The House of Wolves

The Nature of \'Nobility\'

Following the discussion, Ardos strutted around Bayronds square and even some of the surrounding areas of the city, attempting to observe it more closely.

He noted the elaborate bridges stretching across the canal, the geese which fluffed their feathers and chatted in their strange tongues as they drifted across the waters surface, and even a couple boats cutting through the man-made river. The boats carried a variety of spices and artifacts from distant lands, catching the eyes of many.

It was a much needed distraction for these people, who often found themselves looking at Ardos. He simply had a presence, one which shone through each from amidst his cloak. It was quite frustrating indeed.

Funnily enough however, the boats, despite their size and grandeur, never actually left the city…nor even the square for that matter. They were created solely for the purpose of showcasing the variety of materials merchants often collected from distant lands through means of smaller boats and carriages.

Despite its wealth of merchants and businessmen, Corvachia was not a port town, and flourished primarily because of the mining system and rich earth, however from an aquatic perspective, its fronts were rather limited.

Flanking both the boats and the canal were magnificent buildings. Hall houses meant for discussions of trade and political parties, banks for trades and exchanges of money, shops and stalls all around the square.

Every residence in sight was looming and gorgeously crafted of stone or wood, though beyond those general classifications there were a variety of nuances distinguishing each type of material used in the houses architecture.

Corvachia was truly a bustling town, one which seemingly was undeserving of the moniker: The City of Thieves.

But below the surface, there was most certainly corruption. Today especially, lots of murders were happening and past the central market Ardos heard whispers of an underground market, where the square had been recreated in a far more sinister and cutthroat environment. There seemed to be quite a bit of disdain for the area amongst the knights and merchants who he saw talking about the area, though some praised it.

On the other hand, the people seemed to love it, especially the adults who gossiped openly about the happenings that transpired there or whom showed gratitude to how it provided them money.

So thats where Aurelia works, Ardos told himself. How intriguing…

Despite thinking that, he didn legitimately feel that way. He couldn . The more he wandered the city streets the more he came to feel isolated. The little spark he had found whilst talking to Aurelia became swallowed in an emptiness which only magnified in the bustle of the city.

It was an emptiness that went beyond the fact that he was simply born to be different from all of the people who inhabited this city, as the higher merchants had that status as well. The head councilor of the city, Lord Mandelous, had been elected to noble status in the past several months, so he was hardly any different from Ardos.

Most of those in power here were also bred and biologically selected in some form or another to be superior to the rabble, their expression of their peculiarities through the masks was mere politics as well. They were not truly free to express themselves like Ardos had so contempt-fully believed earlier. As his eavesdropping and observations had taught him, the masks and the jewelry and the dresses were all part of a calculated play to display the style of their families. To put on display their superficial wealth and power.

It really was no different from the nobility, so then why? Why did he feel so lost amongst them. And why, why did he feel such a lack of sociability when he interacted with the common people, whom his very ideals compelled him to hold in high regard.

When an apple seller had attempted to make small talk with him earlier, the altercation felt bland and uninteresting.

It had taken place in the middle of the streets, while Ardos was scanning and scrutinizing the shops around him, making note of all the carriages and counting the cobblestones. A calloused hand tapped his shoulder, startling him a bit, though that fear lasted only for a moment.

Before him was a stout, ginger-headed man tossing an apple with one hand and resting his other on Ardoss shoulder.

”Great weather today ain it milord? ”

”Milord? Im no lord, can you see? ”

The seller scoffed in response, not buying Ardoss deceptions for a second.

”I think I can recognize my own kind when I see em, and you are certainly not one of my kind. ” His eyes flickered and became more analytical, more businesslike.

”So…may I interest you in an apple today, or are you just standing here to observe our glorious carriages. ”

In that moment a weak kneed little donkey pulled one of the so-called glorious carriages before the twos eyes.

What timing. Ardos thought to himself with a chuckle. Perhaps I shall engage this man in conversation.

Unfortunately, nothing of interest happened after that. Ardos simply bought a few apples and went on his way. The exchange devolved into mere business.

