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The Branded Prince (Private)

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It is said that in ancient times our world, Gaia was a harsh and unforgiving place. In this time it was not our kind who ruled, but the beasts. In this time our kind, humans lived among the creatures of Gaia. To survive we had to live from the land, hunting creatures smaller and weaker than ourselves. In time, as our species grew and obtained knowledge, we learned how to manipulate the land. With care we treated the earth with water and seed, so that vegetation would grow just as we intended. We discovered that from nature’s elements we could craft tools to help us hunt, and grow, and build. We began to prosper, no longer merely surviving. Finally we began to live.

In time humanity grew to heights beyond our imagination. The more we learned of our world, the more we discovered how to harness it’s power for our own gain. Science became our ideology, and technology our tool. We became so knowledgeable of our world that we learned the replicate the natural occurrences of our world, focusing and harnessing them to our own specifics and standards. Through our knowledge we have become the uncontested rulers of our world, we shape it as we see fit, and not even the sky is beyond our limitations. 

In time other races followed similar paths, and we were joined by the proud and strong Komoda, the swift and valiant Lepan, the sneaky and resourceful Roden, and the strange and elusive Laxi. With such races joining our society, our culture shifted and blossomed, incorporating the vast talents of diversity. 
Yet there is a part of our history that has become almost lost to us. For when humanity first began to understand nature, there were those who led the way. People with greater knowledge and understanding of nature, of the elements. Such people understood the intricate foundations of nature, and were able to harness it’s power through sheer will, using a strange and mystical art known as Alchemy. 

These Alchemists, harnessing the very power of nature as an extension of themselves, paved the way for humanity. Through their understanding humanity established it’s own, baser knowledge of the world’s machinations, and through their tutelage alone were we able to survive as long as we have. And when war inevitably reared it’s ugly head, it was the Alchemist who settled the great battles, using their awesome power to cease all threats. And so the Alchemists became our protectors, our leaders. Yet as our knowledge grew and we gained our own prosperity, the power of the Alchemists became less needed, and soon their numbers dwindled, until their existence almost disappeared into legend. 
Yet one man lives to prove their existence is more than mere legend. King August Vermillion Rhapsody, ruler of the lands of Velice, residing in the great city of Fortuna. Also known by his other title – The Branded King. King August and his family are the last of the Alchemists, and his power is the greatest of them all. For the needs of Alchemy have dwindled, and even among those able, the desire to learn has faded. Yet the loss of ancient practices is, perhaps not something to be mourned. For science has brought us power beyond that of Alchemists. With technology we not only shape the world, but shape ourselves, becoming faster, stronger, and capable of things that were never thought possible. The time of Alchemy has ended, now that all of humanity can become Gods. 

 


The sky above Fortuna was cloudy, but streaks of sunlight cut through in places and provided a comfortable warmth to the city. In the lower districts, where the narrow streets were darkened by tall buildings towering above street level, the people seemed in quite a hurry. All manner of race were out in force, preparing for this very day. It was the annual Reverance Festival, where the city of Forrtuna celebrated the anniversary of its founding. Many had taken the day off work, and others were busy setting up stalls to sell their wares during the event. Sparkling lights littered the streets as old and young all wore crowns and hats decorated with tacky, multi-coloured lights that were always worn during the festival. In the higher reaches of the city, in the various plazas, street performers juggled batons of fire to the audible gasps of the rapidly growing crowds. A parade of floats made its way through the wider streets, led by a smartly dressed troupe, each playing musical instruments, while their leader twirled a baton as he marched ahead. 

Each float was decorated in a different way. Some were shaped like the various native beasts of Velice, others decorated with beautiful floral arrangements, and yet more were dedicated to various companies, projects and art commissions made specially for the event. The crowd marveled at the life-like spectacle that led the floats. It was a giant stage with three enormous dancers, who were not real, of course, but rather were being projected by a series of bright blue laser-lights, their forms visible even in the light of day. The people roared and cheered as the floats passed them by, and watched intently until they moved out of sight. Then they continued on their way, towards Rhapsody Stadium, where a concert would be held, along with a speech from King Augustus Rhapsody himself. 

Yet the concert would not begin until nightfall, and King Rhapsody was far from the cheering crowds, up in the highest reaches of Fortuna, in the large palace that stood as the jewel at the top of the city. Augustus was walking the across the sprawling balconies that looked down on the city below, but his attention was focused on the tablet in his hand. He scrolled through streams of text and graphs, sighing to himself in frustration. 

