugged to prevent further resistance. She was bound to a table in the center of an inner corridor, a location where access could be easily monitored and controlled.
The pale advisor whose poisoning scheme had failed was released from the dungeon and given both a dagger and a chance to redeem himself. Though fearful of what might become of him, the chance to reverse the tides of fate emboldened him greatly. Even for a man of his unimposing stature, the pale advisor's voice carried well throughout the corridor.
"Stranger!" he cried. "Foreign dog who would slay my liege, listen well! Surrender your weapons and abandon your schemes and this Elf is yours. If you refuse, she dies!"
The pale advisor waited with great anticipation; sweat slowly began to bead on his forehead. As expected, the stranger emerged from the shadows and approached him. He stopped a few fathoms away and stood still. The pale advisor held his dagger with shaking hands near the Elf's throat.
"What say you?" the paled advisor asked, his voice cracking.
The stranger only sighed, "He has failed again."
The pale advisor did not know how to take the stranger's words. His hand grew more unsteady. Would he have to kill the Elf? Would he still be pardoned if he did not get rid of the stranger?
Unbeknownst to the fretful advisor, a figure approached from behind. A sword was drawn so quietly that only the keenest ears could hear the sound of the blade grating against the scabbard. In quick movement, the sword was thrust between the pale advisor's shoulder blades, bursting through his chest in a spray of blood. As his spasmodic body crumpled to the ground, his eyes caught his killer.
"Your... Highness...?"
As the words escaped his lips, blood spewed from the pale advisor's mouth in a violent fit of coughing before his body grew still. The youngest prince cut the Elf's bindings and gently lifted her off the table. He glared at the stranger.
"The next time I face you, it will take more than just disarming me."
The stranger rebuked him harshly. "If you stay blind to the truth, you will be no better than your father."
The two held their glares for a single silent moment, but both knew that the time for their next confrontation would come later. For now, they simply turned and went their separate ways.

Day Two - Evening
Sins of the Father

The plan had failed. The worst of it was that the plan had not been thwarted by the stranger, but by the King's own son. The Prince had always been trouble for him, particularly where the Elf was concerned. The boy's troublesome sense of honor and responsibility would be a stumbling block to him when he became king, but his destined future remained a secret. In spite of all the trouble the boy had caused him, he was more suited for the throne than either of his elder brothers.
Now that the King thought of it, he remembered the greedy look in the eyes of his eldest when the stranger first appeared. Ever since then, he had been keeping a low profile, staying almost completely out of view. The unthinkable flashed in the King's mind.
"It couldn't possibly..."
His train of thought was broken by the approach of the youngest prince. He could already see the anger on the boy's face. He stopped less than a fathom from his father, his fists clenched and trembling.
"Why did you do it?" he growled.
"Why have I done what?" the King asked, trying to maintain his aloofness.
The Prince's anger was only heightened by the attempt to feign innocence. "You know exactly what I mean, Father. Why did you use her as bait for that murderer?"
Aggravated by his son's impertinence, the King asked pointedly, "Why do you think it was me?"
The Prince steadied his voice, struggling to keep his emotions in check. "I know that no one leaves the dungeon except by your word. That weak-hearted fool could never have escaped on his own. She wouldn't tell me, but I know it was your doing."
The King rose abruptly, hoping a display of indignation would shatter his son's resolve. He sharpened his tone even more than before. "Why did you kill him? Why did you throw away a chance to save your father's life?"
The ploy had clearly failed, for the Prince's rage now seeped into his voice. "You know... You know I swore to protect her... and no one, not even you, Father, will make me break that vow."
The King's indignation was now genuine. "Do you mean to say that you love that inhuman wench more than your own sire!?"
"It is not a matter of love," the Prince retorted bluntly. The anger had drained from the Prince's voice and was replaced by disgust. "It's honor... and maybe you don't know as much about it as I had thought you did... I've misjudged you, Father..."
The Prince turned and walked away. The King hung his head. Perhaps the boy was right. He then shook his head as if to free himself from being infected by his son's foolish sentimentality.
"No, you are just a fool, my son," he assured himself, "a fool who will meet a worse end than me."