As Ardos sunk his teeth in the apples flesh, he felt the wind rustle through his hair and remarked how nice it felt, all the while lamenting about the lost interaction.

I should have shown more interest in the conversation. Prodded him a bit more…but instead I just went along like a bloody fool and left none the wiser.

But it had simply felt so dull, so tedious. That was not how Ardos intended it to sound, he was meant to be a different noble after all, one who ENGAGED with the people, not dismissed them.

Not much use grumbling about it now. I might as well start heading back if this is how my mood is.

And so he did, as soon as he finished the apples. They weren as delicious as those in Altravia, but they would do.

After they were properly digested, he snuck his way back to the courtyard of the mansion, avoiding any more merchants nor people. The cobblestones and his boots did not go very well together, so he drew attention to himself all the same on the way back. He also had a rather poor sense of direction, making what would normally have been a five minute walk take triple the length.

Once he got there though, he carefully avoided being caught in any of the windows whilst he slowly made his way up through sheer grip strength and ingenuity.

He was not provided much rest however, for as soon as he reached the top he was greeted to the knocking off doors and a shout. It was Gareth, shouting frantically for Ardos to open the door.

How troublesome. Rather like the bustle of the city below. He thought to himself as he dusted himself off and hid his robe. He proceeded to do the door locks as slowly as possible, just to draw out the servants desperation.

The moment he opened the door, Gareth practically stumbled into him, knocking the both of them back onto the bed.

”Apologies Gareth, but Im not really interested in men. ”

As soon as the knight realized his position, he threw his hands up defensively and backed away.

”Please forgive me my lord, I know you requested that I do not disturb you, but it was urgent. ”

Ardos stretched out horizontally on the bed, relishing the comfort of the blankets silky material before he resumed conversation. In the meanwhile, he caught sight of the vast blue sight, comforting in its infinite expanse.

He liked the way the clouds floated with such carefree abandon, how the breeze seemed to whistle as it shot above the chaos down below, how the-

”Sir! Sir! ” It was a female servant this time, her voice soaking with concern. Ardos growled, he did not like being interrupted.

”What is it? ” He snapped, causing the woman to recoil. Gareth placed a hand in front of her in an oh so dignified manner, causing Ardoss attention and aggravation to be drawn onto him.

”Well…you have the meeting with the nobles at the Western Hall House this evening Milord. You cannot afford to miss it if you wish to make your proposal successfully. ”

Ardos sighed and raked his fingers through his flowing blonde hair in response. Maybe it would be more exciting than the city had proven to be, but he wasn looking forward to it. Nevertheless…

”Hmph, as tedious as it sounds, I suppose I have no choice then. Can afford to be lacking in allies after all. ”

”I-Indeed ” Gareth said. His face was hidden by steel but he sounded rather happy, perhaps that Ardos had finally listened to something he had to say.

”Well then, be off, I will accompany you in ten minutes, after a bit of rest and an exchange of jewelry. ”

”Rest, milord? You haven come out of your room in the past several hours though…? ”

Ardos shot him a glare, which instantly shut him up and sent him out the door. Upon closing it and re-isolating himself in the room, Ardos slid down onto the floor, back against the doorway. On the wall above his bed was a mirror, in which Ardos could see his pristine reflection.

Well, currently it was not so pristine. His hair was all over the place, his makeup slightly runny, and his eyes droopy. That could not stand. He could not go anywhere in this state, meaning he had much work to do. So, without affording himself a single moment more of rest, he got to work. Polishing his makeup, washing his eyes, doing his hair, and putting on the most distinct jewelry he could find.

This included an elegant golden necklace with an emerald pendant, one which perfectly complimented his piercing eyes. He admired the way it glittered, it was certainly the most beautiful sight he had seen today.

He immediately regretted that thought.

How could I think such a thing? Wh-what is wrong with me today? That is not who I promised myself I would be goddamit! He slammed his fist again the marble counter of the dressing room. He was certainly losing his edge. He absolutely needed to hurry up before he thought any more awful things.

