The Incomparable Gardens is the purest embodiment of beauty and grace that lies within the House and especially the Secondary Realms. However, its wealth is not only defined to be the highest demesne. It is the eden to a god, Lord Sunday, master of the House in utter entirety, the realms surrounding in true omnipotence, and all existence now and ever will be unquestionably. This realm is reserved for only the elite. No heir and no traitorous denizen will taint the land with a single footstep, with a single breath, with a single heartbeat. This rule strengthened by kin, proven by power will never falter and will never fall to a usurper so unworthy or to any entity that dares to challenge the righteousness that is me.
Heir Arthur Penhaligon, supposed Master of the Lower, Middle, and soon Upper House, Lord of the Far Reaches, Duke of the Border Sea, Overlord of the Great Maze, and soon to be my very new toy. Your penchant for breaking the rules has unfortunately caused me a tad bit of ire. Yet little boy lost, do not worry no more. The Great Lord will be very forgiving and right all the so painful wrongs. I will find you. I reunite you with your mother, your dear friends, your mortality lost.
I will fix your existence, let me assure you.
"Because Arthur, I understand what drag your steps, what hunches your back, what keeps your head to the ground. I admit, I do not know how strong your conviction is as of now, but seeing you make it this far, trying so desperately to save everyone and to simply go home to where everything is okay again, makes me so pleased.
Thank you, little boy, for allowing me to be the one that breaks you. Cheers." The wineglass clinked against the glass wall of the Observatory high atop his ivory tower, a grand monolith built from perfection from the ground to the highest peak of its crenellations. The observatory oversaw the entirety of the Gardens at any point in its geography and such could be seen and marveled at in its white extravagance. While the Gardens was proclaimed exclusive, the Lord's residence was even more so. The tower gleamed and shone unnaturally as if protected by a mantle of light.
Lord Sunday finished the crimson nectar, a wry smile still apparent on his fine features. The glass dematerialized in his hands with a fading blur. He reached for a pocket watch, grabbing the chain and sliding down to the platinum and gold embossed case that rested in his waistcoat pocket. With a deft flick of his hand, he opened the cover revealing a decorated clock face and checked the time. The smile melted away to a subtle frown. Waiting, of course the heir would disappoint by arriving late.
He snapped the cover shut and his thoughts shifted to his ludicrous deputy. Vicious anger now contorted his beauty. Surely claiming the key from that imbecilic trustee Saturday would take literally no time at all. Like a pathetic blind hound begging for scraps from the master's table, she begged for absolute power, for the great demesne from the Architect. However, no amount of begging or obligation defeats action and achievement. He earned the paramount key, the instrument to the mastery of all.
As his first action, he deemed Saturday worthy of punishment. Physical torture however satisfying for someone so unredeemable is limited at best. So in his genius he devised the most delightful concept. The constant taunting of the Gardens over her head created his own personal Tantalus. Her suffering, his entertainment. Now came the end to such pleasures and the beginning to a wonderful replacement.
Artificial sunlight casted a long shadow of the Lord on the veined marble floor, a shadow that mimicked him gingerly handling a thin chain necklace and upon it, a small elaborate key. Halfheartedly gazing out to the nigh infinitesimal arbor life and statue décor, he enclosed the key within a tight fist. Immediate knocks on the oak office doors alerted his success. Resuming to hide the necklace back under his shirt, he took a quick exhale to alleviate his burning anxiety.
"Good, I have pressing tasks for all of you," Sunday explained as his Times strode in, ending in attention at the base of his desk. They waited as their Lord took his seat and wrote a single word on a letter envelope. Without placing anything inside, he folded over the flap. Hot red wax flowed from the center of the overlap forming a perfect circle. He stamped his insignia; the wax drying instantly. Lord Sunday then gave the letter to his ebony Reaper. A green hand dressed in leaves and vines extended for the invitation. "Dusk, find this girl on Earth and bring her back alive. She is imperative to the coming heir and I want a stacked deck.
