Part 1: The Yellow Feather (1-5)

NOTE: This is an origin story for Sir Didymus and how he came to be in Jareth's employ. Definitely an action/adventure story that takes place within the world of Labyrinth. Reviews are always appreciated.


1

"You'll never beat him, Garth!" A red fox in a blue doublet shouted from atop a low stone wall. Two other red foxes were sitting next to him, both in colorful doublets. They watched as the younger, faster Garth made a piercing lunge at his opponent, who parried and sidestepped the oncoming blade. Garth growled in frustration.

"You're too angry" Garth's opponent chided. He blocked Garth's attacks and managed to push the young fox into the dirt and grass. "No worries, Garth. Being the fifth best of the Captain's men isn't a bad thing."

"Didymus!" Garth shriek. The young fox jumped up and charged the man in the red and yellow doublet. Didymus stepped aside and used his sword to swat the younger fox's backside.

"All right, enough!" The captain yelled from the wall. Captain Ezra was in muted brown and gold and sported an epaulette of yellow fringe with red trim. Ezra stepped between the two foxes and held up a clawed hand to Garth. "You know better than to challenge Didymus, Garth."

"He didn't even try!" Garth huffed. Didymus, a red fox with a distinguished moustache and a blue velvet toque slouched on his head, rested his rapier on his shoulder with a smile.

"Allow me to step in" The fox in a similar doublet and brown cavalier hat said as he hopped down from the stone wall.

"Argus, please. No more sparring" Ezra said trying to pacify the situation. Argus ignored the captain and unsheathed his sword. Argus was a fox with an air of nobility and an overabundant competitive edge. He was also Didymus' best friend. Garth stepped backwards until he could lean against the wall and brush off his plain red doublet.

"This should be good" Brock said with a chuckle. He was the largest of the five foxes and was thought to be one of the strongest of the captain's men. Brock clapped loudly. "Let's go, boys!"

"Must you two always be so competitive?" Ezra asked. Argus made a flourish with his rapier and lifted each knee quickly in an effort to quickly stretch.

"Captain, I will never be known as second to Didymus" Argus said with a toothy grin. Didymus laughed and readied himself.

"Mongrel, I'm ready!" Didymus called out.

"Tail duster!" Argus called back. "En garde!" Argus stepped forward with a grin on his face. "You can't win all the time, friend."

"Of course I can, brother" Didymus said. They circled each other, both friends smiling, waiting for the other to strike first. This was a standard day for these garde du corps of the King. The group had finished their long shift around the palace and were intent on spending their afternoon making their way around the perimeter of Salin, the capital of the kingdom of Fairwood. Fairwood was a relatively small kingdom in the Underground, especially when compared to some of the larger neighboring kingdoms such as the Labyrinth to the south and Tir O Flodau to the west, but Fairwood was able to supply the Underground with crimson wheat, golden Fairwood apples, and valiant fox warriors. Salin, the capital, was often host to visiting nobility, artists, philosophers, and the average tourist. The Royal Guard of Fairwood was indeed a highly sought after profession and the metal badges of the guard were respected as belonging to the most honorable soldiers. Those seeking such work often ended up somewhere in the army or, at best, as a palace sentry; it was only the top knights who were inducted into the Royal Guard.

Fairwood was considered a peaceful kingdom, though there were still the occasional ruffians and general threats to the visiting nobility. There was even the threat of other kingdoms trying to secure the employment of those in the Fairwood Royal Guard, an act deemed "traitorous" by the king and "a true dishonor" by the guardsmen. Deserters of the Royal Guard were minimal. For most, life just meandered on in its natural way with little thought of ever being a deserter. The shepherds herded sheep, the farmers cared for their crops, the brewers brewed their beers, and everyone carried on in the beautiful little kingdom of Fairwood.

