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Mistery at Marlas

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Commonly at noon the palace at Arles was bubbling with activity. In the kitchens everyone was eagerly preparing food and refreshment with the grace and perfection that was cultivated after years of cooking daily for kings. Palace attendants were running around the castle handing missives and directives. As in everything Veretian, this activity was characterised by elegance and beauty. The lords wore astounding suits made of the finest fabrics that could be found in the kingdom. Pets were decorated with jewels and light chains as if they were filigrees of gold. Arles usually was a depiction of all of the luxury and beauty of the nobility that only could be found in the vast kingdom of Vere.
But this particular day, the castle was still as if it had been abandoned. The normal activity had seized as if suddenly everyone had collectively lost their will to move. Silence crept inside, like a presence extending its tentacles and little by little into the hearts of every person that was in the castle.

For Laurent, in any other day, it would have been a relief, to find some peace and quiet for a change in the excessiveness that surrounded him. Auguste would mock him oftenly and ruffle his hair as if saying "You're so weird little brother, but I love you".
The young prince thought that maybe one should be careful with what they wish, as he was roughly pushed around by a guard. His wrists were bound with rope. The guards didn't deemed it necessary to use anything stronger. After all Laurent was just a skinny thirteen year-old boy who had no military training whatsoever. He wasn't going anywhere, and for once, the prince knew no one would come to save him.
Auguste used to tell him that one day he would need to learn how to fight, how to defend himself. But older brothers usually said those things in order to bother you, Laurent thought. He had always known that Auguste would find a way to protect him with his sword just as the little prince would protect his brother with his mind. Now none of those things mattered because Auguste was dead and he was alone.
Against his will his mind wondered to the past. In a couple of hours all of his world had shattered into pieces, and he still couldn't make sense of it.

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His father was sick, he had been for a while. Physicians said that his body was turning against him and that nothing they could do would save him, just prolong his life a little. But the King was strong and he had battled against the betrayal of his body during more than a year, so Laurent had thought in his innocence that maybe he could defeat it by sheer force of will.
But that morning the King had summoned both of his sons to his chambers.
"I'm dying" he proclaimed. The King was staring deeply into his heir's eyes. Auguste held his gaze and a conversation passed between their eyes. They were very much alike, Laurent thought.
Then the King turned his eyes onto his youngest son and also held his gaze. Laurent wasn't used to this much attention, he preferred to be an observer than an active participant of the camaraderie that existed between his brother and father. Still he held his father's stare without flinching. He knew that this moment was decisive somehow, and that he ought to be up to the challenge.
"Laurent" the King pronounced slowly "I'm dying. I don't know how long I have left and you need to be ready." The young prince was confused, his father may want to discuss matters with his brother, he was the heir while Laurent would remain forever a prince, but his father still was looking intently at him. " You have the most important position in this kingdom after your brother" his father continued "even though you haven't realised it yet. People will always be after Auguste, trying to bribe him and manipulate him. It is your job to protect him while he reigns, you understand?"
Laurent nodded
"A King is the sword that defends and rules a kingdom" his father's voice cracked in weakness, but he talked as if he was transmitting the ultimate truth so Laurent leaned into him, to hear him better, " and his brother is the dagger that is hidden between the King's clothes. When everything fails and deceptions are revealed, the prince will be the protector of the kingdom, this is why you must never forget your role"
Tears streamed down the boy's face but his voice didn't trembled when he proclaimed "I swear father that I will not fail"
The King embraced his youngest son as he hadn't done in many years and closed his eyes. Laurent felt when life abandoned his father's body. The King was dead.

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Laurent was brought back to the present by a hard tug of his wrists. The guard was leading him through the corridors in the castle to the stables. He was used to that walk, being that he spent most of his hours there. He felt safe there, at peace. Now as if destiny was mocking him, he was strolling towards that refugee to meet his fate.
Being that he was still just a mere boy, he was being exiled instead of executed. Laurent wasn't fighting against this punishment, he was defeated, knowing that there was no point in resisting. His mind told him it was better to go quietly and avoid as much damage as he could than fight. He had never been a warrior. He wasn't brave, he was cunning and so he knew how to survive. Auguste would have fought... But his brother was not here anymore. He still couldn't forget how he had lost him, the last minutes replaying in his memory.

