Marai: The Long Dark

Aghrim

The Story of the Naktu

Prince Barindu Nikuri Kaneed II sat on the bench with his legs opened and arms rested upon them, staring down at the mug in his hands. He wasn’t looking at any of the others around him, the group known as the Order of the Cerulean Flame, but his attention was focused on them just the same. He had traveled with them down Mount Kinai, leaving his sister and brethren alone in the Maker’s Laboratories. Despite the plan to free his people and retake the capitol city of Aghrim, the group had already lost one of their own. Though he didn’t know Bail very well, the others seemed to have respected him.

When the leader of the Order, a man named Connor Starson, began asking questions of the Prince, he answered as best he could. He knew the group would need everything he could remember about the Gray Palace if the were to be successful; the guards, the defenses and his father, King Kaneed. Then a question came to the Prince that surprised him, but not because of its intrusiveness, but for its seemingly pointlessness. Glancing up at Connor, he asked him to repeat the question.

“Can you tell me what happened on the night of the Long Dark?” Connor said again in his affected accent that labeled him instantly of being Habrinel. The Prince blinked, not understanding why it would be important. He knew that Connor had a reason for every question, and had already proven himself to be more of a leader than the Prince ever felt he, himself could be. After a long sigh, he began.

“At first, we didn’t understand what was happening. I was only a year from majority at the time, and when the sky suddenly blackened, there was a panic. Well, except my father. He seemed to be completely calm as he took my mother and me to the Gray Palace. The whole time we were moving, he was receiving reports from guards, and they didn’t make a lot of sense to us, and it wasn’t our place to ask. Then, he opened up a passage in one of the walls. My mother was shocked, I remember. She asked him why we weren’t joining the others in the Laboratory. He just smacked her and told her to get in the room and not to come out until he opened the door.”

Taking a sip of his ale, the Prince continued. “I could see the city from the window, even though it didn’t make sense. The window I mean. I knew that from the outside there was no window, but we could easily look out onto the streets below, filled with the Colors. There was a great panic below, and the streets and alley were filled with lights and flashes. It was terrifying to watch, and after awhile, my mother pulled me to the other side of the room. There we sat for some time.”

“For three days we were in the room, waiting for my father’s return. Occasionally, a servant would enter, though he wasn’t one we had ever seen before. He would bring us fresh clothing and food, and take care of amenities. We never left that room, though as Father had a great temper and would have beat us senseless. He was a ruthless man even then.”

“Finally, the Sol Linaru returned to his sky, but there was something wrong. Below us, in the street, the Colors were being taken down. The Royal Gardens were being cut, and the flowers were being burned. When I glanced at my mother for an explanation, she just cried and shook her head. The door opened then, and instead of the servant, it was my Father. He was wearing the Royal Crown, but he had removed the Colors from it. My mother rushed to him and asked him what happened, and as a response, he beat her.”

The Prince paused to clear his throat, attempt to hide a lump.

“My father then told us he was King now, and that he should not be questioned. He said that if we ever spoke about the Colors, he would kill us both. And then he said that it was time for another heir just in case, and had me escorted from the room. I could hear my mothers screams across the castle.”

“The change in my people was equally as brutal. They became solemn, almost as if the light in their eyes had been removed. There was this sense of dread, and anyone caught with a Color was executed as a traitor. My father said that the laws were put in place to honor our new God, Djiriantheorthos the Devourer. He reenacted the Laws of Caste and forced the new slave caste to build a temple in his honor. He worked them so hard that most died within weeks.”

“That was eleven years ago. And even though I have always seen the Colors, we had to hide that fact. But once my sister was born, I knew we couldn’t continue down that path. So I took her and went up to the Laboratory. And that’s were we found the rest of my family.”

Feeling the need for another sip, the Prince swallowed hard and remained silent for the remainder of the night.

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