Below the lazy sway of the woods on the outskirts of Salin, just along the western road, Sir Didymus and Sir Argus shuffled back and forth in a hastened display of skill; each fox blocking the other's attack, reposting only to be blocked, and stepping to and fro to avert the other. Garth and Brock watched, completely amused. Captain Ezra could only hope that no person of importance would pass by in the late afternoon.

"Don't turn your ankle!" Brock shouted to Argus. Argus hopped backwards and carried on, as if he didn't hear the words from the mighty Brock.

"I'll never get into the Order of Oberon with these two around" Garth grumbled.

"You only get that award if you're skill is high enough and your efforts are valiant" Brock replied. "Don't blame those jokers for your inabilities."

Garth only replied with a light punch to Brock's thigh. Brock laughed and continued watching the sparring match.

"Boys, we're almost back to Salin" Captain Ezra called out. "Perhaps you two could call a truce until after we find some food."

"I could eat, Captain" Garth piped up.

"I could turn Argus into a shish-kabob" Didymus called out. "Anyone have any onion or peppers?"

"I'll turn you into a shish-kabob, brother" Argus said with a thrust of his sword. The tip of the blade caught Didymus' sleeve.

"You missed" Didymus cried out while pushing away the intruding blade.

"Don't count on it happening again, short-snout" Argus taunted. Didymus smiled and ducked to avoid Argus' rapier. Didymus reached out with his blade, placing the tip just on Argus' chest. "Touche`!"

"Good" The captain said as the two sword-wielding foxes stepped apart. "Let's get going."

"Again!" Argus snarled. Argus flicked the opposing sword aside, giving Didymus little time to ready any sort of defense, and nicked Didymus' ear.

"My ear!" Didymus exclaimed pushing Argus' sword away from him. Didymus touched the scratch with his free hand and frowned at the small smear of blood on his fingers. If Didymus talked too much, then it could easily be said that Argus was a poor loser.

"Gentleman's foul" Brock yelled.

"What? Can't take a little scratch?" Argus taunted. They began to circle one another, swords primed for action, and tails twitching with anticipation.

"You push too hard, brother" Didymus warned. "Don't ruin the fun."

"Ruin it? I've only increased the stakes a bit" Argus replied. He leapt into action, slashing the air and thrusting his blade towards his mustachioed brother-in-arms. The two foxes moved in a sudden burst of shuffling steps and a flurry of their blades. The breeze shifted and the light branches of the trees shuffled. A light smell of smoke wafted their way.

"Someone is burning something" Garth said with barely any regard.

"Someone is always burning something" Brock said with his eyes on the scuffle. He sniffed the air automatically. "Probably a farmer burning down a field." He watched Didymus block Argus' advances without reposting. "C'mon, Didymus!"

Didymus finally attacked Argus, sending the other fox into a slow retreat. In a final measure to escape, Argus leapt backwards. Bells suddenly chimed frantically from Salin and as Argus' feet touched the ground there was a loud explosion. Argus cried out in pain and fell to the ground.

"Get to Salin!" Captain Ezra shouted. Didymus hurried over to Argus and extended his hand.

"Tally ho, brother" Didymus said.

"I think I twisted my ankle" Argus groaned. Didymus pulled up his friend and helped him limp towards Salin. Garth, Brock, and the Captain were all running towards the city where a plume of black smoke billowed into the air.

"That smoke is coming from the river!" Brock yelled. Garth stopped for a moment and sniffed the air.

"There's another fire!" Garth shouted. In the distance, opposite of the river, was a growing trail of light grey smoke. Bells rang out, the citizens of Salin were screaming now and running to safety, and the fire carts were trying to get to the opposite ends of the kingdom.

"Garth, make sure that smaller fire gets under control!" Captain Ezra ordered. "Didymus, get Argus to a doctor, and then join me and Brock at that explosion!"

"Yes sir" was the reply from each fox.


2

The small fire to the southeast of the capitol was indeed from burning fields. Field workers hurried to remove their equipment and animals as the fire edged closer to the smattering of barns and houses. Garth could see, as he approached, that two distant barns were already up in flames.

