Something Wicked

Middengrounds System

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The three-legged beast was bound by chains, fettered down by weights, and was held back in the shadows by four stocky figures surrounding it.

The eyes of the creature danced back and forth, pupils dilating and flittering as its body pulled against the metal that kept it in place. The antlers dripping a stark red color.

"They cannot identify it, my Lady. Some sort of stag, yet far larger."

The woman on the throne before the animal let out a grim chuckle. "Well, clearly it is no common deer. It's covered in eyes." The Elk—that was what the foreigners called it—stopped moving and focused the many red and black eyes on the noble before it.

She set her thumb to her chin. "And you can't identify it either, Vess? All your years, and you can't say? I assumed a Penumbra of all people would."

"I am not all-knowing, my Lady." Vess' interruption was harsh and sudden. Lady Myrinn was taken aback for a moment, but out of curiosity, she decided to humor the Penumbra's attitude. "It is clearly reminiscent of a Fawn, but it is something more. More developed. More aggressive."

One of the men gripping the chains yanked back the Elk when it pressed forward. The metal seemed to strain from the pressure.

Myrinn nodded. "Fawns are difficult to capture. I always believed it was impossible, thanks to their… abilities. Assuming it is an older Fawn, how did you manage to bring it here?" She gestured towards the captain on her left.

Vess shook his head. "My Lady, Fawns do not age."

"If I may, Advisor." The captain removed his helmet. "We found it lying on the ground in the forests to the north, already wounded. It was distressed long before we drew near, but it didn't attack, not till we were close enough for it to gore one of my men." He pointed towards the creature's bloodstained antlers. "It was waiting."

"So it's prescient, then. Like a Fawn."

Vess turned towards Myrinn, and despite the skin-covered mouth, she could clearly identify the scowl on his face. "Myr, this beast cannot be an older fawn. I have lived for centuries, my life predating your entire civilization. I have never once seen them age."

Myrinn took her hand from her chin and took Vess' hand. "This is unusual behavior, Vess. I can see why this…" The Elk snorted, glaring at the pair. "…thing, may disturb you. But why does it upset you? We have it enchained here. It can do no further harm."

Vess' anger faded at her touch. "Myr, these things are not of this world. They are alien to us. But not like the wanderers you know. I can smell it. It reeks of… something stranger."

He looked towards the creature. It was still, for the first time since its arrival. Calm. But that only made Vess more uncomfortable.

"I know, Myr. I know we must kill it."

Myr nodded. "Captain."

The older soldier took a knee. "My Lady."

"Chain the Elk in the dungeon. Have your most trusted men harvest the eyes and tell none outside of this court that the creature exists."

At that, the assembly departed. Vess was alone with Myr once again.

He lent his hand and lifted her from her chair, and the pair left the room.

In the hall, Myr did not look at him as they walked. "Vess, you cannot disrespect me in my court. And not in front of my men."

Vess seemed sullen as he gently took her shoulders to face her. "Myr, I cannot stop you from what you do. But I can tell you that nothing good can come of this."

"You know what the other kingdoms do with their Fawns. We're falling behind." Myr withdrew from Vess. "They send bandits who can't be fought, seeing each strike before it happens. They stock up on resources before a famine or some other disaster strikes in order to avoid it."

Vess shook his head. "So be it. But for all my years of service…" His hand wrapped around Myrinn's, and he set a hand on her face, looking deep into her eyes. "All I ask is that you never drink the stuff. Do not touch it, do not even dream of it. What you do with it otherwise is not of my concern, which is for your health, my Lady."

Myrinn smiled, and ran a finger along Vess' arm. "I respect your care. I will avoid it, beloved."

They drew close, and Myrinn laid her head on Vess' chest. His eyes looked away from hers. He hoped she could not hear the fear in his heart.

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