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A Cursed Palace (And All of its Blessings)

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Technoblade was a simple man, when it came down to it. 

 

When he was brought to the castle, he was given a room smaller than Phil’s or Wilbur’s. It was apparently the old head chambermaid’s room, close to the royal family at all times. Back when the royal family could guarantee the safety of servants so close, of course. 

 

It was a small room, to be sure. Phil’s was grandiose, but it was so large that it seemed empty. Wilbur had made his room a living, thriving greenhouse, so it was more bearable. But even so, Techno had no need for a large living space. He wasn’t like Phil, who would spend hours pacing his room and muttering to himself about one crisis or another, or like Wilbur, who shut himself in his room and tried to fill his need for companionship with the plants that covered every inch of his quarters.

No, Techno had no need for those things. He hated staying put for too long. His room was where he slept, washed his face in the morning and evening, and dressed himself. After all, the point of a bedroom is to use the bed, isn’t it?

 

But he digressed.

 

The taste of spring, crisp and laced with flowers, greeted him when he opened his windows to let the sun in. Techno was an early riser, always waking with the sun as it rose over the sea. He and the sun were old friends. Even before his life of luxury he would wake up and fall asleep as it appeared and disappeared on the horizon. 

 

And when his life changed with a man with a smile like stars and wings like void, the sun was an easy friend to fall back on. It was unchanging, unlike many things in his life. Dependable, he would say.

 

Techno allowed himself a moment of silent appreciation as he looked over the sparkling waters below. Seabirds were beginning to take flight, cawing as they dipped and weaved around the masts of the ships in the port. Snapping ice floes could be heard in the distance as the world woke up. Techno watched a frozen island drift until it disappeared behind the coastal mountains. 

 

And with that, he stretched and began his day. 

 

He took the old, chipped pitcher of water off of his nightstand and brought it to his basin, pouring some of the water into the bowl. As he scrubbed away the remnants of sleep on his face, he hummed to himself. 

 

He’d picked up the habit from Wilbur, who would idly hum to himself as he worked in their studies. Techno didn’t think he even realized he was doing it, but he knew that if he told Wilbur about it, the prince wouldn’t let himself be so careless again. Techno would no longer have his favorite distraction. 

 

He donned an old white training shirt, a pair of well loved breeches, and scuffed boots that he really should get around to cleaning, but never will. He had no important events of the day that he could recall, so he sees no reason to dress up. 

 

He was still tying back his hair in a loose ponytail as he left his room, taking a small keyring from one of his pockets and locking the several locks that held his door shut. 

 

Techno nearly dropped the keys when a loud crash came from Wilbur’s room. He crept over and cautiously opened the door to find Wilbur on the ground, his glasses askew, with a book in his hands and a blanket of plants swarming him. 

 

“You alright?”

 

“Hm? Oh, yes. I fell off of my step stool, so you can…ah, see here.”

 

Techno shook his head with a smile and shut the door, leaving Wilbur to do…whatever he was doing. 

 

Techno finished locking his room for the day and began walking down to breakfast. He’d expected to find Sam on the way there, but there was no sign of the captain. Strange, but not concerning. Perhaps he just had an unruly guard to discipline. 

 

The castle was mercifully quiet at this hour. Usually the echoes of whispers and footsteps would reverberate a thousand times over down these winding hallways, and it drove Techno mad. It was bad enough that he had his own internal echoes to manage.

 

You called?

 

Ah, yes. Convenient as always. The strange echoes in his head that seemed all too familiar, but far too strange for him to comprehend.

 

Do you remember when we were gods?

 

And that was his cue to pull up his mental barriers. It was one thing for the voices to give him helpful advice while hunting or recommend the next move in chess, but it was another thing entirely for them to ramble about gods and fate. They were spontaneous and random at best, and cryptic and genuinely disturbing at worst. 

 

The day he had learned how to tune them out was probably the happiest day of his life.

 

The dining hall was emptier than usual. Phil wasn’t in his throne-like chair at the head of the table, which meant he was already working on one thing or another. Techno can’t say he minded Phil being up and moving rather than sitting and enjoying his meal. That chair was so straight and stiff that he was surprised the man didn’t complain about back pain more often.