"Dreadful" An older woman said in shock. She was shaking her greying face and had a distant look in her eye. "Simply dreadful."

"Are you alright, ma'am?" Garth asked. He touched her shoulder to offer comfort. The woman just looked at him and repeated the word 'dreadful' again. "Where's the fire cart?"

The woman turned and walked away. Garth found a young farm hand that looked as if he didn't know what exactly to do.

"You there!" Garth said hurriedly tapping on the young man's shoulder. "Where is the spare water?"

"Oh…um…" The young man sputtered. The growing crowd pushed into them.

"The closest pumps?" Garth urged. The young man pointed to the closest farmhouse. Garth pulled the fox with him. "Hurry!"

The two foxes ran for the farmhouse. Garth found an irrigation hose and the farmhand helped him hook it up to the closest pump. They both worked the heavy pump, hoping to send water out to the field to quell the fire. The loud bells of the fire carts were soon heard approaching the fields.

"Keep pumping!" Garth told the farmhand. They could see white steam mixing with the dark smoke in their field by the time the closest fire carts pushed through the crowd. The foxes on the fire cart immediately set up and began spraying the field with water from the large tank on their cart. Garth and the farmhand watched as three farmers hurried over, clad in heavy boots and heavy wool overalls that covered up their tails. They each grabbed heavy bow rakes and headed out for the burning field.

"I think we're helping" The farmhand said excitedly.

"Keep it up!" Garth encouraged. The three farmers, in their protective clothes, looked as if they were sweeping the ground as they tried to mix the water with the soil. The crimson wheat that had been saved from the burn stood just slightly taller than their shoulders in height. The red-tipped golden stalks blew in the slight wind, almost in an effort to somehow evade the fire.

More farmers and farmhands with bow rakes hurried out to the field to help in the attempt to stop the fire. Garth couldn't see the next field over from his position at the pump but he feared the worst. Bells from Salin still rang wildly in the distance. Garth saw a few of the military break up the crowd. The soldiers were known for their golden yellow and brown leather uniforms.

"We can take it from here, Sir" A large civilian fox said approaching the water pump. Garth stepped aside and let the farmer work the pump. Garth hurried to look at the other fields. One was only half burned and was lucky enough to have a water tower that had been allowed to flood the field. The other was completely burned, except for a patch about the size of a cart. Fire carts and farmers were dealing with the fields.

"Sir!" One of the soldiers called to Garth. Garth hurried over to the soldier who gave a nod. "Sir, there is word that men rode off from the castle just before the fires started."

"Did you see them?" Garth asked. The soldier redirected some curious youths away from the burning fields.

"No, Sir" The soldier replied. "Others did. You're the first high-ranking officer that I've had a chance to report to since the explosion and the field fires."

"Carry on" Garth replied. "Get things under control here. I'm going to check out that explosion."

"Yes, Sir" The soldier replied. Garth hurried through the dispersing crowd, thanking the higher powers that he was fast on his feet.


3

The north bridge that crossed a gully was destroyed by the explosion. The Salin River lay beyond the gully. Bells rang out, fueling the crowd to cause more of a commotion. Two nearby buildings with thatched roofs were currently burning and the citizens of Salin, mostly foxes, stood around gaping at the horrific incident. Two fire carts were parked in front of the buildings, hosing them down as best they could.

By the time Sir Garth arrived at the scene, soldiers had formed a blockade to allow the Royal Guard and the fire brigade time at the scene. The soldiers allowed Garth to pass as soon as they saw the badge on his doublet.

"The field fires are being reined in, Captain" Garth said once he reached Captain Ezra. Didymus was in the midst of talking to one of the members of the fire brigade, a fox with a red stripe on his uniform and helmet. The buildings were completely engulfed in flames. Brock was inspecting the bridge, where the captain had just been. Other members of the Royal Guard were on the scene to assist with the crowd and looking for things out of place.

"Good" Captain Ezra replied. "Any idea of who did this?"

