Howling Roar Ch. 03byDarkWolfKnight7©
Chapter 3: Judgment of Destiny
Lucian groaned a little as he finally came to, his ears flickering slightly as he rubbed his head gently to try to relieve the headache he was experiencing. Even though it was pitch dark around him Lucian could tell he was chained up in the back of a rather large prisoner wagon that was moving at a rather fast pace. His eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness glowing slightly green as he took a closer look at the cold iron chains holding him. Not only were they reinforced iron, but he could sense a slight magic to them meaning that the moment he attempted to break them something nasty was bound to happen. The cool crisp feeling and scents upon the air could only mean night had come, Lucian figured he had been out for at least a few hours for night to have come already.
Checking his surroundings once more his eyes rested upon his armor bundled in the far corner along with his meager supplies, yet his sword was nowhere to be seen. Lucian never liked his sword being out of his reach for even a moment and his grumbling as he sat back showed how annoyed he was at the whole situation. Still, Sapphira had given him her word she would keep his sword safe... and those words put him at ease slightly as he tried to rest, his mind lingering slightly on her faint scent.
A short time later the wagon began to slow and the sound of gravely dirt roads gave way to the smoother more even tone of cobble stone lined streets causing Lucian's ears to perk up some. His long muzzle angled itself slightly to better catch the few stray scents in the air and they made his lips curl back slightly. The air was full of the scents of leopard kin, so many so concentrated that it could only mean he was inside a city full of them and that meant the end of his journey would be coming soon. So much time spent wandering the world after what had happened, trying to atone for sins that weighed him down like the chains wrapped around him now. It would be a relief to feel them finally lifted and yet something in his heart said otherwise. A sudden stop of the wagon and the sounds of dozens of armored knights approaching him, wakened Lucian from his reprieve and he steeled himself for what was to come. The next moment a familiar feline faced emerged as the large barricaded door to the prisoner wagon opened; her eyes reflected a darker shade of verdant green in the dim torch lights around the wagon.
"Lucian... it is time for you to meet your fate. Do not even think to attempt an escape, you are at the heart of my kingdom and surrounded by dozens of the most elite knights we have."
"A knight who has surrendered would only do dishonor to himself to dare such a thing... I gave myself to your custody and so I shall remain until you decide what is to be done with me. But I must say I do not regret our meeting Sapphira... though I do wish it had been under better circumstances."
For a moment there was a slight quiver in her whiskers along with her own gaze which softened for only an instant before turning serious. Sapphira backed out some beckoning to Lucian to come out slowly and she reached grasping the chains binding him pulling him out slowly out of the wagon. He was even more imposing she thought as his sleek gray furred body rippled slightly with each movement radiating the restrained strength within. When they came close to each other for a moment, their heads almost touching one another she whispered something softly that she hoped only his keen ears would hear, something that surged up from her heart that she could not contain.
"I wish that we had as well..." Sapphira felt as confused as the look Lucian gave her before she pulled him clear of the wagon and then readily shoved him into the waiting gauntlet of red armored knights standing by to take him. "Take him to lady Akisha, his fate shall be judged by her this night, for his involvement with the death of my sister the elder Princess!"
Lucian was pulled and prodded down what seemed likely nearly endless corridors before arriving at a rather imposing set of fifteen foot tall intricately ornament maple doors that even the guards bowed to respectfully. As he stood before the massive door an unsettling feeling of power radiated from behind it and it only grew more so as the doors slowly began to open making him want to take a step back. The next instant there was a loud sound, metal grinding slowly upon metal and finally the tall doors began to swing outward and a dull light from within made Lucian's eyes narrow. Lucian felt the guards press the tips of their pole-arms into his back urging him forward and with a growl of annoyance he did so slowly still wary of the feeling coming from the room ahead. Massive stone pillars engraved with thousands of archaic runes were arrayed into seemingly endless rows on either side of Lucian as he continued forward cautiously. The guards suddenly stopped and they crossed their pole-arms in front of Lucian halting him roughly and his growl of anger echoed along the pillars as they stood before an impressively huge set of beige curtains. Sniffing the air slightly Lucian could tell there was someone sitting behind them and his sense of smell was proven right as torches along the room suddenly came to life. Rows of them attached to the pillars burst with flames and finally some behind the curtains did so as well illuminating the shadow of a figure sitting on what could only be a tall throne.