Day Two - Night
Deadly Mist

This night, the King would take no risks. Over a score of his best bodyguards filled the bedchamber. He was sure to sleep safely tonight.
As he wrapped himself in the furs of his bed, the stranger unexpectedly appeared in the middle of the room. The guards drew their swords, but the King motioned for them to hold. The stranger looked at the guards circled around him.
"Is it company that you seek," the stranger asked sardonically, "or an audience?"
The King growled but said nothing. His concubine clung close to him and he could hear the light rattle of his men quaking in their armor. Their fright aggravated the King, but he could not deny that he, too, was afraid. It was baffling. How could one man inspire so much fear?
The stranger pulled a chair in front of the bed and sat down. Several tense moments passed. The stranger's head began to droop and he seemed to fall asleep.
Impossible as the situation seemed, the King was elated. He could not believe his good fortune. He waited for several more minutes to pass, just to be certain. Seeing no movement from the stranger, he signaled his men into action.
They crept to the stranger's position, moving with surprisingly little noise in spite of their armor. When they were only a couple feet from him, they raised their blades to strike. The stranger's head shot up suddenly and with a swift jerk of his forearm, several glass jars fell from the ceiling, crashing on the floor. The powder inside billowed into a thick cloud that spread throughout the chamber.
The guards nearest to the broken jars fell immediately, howling in agony. Those at the bedside hastily covered the King and his concubine in the furs, hefted them up and made a break for the door, knocking the thick portal off its hinges. After they had charged through several chambers, they set down the King and his concubine and unwrapped them, careful not to disturb the powder that had settled on the furs.
As the King looked at the guards who saved him, he saw the effects of the poisonous cloud on them. Their eyes were bloodshot, fluid poured from their nostrils like water and red foam formed around their lips. The stranger approached, his whole body covered in the powder and the band around his forehead wrapped over his eyes. He calmly walked past the King and his stricken men.
"If you want your brave saviors to live," he said, "waste no time washing away this vile dust."

Day Three - Morning
The Schemer

The eldest prince strode through one of the side corridors with his bodyguard. A plump young man with a cruel look in his eyes, he had done well to avoid attention. Both of his brothers had already encountered the stranger, but he had managed to stay clear of the intruder's path.
Unfortunately for him, his success was spoiled at last. There the stranger stood little more than a fathom away, as if he was waiting for him. The Prince stopped and his bodyguard moved between the two.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded. "You can't be seen around me!"
The stranger did not reply. His cold eyes bore into the Prince. Though intimidated by the stranger's gaze, the Prince's face reddened in anger.
"Why are you toying with him?" he demanded. "You should have killed him in the beginning."
The stranger moved closer, pressing against the bodyguard.
"You think what you want is within your grasp, but it is farther away than you can ever realize."
The stranger rested his hands on the bodyguard's chest and shoved him, knocking both him and the Prince to the floor. He turned and walked away.
"You are too much like your father. I fear I might confuse my target."
The Prince scowled at the fading figure of the stranger. His bodyguard helped him to his feet and he still looked in the direction the stranger had gone.
"I should have known this was a mistake," he grumbled.

Day Three - Afternoon
Anguish

The King, his concubine and the men who saved him had spent hours in the bath being vigorously scrubbed clean a dozen times over or more. He and his concubine had barely been exposed to the lethal powder and were little worse for wear. The men who had saved him, however, were in unstable condition, but the court doctors were using their meager abilities to the fullest. If they survived, the King would make a point of elevating their status. If not, he could always bestow the same honors posthumously. Of course, those thoughts were far from the forefront in his mind.
If the stranger was true to his word, he would complete his task that night. Every effort the King made to prevent it from happening had failed. While mulling on the string of failures, an idea sprang in his head. The stranger was obviously a proud man who considered his words to be truth, whether they regarded the past, the present or the future. If he was proven wrong, he might abandon his efforts.
There was a sealed room in his bedchamber, hidden under the bed. No one knew of its existence but he alone. No one would think of going there because the deadly powder had not yet been removed. At last, he had the perfect plan. He would emerge victorious yet.

