Darkest Star, Brightest Shadow

There are some times in life where even the brightest of stars can become so dark and corrupt, that they are unstoppable. It is at this time of peril that a nobody, an insignificant little shadow, must step up to face the enemy. Umbra. Umbra must step up, and become the brightest of all shadows...

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19. Feast

Umbra woke up to Aquila standing over him, shaking him awake. Silver's tongue licked softly at his hand, leaving it warm and slobbery. Groaning, Umbra lifted his head. His eyes flickered open, looking up to the wooden ceiling behind Aquila's head.

"You've been asleep for a while. We didn't wake you for lunch, but since the elves are throwing a feast for us, we thought you'd want to come." Thorn's voice, as soothing as ever, came from his bedroom doorway. Umbra glanced over to Thorn, leaning against Umbra's doorway. Her eyes were only half-open, but she still looked beautiful. Umbra swung his feet out of bed, realising he was still wearing boots.

"Yeah." Umbra replied. "I'm coming." Thorn gave a nod as he stood up, the strands of black hair still falling past her face. Umbra walked forwards, following Aquila out of the room. Thorn walked next to Umbra, closing the door behind them. Lazarus was not outside his room; instead, there was only Carnelian, his golden eyes glinting with anticipation.

"Lazarus is waiting at the hall." Carnelian told them, leading them down a set of spiralling stairs. "He's already taken our mounts down there so that they can eat too. There's a balcony that they entered through, before you ask how they got into the dining hall. Remember to eat well, for we might have to leave Elteras soon. Lazarus might be coming, but his parents do not wish for it. They want him to stay safely at Elteras while others fight the battles. Lazarus, however, does not agree." Carnelian told them, his head drooping slightly as he mentioned Laz's parents.

"Great. That's all we need. Two over-protective elven royals trying to stop him coming with us. They'll be arguing at the feast. End up blaming us, probably. Carnelian, get Inferno to sneeze flames all over them if they start moaning too much." Thorn muttered, clearly unpleased at this news. Carnelian laughed at her comment about Inferno, leaving Umbra wondering how bad Lazarus's parents really were. Surely they couldn't be that bad? Thorn, walking next to him, saw the thought in his face.

"Ah, and Umbra?" She asked, her eyes mischeivious.

"Yeah?"

"You're not going to like them. They'll annoy you, trust me. Try to keep calm when you argue with them, and just don't loose your cool. Remember, defeand Laz in arguments, or he might not be coming. But, ah... Don't be rude or offensive to his parents. Try to be reasonable, as they'll think of you as the wise, clever Protector. It doesn't matter if the rest of us are rude; it's you who has to stay calm and remember manners." Thorn advised, still walking beside Umbra. He found it pleasing that she was choosing him to walk with instead of anyone else.

"Wise? Clever?" Umbra scoffed. "I'm slightly better at fighting." Thorn smiled at this, looking sideways at Umbra.

"Well, you'll have to be wise and clever for this feast." she replied, her eyes twinkling with a light. "And also, I'm going to warn you all... don't laugh when the funny thing happens." Thorn added.

"What have you done this time? Ah well, it doesn't matter. Everyone, lighten up. It won't be that bad." Carnelian said, as they approached the grand doors of the dining hall. Engraved on the doos were an intracate design; showing leaves, birds, flowers, trees. Umbra took a few seconds to look at the pattern before the doors opened in to the hall. A grand, round table, made of a smooth wood, laid in the centre of the huge hall, with chandeliers crafted with genuine crystals hung from the wood cielings, lit by dancing flames that seemed to illuminate the entire room. Plates and cutlery sat already at the table, as well as dishes and platters filled with piles of food. It made Umbra's mouth water just to see it, considering he'd been living off forrest berries and meat for the last few weeks. At the head of the table sat three elves; in the centre, Lazarus, dressed in silk robes, looking genuinely miserable. On the left was an elven woman, dressed entirely in white, with perfectly wavy hair and pretty eyes. She was, in a way, beautiful, Umbra thought. But with her beauty came something else. A superior attitude, making her see herself as a higher being than any others. She was not as beautiful as Thorn, though the assassin's face was usually hidden beneath her hood. And then, on the right of Lazarus, was an elven male adult, with a crown placed on his head. He looked cross, as if he were always depressed and miserable. Lazarus's face lit up as he saw them.

"Ah! My friends! Please join us at this... glorious feast." the prince spoke, glad for a distraction. Sundance, Zephyr and Inferno were sat at one side of the table, looking excitedly at Carnelian, Thorn, Aquila and Umbra. Silver ran up to Inferno, greeting him with a welcoming yap. Carnelian walked forwards a few steps, then kneeled.

"Do the same." Thorn advised, stepping forward and merely bowing her head with a slight air of mock to her actions. Umbra and Aquila decided to kneel, using Carnelian - the politer of the two - as a role model. The elven queen opened her mouth to speak, but was hushed by Lazarus.

"She is the greatest of human assassins, mother. You are lucky she bowed her head to you." he told her. His mother pouted, but did not speak as the four companions took their seats. For a few seconds, Umbra stared at the food, mouth watering. It was taking up all his willpower to not grab at the food, shovelling it in his mouth.

"Now, Protector, it is a pleasure to meet you in person, for I do believe that you have been busy all day. Responsibilities, hmm?" The king asked, his piercing eyes looking deep into Umbra's soul. It took a few minutes for Umbra to catch onto what he was saying, and figuring out that Lazarus had told his father that, instead of Umbra being asleep, he had been busy with duties of the Protector.

