Author: Alaura Ireland PM
In the Dark Ages of Gotham, a young heir to the throne suffers a horrendous loss that shakes the foundations of his kingdom. Evil and corrupt forces threaten the prince's home. With the help of a princess from across the sea, can he rise to become the knight and leader his people need?Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Fantasy - Bruce W./Batman & Diana of Themyscira/Wonder Woman - Chapters: 17 - Words: 102,147 - Reviews: 101 - Favs: 26 - Follows: 38 - Updated: 05-24-13 - Published: 08-30-12 - id: 8481999
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Batman created by Bob Kane
All related characters created by DC Comics
Throughout time Gotham was once a prosperous kingdom. Generations of families were built on the foundations of hard work and trust. Over the years this great land became covered with darkness and corruption. Good people became victims of bloodshed and injustice.
There had been a great war going on for a long time. It permeated each corner of the kingdom. A battle of good and evil, order and chaos, justice and injustice that forced the people of this land to cower in fear. In the midst of this dark tempest, a hope - a dynasty - thrived at the center of the realm: the Wayne Family.
Time had passed as the bitterness of winter came to the land. The king had fallen from a fatal illness and the prince, his only son Thomas, became the preserver of the throne when he married Lady Martha, a woman of wealth and compassion. Together they ruled this fair land and returned hope back to the streets of Gotham.
King Thomas and Queen Martha gave the people hope by standing for justice and truth while combating poverty and oppression from outside forces. Each day was a continued battle to ensure the poor were given food and shelter, the lost were given direction and the peace was maintained with their neighbors. As a reward they were blessed with a baby boy. A young prince whom they named Bruce.
The young heir that would change the course of this land.
Fate had a different idea...
Queen Martha looked at the infant in her arms. Joy shone on her face as her green eyes narrowed down to look at her healthy baby boy. The good king stood by her bedside with adoring eyes as he moved closer and touched his son with a warm hand.
"My son." He said in a proud whisper. "My Bruce."
The queen smiled as her husband kissed her on the forehead with a loving caress. They had been in their bedroom chambers since the early night before when the birthing pains had begun and they had clung to the other for strength ever since. Even still Martha felt the birth would have been far more difficult if not the other people in the room.
At the door stood the king and queen's most trusted servant and loyal friend: Sir Alfred Pennyworth. A kind and remarkable man who had seen over 20 years of combat as a Gotham Knight and now close to his 50th name day, he had chosen to live a quiet life of advisement and servitude.
Beside Alfred stood Madam Leslie Tompkins. Another close friend of their growing family who had taken the role of midwife during the birth. Despite having dismissed her handmaidens to allow she and her husband privacy, Martha had insisted Alfred and Leslie remain to see their newborn son before the entire kingdom would.
It was her hope and her belief that they would play an important role in her son's life and they deserved to be here to see him.
"Your Highness, he is so beautiful," Madam Leslie said with an endearing smile.
"Thank you Leslie. And please, you need not be formal with me, not when we are in private. We are friends." Martha insisted.
"Aye. A bond I am fortunate to have shared with you after so many years."
Martha reached and took Leslie's hand and gave it a squeeze. "My son and I live and we are healthy because of you. It is I that is fortunate."
Leslie said nothing but gave her friend a warm smile of appreciation. King Thomas who had been silently observing his son this entire time with adoration looked up and saw Alfred still standing at the door attentively.
"My friend, don't you wish to see our son?"
Alfred who had been standing with the silent and ready stance of a soldier, regarded his king with a modest smile.
"I don't wish to impose sire."
Thomas shook his head. "Nonsense. You will play an important part of our son's life just as you have in his birth. My wife and I would have it no other way."
Thomas looked at Martha for assurance. The Queen nodded with a smile in their servant's direction. Alfred felt humbled by his king's words and the level of sincerity in them. He had come to this country as a stranger over 30 years ago. A doctor from England. Perhaps it wasn't by chance that one of the first patients he received when he arrived was Thomas' father.
Despite his best efforts and the efforts of many other physicians they had been unable to save the previous king. Thomas had been understanding and well grateful of their efforts. It was during that time that Alfred had been the one thing to Thomas that the king had needed most: a friend.
Their friendship, however its longevity, maintained a formal respect especially on Alfred's part as he decided to join the ranks of the Gotham Knights in defense of his new home. Even now, that respect remained and Alfred felt grateful that one of his oldest friends was welcoming him into his family.
"Aye, sire. It would be my honor."
He responded finally as he made his way to the bedside to stand next to the king and behold their future leader. Gazing down into the sleeping child's exposed face, Alfred felt a sense of protectiveness come over him.
The child looked so peaceful, so innocent and carefree. He knew the day would come when the responsibility of an entire kingdom would fall on the boy's shoulders and God willing, Alfred would be there to keep him on his feet and guide him when it did.
Bruce shifted in his mother's embrace and his eyelids opened for a moment.
"He has your eyes my lady." Alfred said towards the queen.
Martha nodded with a proud look as she caressed her son's face.
"And his father's hair." She added before she put a ponderous finger to her chin, "His good looks must come from me as well"
The room erupts in a fit of laughter. Thomas puts a hand to his chest, pretending to be insulted. "You wound me my dear."
As the family and friends basked in their warm company, Alfred and Leslie had then taken their leave afterward to allow Martha the rest she needed. King Thomas lifted Bruce in his arms and moved to the window as the sun was rising. He saw the river off in the distance.
Thomas knew that out there, in what he liked to believe was his peaceful realm, people were suffering and enduring hard times. What the people needed was a hope for a better future. The Wayne Family was a family of immense wealth and his marriage with Martha's family had only increased their worth.
The king used his own riches to provide for the poor and help the unemployed but that didn't seem to be enough. Gazing at his newborn son, Thomas felt compelled not to just give his son a better future, but his kingdom as well. He would raise Bruce with the strength and humility that a true leader would need with the fates of so many depending on him.
"This is your kingdom my son. Our legacy that we must guard well in our hearts." He whispered.
Outside in the stable grounds, the Captain of the King's Guard, Eric was saying goodbye to his only daughter Jillana, a noble maiden that lived in the castle as a handmaiden for the Queen. Eric placed his armored hand on his daughter's shoulder.
"Why can't I go with you father?" She asked, craving for adventure. "I can withstand the elements of the travels that you endure."
"Your place is needed with the queen and the prince." He urged.
"I don't want to protect the prince. Please father let me come with you."
Eric looked into his daughter's eyes with his sincere steel blue eyes. He did not want to leave his only child but his duty was to the king and to his homeland. Each day crime threatened as well as outside forces and he would defend both his daughter and his home with his life. Proclaiming such a thing would not placate his daughter he knew.
He believed in King Thomas' rule. He was an honorable and compassionate man who did his best to ensure his people were well cared for and heard. Eric had hope that the king's newborn son would grow up to be the same but he would need to be protected and looked after.
He did not doubt the capabilities of the men under his command, but he felt better knowing that his daughter remained in the safety of the palace where she may help protect their future leader.