The King looked to be in his late 50’s but in truth he was significantly older. He was a tan skinned man with a wrinkled, tired face. He had a thick head of jet black hair with thick wisps of silver, and a short goatee shaped to a point. He was dressed in a black and white pinstripe suit, with a red shirt and a black ascot tie with intricate, red floral patterns woven in to the silk. His dull gray-blue eyes scanned the contents of his device and he let out another frustrated sigh. 

“Sire?” The man next to him was younger, in his late 30’s. He had tidy, blonde hair swept back over his head, and was dressed in an impeccable, white suit, with a black shirt, a thin white tie, and a red rose pinned to his lapel. He wore a pair of thin-framed sunglasses with red lenses, which seemed to occasionally streak with a fuzz of static on occasion. 
“Speak, Lyude.” The King replied, not looking away from the screen. 
“Perhaps if you allow me, Sire…” He said, holding out his hand. The King glanced at him for a moment with a frown, and then he let out a resigned sigh and handed the tablet to his younger companion. 

“Let’s see then.” Lyude said as he ran his gloved hands over the device. He made a few swiping gestures, removing sections he deemed unimportant, and then he made another few taps and smiled, pleased with himself. “I think we should be okay. If you move your meeting with Duke Archibald to after the ceremony then that should free up enough time to take care of your other duties, no?”
“Archibald has been requesting a meeting for months.” The King said, shaking his head. “I can’t make him wait any further. He wants to discuss the trade disputes going on with Avara at the moment. You know he has a firm stance on employment, and this dispute is costing jobs.”
“Wouldn’t that be the responsibility of the Foreign Trade Council, Sire?” Lyude asked. 
“Yes, but they keep dodging his requests for talks. He knows they wouldn’t ignore a direct request from me.” The King Replied
“Well, that is quite the conundrum. However, the responsibility does lie with the FTC. If he wishes to raise issues he should be taking it up with the Internal Inquiries Division, surely?”

“Yes…but he’s an old friend and…” The King sighed. “…it’s fine. Reschedule his meeting until after the ceremony. I have a duty to my people, first and foremost.”
“As you say, Sire.” Lyude replied with a smile and a nod, and he went to work tapping away on the tablet again. The King allowed him, glad to have the blasted thing out of his hands for a moment. He looked out at his city from the balcony, and watched as hundreds of balloons rose up over the skyscrapers. He smiled contently. His work had become tiring of late, but he reminded himself that he would always endure, for the sake of his people. He turned back to Lyude. 

“And what of my son?” He asked
“Prince Oranyx remains locked up in his chambers, Sire.” Lyude said with a soft sigh. “I fear he is not in the mood for the festivities today.”
“His mood is irrelevant.” The King growled in annoyance. “He has a responsibility. I am tired of his childish attitude.”
“Well he is only a boy, Sire.” Lyude commented with a sympathetic smile. 
“He’s 18, and that’s a man in my eyes.” The King replied. “Does he not answer his summons at all?”
“Rather he says nothing, Sire.” Lyude replied. “Probably playing that game I should imagine.”
“Blast it!” The King snapped, and he whirled around on the spot, marching back down the balcony and into the palace corridors, with Lyude hurriedly chasing after him. 

“Sire, we have to-“
“Quiet!” The King snarled. “I am sick and tired of this nonsense! The boy has no respect!” They continued down the corridor and then down two flights of steps, all the while the King’s anger bubbled beneath the surface. Finally they came to the door of the Prince’s bedroom and the King pulled open the door and marched inside. “Oranyx, now you listen to me, I-“ The King stopped. Sat on the edge of his bed, Prince Oranyx sat dressed in a pair of skinny, black jeans, and a plain gray t-shirt. He had a pair of headphones sat over his thick, messy-but-stylish, black hair. Over his eyes was a transluscent laser-light visor with streams of data and imagery flashing over it. The Prince was engrossed in the game he was playing, his thumbs twiddling over the controller he held between them. 

With a furious growl his father charged towards him, snatching the visor from his face and throwing it against the wall, shattering it. “Wh- Hey!” Prince Oranyx gasped as he blinked, looking at his broken visor with sheer outrage. “What the hell, dad!?” He added. 
“People have been calling for you for hours!” The King yelled. “And here I find you playing that…that stupid game!”
“Only you think it’s stupid!” Oranyx bit back. “I suppose you’d rather I play your stupid game, then?”
“Your responsibility to this city is not a game Oranyx.” The King replied. 
“NYX!” The Prince yelled so loud that it echoed through the corridors outside of his room. “I’ve told you a thousand times to stop calling me that! It’s just Nyx, okay?”
“And I’ve told you that Oranyx is your name, like it or not. It was your grandfather’s name.” The King said testily. 
“Well you should have let him keep it.” Nyx replied, rolling his eyes. “Now get out of my room.”
“I think you will find this is my room, young man.” The King replied with a frown. “As is every room in this entire palace.”