 

Wilbur was still upstairs, finally realizing his balance was horrific.

 

So the only people Techno passed in the hall were guards that had just come off of their shift, taking a moment to grab a snack before going off to training. 

 

Just as Techno was grabbing a biscuit from a pile of baked goods, Sam walked into the dining hall. He already looked exhausted, rubbing his eyes as he walked in behind a group of knights. The captain of the guards sat down at one of the tables and set his helmet down, his gaze turning unfocused as he lost himself in his thoughts.

 

Techno was familiar with the expression. He was an avid thinker as well.

 

Thunker?

 

Haver of thoughts?

 

Thank you, voices in my head, for your ever so helpful contributions.

 

“Hullo, Sam. What’s got you thunkin’?”

 

“What’s got me…what?”

 

Techno sat across from the captain and idly played with the plume on Sam’s helmet. “What’s on your mind?”

 

Sam leaned back for a moment, then rested his head on his armored arms. “Several new recruits giving us grief, word that a strange man tried murdering two young travelers, worrying about Wilbur…the list goes on and on Techno, you know that.”

 

“That I do,” Techno replied, mirroring Sam’s position on the table so they were at eye level. “But I have somethin’ that might help you out.”

 

“Go on.”

 

Techno leaned in closer to the captain. “I came down with a request from Wilbur, actually,” he whispered, eyeing their surroundings to make sure no one was eavesdropping. “He’s fine, by the way. Nothin’ a little talk couldn’t help.”

 

Sam narrowed his eyes. He knew Techno very well, and he also knew that Techno enjoyed beating around the bush. “What was the request, Techno?”

 

Techno dropped his voice even quieter, and Sam leaned in close to hear him. Their faces were almost touching. “Wil thinks he knows the guy who came down for those kids, and he wanted you to tell the guards to look out for them.”

 

“Who was it?”

 

Techno mouthed the word Dream , and Sam’s eyebrow quirked up slightly, the only sign of a reaction from the stoic man. He was great at interrogations for a reason, this man. Rarely let anything of interest show. 

 

“He rode down in green with a mask that had, and I quote, ‘a childish smile scribbled on it’,” Techno continued, watching a flicker or recognition light up in Sam’s eyes.

 

The captain leaned back and stroked his chin thoughtfully. “The man’s been known to hide his face, but I don’t know the details. Wilbur’s sure it was him?”

 

“You think he would’ve stormed out of your lecture the way he did if he wasn’t?”

 

“Fair point…but commanding my officers to keep a lord out of our nation could just stoke the flames of war.”

 

Techno took a bite of his biscuit and thought about that for a moment. Sure, they might have ample reason to keep the guy out, but what’s the testimony of two ragabonds and a mysterious prince really going to do for them?

 

It’s better than nothing, milord.

 

I wish you’d stop calling me that.

 

Nevertheless, some evidence is more suspicious than none at all.

 

True!

 

Wilbur is trustworthy.

 

His word is good.

 

Yes, it—

 

Techno pulled up his mental curtains again and drew his attention back to Sam, who was waiting for a response patiently. 

 

“We have a noble’s word against his. I think that's plenty of reason.”

 

Sam nodded reluctantly, tapping his fingers on the table as he tried to come up with any other possible way this could fail. The man looked for the worst in every situation so that he could always achieve the best outcome. It was certainly…a unique way of looking at things, but it was effective enough for Techno.

 

“A man in green with a smiling mask?”

 

“That’s him.”

 

Sam nodded again, this time with more certainty. He stood up from the table abruptly, giving a deep bow to Techno. “I will report what I can to the border officers.”

 

Techno got up and gave an equally formal bow in return. “Thank you for your service, Captain.”

 

The captain put his helmet on and strode out of the room, knocking on the doorway to the dining hall as he did so. The other guards in the room hastily finished eating at the sound of the alarm and moved to follow him in a quiet group, leaving Techno alone with his biscuit.

 

He scarfed down the last of the bread and turned to sit on the table, taking out a pair of knives from his pocket. He quietly sharpened the already deadly, pristine blades against each other and waited for someone to tell him off.