"Protect the prince my Jillana." He said as he kissed his young 17 year old daughter on the forehead. "I ride for the east." He lifted himself onto his horse's saddle and took one last glance as his daughter. She gazed back at him dismally as she would each time he would go out on patrol duty.
"Promise me that you will keep that prince safe." He urged again.
Jillana was trying to hold back her tears. "I promise father."
Eric gave his daughter a pleased nod and rode off to battle with a kick to the sides of his horse.
Jillana stood watching after him.
"Goodbye father." She wiped the tears from her eyes.
She looked at the one of the towers of the castle where she believed the royal chambers resided.
"I promise," she said firmly.
Eight years later...
In the courtyard of the castle grounds, the young eight-year old Prince Bruce was playing with his childhood friend, a nurse maid's daughter named Rachel. Both of them were pretending to be explorers of a new country. Being the Prince of Gotham, Bruce had been given the best tutors and scholars his mother and father could provide.
For a boy his age who preferred only the freedom of running, scaling the castle walls and exploring what laid beyond his home, Bruce often felt trapped and was certain he would've died from boredom a long time ago if he didn't have his friend Rachel to keep him company. Like himself, Rachel often found herself alone when their parents' duties forced them from their sides.
Right now the king and queen were off touring the city with an ambassador from England and Bruce had been more than happy to stay behind with his friend rather than travel with his parents and listen to politics.
"I think I'll claim this land as my own!" Rachel said from her position near a fountain at the center of the yard.
"I don't think you have enough coin to manage that," Bruce said with a laugh as Rachel chased him around the fountain.
Unknown to both youths there was something in the shadows watching them, gleaming with deceitful eyes as they looked at the prince.
A younger nurse maid, Jillana walked into the courtyard and looked at the children playing. She addressed the child. "Young Prince," that was the title that most of the servants addressed the eight year old with. Bruce turned his head and looked at the maid. "Your father wants to speak with you."
Bruce sunk his body behind the fountain with Rachel at his side. The sunlight was fading through the clouds as Bruce waited for his nurse maid to attend back to her duties. Jillana walked up the stone steps ready to head back inside. Bruce stepped away from the fountain and looked at Rachel.
"Quickly before she sees us!" He winked and took off running out of the courtyard. Rachel looked back towards the nurse maid then immediately set off after Bruce.
Once Jillana had the sense Bruce wasn't following her, a cold chill ran down her spine. Some would call it paranoia, others a silly superstition, but Jillana since she was a young girl had developed a sense of foreboding, of an imminent threat to occur.
It was the same feeling she carried when her father rode out that morning, making her swear to protect the new prince. She could feel it now. A sense that evil was lurking around and ready to make it's move.
Her duty was to protect the prince with her life. That was the vow she made on the day he came into the world. "No," she thought, knowing that the ruthless monster had escaped from the underground prison that he was cursed to dwell in forever.
"Bruce," Rachel called out, standing near the rose bushes.
Bruce was crouched down behind a row of bushes. He was silent and looked at Rachel's feet through the branches in front of his hiding place and started to laugh.
Rachel smiled and crawled through the passage of the bushes laughing. She touched Bruce's knee. "I will give you a head start." She counted to ten. Bruce arose and then ran out of the garden, heading beyond the courtyard into an opened area behind the castle.
The guards that patrolled this area weren't on duty it seemed as the area was left open and unguarded.
"You can't catch me!" He dared, heading further.
Rachel smiled. "Yes I can Bruce."
The wind was blowing heavily through the trees meaning that fall was in the air. This was his favorite season. Leaves were dancing in the wind, falling to the ground as Bruce climbed onto a covered well full of vines.
Rachel ran out after him. "Bruce!" She called out.
Jillana ran into the empty courtyard with panic in her blue eyes. "Young prince, Rachel where are you!?"
She heard the sound of laughter coming from the shadows behind a wall. Her heart raced, fearing that the heir to the throne was in danger. Alfred came out looking at her. "Jillana, where is the prince? The king wants to speak with him."
Jillana looked onward into the grassy area away from the castle grounds. "Out there."
Alfred's eyes widened while behind him two guards came into the courtyard ready to resume their post. Alfred and Jilanna look between themselves and the guards frantically.
"Sir and lady?" One of the guards, Andrew asked.
"The Prince has ventured past the courtyard." Alfred informed him with a displeased look.
The guards paled and immediately nodded their heads in deference. "Apologies, we shall fetch him at once."
"I will take care of that. The two of you should just resume your post." Jillana said knowing the sight of the guards would only incite Bruce to further conceal himself to avoid being caught and reprimanded.
"The young prince can't be out there. It's dangerous." Alfred urged.
"I will bring him back. Do not worry my friend."
She ran out from the courtyard in a fast sprint with the guards following not too far behind.
Rachel was creeping up behind Bruce ready to pounce on him. Bruce heard footsteps in the pile of leaves. He smirked and then ducked as Rachel fell to the ground.
He arose onto the well. "Serves you right for trying to jump on a prince."
Rachel laughed and then she spotted something on the ground. An arrowhead shaped rock. She picked it up and wiped the dirt off the stone. Bruce looked down and noticed that his friend was holding something. "Rachel let me see," he demanded. Rachel closed her hand and teased him.
Bruce jumped down from the well. "Rachel."
"Finders keepers and I found it."
Bruce gave her a sly expression. "In my garden." He grabbed the rock and jumped off the well. Bruce took no more than two steps away when he felt a cold shadow come over him. He froze in his steps as his eyes took in the light disappearing from the ground in front of him as though a heavy cloud in the sky blocked the rays of the sun.
A dark figure entered his sight wearing a long hooded cloak. Not only did it appear all light had vanished in this figure's wake, but the noise in the air had turned deathly silent. Behind Bruce, his friend Rachel had also took notice of the looming shape and all traces of fun and amusement vanished from her face at the ominous sight in front of them.
It stood tall, past 6 feet and with its hood drawn up, casting his features in shadow. They could only make out a stubble chin. He wears a medallion in the shape of a crescent moon around his neck. Bruce took a cautious step back as the mysterious man's mouth formed into a sinister grin.
He chuckled looking at the young prince. "Hello there boy." He hissed.
His voice was deep and his tone was predatory like a hunter who had just found his game.
Bruce's face became pale. Despite his age, he knew and could recognize every face he came across around the castle and he knew for certain that this man was a stranger. An armed stranger. Bruce took notice of the very large sword sheathed beneath his cloak.
"Who are you... Why are you here?" Bruce asked with an innocent, frightened tone.
The man took a slow step forward, prompting both Rachel and Bruce to take a step back. He sniffed the air and smirked. "I smell fear on you boy."
"Bruce?" Rachel asked fearfully.
"Stay behind me," He said bravely, despite his own trepidation. Right now both of them were too scared to even run. The shape continued stalking them until they are backed against the well.
"Tell me boy, what do you fear?" He bared his teeth with a hiss.
