A short Xmass interlude at the Gilded Palace. Don't worry, it won't be long now before Harold is off to see the Wizard, the wonderful wizard of...er...Hogwarts. *Chuckles*
"No, no, no! The golden garland goes over there! No, the thing that looks like a fluffy rope!" Sigvald yelled, he looked almost ruffled in his frustrations of getting this New World crissymassy thing in order.
Vigdis covered a small smile with her dainty hand and held back a chuckle. It was moments like this that reminded her why she still loved him, despite all his flaws. There was something almost child-like about his passion, even if his passions usually ran towards things that no child should ever see or hear about. Nor any adult, for that matter.
It didn't escape her notice that he seemed to lavish attention on their new child to a degree that most children would find suffocating. But Harold seemed to revel in every moment of attention. It was as if he'd never experienced anyone caring for him before. And he also, very clearly, had no expectations of any freedom to be on his own or play with friends.
It made her heart ache for him. And that made her go along with whatever madness her capricious husband was planning for the child. If only to see his young face light up with that brilliant smile of his. The one that made his eyes shine with joy, like the most brilliant gems.
She looked around the banquet hall and sighed, before hoisting up her skirt and walking over to fix the drapes so that they hung right. Then she quickly walked over to move a glass that were almost a while half-inch off from it's correct position. Really! You couldn't trust servants to do anything right!
Harold slowly emerged from underneath his soft big pelts and stretched catlike. His very first teddy bear was still nestled tightly in his small arms.
The nightmares he had used to have had slowly vanished as the years passed, and had now been replaced by wonderful dreams of all the wonderful things he had said and done...and what he wanted to do.
Like recreate that world where everything was made of candy that he just dreamed of! And fly his new dragon! The one his father had finally managed to locate and capture nearly a year ago!
A small smile graced his lips as he recalled all the amazing things that had happened to him ever since his Father rescued him from those horrible slavers. Every single day he thanked Slaanesh that his father had found him, and prayed that he would never, ever have to go back to such a horrible place.
He happily kissed his teddy before he carefully placed him on his nightstand. Then he suddenly let out a small gasp and quickly rose up to ring the bell string next to his bed for his servant.
Today was a special-day!
Father had told him that he would have a super special surprise for him today! And he knew it wasn't letting him join a real battle, something he'd been asking him about since he was 7. He was too old enough! ...but his father had promised it would be almost as special!
Harold just couldn't get up fast enough to see what the surprise was!
Harold almost vibrated with excitement as the manservant rushed in, hurried by the quick, repeated chiming. It had been an indication that his young Master wished him to hurry. Or at least that he was terribly impatient.
"Djakre! Hurry up! Father has a surprise for me!" he commanded the second the door cracked open. Before he threw the heavy furs and soft linens on the bed aside, so as to allow his Valet to put the leather slipper-socks onto his feet, so he could step into his morning robe.
As the female bathing servants washed his body with exotic sponge-like tings he didn't really know what was, he marveled at how his bath water always was ready. And how it was always hot, no matter when he woke up.
It was uncanny how every single one of his servants seemed to know and predict his desires almost before he even realized what he wanted himself. Then he blushed slightly as the girl's washcloth strayed a bit too far south for him to be entirely comfortable with it. But it did feel nice tho... In a weird way.
His father had said it was perfectly normal. He was a prince after all, and should expect and everyone to serve his needs and desires, joyfully. And Harold wanted more than anything to be normal! To do the right things! And to have his father love him.
So he persevered. And, as the years passed by, he got used to it. He even began to enjoy it. It felt good, being taken care of so gently. Even if it was by naked women whose hands ever so often touched his embarrassing no-no parts.
What he was sure he'd never get used to, was the old man that was handing him freshly washed linen pieces when he sat perched precariously high up on the loo.*
He had blatantly refused to let him wipe his butt. There was limits!
Harold had curiously looked down into the hole in the loo once. Wondering where it all went, since there was no water and no way to flush.
But all he could see down there was the eternal snow, deep underneath the Palace. But it was so terribly far down that it was almost invisible to the naked eye. He could vaguely make out the jagged cliffs far, far beneath it tho...
He had been so terrified of falling into it after that, that his father had decided to order someone make him a child sized seat to sit on. Which had made it a little bit less scary. But it was not nearly enough!
He cast aside the disturbing thoughts and focused on the day ahead. Just like his father always suggested he did.
And that's when he remembered that he had no classes today!
No more boring etiquette with the old, undead...slightly smelly etiquette teacher, or difficult magic formulas from Heika to learn. No more grueling hard workout session with his fencing teacher, or embarrassing defeats by his close-combat teacher. No more wracking his brain to learn strategies or the art of manipulation. No school at all! Not today!
That thought made him grin from ear to ear.
As Harold stepped through the doors to his quarters, -he barely even noticed the manservant that opened them for him nowadays- he had to rub his eyes in disbelief. ..and maybe the early onset of an epileptic attack from all the blinking lights.
"Wha...?" the young prince stated eloquently, his mouth falling open with shock and surprise. He wasn't sure where to look first.
The gold! The glitter! The multicolored light-bulbs that had to be fueled by magic, because he knew for a fact that this place had no such thing as electricity.
"How the...? Is that a reindeer?!" he squealed, his voice rose a few notches. Several reindeer! Wait! Did this place even have reindeer?!
"I know. You wouldn't believe how hard it was to capture and train them all. Not to mention the transportation..." a somber voice by his side said.
As Harold turned, he noticed a tall woman. With her dark brown hair and slightly tanned skin, she looked almost human. If it hadn't been for the pointy ears and the slight violet tint of her blue eyes.