"One of the soldiers at the field told me that a few other soldiers in his regiment saw a group leave the castle just before everything happened" Garth said.

"Captain!" Brock called out. The Captain and Garth looked over at Brock. The large fox hopped down the steep embankment of the gully. Hurrying over to see what was found, the Captain watched Brock dig out and pick up a brown box with a red stick attached to the side. It was a bomb that had not gone off. "It didn't go off."

"Get everyone away from here!" Captain Ezra ordered. Garth hurried from his side to help move the crowd back. "Be careful with that, Brock! It could still go off!" Brock gently set the device down on the rubble and slowly back from it. Bending over, Brock attempted to observe the book-size bomb. "Brock, come out from there! That gully has not been rendered safe! You could be blown to smithereens!"

"I see something" Brock replied. Despite the sky being darkened by the burning buildings and the lingering smoke from the charred, broken bridge, Brock could see just the slightest strand of something. It looked like spider webbing, but there weren't any spiders that Brock knew of that would place a bomb, or know what a bomb was for that matter. That narrowed it down considerably. "I can see a strand from a Beadle!"

"Are you sure?" Captain Ezra asked. Brock stood up and nodded.

Beadles lived throughout the Underground. They were tall with narrow faces, long limbs, and long fingers. Beadles were able to produce thin strands of strong silk from their fingertips; most had become the best weavers in the Underground. Webbing from a Beadle, mixed with yarn, could help a garment last twice as long as plain yarn and help protect the wearer from sharp things such as thorns or the bite of an animal. The Beadle webbing worn under leather armor could protect from arrows. Unfortunately for the race of Beadles, while being very useful, they often went a little mad by the young age of twenty-five. A mad Beadle would often be unpredictable, leaving unusable webbing everywhere, and were prone to becoming hermits in remote parts of the Underground. While not always a defining mark of a mad Beadle, the majority of the older Beadles had two small horns protruding from their head.

"There's a loose wire" Brock said as he moved around the bomb.

"We will send in Captain Reser from ballistics" Captain Ezra said. Brock came back to the gully embankment and began his climb up.

"Captain, the fire brigade reports ten injured and two dead in the fires" Didymus reported as he hurried over. He lent a green-gloved hand to help Brock up from the edge of the gully. "The fires are nearly under control, but the millinery will have to be completely scrapped."

"Was everyone sent to the healers?" Captain Ezra asked.

Didymus nodded as he answered. "Yes, Captain."

"Brock, will you have Captain Reser hurry this way? I want to get this bomb taken care of before those gawkers turn into some kind of mob over this tragedy" Captain Ezra said. Brock nodded and ran off, pushing his way into the crowd. As he made his way, shoving his way through the horde of onlookers, a smaller fox in a royal page uniform managed to scurry to the front and past the soldiers.

"Captain Ezra!" The young fox said as politely as he could. He was a golden fox with black feet, a black nose, and a black tipped tail. He looked striking in his dark tunic with the King's shield emblazoned on the chest. The captain turned to the young fox.

"What is it, boy?" The Captain asked.

"Captain, sir" The young fox said quickly. "You are needed at once in the castle. The King needs you now. It's very urgent!"

"What's happened now?" Captain Ezra asked. The young fox shook his head side to side.

"I am not allowed to speakth, sir" The young fox replied. "The King needs you immediately."

"Didymus, have Garth watch the area until Captain Reser arrives" Captain Ezra said. "Then, retrieve Argus. I might need you two at the castle promptly."

"I shall be swift, Captain" Didymus said with a slight bow. He hurried to relay the news to Garth. Ezra followed the young page past the soldiers, through the tight-knit crowd, and finally to the castle.

The castle was held in high alert. All the guards and soldiers were out in formation. Visitors to the castle, even those bringing the usual goods to the castle such as the weekly supply of chickens and fish, the dairy farmer with his cheeses and milk churns, and the freshly picked golden apples were all turned away at the main gate. The young royal page and Captain Ezra were allowed to pass through the gates with many angry glares cast their way.