It was then that Bruce noticed the two dead shapes laying in the shrub behind where the figure had stood in front of. Two of the patrol guards that would stand watch outside the garden laid in a crimson mess with stab wounds.
"Bruce!" Rachel cries after noticing the corpses.
"Go, run Rachel!" Bruce pushed her urgently.
Rachel rushed back to the castle without looking back while Bruce had climbed back onto the well to get passed it. The man laughed at their reaction as he moved to follow them in taunting pursuit. He could smell their fear, he relished it.
"If you touch the prince..." A growling voice from behind spoke as the figure felt a sword touch the back of his neck. He paused in his steps at the warning, "I will show you no mercy."
Hearing that familiar voice, Bruce turned around and was astonished to see Jillana had come to his rescue. Before he could say anything he heard a sound underneath his feet as the boards covering the well snapped and he fell deep into the dark abyss.
"Bruce!" Jillana screamed as she raced to the well and looked at the young eight year old laying at the bottom of it. Dread and panic filled her as she feared the worst until she saw him stir and groan in pain, holding his wrist. "Hold on young prince."
Jillana turned with her sword aimed at the figure who laughed and with a throw of his cloak, he disappeared.
Bruce looked at the sharp-edged rocks surrounding him at the bottom of the well. For a moment he believed he fell into an ancient tomb or labyrinth containing lost secrets that he'd so often heard of in the stories read to him at night. It was then that he heard weird noises. His body shook as they grew louder, sounding from a crevice in the rocks across from him until a swarm of bats engulfed him.
"Help!" He cried frantically, his voice carrying up the hallowed shaft to the ground above him.
Jillana peered into the well quickly. "My young prince, what is it?!"
Bruce waved his arms and screamed as the dark winged creatures screeched and fluttered around him. Jillana began to consider climbing in to carry him out herself until up ahead she saw King Thomas rushing her way with two of his king's-guard along with Alfred following.
"Is he all right?!" He asked worriedly.
"I don't know Your Highness."
The king ran to the well with Alfred trailing behind him. He grabbed an old rope that was by the well and climbed down to his son. His wasn't wearing his armor, merely a formal tunic and leggings to ease his descent.
Jillana saw the two patrol guards, Andrew and Marcus, also approaching with Rachel accompanying them.
"Two from the eastern patrol have been slain." She gestured her head to the area behind the shrub.
The guards nodded and marched towards the bodies. Alfred stood beside Jillana and noted the sword in her scabbard then the dead bodies being attended to. He couldn't understand how this happened so quietly. "Are you all right my lady?"
Jillana didn't reply but after a moment, she nodded stiffly just to placate her friend.
As King Thomas descended into the well he immediately noticed his son curled against the wall, laying on his side. Frightened and from what he could see slightly injured. Hearing the shuffling of boots, Bruce looked up and saw his father's calm and assuring eyes that so suddenly made him feel safe and protected.
Thomas' hand reached out for him. "Bruce. It is all right son." He whispered comfortingly.
Bruce cast one more apprehensive look at the crevice where the bats had swarmed from then disappeared to before he managed to tear his gaze away and take his father's hand.
Jillana stood with Alfred as the king lifted his son out from the dark well in his arms. Bruce was curled against him, his clothing bared small tears where his fall had grazed him.
"Sire," Alfred said. "Is the young prince well?"
King Thomas gave his loyal servant and Jillana an assuring nod as he carried Bruce in his arms. "Everything is fine." He said looking at his shaken up son. Bruce avoids their gazes despite making no efforts to hide his face. "He has a sprained wrist. Nothing serious."
"Very good, sire."
They passed a tearful Rachel standing with Jillana. Bruce touched Rachel's hands and gave her a small smile. Jillana stood still a moment as the others followed the king. She glared back at the shrub where the figure once stood before turning and retreating back with them.
A few minutes later...
The king carried his son into the main hall where his wife was waiting on the steps, dressed in a green robe looking distraught.
"He's fine my love." King Thomas assured.
Queen Martha followed her husband up the stairs as Alfred, Rachel and Jillana entered the hall, watching after the royal family. Alfred turned and looked at Jillana expectantly. She remained silent and walked away.
In his bedroom chambers young Bruce sat up in his bed, mending his sore wrist as his father entered and stood at the bed side. Bruce was prepared for a lecture, a reprimand or even a punishment. He was surprised to see his father offer him a proud smile.
"You were brave today my son."
Young Bruce was silent as he soon understood the reasoning for his father's praise. Despite facing that threatening man, he could not help to think about the bats clawing at his flesh. He looked down at his arms and saw the small marks.
"Do you know why the bats attacked you?" His father asked. "They were afraid of you."
The prince arched an eyebrow. "Those creatures afraid of me? I'm only a child." He said incredulously.
"All creatures feel fear my son."
"Bats are scary father. Why should they fear us?"
The king smiled at his son. "They feel fear when they are threatened. Do not judge something for it's appearance. Now get some rest. You will feel better at dawn."
Bruce grinned as his father leaves the room. "Father do you get scared?" He asked knowing that great kings never fear danger.
King Thomas turned and looked at his son. "Yes. I do get scared."
"You show no fear." Bruce replied.
"I was scared for you today. I was afraid that I might have lost you."
Bruce nodded his understanding, feeling momentarily guilty for not paying heed to Jillana's message. Before his father could turn to leave the room, Bruce said, "Father... there was a man there, outside the gardens."
"I know son." The king said tersely.
"Do you know who he was, and what he wanted?" Bruce noted how father's jaw clenched.
"No. But we are looking for him now. Do not worry my son. You are safe. Now get some rest. Your king commands you." He said with a jesting tone.
Bruce grinned and lowered his head into a soft pillow. Both of his eyes snapped shut as he fell to slumber.
The sunlight shone off the brick walls of the bedroom chamber as young Bruce opened his green hazel eyes to find his nurse maid Jillana standing there with a tray of breakfast.
"Don't be alarmed young prince. I was sent to bring you your breakfast" She offered in a humbled voice.
Bruce shifted and looked at the young woman that he knew from the first day he came into this world. She'd grown to become more than an nursemaid and a protector. He thought of her as the older sister he never had. She was always there to look after him as if it were her personal mission. He didn't know what he might do without her.
The loyal servant Alfred entered the room. "Took quite a fall didn't we young prince?"
Bruce looked at the grey haired man and formed a small smile.
"I will attend to the young prince Jillana. Your are needed back in the kitchen."
Jillana nodded to the request and strode out of the room. She looked at the young eight year boy that she made a vow to protect. Alfred followed her into the hall. She turned around and looked at the old servant. "I am sorry I let you down."
Alfred looked at the young nurse maid in a proud manner. "You protected the prince from that stranger. I thank you for that Jillana. Who knows what could of happened if you did not act."
"I promised my father that I would guard the young prince with my life. I feel that I have broken that vow." She spoke with a gloomy expression.