Day Three - Evening
Last Chance

The stranger was moving through the inner corridors when he saw the youngest prince. The boy had apparently been waiting for him. The same fiery glare lit his eyes as before. He drew his sword and tossed the scabbard aside.
"If you want to do your deed, you'll have to kill me."
The stranger sighed. "And you still do not see..."
The Prince was unmoved. "Right or wrong," he declared, "he's my father, and I won't let you kill him."
The stranger drew his swords.
"Since you seek this so fervently, I will not deny it to you."
The two charged at each other without hesitation. The Prince thrust at the stranger, who parried with one sword and brought the hilt of the other into the Prince's side. The Prince staggered from the blow, but quickly recovered, blocking slices from each of the stranger's swords. Their blades locked.
"I won't let you do it," the Prince growled.
"Is his life really worth your own?"
They broke free of each other and paused briefly.
"I will not betray him."
"He is already betrayed," the stranger replied.
The words from the stranger startled the Prince. It offered enough of an opening for the stranger to rush at him and strike his abdomen with the backs of his swords. The Prince fell to his knees, but kept the grip on his sword. He cut at the stranger's knees, but his opponent jumped high in the air, coming down with his foot square in the Prince's face. The Prince sprawled out from the blow, but still he retained consciousness.
With the assistance of his sword, he struggled to rise. The stranger's heel crashed into the side of his face, knocking him more than a fathom away. Though separated from his sword, the Prince clung to the walls, giving every ounce of his energy to rise once more.
The stranger, who had already sheathed his weapons, had no intention of dragging out the match any longer. He sprang on the Prince with a flurry of kicks and punches the boy was powerless to defend against. On the floor again, the battered Prince could not rise in spite of all his efforts. His quavering hand reached out to the stranger, but he was already on his way. The Prince fought back bitter tears as blackness enveloped him.

Day Three - Night
Desperation

The hidden room was by no means spacious or comfortable, but it was at least safe. The King huddled by a single candle, his only source of light and warmth. No one knew of his whereabouts. Perhaps thinking that the stranger had already killed him would spur his men to vengeance. On the other hand, it could flush out the ones behind the stranger and possibly prove his suspicions.
Alive or dead, his will would be carried out. That gave him a small measure of comfort. As he was about to go to sleep, his worst nightmare was realized. Out of the shadows appeared the stranger. The King's eyes widened, he broke into a cold sweat and began to tremble.
"How!? Why!?"
"You have failed for the last time," the stranger said, his voice icier than ever, cold as Death itself. "You locked yourself in here without anyone's knowledge. You do not have even the slightest hope of rescue. It will not be much longer now..."
Through chattering teeth, the King pleaded, "What do you want? Is it wealth? I'll empty my coffers. Is it land? The lands south of the High City are rich and unclaimed. You can have it all! Is it women? All the maidservants in the household, any woman in the kingdom, the Elf, even my concubine... What do you want!?"
The stranger glared at him. The King inched backwards, the wall blocking his retreat. The stranger loomed over him before kneeling to meet the King's eyes.
"All that you offered... means nothing to me."
In the stranger's cold eyes, the King saw the smoldering of a great fire that had died long ago. His terror had left him completely dumbstruck. The stranger's gaze did not waver.
"Do you see now?" he asked. "Do you see how little it is worth, everything you have gained in your wicked life? Do you see it now, at the end? Men with power are all the same. They think themselves superior to everyone else. Only on the brink of death do they realize that all humans are the same. No amount of wealth can save you from death. No amount of wealth can stir the heart of one who has lost everything."
The King realized that his death was at hand. He could fell the Abyss spreading all around him. He knew he was alone, that there was no hope for him. In the face of this, all he could do was scream.

Day Four - Morning
Parting Words

The scream echoed throughout the castle as the sun peeked over the horizon. Fighting unconsciousness and uncooperative limbs, the youngest prince move toward the source of the cry. When he reached the dressing room before his father's bedchamber, he saw the stranger. He knew he was too late. Though his heart cried out for revenge, his body could not obey.
"Learn from his mistakes," the stranger said, "and your own. If you want to be a better man than him, you must open your eyes."
The youth yearned to strike his father's murderer as he passed, but he was too weak to even lift a sword. The stranger walked away and no one stopped him. He left as he had came, with the unwavering walk of a man who had nothing to lose, a man who knew no fear.