“Oh here we go again!” Nyx yelled. “Yeah, yeah, it’s all yours dad. That’s great. Well why don’t I just get the hell out of your way then?”
“That is not what I meant!” The King snapped back. He sighed, trying to calm himself. “Look, son, today is an important day for Fortuna. I only ask that you get dressed and come with me to the ceremony. The people expect to see you there.”
“Yeah?” Nyx replied, scowling. “And what about what I want? I couldn’t care less about about this stupid festival.”
“Ora-“ The King stopped himself. “…Nyx. You must understand that, while it can be hard, there are expectations of you as a Prince. You are my only son, and I have know that you have your father’s strength. One day you will lead these people, it’s important that you come to know them.”

“I already know them better than you do.” Nyx said, shaking his head. “I’d be down there with them all right now if you’d only let me.”
“You know I cannot just let you wander the city on your own like that, we’ve been over this. You are the Prince and-“
“Well maybe I don’t want to be the Prince!” Nyx interrupted. “Did you ever think about that, dad? I don’t want any of this! I just want to be a regular kid, all right?”
“Son…” The King said softly, he looked hurt by Nyx’s words. “Please…I know you don’t mean that.”

“Yes I do.” Nyx replied, getting off of his bed and pushing past his father. He slipped on a pair of black leather boots lined with three buckles on each calf. Then he opened his wardrobe and pulled out a thin, black jacket, with silver buttons over the lapels, and silver pendant of a lion’s head attached to the front zip. He zipped up the jacket and put on a pair of blue-lensed sunglasses. “I’m out of here.” He said as he went for the door. 
“Now just stop this right-“ The King began
“Leave me alone!” Nyx snarled before quietly adding, “…I hate you.” As he left his room, and his father, who stood frozen by the pain and shock of his words, which had cut him deeper than any sword. 

Nyx took off down the corridor until he reached the spiral staircase at the end and began to descend them. As he reached the bottom he noticed two of the King’s guards advancing up towards them. They were Laxi. They stood taller than humans, and their flesh was protected by a hard carapace shell that covered their entires bodies. The colour of the shell was a combination of oily black with patches of sickly yellow. Each of their six eyes were entirely black, maing it impossible to tell if they were looking directly at your or not. The moved towards him without words, not unlike them. The Laxi were excellent guards, unquestioning, hard-working and efficient. 
As they met him on the stairs they reached out to grab them, but Nyx was ready. He leapt on to the railing of the staircase to avoid the first lunge at him, and quickly rebounded off again as the other reached for him. He landed on the stairs behind them and began sprinting hurriedly down the stairs. Unfortunately with their long legs the Laxi were also quite fast. They gained on him in no time as he reached the next floor and sprinted along the corridor. On the long, straight sprint his pursuers held the advantage and managed to grab him by the arms, holding him tight. “Let me go!” He yelled angrily. 
“Apologies, young Master.” One of the Laxi said, there voice was strange to hear, you could hear a buzzing vibration behind it. “All the guards have been instructed not to let you leave the Palace unattended again.”

“I’m not leaving the palace, I was just going to get some food from the kitchens.” Nyx protested
“Apologies, young Master, but we will not fall for that one again.” The other Laxi replied. 
“Ugh…fine.” Nyx said with a sigh. Then a slight smirk spread across his face, a capricious glint in his eyes. He felt a prickle on the back of his neck as he activated his power. From his jeans pocket two thin wires of metal shot out like a snake, and coiled itself around the feet of the two Laxi, wrapping tight and binding them together, until they both stumbled to the floor and let go of him. Nyx let out a mad chuckle and stepped away from them. “Sorry, didn’t want to have to resort to that!” He said with a grin. “Later!” He added with a wave, then he ran off down the corridor once more. 

By the time he breached the palace doors he had 5 more guards sprinting after him shouting and hollering. He ran past one of the waiting staff who was carrying a metal tray of plates and cups across the garden. As he passed her he grabbed the metal tray, and the woman shrieked as her tray morphed from it’s original state in Nyx’s hands, and by the time he hurled it at the floor behind him, the tray had shattered into a mess of shiny, metal ball bearings that rolled across the ground behind him. The guards tried to stop but they could not in time, and slipped over the ball bearings, crashing in a heap on the ground. 