Alfred placed his hand on her shoulder. "No. You fulfilled it." He paused. "I know that things have been difficult for you..."
Bruce cocked his head and listened in on their conversation.
"Your father was a noble knight to our king and to our homeland. His death will never be forgotten."
Jillana tried to hold her tears. The memory of her father's passing was a harrowing one that left a hole inside of her. Since then, the man in front of her had been her best if not only friend she'd been able to confide in about her last moments with her father. He was the only one who knew of the responsibility she'd sworn and therefore he knew how much the prince's well-being mattered to her. He'd become an uncle to her as much as a friend.
"I fear that whatever was out there today will come again. We must keep the prince confined to his room. For the safety of the kingdom."
Alfred nodded briskly. "I think that choice is for the king to decide. Now go to the kitchen. I will attend to the young prince's needs."
Bruce listened to Jillana's retreating footsteps and felt a sense of dread in his gut. A lot made sense to him now, but with the knowledge he just learned came a nagging sense of concern for his friend. Before he could contemplate the matter further, Alfred entered the room to check on him.
After Alfred wrapped a cloth on the young prince's wrist, Bruce carefully left his room unseen by the servant and went to the stable grounds where he found Jillana kneeling down in a stall with her hands grasping a sword.
Tears were flowing from her eyes as he moved closer, listening to the words she recited.
"Protect the weak and the innocent," she muttered in a slur.
"Jillana," he spoke in a soft tone.
She turned around and looked at the young prince, slightly alarmed. "Your highness what are you doing here? You are supposed to be confined to your bedroom chambers."
"I needed to speak with you."
Jillana sighed, still disquieted. "Very well. Make this conversation quick or your father will have my head."
Bruce looked at the sword. "That's your father's sword isn't?" He asked.
"What happened to him? My father told me that he was lost in battle."
Jillana shook her head and wiped the tears from her eyes. "No. He was killed in battle. Murdered in a merciless attack. All of his brave men were killed. When your father received news from a local villager it was grim."
She paused after feeling a lump form in her throat. Part of her didn't know why she was even telling the young prince this, but she considered it was best to tell him now while she still could. She swallowed softly before continuing. "They were counter-attacked by an army lead by a heartless soul that thirsts for blood. This sword is the only memory I have left of my father."
Bruce looked at her armor hidden underneath her castle garments. It was as he suspected. "You're going way Jillana?"
She looked at the child that she had watched grow since the day of his birth. She had wished to make her departure as quiet and painless for herself as possible. "I can't stay here any longer young prince. I am restless and I need to find another path to take." She explained, hoping that answer would suffice to him.
She felt her stomach sink with guilt towards the gloomy look on the boy's face. She felt horrible knowing she hadn't even considered how he would feel towards her silent departure. Perhaps she felt she would not be so missed as he still had his mother, father, Alfred and his dear friend Rachel to protect and look after him.
His expression told her enough that aside from his misery towards her departure, he was mostly afraid. Of what, to be left alone? No. She recalled his cries from the well and what the king had divulged to her after.
She moved closer and wrapped her arms around him. "I know that you are scared young prince. Those bats were scary. You can not let fear consume your soul. It will take hold and make you become a slave to its power." She pulled away and wiped the tear off his cheek.
"Please don't leave me." Bruce urged.
"I will come back to you." She promised.
Bruce left the stables and moved to the courtyard. He heard the sound of hoofs hitting the stone and turned only to see the woman that raised and taught him, disappear into the bright sunlight.
There was much he wanted to say and ask her in most towards why her father made her vow to protect him but chose to trust her promise that she would one day return.
"Farewell my friend."
As he walked back to the castle archway, he muttered the words that Jillana spoke when she was kneeling in the stable.
"Protect the weak and the innocent." He muttered as the sound of footsteps came from behind. He cautiously turned around and saw no one.
"Hmmmm..." He thought when all of sudden he was pushed to the ground. "How dare you..." He looked up and saw Rachel standing there, her hair long and eyes bright.
"I fooled you young prince?" She laughed, trying to get a rise out of her friend.
Bruce wiped the dust off his leggings. "Do you have no pity on me? I am wounded." He held up his arm.
Rachel shrugged and lunged at him, pinning him to the ground.
"Rachel get off of me." He ordered.
She held him down and playfully gave him a fast kiss on the lips and pulled way still laughing.
Bruce wiped his lips with a grimace. "Disgusting."
"My mother says that you will be attending the Autumn Festival this evening with the king and queen."
"Just another boring night." He rose to his feet and brushed himself off.
"I heard that gypsies will be performing. My mother says that the gypsy folk are bad luck. Thieves and vandals. That's why they are always traveling on the road."
"My father told me not to judge." Bruce said in an earnest tone as he looked at the horses in the stables. A small black foal, with a white marking on it's forehead in a shape of a diamond, was standing near it's mother, a Frisian mare whom the queen rode during summer afternoons. Now the mare was occupied with a shy foal that belonged to Bruce.
Rachel looked at the pure black foal. "He is beautiful. I hope that you will let me ride him."
"What are you going to call him?"
"Shadowcast." He smiled at the name.
Alfred came walking into the stable ground. "Young prince, it is time for your schooling."
Bruce rolled his eyes and walked away from the stables with his servant. "Why do I even have to attend these lessons Alfred. I already know the charters of my duties."
"Young Prince, as an heir to the throne you have the responsibility to understand the concept of what forms a kingdom. The lessons prepare your future. You will one day be wearing the crown."
"Don't remind me Alfred," Bruce said dryly.
It was no secret to Alfred that Bruce wasn't too happy with the idea the weight on an entire realm would fall on him one day. Alfred knew that it was a great burden on the young eight year old prince. In truth he had a feeling that Bruce's fate was about to change.
A red velvet curtain covered the stage as the king and queen took their seats in the front row. Everyone respected them. The King's-Guard however stood at opposite sides of the isles, keeping watch for any threats. The royal family sat in wooden chairs while young Bruce looked at the yellow-tinged moon above. It was a sign of change in the seasons.
The cold wind blew through his hair as a small child wearing a white harlequin mask, a jester hat with dark purple colors walked passed with another performer. Bruce knew that they were gypsies from the clothing and their movements.
Bruce might've been unhappy about his future responsibilities but he didn't take his lessons lightly nor the intelligence often brought to his father by his knights that kept the peace within the city. Some of the people they apprehended and imprisoned were - apart from the usually murderous and vile - thieves and vandals disguised as gypsies.
His father held a kind and compassionate heart and chose to imprison and attempt to rehabilitate them rather than sentence them to death or exile. In some parts it seemed to be working as most of the former prisoners appeared to have found a better purpose in life within or outside the realm.
This festivity was a wide gathering where the entire Elite of Gotham would gather to meet and socialize. Bruce didn't care for any of these gatherings but attended merely because it was expected of him. The people needed to see their future king taking an active interest in their lives and well-being.
There was another performance going on outside the grounds. Dancing near a bonfire and enjoying the harvest from the farms, Bruce saw a few children among the dancers dressed in colorful clothing looking happy.