Of course, he had seen her eat, and her tongue... such a long, twisted thing had never rested seen in a human being before, he was sure of that! Not even in the mouth of a Dark Elf, which he knew she was. At least half-way was. Nobody knew who her father was.
Instead of nails, she had claws, sharp and deadly as her tongue. And the speed and skill she wielded her half-moon-shaped dark short-blades was nothing short of inhuman. He had heard she would use her tongue in a whip-like fashion in battle, but he had never seen it himself. He briefly wondered how that would work.
Still... she was an amazing fighter, and Harold really, really admired her for it. As well as the way she could reduce a man to tears with her sharp comments and acidic remarks.
Of course, right now her hands were covered in elegant, black gloves, that ended in a triangular shape halfway up her arms. It matched perfectly the puffed out purple and gold sleeves of what appeared to be a very indecent jester outfit. While her front was more or less covered, a diamond-shaped hole exposed most of her back. And that was not even going into the design of her tights.
"Darla!" Harry said and spun around to hug her. She reached a gloved hand out to indulgently pat his head, the way someone whom normally abhors children would.
"Harold..." the tall dark elf sighed. "I am your bodyguard. Not your nanny! And my name is Dar'Slaa" she said exasperated. Which lasted for a full five seconds before she cracked a small smile.
The Dark Elf didn't much care for children, but the young prince was an exception to that rule. He was also surprisingly mature for his age, compared to the other children she had guarded.
Harold could be very mature when he wanted too, more and more as time passed and his training increased. But at other times he was the most adorable child on the planet. Really... He took after his father in every way.
He even looked like him, aside from those hauntingly green eyes. And right now, those rare gems were looking up at her with the most adorably sweet puppy-dog expression.
"But Darla... Don't you like crismas?" he said with faux hurt, his voice quivering ever so slightly. Damned those 'people skills' lessons of his! Manipulative little brat!
"I don't know this "crissymass". My people only celebrate Death Night, not this foolish human nonsense," she said, using a gloved hand to hold up a particularly gaudy bauble of what appeared to be father crismas...if a multicolored unicorn had eaten him up and shat him out...repeatedly. Harold vaguely wondered where the heck his father had gotten that piece...
"But...but...presents!" Harold said. "The candy! The cakes! The pudding! The he 3 layered chocolate yule logs!" Harold looked around him, as if he suddenly realized something.
"Quick! We must get to the Hall before the Decadent Host eats it all!" he said, his voice rising in a desperate pitch. It was absolutely adorable. But Darla barely allowed the thought to grace her mind, before she rushed after him. She would not forget that her duties were to protect the young prince at any cost! She would trust no one!
Sigvald had once saved her from a pack of Witchunters. She could never forget that. And she could never hope to repay his generosity. A life debt was a very serious thing to her people. Her life was his unto death!
And really... His son picked up combat skills with a determination and drive she had only ever seen in Dark Elf children before him. He would become every bit as great as his father someday, and she would be right by his side as it happened. Her loyalty would be rewarded tenfold. She was sure of it!
The first thing that caught Harold's eyes when he stepped into the banquet hall was the gigantic evergreen tree. It had to be at least a hundred feet tall! And it glittered and shone with the lights of a hundred little lanterns. Eached glowed with an eerie purple flame. No doubt Heika's doing.
The traditional decoration looked like it had come off an old fashioned crismas card, except instead of glitter, the baubles were decorated with gold and jewels. Black, red, pink and white diamonds shone in the light. Handcrafted chocolate resembling animals and fairies of pure gold hung from the branches. And was those heavily hung apples made of solid gold?
Harold stared in awe. He could see jewelry hung on the branches, and what looked like some -very- expensive cognac hung from the lower branches, undoubtedly supported by magic to even carry this much weight.
"Louis XIX Champagne Cognac" he read on the label.
As he got closer he realized that what he had taken for snowy icicles hanging down all around the tree was in fact thousands upon thousands of tiny little diamonds, shimmering like little snowflakes. All strung together in a precise way to make it resemble snow. The effect was breathtaking!
At the top of the majestic tree perched a star unlike anything he had ever seen!
Framed in gold and fitted with diamonds all around, as well as displaying one surprisingly large diamond in the very center of it. The star even had something that looked very much like the eight-pointed symbol of chaos united behind it all in white gold or platinum! It was beyond words.
And much like the Gilded Palace, it resembled a real star. Suspended on such a thin, long edge that it seemed to be impossibly suspended in the sky. Floating just above the top of the tree itself.
Everywhere he looked; Emeralds! Sapphires! Pearls! All manners of precious stones decorated the opulent tree to the point it was a miracle it didn't topple over from the sheer weight of it all. Even with magic! Even the tree stand looked covered in diamonds.*
But it was what he saw behind and around the tree -surrounding it in an impressive tall stack considering the large circumference of prodigious tree- that truly got his attention.
Some were taller than himself. Wrapped in great, silk covered boxes. While others were small envelopes, or stranger shapes that it must have been incredibly difficult to wrap up in anything resembling paper. And, even more exiting, they all bore his name!
"Is this... Is it...?" Harold felt a big hand on his shoulder, and looked up into the sapphire blue eyes of his father. At the moment they were shining with mischievousness an almost childish joy.
"They're all yours son."he smiled down at the adorable, amazed face. "To make up for all the missed birthdays and crissy masses." he said, chuckling at bit at his own pun. He decided to take Harold's misunderstanding that he was his real father and run with it. He found himself really liking the idea of having a son. Someone to shape and spoil rotten. To give everything he wanted as a child, yet never got. Someone to mold in his image!