"The King is in his throne room" The young page told the Captain as they hurried across the open courtyard to the main entrance. On a normal day, the castle would have been described as pristine and delicate, but on this day it lacked in luster. The flags fluttering in the wind sounded more like the sails of tall ships and the shiny gold trim on the castle was dull as a brass bedpost. The young page hurried to open the castle door for the Captain.

"Boy" The Captain said as he just crossed the threshold. "I am expecting two of my men to show up. When you see Sir Didymus and Sir Argus, please have them join me, if the King allows it."

"Oh, yes, sir" The young page said with a bow. Ezra gave the boy a quick nod of the head before hurrying for the throne room.


4

Cream and gold robes barely grazed the marble floor as King Leofric paced around his throne. His five advisors had been called to form in his throne room. Leofric was a red fox with more white grazing his face each year. He paced to the tall velvet curtains behind his throne and pulled the cording, opening the curtains to reveal a great map of the Underground. He smoothed the red and gold sash that was slung across his chest.

"Your Highness" An advisor in green robes said softly. "This situation is very delicate and I-"

"We're waiting for Captain Ezra" King Leofric interrupted. The four advisors were anxious for the Captain to hurry, but they understood that the kingdom had just suffered an attack. The green robed advisor, Kaverton, was the king's green wizard and was a forest elf from Tir O Flodau. He had a frown on his pointed face. The other advisors, a black fox named Tarsh who served as a commerce advisor, a white fox named Rocelle served as the communications advisor, and a blonde fox named Marcus served as the financial advisor, were all fairly quiet as they waited. Rocelle smoothed out her gown.

The throne room door opened and Captain Ezra hurried in. He stopped before he got too close to the throne, removed his hat, and bowed. "My apologies for being late, Your Majesty."

"We completely understand, Captain Ezra" King Leofric said stepping to stand next to his throne. He gestured to the captain, who put his hat back on and joined the others. "To catch everyone up, there has been another problem in Salin." The king looked over at Rocelle and gestured for her to pass something to the captain. She pulled a folded parchment from a hidden pocket and passed it to Ezra. "While the fields burned and the explosions occurred, it seems my eldest daughter was abducted."

"Kidnapped?" Captain Ezra said shocked. He looked at the letter. It was a ransom letter in a lovely scrawl.

To His Royal Highness;

You have a fortnight to hand your kingdom over to Lord Gaufrid, who should be the rightful ruler. If your dogs hadn't claimed our land as yours centuries ago, the Beadles would rule. Your wealth and happiness would be ours.

Princess Orinda will be kept safe until then. If you refuse or choose to ignore us, she will be executed in a public setting.

Beadle Alliance

Captain Ezra read the letter twice before asking, "The Beadle Alliance?"

"No one has ever heard of the Beadle Alliance" Rocelle told him. Ezra handed her the letter.

"I would suggest starting with Lord Gaufrid since he's mentioned" Ezra said. The king wrung his hands and smoothed his sash once again.

"I agree" Kaverton said firmly.

"There is an unexploded bomb in the gully, Your Majesty" Ezra reported. "Sir Brock found Beadle silk clinging to the device."

"Should we gather all the Beadles?" Marcus asked.

"We can't do anything that would halt production with the Beadles" Tarsh said immediately.

"Lady Rocelle" King Leofric said. "Perhaps you can issue posters asking for information on this Beadle Alliance."

"Your Highness" Tarsh said with obvious effort of careful wording. "I feel that it's important to note that through commerce, we have never heard of the Beadle Alliance, as far as I am aware."

"Are you aware of everything, Lord Tarsh?" King Leofric asked. Tarsh raised a dark eyebrow and smirked.

"I am aware of a great deal" Lord Tarsh replied with a small bow.