Bruce wanted to join them but it would make his parents uneasy. Being heir to the throne meant he was also a target of interest. That much proved true after he was confronted by that stranger outside the palace gardens. Times like this were when he hated being heir to the throne. Living a pampered life was a comfortable experience but he didn't feel free.
He slouched into his seat as his mother leaned over. "Mind your posture Bruce. A prince never slouches," she chided him.
Bruce rolled his eyes and straightened himself up. Yes, he didn't feel free in more ways than one. He straightened his vest and the side of his leggings to a more comfortable position.
"What are we seeing?" The king asked.
"A French play," The Queen said, "by a French writer from overseas."
"And how is it? Any good?"
"A masterpiece," she remarked.
"Very well," The King said as he leaned back into his chair, relaxed.
Bruce saw a number of feet beneath the curtain. The actors, he realized. Bruce didn't like plays and even loathed the court-jester that would entertain the castle whenever his parents held feasts and balls for the people to partake in.
A minute later the musicians began to play music and the curtain rose to reveal women dressed as witches from legends wearing black cloaks. Their hair was long with pale makeup smeared on their faces. Bruce knew that they were just performers and there was no such thing as witches.
They all had lovely singing voices. There was a few children dressed in black as well. A small dark haired little girl caught his attention, she looked like a black cat and moved around the witches. All the characters seemed real to him. Then dancers dressed in black began to twirl their bodies and hang upside down, they wore capes and masks that made them look like bats. Large bats that circled above as the music grew louder.
The young Prince stared at the bats.
He had not controlled his inner terror as he could feel it working its way through his mind until the point it was controlling his body. Sweat ran off his forehead and he clutched the arm rest of his seat. The bats danced above the stage, flapping their long capes and moving their clawed hands as a tall figure wearing horns appeared. Bruce felt his heart racing.
"Bruce what is wrong?" The Queen asked, noticing her son's demeanor.
He was gasping for air. He could not answer his mother as all that he saw and felt were bats clawing at his skin and screeching into his ears. Once he realized he had been quiet for too long he exhaled and shook his head slightly.
Finally, he was able to speak through his distress. "May I go?"
The queen looked at her son then looked at her husband who had a questioning look. King Thomas could see the apprehension in his son's eyes and understood what was affecting him. He nodded.
"Yes. You will leave the performance and head to the carriage."
Bruce nodded and arose from the chair as he walked away in front of everyone. Thomas glanced towards one of his king's-guard, Nathaniel and nodded his head at him. The guard bows his head in deference and followed after Bruce, escorting him to the carriage.
Bruce ignored the other nobles and their children who were calling out to him to grab his attention and headed straight for the parked carriage guarded by a few of his father's men.
One of the guards opened the door and Bruce slid inside. The guard escorting Bruce turned and resumed his post at the play. The prince felt embarrassed with his fears and it soon turned to frustration with himself. He was the Prince of Gotham and future heir to the throne, he couldn't be afraid of something so trivial.
What would he do when All-Hallows came? Would he hide in his castle afraid to peek out and see Rachel among other children laughing and enjoying the festivities in costume while he wallowed in fear? "I won't," he thought to himself angrily. He still felt afraid and nervous but he wouldn't let himself be ruled by it.
He released a troubled sigh as looked out the window at the full moon. There was such mystery with that treasure of the world. It was like anyone who gazed upon it was under it's power. The terror that etched at his soul had faded with the comfort of the moon.
The carriage doors opened and he saw the faces of his parents.
"Are you all right Bruce?" His mother asked, stepping inside and sitting next to him. The king sat across.
"He's fine. I think it's time to head back to the castle."
Bruce bowed his head, feeling even more ashamed of himself for ruining his parent's night. As if sensing his son's guilt, Thomas reached forward and took his forearm and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "Its all right son. I didn't care much for the play, its of no concern."
The queen rolled her eyes at her husband. Thomas took notice and grinned at his wife. "A masterpiece you said?"
Martha slapped his knee and Thomas releases a chuckle. Bruce manages a small smile at them. His parents could always make him feel better and it was that, that made him appreciate them all the more.
The carriage moved through the forests on a gravel road surrounded by a score of twenty knights in the Kings-Guard on horseback. Across from them, a stranger stood in the middle of the road wearing his hooded cloak, gazing at the royal guards riding along.
"Tonight I will have what is most precious to you good king." He raised his arms high and shadows stepped from the darkness wearing torn clothes. They are all armed and ready. "Take whatever gold you can steal but the prince is mine." He ordered.
Bruce was just as confused as his mother and father when they felt the carriage had begun to slow to a steady halt.
"Why are we stopping?" Martha asked.
"I don't know." Thomas answered.
Glancing outside the closed curtain, Thomas could see they are at the center of the forest just beyond the nearest sentry outpost of the city. It was pitch dark in the night and with the exception of the torches his guards carried it was difficult to see what was delaying them.
On the road in front of the carriage, Matthew the Captain of the King's-Guard rode up ahead towards the man blocking the escort. The stranger didn't move, he kept an undeterred posture in the face of the soldiers in front of him. The moonlight shone from above, illuminating his garments hauntingly.
Matthew's horse stirred to a stop as he held his torch aloft with a cautious hand on his sword sheathed at his hip.
"Stranger. You are standing in the way of the King's Escort. Stand aside and be on your way." He said in the most polite tone a guard could muster.
The stranger's response was a deep ominous laugh. Matthew's hand tightened around the hilt of his sword instinctively.
"Such is why I stand within your path king's-guard. Your king carries something of great value to me."
Inside the carriage, Thomas called over one his guards, Andrew, to his side. "What is happening?"
"Someone is blocking the path Sire, we'll handle it."
The stranger took a slow step forward while Matthew slowly started to unsheathe his weapon.
"Turn from this road and be your way. I will not ask again." Matthew spoke in a firmer tone to get his point across.
The man laughed even louder this time as his hands formed into tight fists at his sides. He spoke predominantly. "That's not going to happen. The last two knights I felled in pursuit of your prince would attest to that if they could..."
Matthew drew his sword in a flash and pointed at the cloaked man. "Guards, at arms! Protect the king-"
Before the Captain could say another word, he was knocked from his horse by a spear thrown from the darkness. He fell from his steed, his torch clattered to the ground beside him, the torch impaled to his chest. The cloaked figure stood above him and lifted the torch.
"Attack!" He roared into the forests.
"Stay in here both of you! Do not come out no matter what you hear." King Thomas all but ordered his wife and son as he climbed out of the carriage with his sword in hand.
"Thomas, be careful!" Martha pleaded as she pulled Bruce up beside her.
Thomas closed the door to the carriage and saw his men forming a tight circle around the carriage and him while up ahead he could hear the clashing of swords. Andrew rushed up to him.