It was really quite a power-trip. An immensely pleasurable one. And that was even without mentioning the child's constant gratitude.
"Oh, thank you-thank you-thank you!" Harold grinned and flung himself at his dad. Sigvald smiled and returned the hug, quite pleased with himself. He, himself, really was amazing. Always making all the right choices as he did.
It had taken several trips to the New New World, and more than a few raids to overthrow minor dwarf kingdoms and raid an elven one, but it was well worth it.
He felt the child's innocent pure joy almost as if it had been his own. He decided to not linger on just why that was so important to him.
"Now come join your mother and I for breakfast. The Court will be busy decorating for the next few days, and I have quite the day planned out for you." Sigvald said smiling, draping his hand around his son's shoulders to lead him to the table.
"Can I play with my dragon today?! You promised me he would be tamed soon!" Harold begged between two spoonfuls of chocolate cream.
"We...will check by it and see." Sigvald said, hesitating only a bit. As it turns out, not only were Dragons resistant to magic, but they were bloody difficult to tame as well. But the trainer had made great progress. He was now very, very close to breaking the beast, and it should be a good toy for his son before the week was out. Sigvald was quite sure of it.
"But first things first." Sigvald said, attempting to distract his son's attention away from the dragon.
"What would you feel about watching your very first battle?" he said, excitement creeping into his voice.
"Just to watch it, mind you! You're not quite old enough to join in." Sigvald quickly added. He felt uncharacteristically protective of the boy. Harold was such a pleasure to have around, and he really didn't want to loose that.
"Rally?! Can I?! Really?!" Harold was at this point nearly bouncing in his seat, his pudding* all but forgotten.
He knew his skills with the sword, or even in close combat, which he had just started to learn from Darla, wasn't good enough to join a fight yet. But it always sounded like so much fun from how the court talked about it!
Oh the stories they'd tell! How brave, how noble, and, oh, how heroic his father was! The court would go on and on about it with a glazed look in their eyes...especially the women. And Harold could hardly wait to see it for himself!
"Finish your food Harold. I expect your father will keep you very busy until the feast tonight. And knowing him, he'll forget to feed you." Vigdis admonished him, ignoring Sigvald's frown as she spoke.
Her husband might not want the child to be limited in any way, but she knew how important it was for a child to have someone who reminded him to take care of himself. She couldn't help but smile gently as she turned back to her own soup. They were both such children sometimes.
Harold blushed and hurried to finish up his plate, then grabbed a few sticks of bread to push into his pockets. He didn't really feel like food after all the sweets he had just eaten, but he still remembered how horrible it was to go hungry, and he had sworn to himself to never let that happen again.
"Okay! I packed lunch. Now can we go?!" he asked impatiently. His father merely laughed indulgently and stood up, wiping his mouth with the napkin, before dropping it to his plate for the servants to clean.
"Of course, Harold. I'm sure that will hold you until tea time." Sigvald glanced at his wife, whom was just about to open her mouth -no doubt in protest- and he let out a long-suffering sigh.
"I'm sure your mother will feed you when we get back. Even she can't complain about that." Sigvald said, glaring at his wife. This time it was Vigdis was the one that sighed.
"Of course, dear. But do keep him out of the range of anything dangerous!" she said, a note of worry creeping into her regal voice.
She gave Sigvald a stern look that promised pain and suffering should he fail to protect their precious little gem. It was enough to make even the great king Sigvald wince. He had been on the wrong side of her anger before, and she was almost as bad as him...maybe even a bit worse. And unlike him, she never forgot.
"Yes, yes. Don't worry. Dar'Slaa will be right with him, to make sure nothing bad happens." Sigvald said and began to shove Harold out of the room. The child barely had time to kiss his mother's cheek before he was ushered away.
"And for the love of chaos, don't forget his furs!" she shouted at the rapidly closing door.
Vigdis sighed in defeat, casting one last glance at the door. They'd forget it. She just knew it!
Harold shivered slightly in the wind. It was terribly cold this far north, and the young prince mournfully wished he had brought his black wool cloak. The one with the warm, silver-grey wolf fur around the shoulders, and a beautiful golden clasp in the image of a serpent on it.
He quickly turns at the sound of a branch breaking, and spots a child that is roughly his own age over by the forest. Harold considering telling Darla, so she could warn his father, but it didn't look like the child noticed the small army that was hiding in preparation of an ambush.
Which was a good thing. His father would have hate to learn that a kid spoiled his surprise.
He glared over at the child, as he gathered up small pieces of wood in the forest, with a rising jealousy.
The boy looks to be around his age, and the thick, warm bear pelt he wore like a cloak would look even better on him, he was sure of it! And anyway, he was a Prince, right? His father kept telling him so. And he kept telling him he could have anything he wanted!
Harold's teeths were beginning to clatter in the cold, and Darla was still focused on keeping lookout for the enemy, nearly ten feet away.
He glanced over at his nanny...fine, his bodyguard. Surely she wouldn't mind him vanishing for just a few seconds. It wouldn't take long to get the kid agree to hand it over to him. And it wasn't like she'd even notice he was gone... Right?
"There you are, son! Did you see how we scattered the enemy and laied waste to their so-called army? Wasn't it glorious?! Wasn't it exiting?!" Sigvald greeted his son cheerfully, wiping the blood of his beloved Sliverslash. His servants, in the meanwhile, swarmed around him and fussed over the few bloody stains on his clothes and face. They did not want to risk Sigvald noticing so much as a single stain on his pretty face, shuddering as they thought of the last time that had happened.