"Well I am going to take a guess you are the lady Akisha... nice place you got here. The thing with the torches was a nice touch, going to have to learn that trick sometime..." One of the guards slapped his weapon back, the shaft slamming into Lucian's chest yet he barely moved from the impact.
"I see you have much arrogance to go along with your bravado young one..." Her voice was soft yet scolding to Lucian's ears, almost like a mother talking down to her child and that bothered him more than the guard's roughness. "You are here to be judged, and that very judgment will decide whether you walk out of this room alive or not. Yet still you stand there daring to speak as if you have not a care in the world, no burdens to worry you... Intriguing..."
"You speak as if you know me woman, but what do you know of my burdens!? I will tell you this, my fate, my life, everything that I am is my own and mine alone! Pass your judgment or whatever you want to call it, I grow bored already of all of this so called justice, so get on with it already."
An intense gust of wind exploded down the hall, the long curtains hanging from the ceiling billowing wildly and the guards stepped back rapidly. Lucian doubled over as something slammed into his gut with the force of a steel cannon ball and he was on his knees gasping choking back a gagging reflex.
"You would do well to silence your tongue pup, or I shall silence it for you! Do not think your bravado enough to see you through this, I can sense it all even from here, your façade." The voice was stinging in his ears so much Lucian had to struggle to hold back the whine in his throat his fur raised in frustration. Yet even in his state his eyes flared with emotions stronger than even Lady Akisha could believe one could muster in the face of her overwhelming power. "This one is not so open like the thousands before him... I can sense it though. When I struck him, his emotional barriers dropped for a moment and I felt it, such a swirling maelstrom of emotions in his heart. I know what I must do now... it will be tricky and yet somewhat amusing I think..."
"Guards I tire of this insolent runt, take him away to the dungeon and lock him up. We will continue this another time when he has had some time to cool off in solitary confinement..." For a moment the guards looked stunned and they had all rights to be, for it was rare if ever the lady did not pass judgment upon a prisoner upon the first meeting. "Do not make me repeat myself... Stop standing there looking like newborn kittens and follow my commands!"
"As you wish milady!" Their tails sliding low almost between their legs, the cowering confused guards lifted Lucian from the floor and began hauling him from the room. He could barely walk still but his body was slowly recovering from the blow and it still intrigued him what she had used on him that could strike a blow that nearly paralyzed his whole being. "She is no ordinary woman that is for sure... I shall have to be more careful around her..."
Hours later Lucian groaned as he found himself once again bound in enchanted chains but this time locked in a small dungeon cell. The bars themselves were not enchanted but they were definitely made of high grade steel so there was no way even with the chains restraining him Lucian could break them to get out. His thoughts of escape faded though as his mind drifted back to Sapphira and of another leopard kin woman like her, making him lean back against the cold stone wall. "It seems I find myself haunted by you and your sister... Sapphira..."
"Hey are you talking about the princess in there?" Lucian sat up suddenly looking around trying to find the source of the voice echoing slightly in the dungeon he thought was empty besides himself. His eyes locked onto a pair of small leopard like ears poking out from around the edge of where he could see out just past the bars of his cell and a moment later a pair of shimmering blue-green eyes followed. They looked him over curiously and then the small figure of a young leopard kin girl emerged from around the corner into view. She was wearing nothing but a small plain dress in a rosy pink and a pink bow with a ribbon tying her hair back into a long pony tail giving her a playful look. "Oh wow... you are a wolf kin aren't ya mister? You are the first one I have ever seen before in my life mister."
"Hey kid... quit calling me mister, I ain't that old but I will be if you keep referring to me like that..." Lucian grunted in frustration as he shifted uncomfortably on the shabby mattress of his cell and the young leopard girl giggled at him. "What's a kitten like you doing in such a dangerous place like this anyway?"