Noon, create a report on the heir's current, however agonizingly slow progress. I suppose I have to spoil my own surprise." At this point, Sunday heavily sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "And while you are on reconnaissance in the Upper House, if you happen to meet Lady Saturday. Tell her I gave the heir my best regards."
"Should I make contact with the heir if the occasion arises?" Noon implored interrupting his master. Sunday glared at Noon who stepped back immediately and bowed in apology. Sunday stood up, snarling and livid, and with both hands slammed on the desk leaned towards Noon. He hissed, "Now Noon, why would say that?"
Noon dropped his head in respect, not daring to challenge Sunday's glare. The other Times shifted uncomfortably. Noon nodded his head faintly, slowly working up the nerve to explain. "Perhaps, a tacit incentive could encourage the heir to speed his progress." Sunday debated the wisdom of such 'advice' and sat back down with his hands clasped together. The knuckles turning white Noon noticed.
"Very well," Sunday began, still glaring. This time he wrote a proper letter in an envelope similar to Dusk's assignment. Once signed and sealed, Noon picked up the envelope.
"Dawn, assembly the army. The heir will be unable to stop the invasion for me." The Times bowed and commenced their assignments. Sunday leaned back in his chair; his eyes closed in silent contemplation.
A sudden urge of cruelty crossed his mind. This urge besieged his thoughts to a halt. "Dusk," Sunday quickly interjected while reworking his command. The Reaper stopped halfway out the door and gave proper attention once again. "I rescind my past order. I would still like to have the girl alive, but on the off chance that things do not go accordingly," Sunday let out a slight chuckle and revealed his malicious intent, "kill her, mount her head on a pike, and give to it to the heir as a house warming gift. Oh, and do not forgot the bow."
Arthur breathed in and slowly exhaled. His breath condensed in the cool never ending rain. As he calmed himself, he watched each drop fall from his matted hair to the distant ground below. The ram and its metal contraptions groaned occasionally as they sped through the air. He shivered, not because of the rain he had long been used too and had soaked him through and through but the oncoming event, that single trial he had worked tirelessly to have a chance at. He mouthed the words over and over. Saturday's key will be hers no more and then, it would be time for Lord Sunday's.
His sight fixed itself to the sky around him. The scintillating clouds filled him with troubled feelings and a twisted gut. The steel gratings rumbled haphazardly as the ram climbed ever higher. He ignored all the jumbling commotion of the other supernumeraries and tried his best to push back against them to prevent falling over the railing of the platform. He heard Saturday's Dusk calling out various orders in the distance. He twitched uncomfortably as the will skittered across his body.
"Calm down," Arthur pleaded quietly. "Please." The Will ceased immediately and settled in the crevice of his collarbone. All he could now was wait.
"Are you ready?" the Will whispered. "What is about to come is your greatest tribulation."
Arthur swallowed down the anxiety. He reached inside his coat pocket and slid his fingers against the cool glass of the fifth key. Power flowed through his hand and invigorated his entire body. He took another slow breath. He remembered all the promises he made and the grave responsibilities laid upon him. He will end this for everyone despite fear or opposition. He could still keep going; he could still be trying. "I have to be."
If he was still human, his body would have failed him so long ago. Even so, he had tried just as relentlessly to preserve the sense of himself. Denizenry is better than mortality a thought proclaimed. Arthur's heart almost skipped a beat. Why attempt lowly subterfuge it continued. Announce your greatness and watch all these pathetic denizens cower under your might. No Arthur fought back, this arrogance will not become me.
Eventually Arthur's gaze broke from the heavens and scanned the horizons around him. In the distance, a golden streak regularly flew by his side of the platform. He checked with the denizens beside him but none of them seemed to notice as they were consumed with either depressing drudgery or idle chitchat. The streak did not make rounds all over the ram. It stayed centered within his view but stayed far way enough to stay blurred and indistinct. It flew too low for an Artful Lounger.
"Will, can you tell who or what that is?" Arthur implored. The Will shimmered through various forms as it rose to the peak of his collar, not daring to go out farther lest it would be seen.