"It was!" Harold grinned widely, almost bouncing to hug his father. He had been so scared he would get hurt, but his father was amazing! Nobody could touch him, he moved like a lightning-strike! Then he suddenly reeled back.
"Wait! My new pelt will get dirty!" Harold said, the horror in his voice clear.
And he had not gone through a whole lecture just to get it dirty! And anyway, it wasn't his fault the other kid refused to give him the cloak and fought back! It was totally self-defense! Yes. Even the rock! Yes... Even the fact that he kept beating long after the kid stopped moving. It was totally the other kids fault! At least that's what Harold told himself.
There was a small, gnawing sensation in his stomach as he watched the blood of the other kid seep onto the white snow, but all he could think about now was how beautiful it had looked. And not creepy or bad in anyway. Definitely not. Nope. And totally justified! He nodded to himself to emphasize the agreement in his thoughts.
Death was a natural thing that happened to the weak. That's what his teachers always said. It was just how nature worked.
And it only happened because the other kid refused to give Harold what was rightfully his! That boy was totally undeserving of having such a nice fur coat. Kept whining about his mother making it for him and making it sound like she'd spent all her savings on it or something... he hadn't really been listening, and he didn't really care.
He still remembered how his blood pulsed with passion and desire and the need to have that fur-coat!
It had been exhilarating. And the pleasure he felt from obtaining it was indescribable!
The child's death seemed nothing in comparison to how wonderful -and not to mention warm- he felt when he wrapped it around his own shoulders. Like the touch of Slaanesh himself... It was absolutely amazing!
At least it was until Darla admonished him for going off without telling her. That had been far less fun.
And he still felt kinda bad about the other kid. But just a little! He was far more worried about anyone finding out about it. No matter what his teachers said, he was still worried how his parents might react to it. What his father would say.
He didn't think he could handle it if his father got angry with him, or worse; disappointed.
He quickly pulled himself together and grinned up at his beloved father again, pushing all the bad thoughts away for another day. It wasn't important like his daddy was!
"I loved the way you cut down those beast-like things. That was awesome!" Harold said, admiration shining in his eyes.
"That's just their helmets. Well. Mostly." Sigvald corrected him. "Come on, let's get out of the cold and have some food and mead brought out. I could eat a whole village right now!" Sigvald chimed cheerfully, carelessly tossing aside the rag he had been cleaning his hands with.
"Can I have mead too?!" Harold said excitedly.
"Of course son! Remember what I said? You can have anything you want. Always!" he smiled and patted his son's head.
Harold basked in his father's love, everything else forgotten for the pleasure of the moment.
"Nice cloak, by the way. Where did you get it? I know it wasn't from me." Sigvald said conversationally, placing his now clean hand on his son's back to lead him towards the tent.
In the end, Harold had ended up telling an epic tale of how he killed a bear with his bare hands...and a rock. He silently thanked Slaanesh for reading all those fairy-tales and history books now.
A highly amused Sigvald listened to what he said, recognizing the same traits in his son's lies as he himself used to have back when he was new to it as well. He made a mental note to ask Dar'slaa to get the full story of it later tonight, but there was far more important things to do right now.
"Impressive how the pelt came off the bear in an already prepared and ready-for use state." Sigvald said, disguising a small chuckle as a cough.
"It...um...was a magic bear!" Harold said, then nodded seriously to himself, trying to keep a straight face. Inwardly he was cursing and made a decision there and then to make his teacher's teach him how to convincingly lie. He just hoped his father wouldn't notice!
"Ah, of course. Magic bears are of course an all too common problem. One never knows where they show up." Sigvald said, playing along.
Dar'slaa watched the exchange from the sidelines, and she felt both amused at the kid's clumsy attempts to lie, but also very proud that her charge and Prince had already killed his very first human at the tender age of only 9 winters. Most humans never kill anyone until they're at least 12 or 13 summers old. And even then it is usually an animal, not a human.
Although the humans in the north did seem to be far better warriors, and fighting in some kind of war or raid at age 13 was not uncommon. In the south they usually were at least 16 before they even considered it. And even then, many adults had never even seen battle. It was pathetic!
She was glad to see that Prince Harold would follow in the noble footsteps of his father in that aspect. He would be a strong Prince. Someone the people could rely on.
Perhaps she should up his training and give him his very own Karambit blade. Just one to start with, but the kid could easily get into trouble without a proper weapon and the knowledge of how to wield it.
"Better go get cleaned up for the feast tonight." Sigvald said, stroking Harold's long hair, marveling at the speed it had grown to the same, slightly past the shoulder's, length as he had his hair, and yet it somehow never grew past that.
"Okay, father." Harold said, before shouting for his manservant. Djakre was rarely very far away, but impressively good at melding into the tapestry when not needed. And admirable quality for a servant.
Washed and dressed in his best clothes, Harold joined his mother and father, before the family made their grand entrance through the gilded doors that Harold was sure were made just for this purpose.
A strange and haunting song that sounded eerily familiar to Harold was the very first thing to greet him as they got closer.
It slowly occurred to him that the Decadent Host were playing Deck the Halls... if Deck the Halls were being played on what he could only assume was some horribly tormented creatures, whom wailed and moaned in tune with the song. He knew what the piano was made of - he didn't even want to think about what the trumpets could be made of...
The tables were decked out in several layers of the finest linens available. All in red and green of course, to match the spirit of the holiday. But the candles were shining in a beautiful purple colors, reminding them all of their beloved god, Slaanesh.
Small pine trees of pure gold served as decorations around the various tables, seated in freshly made wreaths with pine-cones and magically preserved snow. At the top there was a gorgeous platinum star that was itself decorated with 4.5 karats of diamonds.