"Oh I like to wander around the castle, my mommy and I live here and she works as a royal maid in the upper chambers. It's so exciting because I get to see princess Sapphira all the time; she is almost like a true big sissy to me tee hee." The young kitten of a leopard-kin wandered slowly with her arms folded back behind her almost playfully dancing around as she observed Lucian slightly. His eyes followed her, a little wary about the strange idea that a mere young one like her could have gotten into a high risk area such as this.
"Look this isn't the place for a young kitten like you to be wandering around, get out of here..." The annoyed tone in his voice along with the way his ears pulled back slightly, announced like a beacon that he was not amused with his current company. Ignoring the frustrated huffing from the girl, Lucian closed his eyes leaning back against the cool stone walls, his fur ruffling slightly as he tried to get somewhat comfortable.
"I really wanted to know is, are you the one they say killed her older sister?" Lucian's eyes opened slightly at the sudden question, his annoyance giving way to cautious curiosity as he glanced over to the young one. She was no longer dancing around the room and that sweet playful look was replaced with something more solemn, her eyes gazing into Lucian's as if searching them for something.
"Yes I killed her.... Now go away!" Lucian broke eye contact as he spoke those words, nearly spitting them out with frustration, and something more mixed in with the emotions coming from him. It had been so long since he had really thought directly about it, having said those very same words so many times in far past times yet it was all so freshly bitter to him. The bitterness only spread further it seemed the harder he tried to push it back into the dark corner of his mind, it had only grown stronger there in the time since he had last hidden it there.
"I don't believe you..." Those words made Lucian lean back up, surprise flittering into his expression slightly and his wolf ears folded back slightly, annoyed now by this little girls games. Her feline features displayed disbelief at his previous statement, green eyes reflecting steadily into his own as Lucian moved closer to the bars between them. "You don't really believe what you are saying... you just feel guilty somehow like it was your fault."
"What do you know about it!?" Lucian slammed his fists upon the ground and growled as his eyes narrowed, furious rage echoing in them as the memories he had struggled to keep hidden broke through to the surface. In that moment the young feline girls eyes glowed a brighter shade of green, such a hauntingly beautiful aura flowing from them as she gazed not at Lucian but seemingly into his very soul. Lucian stumbled back from the sudden weight and impact upon his mind as something powerful probed it, breaking past his already startled mental defenses until it found what it sought there.
"I know everything about it now...." Gone was the figure of the young leopard-kin girl; instead stood an older looking mature leopard-kin woman, her tail waving slowly as she stroked her extremely long bundled hair in her hands softly. The bright green glow of her eyes reflected easily in the low light of the dungeon as she regarded the prone figure of Lucian lying unconscious in the cell, his mind unable to take the double impact of having his most terrible memory dragged out and laid bare. Her face was narrower than most of her kin, but it still retained those distinctive curved short ears and her lips curled back slightly in a devilish smile revealing her sharp predator like fangs.
"You are the first I have ever had to resort to such trickery to peer into the depths of their soul... my dear Lucian..." Lady Akisha's voice was soft spoken as she glanced over the prone figure of the wolf-kin before her, his breathing steady as he lay there recovering from the mental stress. "But now I see why I had to, such a terrible burden of guilt you have weighing down your heart and you have held onto it for so many years. You are guilty, yet not in a way, so this makes passing judgment upon you very difficult...."
"You fought next to her elder sister; you were tasked with guarding her unit during battle and leading them assistance when needed. Yet the one time her life was truly in the gravest danger, you did worse than nothing... you pulled your forces away leaving her to die overwhelmed by the enemy. Yes you may have been following your orders... but I cannot imagine why you felt you had to follow such strange orders... ones your instincts felt were very wrong." She kneeled down gently, pulling the hem of her crystal light blue dress slightly so it would not scrap along the ground, taking a long deeply thoughtful look upon the wolf before her. A smile crept upon her features, and she softly stood back up taking one more look at Lucian before slowly walking towards the exit from the dungeon.
"I sense soon the full truth of what happened then will be revealed, but for now I know that fate has more in store for you Sir Lucian. Even more so, I feel that you and Princess Sapphira are bound to one another by a destiny set into motion long ago, one even I dare not interfere with... So taking all of that into account I know just the perfect punishment for you and it fits your crimes perfectly..."