August 06, 2020, 02:05:53 PM

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Messages - RareCameo

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Well, here we go. Hope you stick with it to the end! :D

Twitter: @CCBerendsen

Word count: 1491

Long Live the Prince

PART 1

So far as atmosphere for murdering a crown prince went, a full moon shining down on placid Lake Loringale and the castle overlooking it was pretty much as good as it got. Max Longfellow checked his teeth in the shiny flat of his dagger, tucked it away, and waited. He wasn't a huge fan of loitering in an armoire, but he couldn't risk someone tracing a poison back to him. Anyway, he’d made a name for himself slicing throats.

A lesser assassin would have felt a pang of guilt upon sighting the trusted advisor who hired him chatting easily with the prince while they sipped wine and relaxed in the tall armchairs before the fire, but not Max Longfellow. He was of the sturdy stock from frozen Dorill and had been trained by the renowned Wanderer Jason Priest. He had earned respect in Onjun in the Hotsands. He had killed marchriders from the Feahram. Three of them. A little Amarian prince would be nothing.

He supposed it would be a bit of a loss for the country, from what he understood of the politics. Prince Adelbrand wasn't technically the crown prince—that wouldn’t be decided for a few more years—but the general consensus was that he would make the best king out of the six princes. He had made a name for himself negotiating a peace with the Feahram, and he had the sort of profile that would look really good on a coin.

Never mind. In, out, done. No need to think too hard about it.

The room was spacious but sparsely furnished. A few open windows looked out on the lake and let in a light summer breeze. Aside from the armchairs before the fire, there was the armoire Max was waiting in, another beside it, and a table with a vase of flowers. The prince's bed, stacked with rich coverings and pillows, stood as far from the door to the receiving room as possible. This was the last room in his apartment, his most private sanctuary.

Max couldn't imagine a better place to kill.

PART 2

Tim Hadley of Port Washington, New York had no use for books. His teachers were always harping on about literature (especially The Great Gatsby. Port Washingtonians get disgusting about their town being the inspiration for East Egg) and the importance of it "in our daily lives." It was almost enough to make him puke.

But summer vacation was coming up, and that meant endless hours of gaming between trips to the kitchen for snacks. All his friends were playing Sixth Prince, which was the latest installment of the Age of Arms series from COMPL8TION STUDIOS.

That's how it was written. All-caps. "8" in the middle. He had no idea why (or how it was supposed to be pronounced, for that matter), but Tim chalked it up to its being a foreign firm.

It didn't matter. Warm June sunshine and sandy beaches couldn't compete with the world created by the studio. The lands were vast, the wars unending, the races always at odds with each other, and new details about the titular sixth prince, Aiven, were being released daily. It was starting to look bleak for the would-be king, especially with his older brother, Adelbrand, getting closer to the throne.

Tim didn't care much about the politics. Sure, the NPCs sometimes talked about what was happening way up north in the capital of Amaria, but usually only until he pulled out his sword and demanded all their coin.

He played as Victor Danaeth, a member of the mysterious Vindaran race who went about wreaking havoc along the border between Amaria and Jovan. Tim didn't know much about the people, but he liked the way their white hair looked against the umber colored skin and the fact that they were the best archers. He was getting good enough that he was pretty sure he could take on the outlaw Max Longfellow. Finding him was the hard part.

Tim's mother would sometimes suggest that he go outside, and then he would suggest that she leave him alone with a "God, Mom, stop telling me what to do! I'm sixteen!" and she would scurry away to tearfully confront her husband about the wayward path their little angel was taking. She was convinced his anger stemmed from the video games, and certainly not the fact that he struggled in school, or that his high school was a cesspit of drugs and money, or that his parents' marriage had been on shaky ground for a few years now, and neither of them had really tried to hide it from him.

PART 3

Max waited for the prince to fall asleep before creeping out of the armoire to his side. In, out, done. No problem. He raised the dagger.

The prince's arm shot out and grabbed his wrist with a stronger grip than expected. "Did you think it was going to be that easy?" he murmured, his eyes still closed.

Max didn't say anything.

The prince's eyes flew open. "Max Longfellow."

"At your service."

"Somehow I doubt that."

"Understandable."

They stared at each other for a moment, and then the prince leapt out at him. Tumbling to the wooden floor under the weight of the prince, Max considered briefly if he hadn't made a misstep in his career.

"Aren't you going to call your guards?" he hissed and pushed him off.

"I'd rather take care of this myself."

But Max knew the prince was wondering who he could trust. If an assassin could get this far into the private rooms in the castle, the ranks of loyal servants must have thinned.

Adelbrand grabbed a wine goblet and swung at Max's head. Max ducked, swiping out with the dagger and missing the prince by a hair.

PART 4

It was almost four in the morning and everything was quiet and dark in the Hadley house, except for Tim's room. An undulating blue glow seeped through the crack beneath his door. Victor Danaeth was energetically cutting through a gang of Vindarans unhappy with his pillaging. Tim Hadley was staring at his monitor with ferocious intensity, brows drawn together to straining, tapping at his keyboard—faster, faster, never fast enough.

PART 5

Adelbrand brought the vase of flowers down on Max's head, soaking him with cold water and decorating him with red tulips.

"You're awfully persistent," Max said. "It's an admirable quality."

"One does what one must." And he jumped on the assassin again, driving his fist against his jaw.

Max gripped his dagger tightly and went to thrust it into the prince's neck. With desperate force, the prince slammed his hand against the floor and pried the dagger away, digging his fingernails into Max's skin. His own blade turned on him, Max grabbed the prince's wrist, wrestling to turn the tip of the dagger away. It came closer and closer, he could feel the tip scratching the stubble on his neck. He could see the prince's flinty eyes, his face hollowed out by the shadows.

PART 6

A bright, white glow engulfed Tim's monitor. He leaned forward, touched it, and found his hand going through. The air on the other side was cool. Faintly, he heard someone ask, "Ready to die?"

Tim frowned. "What the—?"

PART 7

It isn't over, Max said to himself. It never was before. His arms straining, he pushed to force the prince away. The tip of the blade pressed against his throat, broke his skin. A droplet of blood rolled down right under his jaw into his hair.

"Ready to die?" the prince hissed.

His blood surged. A new wave of strength flooded him.  "You will not kill me," Max declared. "I will not die."

A white flash burst above the prince. A body fell through the air, hit the prince hard, and Max's eyes rolled back as the dagger sank through his skin into his neck. Blood bubbled in his throat, dribbled out on to the wooden floor. He drew a gurgling breath as the prince stood up, and then he died.

PART 8

At COMPL8TION STUDIOS, Danny Cheng and Ezra Mollins worked in a very particular room that could only be accessed through a retina scan, a fingerprint scan, and voice recognition.

"Another one bites the dust," Danny said, as if it was funny. He rolled across the room and flicked a few switches. On the huge central monitor, Prince Adelbrand and Tim Hadley stood over Max Longfellow's body.

"I feel like we could have settled that some other way," Ezra mused.

Danny shrugged. "You know Max would have gotten him otherwise."

"I know, but…what about the kid's parents?"

"Man, why do you always have to ask me that? I don't know. He's missing now." He shrugged again and looked at the enormous monitor, where Tim was on his knees now, his jaw slack. "Whatever happens, Adelbrand has to live."

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