To add to the golden opulence, there was several small santa statues of pure gold as well. Although Harold thought it looked more like one of the dwarfs in a cartoon he had snuck a peak at that one time. Of course, it was standing on a roof with one foot down the chimney, jovial waving at you with the hand that didn't hold a huge bag of presents. That was a dead giveaway that it was Santa.
On the top table, the one reserved for the family, the table decoration was a decadent, preserved rose bush, shaped like a crismas tree. When Harold sat down and got a closer look, he could see that it was covered in hundreds of beautiful diamonds, glittering in the light.
"Is this for real..." Harold said, looking around himself with awe.
"Only the best for my son!" Sigvald stated, before clapping his hands to signal for the servants to bring out the food.
There was, of course, the traditional turkey, with all the traditional side-dishes. At least Harold assumed it was turkey. A big, gigantic mutant of a turkey. But a turkey non the less. It certainly tasted like one. And it was the most jucy, delicious turkey he had ever tasted! ...not that he's tasted many.
But the piece the la resistance was when the chef himself entered the hall, bringing with him a score-full of servants that set a glorious, almost pink-ish roast on the table. It seemed to nearly glow for all the layers of glace on it, and the scent was beyond divine.
Sigvald stood up and smiled like a benevolent King to his beloved people, spreading his arms wide as if to fawn them all with his love.
"The Hunters have been very diligent, providing us all with plenty of meat for this special occasion." Sigvald said. "Stand up and take a bow!" Sigvald lead his people in a thundering applause for the Hunter team.
"And we mustn't forget out wonderful chef! Hannibal! Stand up and take a bow!" he continued, once the first round of applause had died down, inciting an even more eager applause. He truly was the finest chef they had ever employed!
"What is it?!" Harry asked Hannibal eagerly, eyeing the mouthwatering roast.
"I call it... Lamb Azerbaijan." Hannibal said, grinning mischievously as he held his wine glass out in a toast to the Decadent Host, before sitting down to sip it.
The comment made every person in the room laugh, as if he had said something terribly funny, and Harold felt like he was missing out on an inside joke. He blushed slightly and looked over at his father.
"You'll get it later." he said, smiling as he carved a piece of roast for his son. He had noticed the same bewilderment on his face as most his guest got when this happened, it really was quite obvious what he was thinking.
"Now enjoy your meal. It is, after all, quite a wondrous occasion." Sigvald said with a mysterious smile. A smile that only got wider as he hungrily watched every movement of his son's face as it twisted into pleasure, to the point he almost moaned at the taste.
"So good~" Harold moaned. It had to be the best thing he had ever tasted!
"The first time is always the best..." Sigvald said, with a nostalgic smile on his face, before rising again.
"A toast!" he proposed, "To Pleasure! And to out generous Lord Slaanesh!"
The music and laughter filled the Hall, and Harold felt like his heart and soul would overflow with pleasure and joy. How could anything possibly top this?!
By the time young Harold finally made it to bed that night, he was feeling warm and full and just amazingly, amazingly good.
There was something magical about the whole day, especially that yummy Lamb Azerbaijan!
It wasn't something he could quite put his finger on. Was it the strange taste? Like a mixture of pork and beef, but with the consistency of chicken? Was it the spices? The secret sause of the chef that was more red than brown?
No... It was... it was something else. Something primal and raw. Almost an addictive quality to it.
All he knew was that now that he had tasted it once, he wanted more!
He held the teddy up for a moment, thinking with some hesitation on the incident with the bear pelt... the blood. The horrible, sticky mess... There was something nagging at the edge of his slowly withering morals, but he pushed it away.
He placed the bear on the chair next to the bed, and turned around, hugging his blanket. The winter pelt was soft and smelled nice, and he indulged with childish delight in rubbing his face against it, before slowly drifting to sleep, a content smile on his face.
The first thing Harold did next morning, once he remembered what day it was, was to toss off the warm furs and rush out of bed... only to realize that his room has a very cold stone floor.
"Djakre!" he shouted, rushing into bed to huddle under his warm furs again. Then he blushed and reached for the bell. The servants quarters were pretty far away, no way his servant could hear him from here.
But much to his surprise, Djakre walked in the door before he could even tug at the bell. Almost as if he'd been waiting outside the door... a little creepy, but definitely convenient, Harold decided.
"Your bath is ready for you, your highness." the servant said with slight bow, before helping the young prince into his morning clothes, so he wouldn't freeze on the way across the floor. Usually Harold thought it was redundant, when he would change clothes after his bath anyway, but after having experienced how cold his room was in the morning, he quickly changed his opinion. Totally necessary!
"Hurry up! My gifts are waiting!" Harold said excitedly, almost bouncing in his seat. He almost considered forgoing his usual bath, but he somehow still felt cold, and he supposed it was nice to be taken care of by the older girls. Now that he knew them better, he didn't feel quite as shy about as when he first came here. And lately he was starting to be a bit curious about the soft, squishy parts of the female anatomy that was clearly visible in the bath.
But despite all this, he finished his bath in record time, and nearly ran to the banquette hall to see what his mommy and daddy had gotten him for crismas.
It was a very tired-looking court that met them by the grandiosely decorated crismas tree that morning. Tired, but looking excessively pleased with themselves as well. Well... More than usual at least.
And the moment Harold's eyes fell on the opulent tree, he realized why.
Gifts! Stacked high around the tree, and wrapped in an wide variety of wrappings, ranging from silk and...was that diamonds?! ...to various types of fine paper, even a few clearly brought back from the New New World, to more modest dirt-brown rags of common cloth... likely from the various servants and slaves that Harold had charmed over the years. Not they could possibly have much to give.