"Sire, the captain has been slain. We're being ambushe-"
They are taken by surprise as a volley of flaming arrows flew from the forests in their direction. "Sire!" Andrew tackled Thomas to the ground before a flaming arrow could lodge itself into his neck. He acted instinctively and covered them both with his shield and felt the vibrations of multiple arrows striking the surface. The heat from the flames was almost unbearable.
Thomas felt his loyal guard stiffen and could see that he could not withstand the onslaught for too long.
"We are outnumbered. We're not too far from the outpost. Sound the call." Thomas ordered.
"Aye your Highness."
"Now!" Thomas rolled out from beneath the shield and Andrew drew up an ox-horn and brought it to his lips, sounding the call.
Thomas rolled into a fighting position and found himself being charged by a raggedly dressed hostile with an axe. The king stood ready and parried the swing. Showing no quarter, he spun and slashed across the waist, spilling the man's guts upon the road.
He spared a quick glance back at the carriage. "Andrew guard the carriage, let nothing and no one reach my family!"
The guard held his shield in front of him as he stood guard in front of the curtain where his queen and prince hid inside. It took a moment for the soldier to realize that their attackers were all dressed familiarly. They wore tattered brown garments beneath long coats with hats above their heads. A few carried knives in their hands while the more capable ones carried longer swords.
"Gypsies," he realized.
Some of them were former prisoners of Castle Black Gate; released when their sentences were served. Now they were attacking the king for what reason, vengeance? He shrugged the thought as he lifted his shield in time to block another arrow sent in his direction. They needed to hold their ground long enough to kill all the hostiles or await reinforcements.
"They're in the trees! Ferret them out!" Thomas roared above the noise.
The few of his men left alive, drew their bows and take aim at the trees and release volley after volley of arrows, however their targets were well concealed and with the poor lighting it was difficult to find a good vantage point. A few guards managed to fell their targets from behind the trees however their attacker's ground forces pressed their attack.
Thomas picked up a lance and stabbed it into the neck of a thief ready to strike down one of his men. He paid no heed to the lifeless look in man's eyes and withdrew his weapon. He'd seen very little combat during his time as king, but he knew he would need to make the hard decisions of taking a life when there was no other choice. Right now he felt there was none. He could see their numbers were dwindling and he could wait no longer for reinforcements to arrive. He needed to get his family to safety.
"Marcus! Away, drive on past! Get my family to safety!"
His guardsman finished killing a vandal with a slash of his sword across the neck. He looked at his king in confusion despite his exhaustion.
"GO NOW!" He roared as he threw a fist across the face of a thief in front of him. Andrew stepped away from his position and assists his king in battle. Marcus however unwilling to leave his king's side, understood the severity of the situation. The prince needed to be protected for the good of the kingdom.
He makes haste for the horses at the front of the carriage and pulled off the dead rider, pierced by a flaming arrow, then took the reigns himself. He gave no pause as he kicked the sides of the horse, "Hyah!" then the carriage takes off at a fast pace.
Inside the carriage Bruce and Martha, who had been holding onto each other fearfully since they stopped, were confused that they were now moving and Thomas hadn't reentered the carriage with them. Outside they could still hear the sounds of battle.
"What is happening? Why hasn't father come back?" Bruce asked, now more frightened than before.
"I-I don't know my son," Martha said shakily. She considered the possibility that either Thomas had sent them off away from the battle or they were being taken captive in the midst of the battle while her husband was distracted... or worse. "No," she thought timidly.
She couldn't be sure what happened to Thomas but she couldn't gamble with her son's life. She released her son and reached beneath the cushion they were sitting on and pulled out a dagger. Bruce's eyes widened at the sight of his mother carrying a weapon.
"Stay seated my son, we cannot be too careful here."
Despite his unease, Bruce did as his mother told him and watches anxiously as she leans out the window to the carriage to get a look at their rider driving them. The wind whipped against her and she could vaguely see the familiar armor belonging to one of her husband's guards.
"Your Highness step back inside! Please!" He yelled over his shoulder after catching a glance at her.
Martha was mortified by the sight of so many dead bodies they passed by. "Who could've done this?" she wondered. She glanced back towards the guard driving the carriage.
"We cannot leave without the king!" She yelled over towards Marcus.
"I have the king's orders Your Highness! Please step back in..."
Marcus' eyes caught sight of a glowing piece of metal on the road across from him. He was oblivious to the cloaked man wearing it who stood under the pale beams of the moonlight shining down on them. Marcus' gaze began to drift as it became too difficult to focus on the road in front of him.
Inside the carriage, Bruce could sense something was wrong as the carriage began to make shaky turns which caused he and his mother to grab onto the closest object in front of them to keep their balance.
"Mother, what is happening?"
Martha could barely hear her son beneath the loud noises of the carriage steering unsteadily on the road.
"Marcus, what is wrong?!"
When she received no response, she took notice of the guard sitting in a slouch with the reigns dangling loose in his hands. She knew something was seriously wrong. She noticed a dark shape on the path in front of them now brandishing a large metal pole in his hands. Her eyes grew fearful.
"Marcus look out!" She screamed but it was too late as soon as they passed the dark shape, he spun and jammed the pole into the wheel of the carriage causing the entire transport to fly forward, crashing on its side. Martha had jumped back into the carriage and held Bruce to her with all her might before they felt the viscous crash and darkness surrounded them.
Back at the ambush site, King Thomas noticed the carriage crash in the distance up ahead and felt his heart sink into his stomach.
"NO!" He cried out in distress.
The distraction was enough that he is tackled by one of the thieves brandishing a knife. Thomas felt the blade stab into his exposed shoulder and gasped. The social festivity they traveled to meant he wore no armor for the occasion which left him at a disadvantage. The knowledge that his family was in danger wouldn't let him be hindered now. He threw his head back and smashed it against the skull of the thief on top of him then pushed him off.
He shrugged off the stinging pain in his shoulder as he climbed back to his feet and drew one of the horses.
"Andrew!" He yelled over the ongoing battle.
The guard turned and saw his king saddled to depart. Up ahead in the distance he could see the overturned carriage. Alex nodded his understanding and yelled over to their remaining numbers. "Press on! Give them no quarter lads!"
Thomas kicked his horse into a gallop with one hand holding the reigns and the other cradling his wounded shoulder. On the ground Thomas' attacker is pulled to his feet by one of his comrades.
"You almost had him Chill. We can't let em' get away now or else we won't get paid!"
"After you Kyle," he spat as he pushed the man away and took off in a sprint towards the retreating king.
"They're going after the king! We must not let them gain ground!" A guard, Nathaniel, cried over the chaos as the vandals and thieves began to retreat on horseback in pursuit of the royal family.
Bruce awoke to the sight of the pale moonlight shining down on him. He groaned loudly as he felt his head ache in pain where he suspected he was struck during the crash... His eyes widened at the memory as he shifted on his back, trying to regain his bearings. His movements made enough noise to alert someone nearby as he heard a shuffling of steps. He tensed in fear until he heard a familiar voice.
"My son its okay. Don't be afraid."