 

No one came. 

 

Technoblade sighed and made louder scraping noises.

 

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In one of the many pockets of the Antarctic Empire’s castle, there is a courtyard. Hardly anyone knows it’s there; even servants who have worked their whole lives in the palace will never see it. 

 

It wasn’t much, really. It wasn’t nearly as grandiose or as large as the other courtyards and glens that the castle had to offer. There were no benches to sit on, no cobbled paths to walk upon, not even a real door to enter the place. The hatch that led out to the small pocket of land was hidden behind a tapestry.

 

The tapestry wasn’t terribly old, but it commanded as much respect as a priceless artifact. In many eyes, it was priceless. The threads detailed a woman dressed in deep purple robes, with raven hair and similarly dark eyes, sitting on a simple swing in the crook of a gnarled tree. She was smiling as she faced the sun to her right, one hand holding the rope of the swing and the other holding her large, black hat on her head. In her lap was a bouquet of flowers and ferns, with several from that same bunch adorning her hat. 

 

Embroidered at the base of the tapestry were the words; Our Beloved Queen, May She Find Peace In This World .

 

Servants and guards would nod respectfully as they passed the Queen, some who knew her would kneel in front of the tapestry and pray. No one dared touch the relic of another time. 

 

Well, no one except for Niki and Wilbur.

 

This courtyard was insignificant. It was the sort of thing that people would let their eyes wander over. Blink, and they’ll miss it. But to Wilbur, it was one of the most important places he could put a name to. 

 

The old courtyard where he and his mother would play.

 

Of course, he barely remembered anything from then; he was only four years old. But he remembered the flowers she would grow and give to him, he remembered how she would ask him to sing for the flowers, how she would laugh when they reached out to tickle him, and how she would smile when he came to hide behind her when they got too close. He remembered the pure joy that this courtyard was. 

 

Wilbur treasured this small piece of the world like it was made of flawless gold and the finest jewels. He found himself wandering to his mother’s tapestry nearly every day, and every time he would say hello to the queen, then gently push the tapestry aside to access his treasured land. 

 

The Queen had been dead a good twenty years, but her special glen lived on. Wilbur tended to it, bringing books to read to his mother’s flowers and decorative garlands to hang in the tree with the swing. 

 

He loved this secret place so dearly, and some days he believed it loved him back. 

 

One day, he had brought Niki in with him to share his happiness. Wilbur invited her to see his personal wonderland, and she was just as awed to see it as he had hoped. 

 

They hung lanterns in the tree for summer nights when they would make forts out of blankets and entertain each other with shadow puppets. They’d fall asleep to the sound of the wind blowing through the small chimes the Queen had hung in the branches long ago. 

 

Niki would sit on the swing and sew while Wilbur sat on the branch above her and played with the birds. He would send them down to collect beads and baubles from her sewing box and laugh when she swatted them away playfully. He’d always manage to steal a button or two, though.

 

As much as he liked sharing his mother’s hideaway, Wilbur cherished moments alone in the garden. His father had once given him a collection of his mother’s journals to keep, and Wilbur would only ever read them in the garden. 

 

Today—with an embarrassing fall in the process—he had chosen his mother’s travel log. It was a collection of notes from before she had taken up the role of a queen, back in the days where she was free to travel the lands beyond her kingdom. Wilbur knew the book by heart and could accurately recreate every map she had sketched in the pages. 

 

He idly rocked the swing as he skimmed over the pages, tracing the lines of text with a finger so lightly that sometimes he wondered if he was touching the words at all. 

 

There was an island I visited once that was filled with pickpockets and swindlers. They would’ve stolen the very clothes off of my back if I hadn’t kept an eye on them! I hope they find some reform someday, some of those unfortunate people really were pleasant.

 

Wilbur felt like he was having a conversation with his mother every time he read her journals. It seemed like she was talking directly to Wilbur, and that made him smile every time.

 

The seas are wild in the springtime. I was nearly tossed off of my poor boat coming back home last week! The storms get so close to port that I can hear them through my walls sometimes…I can’t imagine how strong these ship captains must be, day after day and year after year having to fight the weather when it’s like this.