On the way to the hall, Ardos pondered the emptiness he had been feeling throughout the day. Perhaps it was…the curse of nobility. Yes that had to be it. He was only feeling this way because of his status and the way in which it was clouding his judgement. He was getting desperate now, desperate for a reason to explain this.

But no…I can let that show. Just act normal Ardos, compose yourself, let these thoughts consume you after whatever happens here.

Ardos steeled himself, and just as he did, the grinding of wheels on the cobblestones rang out in his ears. They had arrived, and with perfect timing as well. The sun was setting and Ardos could see outside his chariot window that droves of masked fellows were cramming their way into the narrow oaken doorway of the house.

At surface level, it was not particularly impressive. It was a rather plain fusion of wood and stone surrounded by far more exciting and well decorated dwellings. However, it held this energy to it with drew Ardos in immediately. Perhaps it was the commotion already transpiring inside, or just the comforting design of the place, Ardos didn particularly give the matter much thought.

He just made his way in, cutting through swathes of merchant crowds in his path. But even the gaggle of traders could not prevent him from catching a glimpse of a cold, lifeless body whose arm had been crushed by the wheels of the chariot. She had most certainly been dead before then however.

Slit in the throat, by the looks of it, rather painfully a well. Liters of dried blood dyed the cobblestones, all originating from that one spot. That unnerving sight seemed to go practically unnoticed however, which set Ardos off more than anything. The callousness and general lack of care for the corpse before them bothered nobody, and he even saw a few people spitting on the womans face in what could only be called raw contempt.

Focus on the inside Ardos, don get carried away.

He averted his gaze from the sight and redirected it to the packed sea off heads which filled the hall. A variety of sights and sounds caught his eyes, but the one that drew his attention first, were the discussions of murders.

”Did you hear about how Mister Forested was murdered in his home? By one of those underground scum to by the look of it. ” Said one voice in disgust. That one was shrill, squeaky, polished…like how he had always expected a harpy to sound.

Another voice cut in, with a completely different stance on the matter. ”Im glad too. The man was constantly challenging me, he was such a pain in the arse, yknow? ”

A third voice sliced its way into the discussion with the ease that a guillotine severs a neck from a mans head.

”I am the one who killed the man, yknow? Had one of those underground scum you seem to detest so much perform the assassination. It was done exactly as I requested it too, isn that delightful? ”

”Wait, you went to the underground? What if you got bit by rats? You know how repulsive that place is, don you? ”

”Times are changing, Lord Gerdyst. You would be wise to take note of these changes and adapt to them as we merchants are intended to do. Tell me…what is so different between them and us? We
e all just people are we not. ”

”Don make me laugh. The difference between our kind and theirs is like night and day! We are the neo-nobility, they are a cluster of street rats pretending they
e worth something. ”

”How narrow minded of you. All that differentiates us is the barriers between our classes. The market they have created, as crude as it is, is quite reminiscent of our own. They are fully capable of the same hierarchies and ways of organization as us, they simply stand below us because of the overarching systems! ”

”And so what would you have us do..interact with them! ” laughed Lord Gerdyst hollowly, but the chuckles died quickly upon the realization that the third man was serious. At this point, the second fellow was completely quiet, as he was, just like Ardos taking a backseat in order to observe the ensuing discussion.

”Indeed I would. Times are changing after all. I have removed many troublesome rivals thanks to these folk, perhaps the future of our city is not through persecution and the forcing of our citizens to engage in mining and what not, but through collaboration with them. We can reinvigorate our economy, and all we have to do is overcome our preconceptions. ”

”Quite a headache of a man you are, Sir Alisten. With all these polarizing views of yours. ”

”Is there a problem with that? ” growled Sir Alisten.

