Chapter One:Enter the players
A man clad in black armor stood on the castle ramparts, his red eyes surveying the surrounding land. Soon, all this would belong to him. Soon, Morcia would be his! He looked up, slightly annoyed, as a knight approached him. Like the man, this newcomer wore black armor, but his helmet covered all but his eyes, which were strangely glowing red slits. A crimson scorpion ran along each side of his helmet.
"Well?" the man snapped, his eyes narrowing. "Make your report, and make it quick."
The knight nodded. "Lord Vladek, our forces have captured the imposter."
The glare dropped from the man's face, an interested look replacing it. "Really? Where is he now?" The tone was level, but had just the right hint of emotion in it.
"The imposter has been secured in the castle dungeon, third cell on the right."
"Excellent. I know just what to do with him. I'll have to pay him a visit…" He trailed off into silence. After a minute or so, the knight cleared his throat hesitantly. "What?" the man asked.
"Um, sir, the knight we captured calls himself Vladek."
The man rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Of course he does. And do you know why?" The knight shook his head. "Because he's an imposter! He wishes to lay open my plans and, given the chance, would destroy everything I've worked so hard for! People like him are dangerous, but I think I have the perfect thing in mind for him." He paused and looked at the knight. "How did the capture go?"
"Smoothly, sir. He had no idea what was happening, and by the time he did, it was too late."
"Were any injured?"
"Just five, and their wounds weren't very serious. They've already been treated."
"So, caught completely unawares, he still manages to draw his sword and attack my Shadow Knights in a matter of seconds. Impressive. A man like that should be heavily guarded." The man smiled as the knight shifted uncomfortably. "Well, I'm sure you have as lot to take care of, my loyal knight. You're dismissed!"
The knight hurried off, leaving the man to contemplate the recent development. I can't afford Vladek interfering with my plans again; not after last time, he thought. Soon, my time of triumph will be at hand. And this time, Vladek won't be able to stop me…
A young man sat with his back against the far wall of his cell. His name was indeed Vladek, and had red eyes a shade or two darker then the man who had arranged his capture. His black hair was tousled from the ambush, as were his clothes. His sword was gone.
He had been traveling through the forest in search of a contact he had agreed to meet, but when he had arrived, several Shadow Knights had been there instead. Vladek had immediately whipped out his sword, but the strength of sheer numbers, the advantage of surprise, and the strong nets that had ensnared him had done their job well.
Vladek stared grimly at the metal bars of his prison. A jagged cut bled freely on his face, and several new bruises were on his legs and back. The Shadow Knights hadn't gone easy on him. And what was so frustrating and humiliating was that the Shadow Knights were known not just for their unwavering loyalty, but also their stupidity.
It wasn't just the Shadow Knights that angered Vladek; it was the mastermind who had orchestrated the whole event: Kedalv. Vladek thought back to the day when he'd first encountered Kedalv, and his fists clenched. What did he ever do to deserve this? Imprisonment, impersonation, a ruined reputation… Worse yet, the king was convinced that he was an evil traitor when in fact, he was innocent.
Vladek was dressed in simple black material, a small red scorpion emblazoned on his sleeves and the center of his shirt. The type of clothing was typical of knights whose armor was off; it was lightweight, the same color of the knight's armor, and had the knight's emblem embroidered somewhere on it. Vladek's shirt was short sleeve, revealing a long, thin scar on his right arm from a previous battle. His pants were black too, the hidden pocket that would usually conceal a dagger now empty.
Escape, so far, was out of the question. He'd tried yelling and rattling the bars, but the Shadow Knights had just told him to shut up and raised their spears threateningly. The walls were made of sturdy stone, and the bars of metal. The lock and hinges were in good condition, and he didn't have anything to pick the lock with. The king's dungeons were, unfortunately, well built.
Vladek looked up quickly as footsteps echoed along the hallway, startled. Springing to his feet, Vladek peered intently out at the gloomy corridor, wiping off some blood from his face.
Kedalv strode down the passage, an impressive escort of Shadow Knights trailing behind him. He halted in front of Vladek's cell, an impassive expression on his face and a hint of malevolence in his eyes. "Thought you could escape, hmm?"
Vladek glared at him. "At least I know what freedom really is."
Kedalv returned the icy look, aware that his Shadow Knights had a tendency to get confused easily. "Shadow Knights, go and wait outside the dungeon for me." The knights nodded, then obediently turned and walked off, leaving Kedalv alone with his prisoner.
"Vladek, do you really think you can escape from me?"
"I've done it before," Vladek replied defiantly.
"And look where it's led you." Kedalv shook his head. "Listen, Vladek. I'm not going to hang around all day, but I have a proposition for you."
"And what if I refuse?"
"Go ahead by all means. After all, it's your decision. There's just one thing…"
"Well, if you refuse, I'll leave you in here to rot. And when you die, so will the last major spark of resistance. No one really knows who you are, Vladek."
Vladek's fists clenched and his gaze hardened, for he knew Kedalv was right. After a moment, he looked down and said, "And if I consider your offer?"
"Why, then, you'll only die if you're careless."
"So, what is your proposition?"
Kedalv smiled. "I'm not going to tell you just yet. I'll return in a few days for your answer." With that, he turned and walked away.
Vladek sank to the ground, eyes full of despair. How could he ever escape now?