"I believe what Lord Tarsh is trying to say" Kaverton said eyeing the black fox. "Is that we are your advisors and we have a great deal of contacts in and out of Fairwood, but we are all as shocked as you by the actions of this unknown Beadle Alliance."

"I was told, very briefly, that one of the soldiers saw some men riding swiftly from the castle just before everything happened" Captain Ezra reported.

"Talk to that soldier and anyone else who saw those men" King Leofric demanded. "I want the people of this alliance found and I want them punished for kidnapping Princess Orinda." The king frowned and glanced at his giant map. "Captain, I want your best man to take this mission."

"Yes, Sire" Captain Ezra replied. "I will put Sir Didymus on the case."

"I need to speak with Lord Gaufrid" King Leofric said.

"I will make sure he is notified at once" Rocelle replied.

"If he does not respond, Sire" Tarsh said. "We can simply cut our trade deals with him. He supplies us with only 25% of Beadle silk."

"Wait!" Marcus said wide-eyed. "25% of our silk trade makes up…" He glanced to the ground for a moment. "About 105 tonnes of silk a year! It's enough to get a small country started on silk production."

"We can restore trade, Lord Marcus" King Leofric replied rubbing his forehead. "If Princess Orinda was to perish, she cannot be restored. Lord Tarsh, be ready to cut trade with Lord Gaufrid if he does not respond to us."

"Yes, Sire" Marcus said. The king paced across the throne platform a few times before plopping down in his throne.

"My first born is gone" The King whispered. His eyes drifted into an empty stare, but only for a moment. His lip trembled ever so slightly. He seemed to remember that he had a small audience. "Captain, please find my daughter."

"We will start immediately" Captain Ezra said with a bow.

"You're all dismissed" The King said with a wave of his hand. They all hurried out of the throne room. Their king was known for being beautiful, fair, and a ruler of high morals, but they could never forget the incident that forced the king to the throne in the first place. King Leofric took the throne after his father was slain in battle. It was the only time Leofric had shown that he could be cruel and unkind, if he needed to be. The soldier who had killed his father was brought before him and he ordered the brute viciously whipped, then buried alive. The advisors could help wondering what would become of the perpetrator of the kidnapping.

Captain Ezra found Sir Didymus and Sir Argus waiting in the grand foyer, just as instructed. The captain waited for the other advisors to go their ways before speaking to the two guarde du corps.

"Sir Didymus" Captain Ezra said. "I have a mission of the greatest importance."

"Yes, sir" Didymus replied. Argus eagerly looked between the two. He was seated on a bench with his foot and ankle bandaged up.

"Princess Orinda was kidnapped during all the commotion" Captain Ezra told them. "The letter that was left was signed by the Beadle Alliance."

"Oh my!" Didymus said with a wide-eyed expression.

"Beadle Alliance?" Argus repeated.

"They want Lord Gaufrid to take the throne of Fairwood" Ezra told him. "I need you to find and rescue the princess."

"Yes, sir, I will" Didymus replied. "I am your man, you loyal fox. I will not let you down."

"Good" Ezra said. "Garth mentioned that a soldier reported a group hightailing it out of Salin just before the fires and explosions. Start there."

"Yes, Captain" Didymus said.

"What about me?" Argus asked standing up on one foot. "I can assist Sir Didymus."

"On your one foot?" Captain Ezra asked him. "This time you will have to sit it out, Argus. I was hoping that your ankle was going to be fine, but it's the size of a grapefruit."

"You can assist me with interrogations, Argus" Sir Didymus told him. He looked at the Captain and gave him a salute. "I will not let you or the King down. I will use deductive reasoning. I will be cunning and charming. I will-!"

"Just get it done" Ezra said, interrupting Sir Didymus' flamboyant tirade. "The deadline is a fortnight from now."

"Ha! I'll find the princess before then!" Didymus exclaimed eagerly. He stepped over to Argus and helped him towards the exit. "We will find the culprits, Argus. They will celebrate after we're done."

"Glory will not be mine, brother" Argus replied. "Look at my ankle."