”Not at all, not at all. This is just a tiff is it not, no need to um, sour our relationship because of it! In fact, speaking of the mining, apparently theres some big headed noble giving a proposal about them in the next few days! ”

”Indeed, I am aware of that. Which is why so many murders have been happening lately, didn you know? ”

”Whatever do you mean, Sir Alisten? ”

Sir Allisten gave a hollow laugh and put his hand on Ser Gerdysts shoulders. Sir Allisten was a rather young fellow, with raven black hair and glassy eyes, whilst Ser Gerdyst was a bald headed, splotchy skinned individual with a curly mustache and a sniveling demeanor.

”You see, whilst that…
oble is here and whilst everyone is talking about him, that gives us, who have greater insight and intellect, the ability to capitalize on that attention and quietly get rid of our less educated rivals. ”

The discussions regarding Ardos indicated to him that it was time to pull his ears away from the conversation and move on. All around him, similar discussions were happening. Gradually, the city seemed to be moving to coexistence with the underground market and some very radical views as well. He heard all sorts of words and topics being thrown around, from the meaning of life to envisionings of a world in which the people and nobles were of equal status.

There were some views which Ardos agreed with, some which he didn , but it was all very fascinating.

He raised a silver goblet to his lips, savoring the taste of the crystalline white wine inside. Not even a moment after he did, he cursed his own hedonism for allowing him to be any sort of savoring. He wasn meant to enjoy wine. That was the behavior of the gluttons from back home, that was the opposite of what he was striving for.

Almost as soon as he put the cup down, he tripped on a mans leg and hit the wooden floor rather uncomfortably with a thud.

A few eyes turned to stare at him, but here there was so much going on that for once, he did not garner much attention. He was rather angry though, and got up in fury to see who had tripped him.

It was another blonde haired man, just like him, but with blue eyes and his hair cut short. He had rather graceful features, but nevertheless very distinct masculine attributes. He was reading what seemed to be the Holy Attestation, one of the nations most ancient books.

”Why did you trip me? ” Ardos said with great anger. The man responded softly, without negative intent, nor really any intent at all.

”I apologize sir, it was a complete accident. I suppose I got too carried away in reading and my legs lost control. ” He followed with a girlish giggle.

Ardoss intensity immediately dissipated. How could someone this kind looking mean anything harmful. He immediately reduced the force of his pitch and engaged in genuine conversation with the man.

”I see you
e reading the Holy Attestation. Quite a good book, that one. Who is your favorite character? ”

The man considered Ardoss words for a moment before delivering his response. ”Well…if I had to choose, I would think it would be Luciferos himself. ” He uttered sweetly.

But his response was by no means conventional. Before Ardos could prod more, a rather large man staggered into him drunkly, casting him away from the fellow sitting down. He quickly found himself swallowed in the mass of people and their dizzying questions and conversations, driving the thoughts of the other man from his mind entirely.

How truly like nobility all these people are, Thought Ardos to himself in contempt as he walked amongst the crowd of businessmen. He had picked up on it before but now it was practically undeniable.

Of course, there were a few outliers, but the vast majority were the spitting image of those he so detested. Indulgent, insecure, and superficial. He was not exempt from these qualities either, as the day had reminded him so painfully…but he was not even remotely as swallowed up in them as they all were.

Disgusting…how utterly disgusting.

On the far end of the wall was a tapestry. It was religious in nature, as it depicted the conquest of Luciferos by Agios Volichea, the nations great founder, he who was supposedly Gods son himself. He had heard the stories and seen thousands of paintings like this one, most of better caliber. He could no longer be roused by what it represented anymore.

Still, it offered a sort of, distraction from the cluster of braindead merchants which undeservingly sucked up the supply of oxygen in the room. So he decided to make note of all the little things going on in the back of the tapestry.

This quiet, focused moment of analyzation could not persist however, as he was disturbed by a wheezing man.

”Admiring the tapestry are you? ” Inquired the man with a cough. He was a rather elderly fellow, with a balding white head to match his blindingly white robes and the shining little blocks he had for teeth. Around his neck was a key chain with a cross at the end, signifying that he was a man of the church. He made for a rather nice contrast against the artificial plumage and bold colors which characterized the remainder of the crowd.

In response to his question, Ardos gave the most polite smile he could muster and extended his hand to the man as a gesture of good faith.