The sight of his father alive, kneeling above him brought great relief to the eight-year old until he remembered he was not alone in the crash. He turned his head and saw his mother laying on the ground beside him while in the background laid an overturned carriage with the horses injured on the ground in front of it.
Bruce wasn't sure how much time had passed since they had crashed or when they were attacked, but he was certain it was long enough for his father to get here and pull them out of the carriage by himself. Bruce wanted to ask so many questions, "why is this happening, are we safe?" Yet the only questioned that mattered to him right now was.
"Mother... is she..."
Thomas nodded his head. "She's alive. But unconscious. I know you're scared son, but I need you to be brave for us right now. Can you stand?"
"Yes, I can."
Bruce knew it was futile to deny the fact he was terrified of all the sounds of death and chaos, but he drew strength from the fact his father was depending on him right now.
Thomas nodded with approval. "We need to hurry my son. They'll be chasing us. I need you take the horse and fly to the nearest outpost and raise the alarm. I will be following behind with your mother."
Bruce looked at his father fearfully, sensing his implication. "No, I can't leave you!"
They are both startled when they heard Martha gasp awake on the ground. Thomas immediately moved to his wife's side and checked her over. "My love are you okay?" He asked softly.
Martha nodded frantically however her expression soon turned desperate. "Bruce! Where is he?!"
"I'm here mother. I am all right." Bruce said as he rose to his feet.
Martha instantly relaxed with a relieved look, seeing her son relatively unharmed from their ordeal. Martha looked towards Thomas as he helped her to her feet and noticed the bleeding wound on his shoulder. "Thomas you're hurt."
She touched his wound emotionally, Thomas covered her hand with his and shook his head. "Its just a flesh wound my dear, we don't have time to linger on." He turned to Bruce then Martha, "I need you both to ride to the outpost and have them send as many ready forces as they can."
Bruce again stepped forward and objected. "No, I won't leave you father!"
"You will do as I command Bruce Wayne!" Thomas shouted with a fierce look. The look of a king.
Bruce swallowed softly and Thomas felt remorse for his temper. He looked to Martha for assistance and she nodded and pulled her son close to her. "You're father needs us to be safe. We must go," she led him to the horse where she put him up onto the saddle.
In the distance of the ambush site, Thomas could hear the approaching sound of hooves. Once he saw his wife and son were situated he gave the horse a slap on the side. "GO!" He yelled.
The horse took no more than a few feet ahead before it was struck with a flaming arrow, sending Martha and Bruce tumbling to the ground. Thomas released an agonizing cry at the sight and as he felt an arrow lodge into his knee. He pulled it out with a grunt and wasted no time in rushing back to his family.
In front of him came another vandal carrying a dagger ready to stab him. Thomas, unarmed caught the attacker's arm and twisted until the dagger was stabbed into the man's gut. He shoved the corpse away and continued towards his family. His face was covered with dried blood and sweat and his royal garments were a tattered mess of tears, dust and blood.
He could see Martha and Bruce up ahead, stirring into a situp position. Before he go any further, he is confronted by two more hostiles. One carried a spear and the other a trident. Thomas knew he was unarmed and outmatched and before he could resign himself to his fate, he is startled when one of the hostiles is struck in the face with a shield and the other a knife to the throat. He looked beside him and saw Andrew had come to his aid.
"Sire. I fear we may not hold out much longer." He said with panted breaths.
"Thank you my friend. Allow me but a moment," Thomas said tiredly.
Andrew nodded as what remained of the Kings-Guard, 8 knights, formed a small perimeter in front of their king. All of them were prepared to die though many felt they would be left wondering why their call for aid hadn't been responded to. Thomas came to his family's side. In the distance he could hear the ongoing sound of battle charging their way.
"Thomas," Martha said timidly. "What do we do?"
The king said nothing as he looked down at his son who clung to his mother's side, frightened and tearful. He knelt down in front of him and pulled his son into a hug. "Bruce. I need you to hide in the bushes." Thomas urged as he pulled away and looked at his son.
"It's going to be all right."
Thomas looked at Martha in silent question. She nodded her understanding. In the background they could hear the noise of battle come dangerously close to them. Behind them they could hear screams and the clashing of steel.
"Now go quickly," Thomas ushered his son. Bruce slipped into the bushes unseen by the cloaked attackers. He covered his mouth with his hands and saw both of his parents standing near the destroyed carriage.
Thomas surveyed the carnage with a dismal look. All his guards laid dead in front of him and they were all being looted and searched for any coin or treasure they possessed. "Have you no respect!" Thomas admonished their attackers.
They looked towards the king and queen and chuckled cruelly. One of the men, Thomas recognized as the one that stabbed him, approached with the same knife drawn and pointed at the king. His gaze switched from the king and queen, appraising them with greedy eyes.
"How much coin do you carry my king?!" He spoke in a taunting tone. "More than enough to buy a new carriage on the road I would take it?"
Thomas said nothing but faced him with no fear. The thief licked his lips as he spied the jewelry around the queen's neck.
"Let us start with her Highness' pearls. Hand them over."
He took a step towards the queen until he is stopped by a booming voice. "Halt, Joseph! You will have your spoils, but not until I have an audience..." Everyone started as the tall cloaked man materialized into their presence and marched towards the royal family, "with the king and queen."
The king shielded his wife by standing in front of her as the stranger peered at both of them with daring eyes.
"Evening Your Highness?" He hissed, looking at the fear in the queen's eyes. He noticed that the prince was not with them.
"What do you want?" The king asked in a defensive tone.
The cloaked stranger could sense that a child was nearby. "Where is the child?"
Bruce's eyes widened as he recognized the monster in the cloak. His body was trembling with fear and apprehension. For himself and his parents.
The king maintained a blank look as he shook his head in response to the stranger's question.
"He is not here. My son is safe." He said determinedly once he realized the stranger in front of him was likely the same one that threatened his son outside his own home.
The stranger scoffed with an evil sneer directed at the king. "Is that so?" He growled as he lunged at the king and placed him into a choke hold. The king gasped and his eyes grew large in pain however no screams escaped his mouth as he felt his insides grow heavy and dry.
The stranger knew the king would die before giving away his son and he would not disappoint him. "I must say it's been an honor watching you die." He watched with morbid pleasure as King Thomas' flesh turned into stone before his eyes.
"Thomas!" Martha screamed as she watched her husband become a soulless stone statue that fell to the ground with a thud. She knelt down, tears were rolling down her face as the stranger looked at her with a demanding look.
"Where is your son?" He snarled.
Martha closed her eyes as she prepared herself to die. She dared not cast a glance over her shoulder to give Bruce parting words or looks of affection for she knew it would only draw attention to him.
"My son is safe from your cold hands demon!" She retorted with defiant eyes, wet with tears.
The stranger grabbed her throat and pulled off her pearls then threw them to Joesph who caught them with a greedy smile. The thieves fled with their loot and disappeared within the shadows of the trees.