 

Wilbur liked to imagine that he and his mother would get on well. She seemed so similar to him, yet so fiery that he wondered if they would ever have a dull conversation.

 

He misses them, those conversations that would never happen.

 

“Wilbur?”

 

Wilbur looked up to see Niki tentatively peeking out of the hatch. “Am I interrupting you?”

 

“No, not at all,” he replied, setting his book down on the swing as he walked over to meet her. “Is there something wrong?”

 

“Wrong? No, I just came to tell you about Tommy and Tubbo.”

 

Wilbur’s melancholy mood immediately lifted at the mention of the strange boys. The two stepped into a patch of sunlight and sat on the grass, ignoring how cold and damp the ground was. 

 

“Yes, how are they?”

 

Niki clapped her hands excitedly. “The city loves them! I spoke with the innkeeper at the Bronze Bull, where they’re staying, and he told me wonderful news! They’ve managed to help nearly every vendor in the market, and they ask to assist with anything they can.”

 

“Surely they ask for payment as well?”

 

“No! It’s all volunteered. They’ve never asked for a single gold piece for their work, but they’ll gladly take any pay given. It sounds too good to be true, but it is true.”

 

Wilbur shook his head with a laugh. “They’re smart boys, they have to want something out of all of this. A reputation? Fame?”

 

Niki shrugged. “Neither of them seem to want that, but who knows. Maybe your mystery travelers have some sort of heinous plan to take over the Empire!”

 

Wilbur nodded seriously as she giggled to herself. “I wouldn’t put world conquest past them at all.”

 

“And you would gladly follow them?” Niki teased, making Wilbur break a small smile.

 

He fell onto his back and sighed. “Whatever King Tommy wants, King Tommy will get, I suppose.”

 

Niki joined him in looking up at the sky, watching the clouds lazily float by. “They seemed so antsy though…I worry for them.”

 

“You and me both, but I’ve learned my lesson in giving help where it isn’t wanted.”

 

Niki held up a hand to trace a cloud in her vision, taking a moment to think to herself. Wilbur shut his eyes and let himself relax, taking deep breaths of air that smelled like clean dirt and growth. 

 

For as cold as the Empire was, the spring in these lands was the most refreshing thing Wilbur had ever experienced. Months of dark snowstorms and little sunlight were chased away by the playful winds that promised clear skies and green fields. Only in the summer did all the snow truly melt away. There’d still be white on the ground for a few months, but it would soon be peppered with fireworks of colorful wildflowers. 

 

“I wonder where they came from.”

 

“Hm?”

 

Niki turned to him. “I wonder where Tommy and Tubbo came from, Wil. They clearly aren’t from around here, have you seen how few layers they wear?”

 

Wilbur nodded, sitting up so he wasn’t tempted to fall asleep. “A warm place, I suppose. And it can’t have been too far, they seem resourceful and smart, but they’re still so young .”

 

Niki fidgeted with the hem of her skirt. “Well, if Dream was after them, perhaps they came from wherever he hails from.”

 

“Manberg.”

 

“...bless you?”

 

“No, that’s the name of his…country.”

 

Niki stared at Wilbur for a moment, then burst out laughing. “You’re joking!”

 

Wilbur’s lips quirked. “I wish I was. The country’s name is genuinely, officially, Manburg.

 

Niki tried to stifle her laughter but failed, continuing to snicker over the ludicrous name. 

 

The two friends moved back to lean against the old tree, watching the sun go down just like they usually did. Wilbur felt a light tickling under his hand, and he moved it to find a small flower attempting to bloom. 

 

He caressed it lightly, mentally encouraging it to just get a little bit farther. After a few moments of gentle care, the little plant shakily opened its petals and took in the last rays of sunlight. It shrank away as soon as the sun had dipped too low for the light to hit it directly, but Wilbur coaxed it back out with a quiet hum. 

 

“Spring is nearly here,” he murmured.

 

Niki set her head on his shoulder. “Are you ready?”

 

Wilbur didn’t think he was ready for spring when he replied. “I am.”

 

But he couldn’t think of what else there was to prepare for.