”Indeed I am, sir… ”

”Fauxton. Zolethus Fauxton. ” He said as he took Ardoss hand and gave it a firm shake.

”Of course, I apologize for my ignorance. I only arrived in this great city today so I hope you can give me some reprieve in this regard. ”

”Speak nothing of it, my boy! I have been waiting in anticipation for your arrival, and it pleases me greatly that you admire the tapestry! ” He leaned in close and whispered in Ardoss ear, ”though it is only the first step in my mission. ”

Ardos feigned curiosity before proceeding to ask what that mission was. The priest grinned, clearly expecting such a question and splayed his hands outwards proudly.

”I intend to save this city! ” He boomed, drawing quite a few eyes and ears in his direction. He paid it no mind however. ”You see, this supposedly great city is, as shocking as it sounds, not so great. Or at least….not as great as it could be. ”

”I see. Please, educate me. ” Ardos said with a sort of dry curtness. The sarcasm aspect was not received however as the priest only grew more excited.

”I intend to bring god to this city! Understand this…Corvachia, despite its wealth and grandeur is a city of unfortunate corruption and incongruity. It is split in two, between the merchants and the common folk. And why do you think that is? ”

He didn wait for Ardoss response.

”Because it lacks a church of course! There is no gathering site for the people to express their devotion to god, no place to bring us all together. Which is why we need a church to reduce the discrimination and persecution that runs rampant in this noble city. The people need god you see, to save them from their indulgence. ”

How utterly bland and lacking in originality. Ardos mused with a sigh. He hadn expected much and yet had somehow been disappointed all the same. This individual, Zolethus Fauxton, was yet another ignorant priest. A mere caricature. One who believed everything could be solved with mere faith and who never considered the greater ramifications and powers at play.

He reminded him of Ardoss sixth sister, the only one with whom he shared a mother. She too was a firm believer in god, and she too was rather ignorant of the ways of the world. But she was only twenty one years old, whilst he was hearing this nonsense right now from a man at least twenty years older than his father.

Unfortunately Ardos did not believe in god. Why should he when he had his dream. That alone was reason enough for his existence, and it was far more constructive than some unsupported belief in a deity who may or may not even be real.

And besides, what need did Ardos have to believe in god when he had himself. He was a noble, and if he could use his status correctly he would be able to provide for the people in such a way that they would have no reason to turn to god. That, was what it meant to be nobility.

”Ahh…I see you two are conversing about Father Fauxtons glorious mission. What a precious sight! ”

The individual saying those words was a tall fellow. With glossy black hair and hard eyes. He wore a checkered doublet with the prominent crest of the goldfish in the center. It was difficult to miss, especially in the flaming orange hues with which it was drawn.

This was Lord Damosh Mandelous, the recently elected noble and the High Councillor of the city. He had more illustrious titles such as the Man of a Thousand Trades and The Traveler. He was a prominent businessman who had, despite being a mere five years older than Ardos, had seen much of the world and had enough stories to last a lifetime.

At least, that was the image that had been carved around him. His height and hardened features certainly fit the tales, but his actual personality was a complete mystery to Ardos.

”Well, I hope you don mind Father Fauxton, but I think Id like to borrow this young man from you for a bit. Tell him about more of our wonderful city beyond the implementations you seek to bring to it. ”

Before Father Fauxton could object, Damosh had his hand on Ardoss back and was already leading him away from the conversation.

”What a tedious man, don you agree? ” He said when they were far away of the priest.

Ardos raised in eyebrows in response, intently analyzing the man before him.

”I thought you were his collaborator were you not? ”

Damosh refrained from responding until they had both found a table and a glass of wine had been poured.

”No thank you. ” Ardos said politely to Damoshs offer of the alcohol.

”Suit yourself, ” he remarked in response with a shrug. ”Now to answer your question…yes, we are indeed partners, but it was a choice done more out of pragmatism than genuine conviction. ”

”Do go on. ” Ardos said, genuinely interested now.

