How The Rattle Prince Stole Immortality From Man

by Dan

Long ago, before the Binding War, when the Ones We Do Not Name still roamed the earth and worked their will and served their purpose, the curse of age had yet to fall on the race of men. We were - do not misread me - mortal still. Subject to death, and to the silent lure of the Burned Place, but age did not sicken, the years did not weary, and sunlight reigned over all the lands of men. And in those days, the Burned Lords attended each death in person, for mankind was beloved by them.

In this time there ruled great kings. Men of strength and wit and wisdom, who walked the woods (that were much greater then) at will, who spoke to gods and learned great secrets of them. The greatest of these Kings of Men was Simeon of the Broken Bough, whose kingdom stretched from the sea to the place where the three rivers meet. And Simeon of the Broken Bough had a daughter, whose name was Eleanor. She was as fair as the morning light, as it shines through the spires of the great City of the East, and as gentle as the gaze of Innocence. But she was also given much to curiosity, and this at the last was to be the undoing of all our kind.

There is, of course, a third player in the game that shall unfold. The Sneering God, the Mocking Lord, the trickster-traitor in the silver mask. From his high castle, the Rattle Prince observed the race of men and grew envious. And so he took upon himself the guise of a songbird. In this shape he appeared before the King's daughter, and lured her westward.

On hearing that his daugher had disappeared, King Simeon of the Broken Bough called to him all his knights and servants and said to them: “My daughter has vanished into the West. Which of you will find her for me?”. And his knights and servants fell silent, for the West was darker in those days even than today. Then the youngest of the knights stood forward, for he loved the King's daughter, though he would not speak of it, and he would see no harm come to her.

So the youngest knight set forth with sword and chain, into the deeps of the West. And there he met with many things. He met a troll as it lay dying, and a woman who was a tree. He met the Vine-Children who, then as now, danced and sang and killed in the deeps of the wood. He met with wolves who, then as now, sought to fend off travellers in the deep places. And soon he found himself lost in the forests of the West.

Then the Rattle-Prince, the great deceiver, the trickster-traitor, came upon him in woodsman's guise. “Sir knight,” said the false lord, “I know well why you have come to this place, but your quest may now be in vain. The lady you seek lies dying, stung by some serpent as she followed a songbird into the deeps of the forest”. On hearing this, the youngest knight wept, for he knew there was nothing to be done. “Fear not,” said the perfidious god, “for there is a way yet she may be saved”. And the Rattle-Prince, the trickster-traitor, gave to the youngest knight a spear woven of willow branches. “When the Burned Lord comes to claim her, as come he will, strike him down with this spear. He will depart and she shall live”. Then the Rattle-Prince, the trickster-traitor, led the youngest knight to where the King's daughter lay dying.

And after a time, one of the Burned Lords arrived indeed. The highest and greatest of their number, armoured in plate of black and grey, adorned with many symbols of rank and station. Sombre and sedate he knelt beside the lady, and the scent of ashes filled the air. The youngest knight struck, piercing the Burned Lord through the flank with the spear he had been given. He swept the lady in his arms, and fled with her to her father's land.

But from the fallen god there came great clouds of ash, that blackened the skies and the rivers, that choked and blinded. And where they touched the Ashen Place touched also, and time and death took hold. And so forever more mankind will age, the touch of ashes growing day by day and visible in hair and eyes. And though some seek by alchemy to purify themselves of it, or by black arts to live when Ash has claimed them, few succeed.

And in his high castle, the Rattle Prince laughs.

misc/fiction/rattleprince.txt · Last modified: 2011/03/27 18:53 by osj01
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