Finally Nyx reached the enormous, metal grates that were closed and barred, blocking his way into the city. He gripped the gates in his hand and the metal re-shaped as he willed it to, creating foot holds up the bars for him to climb. As he scrambled up the gate the footholds disappeared behind him, until he reached the top and vaulted over it, landing with a thud on the either side. He quickly picked himself up and dusted off his jeans. With a final smirk he looked back at the guard who were stuck on the other side of the gate. He pulled his headphones over his head and gave them a final, casual salute, before turning and disappearing into the city.
 

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"Hmm..." A cloaked figure mused, watching as the Prince evaded the guards and fled the castle. He stepped out from his hiding place and walked up to the guards. They turned, took one look at him, and saluted. Standing beside them, his height was suddenly far more noticeable. He was well over 6ft in height, and though his hood covered his upper face in shadow, his elongated muzzle stuck out from beneath it. He had a nose shaped like a 'Y' and his fur - not skin - was short, rough and white as snow. He was Lepan, that much was clear. A species evolved alongside humans. While humans came from monkeys, Lepans came from hares.
"The Prince won't get far, we'll--" The Laxian guard began, but he cut him short.
"--leave him to me, huh?" The snow-furred Lepan replied, grinning. He crouched, and leapt high into the air, clearing the wall effortlessly before landing on the other side. Then he disappeared into the winding streets of the city.

It didn't take long to find the Prince. Nyx was busy ogling a merchant's wares when he came up behind him, moving through the crowd like a knife through butter. The crowd parted mostly as they recognised the symbol of the crown on his cloak. He towered over Nyx, casting a shadow over the merchant's goods, and put one large, clawed paw on Nyx's shoulder with a pat, "Now where'd ye think you're goin', hmm?" 
Nyx pulled himself out of his grasp and glared at him contemptuously. "Buzz off, Scar." He said as he stepped away from the stall. "Leave me alone."
"I would..." Scar muttered, as he followed the boy, keeping pace easily with his own long, loping strides, "... had I chosen to be a fishmonger, or a carpenter, but fer some foolish reason I decided to be a royal bodyguard. So unfortunately, Prince Oranyx, yer stuck with me." 
"Nyx." The Prince corrected. "Anyway I don't need you around. Nobody was paying me any mind until you showed up with that coat. Might as well just wave a royal flag and sound the trumpets." He rolled his eyes and turned away from Scar.
"As ever, Prince Oranyx, yer skills of perception could use a little work." Scar turned his head, careful not to pull his hood down, "I can hear a merchant on the other side of the courtyard telling a group of men who you are, and offerin' them a great sum of money fer yer head."

"Yeah, right." Nyx said, laughing a little. "We're in the middle of Fortuna, Scar. Do you see what's happening around you? People are celebrating. You really think I'm going to believe I'm surrounded by assassins?"
"The fact ye believe you're not, would imply it would be an excellent time, yes." Scar replied, genuinely, he watched carefully as the trio of men snaked their way through the crowd towards them, one of them pulled something from their pocket, "Are ye ready, Prince?" He asked.
"Are... are you serious?" Nyx asked frowning. He watched the men advancing towards them and apprehensively stepped back.
"Get behind me!" Scar growled, and the Prince did as he was told.
"PRINCE ORANYX!!" One of the men yelled, charging forwards as the other two flanked him. As they broke free of the crowd, the forerunner bowed and held up his Vidphone, "We're sorry to bother you, Prince, but we saw you from across the way and we'd like to take a picture with you?" 

Scar turned to face the Prince and crossed his arms, "What do ye think, my Prince, are ye feelin' brave?" A grin spread across Scar's face.
"You're an idiot." Nyx huffed as he pushed past him. He smiled politely at the gentleman and allowed them to gather around him. He put his arms around them and held up his fingers in peace symbols, and smiled for the Vidphone. When they were done the group thanked him and he nodded in response, turning back to Scar. "Head-hunters... sure." He grumbled. "Are you done embarrassing me now?"
"Well, calling you 'Oranyx' had gotten stale." Scar retorted, "So what pushed ye into the city today, then?" He asked, and as he did so, he pulled the hood down, revealing his head in full. Scar had the incredibly long hare-like ears of his people, he had a mop of white scruffy hair that fell just below his furry brow, his eyes were a striking light blue, and his face and neck were covered in scars. The most prominent of which was a three-claw scar that ran from the top left of his forehead, down and across the bottom right of his muzzle. He looked as though he'd been through several wars. Or perhaps been attacked by a large monster. He brushed the hair out of his eyes and stretched before pulling the cloak from around his neck, revealing his clothes underneath. He dressed in white, but wore no shoes as his powerful feet were more effective bare. Over everything he wore a long white coat, though his clothes were not uniform, and held no sigils. 