"I believe that is a denizen," the Will murmured. "I do not know who that is, but I sense dangerous sorcery with that flier. Stay on guard Arthur. I fear this flier may have malicious intentions. "
Arthur squinted and could only make out a vaguely humanoid shape wearing green with golden wings. Golden wi-.
"Hey! Catch him!" Before Arthur could register what had happened, he was hanging upside down seventeen thousand feet above certain death or at least, excruciating pain. Fear capsized his body as the sorcerous supernumeraries grasped at his feet and legs. In his attempt to get a better view, he had leaned too far out and fell over the railing. Arthur felt relieved as the denizens pulled him back to the platform even with the grunts and complaints but that relief evaporated as he spotted the reflection of the mirror slipping from coat pocket.
He instinctively grabbed for the key but it fell past his grasp barely grazing his fingertips. No, Arthur screamed in his mind. A black entity sprinted down his arm and in a flurry of glossy black feathers disappeared with the key. Arthur smiled. It was the Will.
Arthur was heaved back onto the platform as the ram loomed closer to the tip of the tower. Most of the denizens complained at his clumsiness, but the one of them nearest to the railing asked Arthur a very uncomfortable inquiry.
"What was that shiny thing that you dropped? It didn't look like something a supernumerary is allowed to carry." Arthur muttered a blatant lie.
"T'was a snuff box." Arthur clenched his fist trying to stay calm. Nearby, he felt the downdraft of wings. He did not need a denizen pointing out the obvious to know who it was.
"What is going on here?" The sharp commanding tone of Saturday's Dusk made him cringe. The group around Arthur all began talking at once, infuriating the Time. In desperation, Arthur scanned the horizons but to his growing dismay, he could spot neither the golden streak nor the Will disguised as a raven. What if the flier was really malicious and captured the will? Arthur shook nervously. Golden wings might have meant a Noon or maybe a Dawn. It could have been Saturday's. And now her Dusk would surely see through Arthur's disguise now
"Silence!" Dusk thundered. "I will ask again, what happened?" A denizen pointed to Arthur.
"He almost fell off the platform." Dusk snapped to Arthur and adjusted his monocle, examining the disturbance head to toe. Arthur's mind ran through the chances of being recognized. He remembered Japeth's grand stories about the grand adventures of the Heir. Surely, people would be expecting someone taller. Dusk's examination stopped right at the eyes. Arthur froze. The eyes, his were blue now, unnaturally so.
"You," Dusk fumed. "You're the –"
"Stop him! It's Sunday's Noon!" Everyone on board the ram started. The mood shifted dramatically; the denizens were in rowdy commotion. Dusk snarled at Arthur before flying off to confront Sunday's Noon. "You will get your comeuppance. You cannot escape anyways. I feel not a key in your possession. It might have helped you avoid detection, but it will not help you now." Arthur clenched his teeth, berating himself for being so stupid as to fall.
Dusk intoned through all the noise, a clear note heard perfectly sound. "Artful Loungers, protect this ram!" Arthur leaned out towards the horizon once more. He saw nothing but in the corner of his eye, he caught the golden streak. Moving far faster than before, Sunday's Noon weaved between the Artful Loungers. Arthur watched the acrobatic display. The Loungers attacked every opportunity they could. However, no hit landed upon the Noon.
As the fight continued on longer, Arthur saw Dusk increasingly more irate in the distant, stamping his foot in the air. He watched as Dusk clapped his hands together and lightning erupted as he pulled them apart. In the midst of the storm, he dashed towards the infringing authority, black halberd in hand. Unlike the Loungers, Dusk managed to intercept the Noon and let off a frenzy of swipes and stabs. Noon met his challenger straight not daring to deviate from his path.
A bright light caused Arthur to look away and instead heard the screams of someone in pain. He forced his eyes to open but as he could see were the black shadows left behind by the light. Clashes of steel occured with increasing frequency. As the shadows faded away, he focused back to the battle. Noon was much closer now and Arthur saw that it was not a denizen wearing green but was green. Arthur turned pallid as Noon turned his head to meet Arthur's gaze.