Still, it delighted him to see that the great tree, with all it's glittering gems and trinkets, somehow seemed far smaller on account of the large stack of gifts.
"Don't just stand there. Open them!" Sigvald said, giving his son a small push on the back, He was curious to see the look of delight on his son's face as he opened the presents...as well as being a bit curious himself what they had all gotten him.
"Aren't you coming, father? Mother?" he looked back at his parents with a confused look. Surely the gifts was not just for him...right? Right?!
Sigvald laughed at the childish delight on Harold's face as he realized that, yes, they really were all for him!
And he felt himself touched by a strange, new sensation...all warm and cozy-like...as he watched his son open gift after gift. It was almost divine in its sweetness, and it made Sigvald want to show his son more and more pleasures, just to experience more of this intense, new sensation!
As the papers fell away, it revealed more and more opulent gifts. A cornucopia of luxury and riches, the likes of which even Sigvald would have been hard-pressed to compete with.
A bath-tub of solid gold. A small rocking horse of gold, with dark gems in it's eyes. A rubics cube made with precious gems, clearly a gift from his Strategy teacher. A teddybear with real gold in its fur and eyes made with sapphire and diamonds. Even it's mouth was crafted by a gold thread.
The teddy even came with a second gift; A wide range of carefully hand-stiched clothes, ranging from everyday wear for a prince, to a warrior outfit. He thought the tiny, very real sword it came it, adorable.
Soccer ball made with black and African diamonds, clearly for display purposes more than the sport.
A 24 karat gold mountain bike, the emblem on it encrusted with over 600 black diamonds and 500 golden saphiers.
And to top it all off; An exceptionally intricately made clockwork operated porcelain male doll of a bird tamer, dressed in Renaissance clothes that has real pearls and gold interwoven in their fabric. A new pair of shoes in the softest, highest quality leather, that laces up with real gold lacing.
Of course, that is not even mentioning the small island in the Caribbean, fitted with its own dock, and hosting a yacht that looked more like a small, livable island than a ship, and could probably keep several hundred people alive for a year when fully stocked... Courtesy of Sigvald, of course. Along with a multitude of other presents.
At the mention of the yacht however, half the court had cheerfully volunteered to be his crew-members. Shouting out how one was a famous pirate before he retired, another one captain of a small fleet...from there on the bragging became more and more outlandish, and Harold was liable to believe a good few of them were outright lies. Fighting the Kraken with his bare hands and swimming to shore, dragging the ship behind him by a rope between his teeth? Riiiight...
Harold made a point of gathering up all the cards to thank people in person later, in the hope it repeated itself next year. And also because it was polite. Even the shabby gifts from servants, like the homemade doll from the maid's daughter, and the box of cookies from the kitchen staff.
He really liked all the people in the castle, and he made a note to have gifts made for everyone himself too next year. He should tell his servants to remind him, that way he didn't have to think too hard about it himself. And do the shopping.
The best gift, however, it seemed like his father had saved for last. And as Harold stared in awe at the big box wrapped in a diamond-encrusted wrapping-paper... Swarafski crystals, Harold recognized them from the rocking-horse he had that was covered in them, the one with real horse hair... he was almost scared to tear it open like he had with the rest.
Ever so carefully he unfastened the paper and pushed it aside to see a fairly average sized wooden box.
The moment it came to light, Sigvald snapped his fingers, and a pair of dark dwarfs came forwards and tore the box open, to reveal a beautifully constructed child sized piano. Harold would bet anything that it was made from the most exclusive and expensive materials available.
Still... It seemed a bit...unusual for his father to give him something that was almost...common. He looked at his father, and his surprise must have shown on his face.
"Go on, son. Open the lid!" Sigvald said, looking very much like a child with a secret he was dying to tell. So Harold decided to do just that.
"Oh!" Harold gasped as he looked inside it. What he saw in there made his heart swell with joy, and arose a deeply rooted gratefulness towards both his beloved father, and his new god, Slaanesh.
A massive gold ring, with an impressively large ruby in the center, inscribed with the mark of Slaanesh, was lying on a velvet cushion inside of the grand piano. It even had a fitting gold chain through it, allowing Harold to wear it around his neck!
Harold's eyes teared up, and he quickly blinked them away. It reminded him of that wonderful day when he learned that his father was really his father, and that he accepted him whole-heartedly into the family.
It also reminded him of how it was a part of the initiation ritual for him to become a Slaaneshi, with all the blissful joy that entitled. And there had been such pleasures! He decided there and then to praise Slaanesh more often.
He smiled through the tears and ran to tackle his daddy in a bear-hug, burying his cute little face into his chest.
"Thank you dad!" he said, hugging his father even tighter, and relishing in the feeling of strong arms wrapping around him and hugging him back. It all made him all too aware of just how much he had lacked before, and how much he had gotten since, thanks to his father.
And his mother... he just remembered, before letting his father go to run and show his mother what he had gotten,
"Mother, look! Look!"
"It's beautiful darling," she said, smiling as she helped her son put the necklace on, then kissed his head.
She was a bit miffed that her own present had been lost in with all the other ones, and she really should have known that Sigvald would find some way to make himself look better than everyone else, but she was happy non the less.
Besides... The smile of joy as he went straight over to play with the rocking-horse she had given him -the one covered in swarafki crystals, with real horse hair and black diamonds for eyes- it warmed her cold heart.
"What a...charming way to grab attention," she told her husband, a hint of frost in her voice.
Sigvald simply smiled and held out a gift for her. She was shocked into silence at the unusually thoughtful gift from her husband.