"Yes... Yes. Responsibilities I had to, ah, take care of. But my king... The pleasure is mine." Umbra said, smiling respectfully. Thorn's words rung in his head, reminding him of the need to be friendly to the elven royals. The king nodded at the Protector's words, then looked back at his son.

"See, Lazarus, if you were more like him, we would get along more. The Protector's politeness is outstanding! Unlike, I must say, Carnelian and Thorn..." the elven queen told her son, flashing Umbra a perfect smile as she mentioned his manners, then shooting Carnelian and Thorn a dark look.

"Individuality." Thorn spat, her eyes glowering at the queen. "Everyone is different. It's hardly like you're the same as Umbra. You are pig-headed and vain, your husbond is stupid and wimpy. Last time I checked, Umbra is none of those things. Your son can fight, at least. He is far more like Umbra than you are." Thorn snarled, slamming her empty glass upon the table. Lazarus looked smug, his parents shocked at the assassin's actions. Before they could speak, Umbra decided to put his own speech into the argument.

"The assassin speaks the truth. Individuality is the key to success, although you are not any of the things she called you." As he said this, Umbra gave Thorn a dark look. "Your son is a good hearted elf, please trust me when I say this. But arguing on the matter will not fill us. We should eat instead of argue." he spoke, smiling once more at the royals.

"Indeed." the queen replied, though Thorn was already piling her plate greedily. She ate in a deliberately unpleasant fashion, just to annoy the rulers of Elteras. Lazarus found this highly amusing, grinning at his assassin friend as she belched, loudly, then  laughed like it was halarious. The king and queen continiued to give Thorn disgusted looks, but said nothing. Umbra ate more slowly, with manners, but still ate a surfeit of food. He continiued to refill his plate, the silence filling the entire hall. Umbra now realised that the royal parents were worse than he had thought. Lazarus must have a hard time with them. Just as the thought crossed his mind, Thorn spluttered, coughing food all over the table. By this time, everyone was full. If they had not been, the half eaten, coughed out food sprayed all over the dishes would have put them off taking any more. Umbra stiffled a laugh, but Lazarus, Aquila and Carnelian burst out in laughter. Umbra looked at the assassin, her eyes rebelious as she smiled 'apologetically', wiping her chin with her sleeve. Thorn was definately brave, Umbra decided. Fuming, the queen pushed back her chair, face red with fury. As she did so, Umbra noticed Thorn drawing a knife that had been concealed down her boot. For a dreadful second, he thought she was going to kill the queen of Elteras, but that fear soon passed as he realised that Thorn was aiming for the golden rope that held the huge tapestry up on the wall behind the royals. The knife, flying through the air, struck the rope, cleanly slicing it in two. The tapestry crumpled, falling onto the royals, trapping them under the tapestry. Thorn winked at Umbra, her expression playful. Umbra, now out of the royal's veiw, sniggered at the queens ear-splitting shrieking, and the king's bellows of fear. The assassin was skilled not only at killing, Umbra decided, but embaressing others. Lazarus, hardly bothered, crawled out from under the tapestry, his eyes glinting with amusement.

"Nice one." the prince grinned, as Thorn took a bow. "But I guess we'd better get them out. Umbra, help me out, please. We have to boost your popularity even more." Umbra nodded to the prince, helping his to lift the tapestry, while Carnelian, Aquila and Thorn stood back sniggering. As he pulled the tapestry from over the queen, Umbra offered her a hand. Thorn's eyes were on him, and he wished that he could impress her by insulting the queen. Taking his hand, the elven royal let Umbra pull her up. He helped her over to a chair, as Lazarus was doing for his father. For five minutes, Umbra feigned respect, wishing only to spit in the king's face, insult the queen. The first thing the queen said to them was a hopeful,

"And I suppose that you shall need to be going tomorrow?"

"Indeed, mother. We shall. In fact, I've already packed." Lazarus said, using the opertunity to remind his parents that he didn't wish to remain in Elteras.

"No!" his father snapped, tone angry. "We have discussed this; you shall not be leaving this kingdom. I don't care if you would be so much help to Carnelian's team. I don't care if you yearn for battle. And I MOST CERTAINLY DON'T CARE if people DIE WHILE YOU LIVE!" Lazarus's father screamed, spitting in his son's face. Lazarus glared back defiantly, his fist's clenched and his jaw set firm. Carnelian stepped forwards, next to his friend.

"The prince may make his own descisions. It's his life, so BACK OFF!" he yelled back, and Umbra could tell that he was seriously considering using Thorn's descision of getting Inferno to sneeze flames all over Laz's parents. The Protector looked between the two sides, and decided that time for being polite had ended.

 

I look at Umbra as he storms over to the king and queen, his rage clear.

"What do you mean you DON'T CARE IF PEOPLE DIE!? If you were a soldier, and one of them was the king, how would you feel if they said that to you. So what if you die, though? You're just a king. They're far braver than you. If anyone deserves to die, it's you." Umbra spits. The king stares at him, open-mouthed and shocked.

"But - You-" he stammers, trembling before Umbra. Oh, I am proud of that protector. Such a brave child.

"But nothing." the assassin snarls, her posture catlike and dangerous. Without even realising it, she has knives in her hands. "You are weak rulers - accept it. Lazarus, though you do not seem to see it, is strong. Perhaps one of the strongest rulers Elteras will ever have." she tells them, then twirls around and walks over to me, with Umbra beside her. Carnelian nods his head to Aquila, who wordlessly joins him on Inferno, clambering up behind the elf. Lazarus glares at his parents for a few more seconds, then turns and swiftly leaps onto Sundances back.

"Silver," he calls softly to the wolf, helping the predator onto his dragon's back. And then, Umbra urges me to leave the room, exiting through the balcony. I spread my wings and leave.

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