”The man has many connections you see. As shocking as it sounds, he is perhaps even more well travelled than I. He just lacks the charisma required to be a daring trader and entrepreneur, as Im sure you can imagine. Regardless, he has some very rich and powerful friends I would much like to know. So, I agreed to make this deal with the old bastard primarily for that purpose. Though it also helps keep the people complacent as well. Weve had quite a surge of good hearted citizens devoting themselves to the honest construction of the church you see. They have nothing but the utmost gratitude towards Father Fauxton for establishing this institution within this city and, by proxy, me as well. Because now, I am a man of god and more than just some sniveling merchant like some people perceive me as. ”

”Are you not? ”

”Excuse me? ”

”Are you not a man of god I mean. ”

Damosh let out a great bellowing laugh, practically choking on the wine he had been drinking.

”Of course not! Youd be hard pressed to find anyone who actually is, don you know? ”

Ardos feigned ignorance and decided to prod him further, so he could better understand his perspective.

”Well I was under the impression that all those who did acts in gods name were men of god. Am I wrong? ”

”Quite a naive fellow you are, Mister Calastre. And I mean this with as much respect as possible, for youve given me a rather good laugh today. But no…I am not a man of god. I am a man of money, because after all the world turns on the turning of coins. ”

There it was…the motto of House Mandelous. Ardos was a fool to expect their latest heir to be any different. Though he certainly wasn as tiresome as the priest back there.

”Even the humble Father back there is no true man of god. Of course he is not so misguided as myself, who acts purely for the sake of profit. But if you looked through the mans records, you would see the things he has done in the name of god are rather detestable. Torture, executions, all in the name of the lord. ”

”How interesting. I took him for a fool when I first met him. ”

”Oh he is, make no mistake about it. ” quipped Damosh. ”A fool hellbent on serving a god created by men. Quite paradoxical isn it? ”

”What polarizing views you have Lord Mandelous. ” Ardos responded with fake shock. ”You surprise me! ”

Lord Mandelous chuckled and took another sip of his goblet. ”Well I can only share these polarizing views because you
e such a polarizing man. Don think I haven been paying attention to your movements. Ive read all your papers on the utilization of magic and whatnot. Rather radical ideas, most of which I imagine attract much controversy to you, do they not? ”

Ardos could feel a grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. ”How well researched you are. Yet another surprise, though I suppose that is in character for a man serving as the High Councillor in a city of merchants. ”

”I suppose so. ”

”But to answer your questions, yes, I am a rather radical man. I believe it is necessary for this nations progress for us to overcome our systemic hatred of mages and try again. ”

Lord Mandelous pulled himself closer to Ardos until the two were face to face. ”In the past several years, Ive heard quite a lot of unconventional ideas, and Ive met very few capable of backing those ideas up. But you, you seem to have conviction. I like you. ” He accentuated this respect by wagging his finger.

”But you don agree with me do you? I would think it to be rather uncommon for a man of your disposition to abandon all pragmatism and ally yourself with views as uncanny as mine. ”

e still here though, aren you? I can respect that, enough to at least hear out your proposal in several days. I am pragmatic, yes, but not to the point that I am completely opposed to change in favor of that pragmatism. Who knows, after this week you might gain your first true supporter. ”

Ardos smirked.

”Well, in the meantime, why don we talk about those views of yours. You seem to have some insight on the Father and his faith do you not? ” Ardos inquired, as a means to keep the conversation going.

”You have a way with words too I see. Also commendable. But yes, I do. I believe, he is no more than a fraud, one so afraid to make his own decisions that he needs to turn to a book to tell him what to do. Its pathetic really. If he was a legitimate believer he would find a deeper understanding of god instead of basing his existence of paper and ink. ”

”Are you not the same though? The only difference is that his book is a holy scripture whilst yours is a financial statement. ” As soon as Ardos said those words a wave of guilt washed upon him. He should have kept his mouth shut and nodded along with the mans words. Why did he decided to make a snarky comment of that manner? But still, it had been made, and there was no changing that decision.