"W..What?" her usually composed voice faltered just a little bit, and the frost melted away.
"Did you really think I would forget my beautiful queen? My sweet princess?" he said, his voice filled with such passion and warmth that it made her flush. It reminded her how he had tricked her into falling for him in the first place, that lousy scoundrel of a charmer.
It did not, however, stop her from eagerly taking it from his hands and gently shaking it, wondering what might be inside. She smiled as she peeled off the crystal-covered wrapping paper. She couldn't help it. She had always been weak for gems and riches.
"Oh, Harold!" she gasped as she opened the royal blue box inside of it, only to find the most exquisite necklace she had ever seen.
Fashioned from white gold embellished with tiny diamonds around the edges,
the necklace hanged heavy with large rubies in the shape of delicate droplets that increased in size as they went to the sides.
The bracelet that came with it, shaped in the same style, had square-cut rubies all around it, and it came with the most gorgeous droplet-shaped earrings to match the rest.
The craftsmanship of it was easily recognizable as elvish in nature, and she could only guess on how much work he must have put into acquiring such an exquisite piece.
"It was made for one of the high elf princesses." Sigvald said helpfully, before smiling his charming smile.
"They had tucked her away in some castle somewhere, but the moment I saw the drawing of it, I knew they were meant for you!" he kissed her, and she melted in his arms like she always did. Damned that charming scoundrel.
"I hate you." she said, smiling up at him. "Help me put them on."
"No you don't. You love me." Sigvald said, laughing. "Everyone does!" he grinned with an oh-so-attractive confidence. But he was not wrong. Everyone did love him. It was impossible not to.
Even his adopted son, she supposed, as she glanced over at the child that was bouncing from one toy to another, unable to decide what to play with.
She supposed she could forgive him their fight yesterday. Just this once.
"And don't think I have forgotten my wonderful, dear, dear friends!" Sigvald announced magnanimously, his arms open wide towards his Court, before turning towards the tree, glittering with gems and even jewelry.
"I give to you all of the wonderful trinkets and gems, and everything else on the tree! Please enjoy your wonderful new gifts, and then let us withdraw to the theater to see the brilliant, festive plays I have so generously put up for us all!"
He had barely finished before the court descended upon the poor, defenseless tree like a vicious pack of wolves. All clawing and kicking, and stepping on each-other to get the lions share of the gifts.
Oddrun merely sighed, sitting in his seat by his self-proclaimed King. He wondered how many casualties would stain his old friend's soul for the amusement of his son tonight. It didn't bare thinking of, but someone had to.
Sigvald watched as Harold laughed and clapped at the actors on stage. How he held his breath when the prisoners...er...actors... were engaged in a life or death sword-fight. And how he teared up when the grumpy old earl finally learned that the true meaning of crismas was Pleasure, and went to find his long lost love to fuck her.
"What did you think of the play?" he asked, curious to know his son's thoughts.
"It was amazing!" Harold breathed. "A Crismas Carol is totally my new favorite play!
"Oh, don't be so sure. Next up is a wonderfully violent play with lots of scary villains. And to top it of, the evil anti-crismas goat!" Sigvald grinned.
"My Prince..." Oddrun sighed and shook his head. He should have known telling him about this strange tradition they had in the New New World, that they called 'Crismas Horror'. He really should have...
"Maybe you're right. Maybe we should go with 'Narnia' instead." Sigvald frowned. He didn't want his son to end up with nightmares, and Oddrun seemed incredibly sure that would happen if he let this play go on.
"How's the production of Narnia going? Have they managed to control the lion yet?"
"It's proven incredibly stubborn, my Prince. But they finally made a break-though and convinced Heika to enchant it. I think it should be fine." the tall hunchback said.
"Very well." Sigvald nodded. "Narnia it is people!" he commanded. He did frown as all his actors seemed to sag with relief. Now, really! Dying in a play to entertain his son and heir was a great honor! Could they not see that!
Oh, well... He was sure his son would love the epic battle at the end.
"Father, what was that about the lion?" Harold asked, unsure.
"Don't worry about it, son. Heika has it under control. Now be quiet and watch, it's starting." Sigvald said, shushing his son as the lights dimmed yet again for the new play.
"And then, when I grow up, we're gonna rescue a princess, just like daddy did! And then we're gonna...steal all the gold of the evil king! And make you a bed of it! And then..." Harold rattled on and on and on.
Kardraghnir had been extremely angry when he learned that his new Master was to be a child. To think, him, owned by a human! Like he was some sort of pet!
He was hundreds of years old, a youngling by dragon standards, but definitively more powerful and wise than any puny human!
They had captured him before he had properly awoken from his long sleep. A complete lack of honor, unlike most knight that came to fight him. And then... he shuddered to think about it. The torment. The rites and rituals. The horrible corruption.
He had been so thankful when the blasted god of Chaos appeared before him, promising to save him from the torment that was slowly driving him towards insanity, that he happily had accepted the devil's bargain.
He resented it now. But it could not be changed. Not even by someone as powerful as him.
But after hearing the child's tales of adventures and treasures, he could not help being curious. Was it a dreamer, or did it have the potential to be a true hero, worthy of his alliance after all?
Then he heard the accidental slip of tongue when he ranted about the glorious war he had seen... About how he killed another human. And at the tender age of 9, which was almost an egg by human standards.
Kardraghnir's respect for the child rose a notch at that. It rose even further as the child laid out his plans for an epic lair for him, as well as how they would fill it with treasures.