"Nothing, just tired of being stuck in that place." He nodded towards the palace which could be seen on high from all over the city. "Put bars on the windows and the palace would be an asylum for the insane. All the rules, procedures and pleasantries. It's enough to drive anyone crazy."
"Ye don't know how easy yeh got it," Scar replied, sticking his paws into his coat pockets, "Ye don't have to worry about work or money, about how you're goin' to pay for things, or feed yourself. Ye don't have to worry about safety or security. You're cared for. You've got the easy life, kid. Most people would kill to be in your position. Probably literally, but hey--" He pulled out a paw and jabbed a furry thumb at himself, "--just as well, else this guy'd be out of the job." 
"Yeah it's just great getting to sit on your ass and do nothing, occasionally having a break to wave at the little people down below." Nyx replied, shaking his head. "I can't even take a stroll without you following me. It's disgraceful. If dad really trusted and cared for his people then he would know I'm safe in their presence. Nobody wants to hurt me, they're far too busy fussing about the new Vidphone." Nyx smirked. "Have you seen it by the way? It's the first one to have high-speed wireless deepnet access, and you can play Galactica on it and..." He went on listing the various features of the phone.
"That's nice, kid." Scar interrupted, "But i'd rather do without that tech stuff whenever possible. We're all caught up in all that junk we can't see the things around us that really matter any more. Heck, most o' us are as much machines as people."

"Careful, Scar, you sound like an old man." Nyx smirked. "Where would we be without tech? Aria made augments to help people y'know? Amputees can walk again, the blind can see, and the communication network in the deepnet is about all the fun I get in the palace. I play games with kids from Regulus and Trident, how else could I do that without tech?"
"Whatever makes ya happy, kid." Scar replied, looking around the courtyard, watching people weave back and forth, the occasional person gasping as they saw the Prince, or marvel at the height of a Lepan - which despite their large families, were the rarest amongst the races. "I'll take alchemy over technology any day."
"Most people can't do that." Nyx said, shrugging. "Besides, just because we can use Alchemy doesn't mean we can't enjoy the regular things in life. Besides, what use is it? The only time I use alchemy is to escape to the city. What else is it good for? I can turn a metal fence into a sword, but so what? There's an entire armory of them in the palace."
"If it keeps a gun outta my paws I don't much care." Scar muttered.
"Is there any point even arguing with you?" Nyx asked. "You're so stubborn."

"Yes I am, and no there is not." Scar replied, nodding to himself, "How much longer we gotta be out here for? It's just a little celebration, kid. Nothin' much goin' on here but stalls and parades and whatnot. Load o' fuss over nothin'." 
"Don't let my dad hear you say that." Nyx said with a smirk. "...He loves the Reverence Festival. I remember when I was little he used to take me to see the floats. Nobody had to guard me with him around. It just felt... ordinary. I don't want to go back just yet. The moment I step through those gates I'll have a queue of people waiting to berate me, dress me, fix my hair, speech rehearsals, protocol... it's all so pointless."
"When I was a kid, I didn't have anyone to fuss over me, I had thirty-six brothers and sisters, and we were poor..." Scar let out a short sigh, "Probably because I had thirty-six brothers and sisters." He chuckled and a lop-sided grin spread across his face, "But look, y'all gotta do it. It ain't about the dressin' up, or the speech, it ain't about the event even. Ye get out there, let people see ya, cus one day you'll be King, and the more they feel they know ye, the better." 

"And what if I don't want to be King?" Nyx asked.
"King, don't be King. It don't matter." Scar jabbed a finger into Nyx's chest, "But for now, ye gotta suck eggs. Or don't. Who am I to tell ye..." Scar chuckled and shrugged his shoulders before shoving his paws back into his pockets. As they talked, the crowd parted to let a large parade float move through the courtyard.
"See?" Nyx asked, holding up his hand towards the float. "What's the big deal? Just stand here with me and enjoy the parade. It's basically a paid vacation for you." Nyx reached into his pocket and pulled out his Vidphone. He engrossed himself in it for a moment as the parade of floats drew nearer, and the people around began whooping and cheering. "Check this out." Nyx said, still staring at his phone. As the main float passed by, complete with enormous holographic characters dancing and waving, a screen appeared with streams of text flowing across it. Then a particular phrase flew across the screen:
Free copies of Galactica today only courtesy of the Velicen Royal Family - See your nearest Royal Official to collect a coupon.
Very quickly the crowds began to gasp and murmur amongst each other, hands pointing towards Scar, many of the people remembering seeing his insignia not long before. As the crowd began to flock towards him like a crazed mob, Nyx let out a sly grin. "Sorry Scar, but I need some alone time." He said with  grin, and he disappeared into the oncoming crowd.

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