The eye line was broken as a something crashed into Arthur's chest. He fell back against the denizens who said nothing, enthralled with the aerial conflict.
"Sunday's Noon! Sunday's Noon!" the Will rasped on top of Arthur. "He tried to chase me. Oh, are the Artful Loungers good for one thing. One of them spotted him and he flew right off." Arthur stood back up as the Will burrowed itself back underneath his clothes leaving the mirror behind. He pocketed the key feeling safer as soon as he did so. Another metal clash alerted Arthur the battle still continued.
The green denizen charged towards a stumbling mass of black feathers and blue blood. His long sword coated in blinding light left afterimages in the grey skies, tracing its path straight through Dusk's heart. Overwhelming nausea invaded Arthur as Dusk seemingly melted around the sword. The resulting nothing evaporated off the sword. The Artful Loungers backed off immediately fearing the same fate.
"He's coming towards us!" A nearby denizen screamed beside Arthur and scrambled through the crowd. Once done, entire groups of people jostled through to get away. Arthur remained petrified as Noon hovered right in front of him. He was transfixed on Noon. His skin was not that of a denizen. It was green, and it was growing leaves. Arthur felt the Will moving to the small of his back to hide.
"Why were you watching me?" Arthur asked, raising the mirror between them as a shield. Arthur stepped forward to challenge the Time. His blue eyes burning with defiance. Sunday's Noon leaned closer and snapped his finger. The denizens all around him fell covering their eyes. Arthur saw nothing.
"Now that is what the heir is supposed to look like. Purpose can transform anyone to force to be reckoned with." Noon reached into his great coat and Arthur twitched ready for an attack. "I had a message to deliver on behalf of the Great Lord." Noon flashed a normal envelope in which Arthur took hesitantly with his other hand; the mirror still held accordingly.
"Let me be clear, Lord Arthur. I did not come to hamper your efforts or in this case to aid. Lord Sunday just wanted to make sure you would be still alive to play with. He wanted to make sure you are exactly as he imagined you to be." Arthur shivered. To be play with, he thought. Who was Lord Sunday? A part of Arthur did not want to find out. Noon bowed and flew upwards back to the Incomparable Gardens. Arthur examined the envelope. It was sealed with red wax imprinted with an S.
As Noon climbed the heights, lightning grazed his wings causing him to fall momentarily. Arthur turned to the source of the sorcery.
"Superior Saturday," noted the Will. Arthur hid the key but loathing to the let it out of his grasp. The Trustee was finely armored for war. The metal shone brilliantly with the evening colors. "There, the key is in her hand!" Arthur noted the writing quill and recited the words once more, ready for the most opportune moment.
"Saturday, Lord Sunday gave the heir his best regards," Noon announced flippantly. "Lord Arthur Penhaligon plans to meet you from the Middle House very soon." Noon finished with the lie and escaped to the clouds before Saturday landed another strike.
"He wanted to make sure you enter in the Gardens undeterred Arthur," explained the Will. Arthur did not reply. He simply recalled the Will's warning, what is about to come is your greatest tribulation. Slowly the denizens rose back up after Noon's blinding light and the ram was prepared to deliver a punishing vengeance. Arthur turned away from the crowd and opened the letter.
Dusk stood upon Doorstop Hill, or what was left of it, which is to say nothing much. His pet growled and clawed the Nithlings that dared to stray too close. The fragile looking leather leash kept the monster perfectly tame to him. From the leashed hand he produced the letter and from the other, a black vine slithered down from the sleeve and shifted to a tall scythe. He broke the seal and the envelope opened. A single sheet of materializing paper flew in of him. It told him everything he needed to know. He checked once more the single word written on the envelope, Leaf.
"I'm very disappointed right now, dear Arthur, and should you tarry any longer, I shall be forced to kill your mother to keep myself entertained. Any moment you waste, another moment she suffers. -S"
The ashes of the burning letter showered alongside the rain. Tear filled eyes of angry determination saw the ram, the Nothing spike, impale deep in the Gardens.
Thank you for reading and please review. On another note, Denizenry is not a real word. I wish it was.