And to add to the child's good traits, the mighty dragon had tried to cast him off. Repeatedly. Doing some mindbogglingly dangerous stunts in the air that would have thrown off even an experienced Dragon Rider elf. Yet this child...this clumsy human child...had stayed on him like glue. It was like he was born to fly!
And, unlike the adults, the child treated him with respect, which he appreciated all the more for the resent lack of it.
Maybe this child would not be the worst Master to serve. He was, however, very wise. And as such, he reserved his judgement until he could see for himself if the child's actions matched his words.
Harold smiled as he hugged his new, gold-furred teddy-bear that night. What a wonderful day it had been. Even the feast after they had seen the plays were amazing, and he got to try the weird yummy lamb dish again!
Although he wasn't entirely sure why the chef said that it was his catch. He hadn't gone hunting with his father for almost a month. Maybe the chef confused him with someone else...or tried to be nice? Whatever it was, it was even more yummy than the last meal!
He giggled to himself as he recalled how all the stuck-up old dukes and whatever they were had even joined in on the rambunctious dancing around the crismas tree. Which, as the night bore on, dissolved from the festive, dignified dancing to something nearly feral and dangerous... and a lot of clothes came off towards the end.
He did wonder who had decided to change the star at the top of the tree with a small statue of Slaanesh. But he had to admit he felt pretty good, dancing wildly around in celebration of his new god, indulging in ever pleasure offered to him... He sighed happily. How he loved his life, and his daddy!
He looked around in his room, enjoying how many new, wonderful things he had. Most of his toys were in his playroom tho. And he had no idea where they put the frankincense, gold a myrrh.
His eyes next fell on the rare and exquisite wine that he had gotten from his dad's old friend, Dolmance. It shone in a warm redish color, like faded blood. And yet it was sweet and tasted like flowers and exotic fruits he had never before tasted. It ran over his tongue like syrup, and it tasted like liquid delight.
Dolmance had told him that it was one of a kind. Only some very few bottles of this wine were ever made, and it was centuries old. He didn't say much more, only smiling that secretive, pleased smiled of his as he wished Harold sweet and vivid dreams that night. What a strange thing to say so early in the morning...
His eyes then flickered to the crystal shaped diamond bottle with it's musky, flesh-colored perfume, and he smiled.
He kinda wanted to sneak over and smell it again. It was absolutely intoxicating! And this time the court wouldn't fall over themselves to kiss his feet and do other...things... to his body when he tried some of it on. Maybe he shouldn't use so much next time?
He sighed with pleasure as he remembered the scent.
The fragrance reminded him of summer nights. Of delightful baths and delicious dinners. It reminded him of his father's scent after he had played naked with one of the many pretty men or women that constantly vyed for his attention. It even reminded him of the wonderful, heady feeling he got when he first obtained his bear-pelt, for some reason... It smelled like he imagined Pleasure would smell...if it did have a smell.
And then a thought struck him.
"Praise Slaanesh, and thank you for all the wonderful Pleasures you brought to me today. And please bless mother and father, especially mother, she really needs to have more fun. And thank you for the perfume." Harold folded his hands and prayed with a child-like innocence that amused the divine Prince of Pleasure.
And for a second Harold almost felt as if lips brushed by his own, and he let out a small surprised gasp as his eyes flew open. But there was nobody else in the room but him.
He blushed furiously and smiled to himself, wondering if he had felt the great gods present. Did it mean Slaanesh was please with him? He really hoped he was. He wanted to be the best Slaaneshi ever! Lord Slaanesh had done so much for him!
He felt his little heart fill with joy at the though that maybe, just maybe, the great Slaanesh had noticed him. And he swore to himself then and there that he would do everything in his power to become one of the great Champions of Slaanesh when he grew up.
Then his father would be so proud of him! And Slaanesh would be happy with him! And, and...
Before he even knew it, his eyes fluttered close, and he drifted off into the land of dreams, where all the wonderful, magical things a child could ever want, happened.
And on a lone chair in the dark room sat a well-used bear. It seemed almost sad and shabby amongst the other opulent toys surrounding it. And yet... And yet...
But what was the matters of the heart worth to a man drowning in gold? And so the boy slept. Muttering. Moaning. Whatever he was dreaming, it was fun and filled with pleasure.
And so we leave our hero, sleeping. And the innocent teddy-bear watching. Alone in the darkness of the night.
NOTE: I did extensive research for this chapter. If you wonder if any of this is realistic, the answer is yes...yes it is. Someone actually had this created at some point.
Short of the obviously fantasy inspired jewelry (to stand in for what was high, HIGH brand-names jewelry and watches) every single item I describe has been created by someone at some point. Including the gifts, and boy was that hard to select and limit!
(Although I may have mixed and matched a bit, to make the whole thing a whole lot more opulent than any individual tree, gift or decoration. Do remember that Sigvald is favored by Slaanesh, whom crafted the Gilded Palace for when when he asked for it, add to it later, and tend to treat him like a favorite child. And if his money runs out, he probably go on a raid and 'conquer' some more.)
The Wine of Dreams - A real Warhammer creation that has tempted many, MANY people to join the various Cults of Pleasure in the Empire.
Dolmance - I know, I know. I may have fiddled a bit with the timelines, but I never could get a properly good view on the exact timeline for when he lived vs when Sigvald lived. Only that it was both in the era of the Sigmar universe. And, let's face it, Sigvald IS more than 300 years old... At some point in his life he may well have met Dolmance.
*Loo = Toilet.
*The tree stand is actually covered in swarafski crystals. But Harold can't tell the difference.
*Keeping the story in it's original language, I will use british terminology rather than american. Pudding pretty much just means dessert. Not necessarily pudding. lol