Lord Mandelous narrowed his eyes in scrutiny, as if reconsidering his opinion on Ardos. He leaned forward in his chair, and engaged in a fierce deadlock of stares which lasted for several seconds.

”Yes…I suppose you
e right aren you. ”

”I suppose I am. And so are you, seeing as you yourself confessed to being obsessed with money. ”

”Dependent on, not obsessed. You would be wise to know the difference. ”

He drained his cup and stormed off without another word. He seemed quite offended by Ardoss comparison of him.

”I suppose Ive just soured my relationship with him, haven I. ” Ardos muttered to himself with a sigh. How hard was it to find a man willing to confess to their own faults. Though he wasn all that much different. The entire scenario reminded him of something his father had told him.

”Obsession is a hard thing for a man to confess too, in any circumstance. ”

He was hardly a man to talk but Ardos could agree with the sentiment.

But Im different. I have to be different, no matter what. Resolved Ardos in his heart on the ride back. He was obsessed with his dream, this was something he knew for a fact. But it was a different kind of obsession. Not like the material obsessions of the nobles and the merchants. Those who chased after wealth, or women, or even some supposed god were ultimately shallow in nature. They lacked in conviction, and a true understanding of what it means to be nobility.

Nobles are creatures who live on extremities, Ardos mused. We cannot live unless we are surrounded by that which we obsess over. Kind of like how a lion depends on its territory.

But he was a golden lion. Not the plain, brown furred beasts which the rest of his kind could be compared to, but a true leader of beasts. He craved for something which did not manifest itself in the real world, not yet anyways. But in true fashion for a lion, he would resolve himself to hunt for it. To be as a lion was meant to be.

And he would do it simply because it was his nature. Because he was true nobility, and this was always how he had been. He had always seen things no one else could see as a child. In place of mountains he saw Giants, in place of wooden shacks he saw castles, in place of gemstones he saw glittering stars.

The real itself was a plaything for his imagination, the infinite was his playground. He had fond memories from his childhood, though they were few and far between, off feeling the endless wind breeze above him whilst he lay on the vast earth, accepting its comforting embrace. He would do this all whilst staring up at the night sky, enchanted by its captivating blackness inter spruced with glimmering stars. Hed always wondered what the stars looked liked up close, what they felt like, and even tasted like.

He always imagined they were quite hot.

But there was no way to know unless he reached for them. Which is what he did, that night, laying down in his bed. He liked the bed, it was comfortable. But he wished for the earth, so that he could properly see the stars, instead of needing to look out of some window.

Just then, an idea popped up in his head. A childish, mischievous idea. His common sense screamed at him not to do it, not to go out the window again. It had been dangerous enough in the day, at night truly anything could happen; not to mention how arduous it had been climbing back up to the window unnoticed.

But he threw his common sense out the window alongside himself and crashed into the soft grass of the garden. He sprang up immediately, and crept his way outside the manors limits. The square was still rather busy with activity from more small scale merchants and shop dealers, but he wasn interested in them right now.

No, instead, what he was looking for was the best place to see the stars. It had to be tall yet not crowded, and preferably away from the square. Such a place was difficult to find, and Ardos began to lose hope.

But just as he was about to turn back, he caught sight of a tower. It was abandoned, foreboding, and a bit worn down. Just perfect.

So Ardos snuck in and walked up the creaking stairs, made note of the broken railings, and slowly tip toed his way up to the top floor. It looked to be an abandoned classroom, though most of it was gone now. In its place was a gaping hole in the wall, providing a wonderful view of the city and more importantly, the stars.

But before he made his way to that spot, he noticed a boy. He had black hair like Aurelia, and brown skin the exact same color as hers too. Dried tear lines could be seen under his eyes and the floor around him was quite moist. He had clearly been crying quite a lot, which made Ardos feel bad.

He went over and tapped his shoulder, causing the boy to freak out and open his eyes with utter terror on his face.

They stood eye to eye with each other like that for quite a long time, both unsure of what to say. The boy decided to start.

”Are you…a prince? ”

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