The queen screamed as his hand squeezed tightly and her flesh began to turn into stone. "Demon? Try Warlock," He chuckled mercilessly as he watched her slow death. "Any last words Your Highness?"
Martha gasped before she managed to reply "I love my son. And you will never have him."
The warlock chuckled. "No one can protect the prince. He will belong to me."
Martha felt one last tear escape her eye before the evil magic consumed her body. Her last hope was that her son would one day recover from this traumatic ordeal and live the happy life she always wanted for him. She gave her last breath.
The warlock released his hold and the statue that was once the Queen of Gotham fell onto the front of the other that was once the King of the Gotham. He admired his work for a moment before allowed his gaze to wander the deathly sights surrounding him.
Bruce sat there in the darkness as tears flowed from his eyes silently. Words could not describe how hopeless and destroyed he felt inside. The two people he loved and cherished more than his own life were taken from him in the most cruel way imaginable. This night would haunt him for the rest of his life which he realized might not be long as the monster who killed his parents sniffed the air.
"You can't hide forever boy. I will find you." He warned while moving closer to the bushes.
Bruce had been covering his mouth this entire time to repress his screams and even now he was certain it would be useless if the monster could smell him or hear his heartbeat racing with terror.
"Tell me what do you fear young prince? Do you fear to be all alone?" He mocked, poking his hands through the branches.
Bruce slowly backed away towards a tree. The warlock stood still with an amused look as he caught a stronger whiff of the boy's fear.
"Wait, do you fear the bats?" He laughed. "I think when I find you I will turn you into that which you fear most. A little bat."
Bruce saw the man's dark bearded face from his hiding position. The warlock chuckled evilly as he caught sight of the boy.
"A disgusting little creature. That is what you are. A little bat that will shutter from the outside world." The man reached closer and was about to touch Bruce when an authoritative voice blared from behind.
"Get away from the prince!"
The warlock turned around and saw the armored knight named Sir James Gordon in front of him, his sword pointing towards him. He snickered with a false show of amazement. "If it isn't the honest Captain of the Knights? I wonder if he can live up to his vow and save the little prince."
"Is that a challenge?" Gordon growled as he swung his sword at the taller man who stepped away cautiously, his hand resting on the hilt of his weapon sheathed beneath his cloak. "Get out of sight!" The captain ordered.
He did not care about being out numbered by this stranger's men. His only concern was to get the prince to safety. "Make one move I will cut your throat."
"A threat coming from a noble knight that shows mercy to his enemies?"
"I'm not afraid of your minions," Gordon protested.
The sounds of horses galloping echoed into the area. Reinforcements from Gordon's battalion were heading their way.
The warlock hissed, knowing he would soon be outnumbered. "This is not over. One day the prince will belong to me." He twirled his cape and disappeared into the shadows.
Gordon looked at the prince who was sobbing in a curled position up against a willow tree, embracing his knees to his chest. The captain felt disheartened by sight of it. There were no words he could offer that would change everything the prince had seen and lost tonight he knew. He could only assure the boy of his safety.
"My prince. It's all right." He wrapped his strong arms around the boy and lifted him off the ground.
"Let us get you out of here."
He made his way back to the road where his horse was waiting. The young prince looked down at the bodies of his dead parents. Forever trapped in stone. Tombstones. That's what they were now. No feeling of warmth just coldness. Tears flowed from his eyes as light rain began to pour down.
"It's okay." Gordon's tone prompted the young prince to trust him.
They wait patiently as a score of armored knights on horseback ride down the road and enter their midst. Bruce looked away from them and set his gaze on the moonlight above him. He could not look at his parents' remains nor would he wish for the knights to see the guilt and the grief within his eyes.
"Captain Gordon," One of the knights addressed running over to him. "We have to move the prince to safety. He is no longer safe to travel these roads."
Gordon nodded. "I will bring him back to the castle. Round up the rest of the gypsies. They could not have gotten far." He ordered as he lifted himself on the horse's saddle with Bruce tucked under his chest. The young prince looked daze and uncertain. His eyes traveled over the dead guards that died defending him and his family. He noticed the ox-horn beside Andrew. The horn that should have brought help to them sooner.
"Hold on, young prince." Gordon said as he rode away from the crime scene.
Light snow fell over the tombs. Mourners dispersed and were guided away by the king's-guards. In the distance a church bell tolled. Alfred stood beside the young prince who wore a crown on his thick dark hair and his family crest. A man approached them, a member of the King's Inner Council named William. He nodded to the servant and then crouched down, looking at the passive heir to the throne.
"The kingdom is in excellent hands young prince. We will be minding the duties of this land. When you come of age, the throne will be waiting for you."
The young prince stared blankly at the Head of the Council who soon took his leave along with the rest of the nobles and even foreign allies who had all come to pay their respects. The prince showed no reaction to their looks of sympathy nor words of comfort. Not even from his friend Rachel who had also attended. He felt numb inside. Nothing could remove the abyss that had now formed within him.
Alfred placed his hand on Bruce's shoulder. "Come young prince, let's return to the castle."
Bruce took one last glance at the graves of his parents and lowerd his head.
A few days passed and the young prince never left his bedroom chambers. He refused any guests or visitors that came to see him, even his friend Rachel. Bruce just stood by the window of the tower and looked at the sunrise and the sunset. The days grew darker as winter began to creep its way into the kingdom.
On some occasion he would notice Rachel outside who after being refused his company, would waive to him from down below. For her sake, Bruce weakly returned the gesture. He would make bad or rather nonexistent company in his current state and he didn't want anyone's sympathy.
He didn't deserve it.
Alfred entered the room tenderly. "The cooks have prepared supper. It's waiting downstairs in the Dining Hall for you sire."
There was no response only silent whimpering. Alfred would press him no further, knowing the prince needed time. Time to adjust to his losses and to the sudden changes in his life.
"Very well, I will leave you to your thoughts." He turned to leave the room.
"Alfred?" The prince's strangled voice broke free.
Alfred paused and faced him. "Yes, your Highness?"
The young prince looked at his loyal servant and the walls he'd built in the last few days had fell with his expression. "It was my fault. If I hadn't gotten scared at the festival. They would be alive. Now this kingdom will fall because I am responsible for the king's death."
"Oh no, no-"
Alfred moved to the young prince and Bruce crashed himself into his servant's waist as tears flowed from his eyes.
"It was nothing that you did Sire, it was that stranger and him alone." He pulled Bruce back to look into his eyes. "Do you understand?"
"Yes." Bruce blinked away his tears. It didn't make feel any better. With the weight of the realm to fall on his shoulders in less than a decade, he never felt so lost.
"How am I going to rule my father's kingdom? I needed him to guide me." He buried himself again into Alfred's waist. "There will never be a more greater king than my father."
Alfred narrowed his pale blue eyes down at the prince. "There will be. I am staring at him right now."
Bruce slowly pulled away and moved to the window only to stand there in silence.
A/N : A big thank you to my editor and friend for helping create the start of this epic story. I could of never done this without you.