"You know our motto: fight for the right as one" Didymus said as they left the castle and headed for the gates. "If one is victorious, the entire corps is victorious. I don't plan on losing to this Beadle Alliance. Whoever heard of such a thing? They're all mad!"


5

In the middle of the dark Forbidden Forest that extended northwards into the kingdom of Fairwood, rose the tall spires of the dark grey manor of Lord Gaufrid. The manor and the forest that extended into Fairwood was all his, and had been in his family for almost 400 years. Many Beadles grew up in the Forbidden Forest and populated the town of Cicelry. They lived elsewhere in Fairwood too, but always migrated to the forest as they slowly fell into madness.

Lord Gaufrid watched from a high window in the south tower as an old Beadle with long white hair was chased from his property by a group of orange and pink fieries. Fieries were a hideous race of terrible creatures who could remove their body parts and reattach them. They typically lived deep in the Forbidden Forest. If not brought under control they could pull apart everyone in a small village in one night, laughing the entire time. The handful of fieries around Lord Gaufrid's manor were carefully watched and, by agreement, served as property guards in exchange for their own 'party house', a well-maintained bonfire area, and food.

Gaufrid sipped nectar from a gourd goblet as he watched. The fieries chased the old Beadle into the trees, just out of sight from Gaufrid. He waited and took another sip. He could hear them making noise, even as high up as he was. Finally, a detached Beadle arm flew out from the trees. Gaufrid smiled and finished his drink.

The Forbidden Forest had been a place of wonder when Lord Gaufrid was a young boy. The midnight oak always glittered in their shades of blue and grey, like stars on a dark sky. The forest was home to crows and yellow songbirds. It was rumored that fauns lived in the deeper parts of the Forbidden Forest, but Gaufrid had never seen any. Mostly he stuck to his family manor, Cicelry, and the forest immediately surrounding the area.

Lord Gaufrid was the last of his powerful family, who laid claim to the forest lands. The family was known for their longevity and for Beadles, this simply meant before the encroaching madness claimed them. The family only married others with a history of longevity before madness. With Gaufrid's family history, he assumed madness would come to him in his mid-40s, just as it did his father and grandfather, both who were locked up in the north tower of the manor. Some day he would be told that they had spun their final silk into a death cocoon, as was the fate of most Beadles.

He refilled his goblet with sweet nectar and watched the wind ruffle through the trees. He had always preferred being alone. As a boy, he had spent most of his time with very few other Beadles and he had never questioned it, not like his brother had. He had roamed the forest pretending to be a great knight out on a quest of dire importance.

Gaufrid and his brother, Damdir, had grown up in a household dismissive of their presence. They had both been cast aside as youths and were terrified of the older, very mad Beadles who were locked away in the north tower. Damdir had looked for friendship among the other Beadles of Cicelry, but Gaufrid had isolated himself, watching how things were run, and understanding how the other kingdoms were taking advantage of his people and their silks.

Now at the ripe old age of 31, he was determined to take his rightful place among the fae kingdoms. He wanted everything before his next birthday. Damdir had only made it to age 26 before he started to go mad. By the age of 27, Damdir had started leaving his silk everywhere and was currently holed up in an old childhood fort. His hair was already turning to white and his old age horns had begun protruding from his forehead.

Gaufrid still looked young and was spry, strong, and clear-headed. His mother had lasted well into her 50s before the madness overcame her. It was her blood that kept him as he was. He sneered as he kept watch over the grounds below. Blood trailed on the ground from some of the body parts still being tossed around. Violence was always a part of Gaufrid's life and now he simply enjoyed it. It was almost a comfort.

He thought of the battle that would surely ensue. He had that ridiculous King's daughter coming to his castle. Marriage had never happened between a Beadle and any other race, but he was sure that it wouldn't be a problem. They had all the proper pieces, even if they would only produce some sort of monstrous offspring. It would be the start of something new. A legacy that he would be responsible for.