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After his father had exhaled his last breath, both princes had broke down crying into each other's arms. They couldn't speak, just cry and hold tight to one another. They curled into the floor just at the foot of their father's bed and stayed there. Laurent didn't knew how long had he been curled there in Auguste's arms when a loud crash sounded in the hallway. Reluctantly, Auguste had disentangled himself from his little brother to go investigate. Laurent hadn't known he would never see his brother like that again, in all of the arrogant beauty that his youth provided him, covered by the golden aura that had always sorrounded him.
Auguste gave a loud moan of pain and Laurent ran to the door but it was already too late. His brother was laying on the floor with a dagger protruding from his stomach. He was still, the young prince couldn't even see him breathing. He stood there paralysed as the guards came flooding the hall.
The captain of the Prince's Guard crouched to see the state of the beautiful man laying in a pool of his own blood. He was taken aback when he saw the dagger.
"No" he gasped and turned to Laurent in horror while he unsheathed his sword. "You killed him!"
Laurent didn't processed what he said until the other guards hesitantly cut his escape route.
"See this" he told his fellow guards "don't you all recognise this blade?" He pulled the dagger protruding from Auguste's stomach
Laurent did. His father had given it to him in his tenth birthday and he always carried it with him. It was a beautiful titanium blade with a silver handle, with extrinsic golden designs. It was beautiful and light and dangerous, just as Laurent himself, and he loved that blade. Anyone who knew him would recognise it as his. It was too perfect, and he was too shocked to defend himself. He could only listen how the guards started shouting orders and brought him in front of his uncle, the only person who had enough authority to solve this situation.
The trial had passed as if in a nightmare, he had argued with his uncle, saying it was impossible for him to even consider true that he had killed Auguste, but the evidence was irrefutable, o so the Council decided. He was to be exiled and he would be wiped out of the memory of his people. He had lost everything in the span of a few hours and that was how he had found himself being guided through the halls of the palace in an unbearable silence with more grief in his heart than he could manage.

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When they arrived at the stables, Laurent wasn't immediately forced into a carriage as he thought he would be, instead the guard left him there alone. Just as he was starting to seek an escape route, two tall figures arrived. The first one was the elegant and well known figure of his uncle, who smirked at his young nephew with triumph on his lips. The other one was of a tall and muscular woman with dark skin and long black hair. She was dressed with light clothing that did not very much to cover her strong legs and powerful arms. She was clearly Vaskian and Laurent recognised her as Queen Halvik.
"Let's begin this shall we?" The queen pronounced in her deep voice with no regards whatsoever to the young child in front of her. Laurent tried to run but his uncle grabbed him. Laurent felt betrayed, he wanted to believe this was just an awful nightmare.
Halvik advanced and put her hands on the top of his head and an aura of darkness started surrounding him. The prince found he couldn't move anymore, his uncle was no longer holding him prisoner. He felt the queen's power start filling his veins and he tried screaming but no sound escaped past his lips.
"For the darkness looming in your heart and your inability to protect your family, you will bear upon your skin the same scars that you bear in your soul" chanted the voice of the witch queen " until you can find someone to love and to love you in return."
"Isn't that a bit cliché?" said his uncle curiously, although he was clearly repulsed by Halvik's presence.
"You will find that being loved and loving are the rarest gifts to find." she replied amused "and he will not be exactly able to roam the earth, how will he find love?"
Then she returned her attention to the prince under her hands.
"You will be confined in a castle which you will never leave or may you peril, confined only in there with all of those who are loyal to you, who will share your punishment as well" Halvik made a stop. The King's brother had not negotiated with her the elimination of Laurent's followers, the thought never occurring to him and she laughed at his anger for being caught in his slip.
"This shall be your curse, which can be broken if you find true love. But waste no time, if you reach your twenty first birthday and still haven't found someone to break the curse, then you shall remain a Beast forever" Halvik with this words let go of the young boy who fell unconscious into the ground.
He was put in a carriage and brought to the castle in Marlas, the neutral ground between Vere and Akielos where no one would look for him, being such a dangerous land.
When the young prince woke up he was alone.