Ren Daul
By: Stephanie Bardy

Candles flickered, causing shadows to bounce and dance off the walls of the bedchamber. Even with the heavy curtains drawn, the storm raged and flashed outside, illuminating the room with each crack. The Handmaids scurried about the room, preparing cloth, heating water, comforting the Queen as she labored. The King, anxious to know if he had a son, paced just beyond the door, fear coursing through him with each scream from his wife. They had been trying for almost a decade to conceive a child. Every kingdom needs an heir for without one, the throne would pass to the King's self absorbed cousin. On a night, much like this one, three elderly peasants showed up at the King's gate, seeking shelter in exchange for a potion that would secure the throne and continue the King's legacy. Desperate they allowed them in, and the Queen took the potion. For 3 years after, they remained childless, then when the winter snows came, harsher than the kingdom had every seen, while the peasants froze and starved in their beds, the Queen fell pregnant. The Three, as they had come to be known within the Castle, stayed by the Queen's side throughout her pregnancy, allowing no one else to care for her but them. The months were hard on the Queen, and she spent most of it in her chambers. The bigger the baby grew, the weaker she got. Almost as if it was sapping the life out of her. Now, a full month early, the babe was making it's arrival.

As the Handmaids made the preparations, The Three made preparations of their own.

"We must ensure the passage of the magic." Said the woman. The other two nodded.

The Queen screamed and made sounds like she was pushing a rock up a steep hill. The woman, of The Three, went to the door to admit the midwife. The King paused in his pacing as she appeared in the hall.

"Has the babe arrived? Do I have an heir?" he asked

The woman looked at him, shook her head and motioned for the midwife. Once she had entered the room, she closed the door without a word.

The midwife rushed to the Queens side. "It is time."

Time seemed to stand still for the Queen. Pain ripped through her body, wave after wave. With one final push, her child came screaming into the world.

The midwife wiped the babe clean, swaddled it and said "It's a boy your Majesty." she laid the baby in the Queens arms and turned to summon the King. The Three began to move towards the Queen, their hands slightly glowing.

"Wait!" said the Queen, her face twisting in pain. "Somethings wrong!"

The midwife ran back to the Queen, pulling back the blankets. The sheets were soaked in blood. A handmaid took the babe and left the room. The King, seeing the Handmaid come through the door with the babe stepped forward to enter, but she pushed him back.

"You have your Heir your Majesty, but the Queen is not well enough for visitor's yet." she said and scurried back into the chamber.

The Three stepped back lowering their hands. "What is happening?" said the woman.

"This is most unusual. She is not supposed to be this ill. We need her to raise the Chosen to be ready to accept the task before him."

The midwife worked furiously, trying to stop the bleeding, and shouted for one of the Handmaids to get the Doctor. As she turned back she almost screamed in surprise, for there was a foot.

"There is another!" she yelled "But he comes the wrong way around!"

The Queen could feel her strength leaving her with every push, but she knew she had to hold on long enough to see her second born safely into the world. She closed her crystal blue eyes, pushing with all she had, every ounce of her being willing the child into existence. She gave one final push and her second son, identical twin to the first came quietly into the world.

"Please," she whispered "I must see him." she reached out for him. The midwife laid him in the Queen's arms. She pulled the blanket back from his face and he stared up at her. Crystal blue eyes met the darkest of brown, that they appeared almost black. He made no sound, unlike his brother, who she could hear squalling from the hallway.

"Oh my sweet little surprise. You will do great things my son. Don't ever forget that. Always remember that I love you. Love both of you, without equal, without regret." she kissed his tiny brow, and handed him back to the midwife.

The Queen fell back onto the pillows behind her. The Three came to her side. She was fading fast, and they knew it. There was nothing they could do to save her. They had not expected a second child, but they had learned that their magic always came at a price. One they had yet to figure out how to stop. They had promised an heir, and with that, they ended up with a spare. The one who was to lead the heir down the path of good, was dying. A dark foreboding feeling swept over them. They knew they would have to work hard to ensure that the darkness didn't touch The Chosen. The Heir. They had to eliminate the second born. The only way to do it was while the mother still lived. While that maternal bond still hummed with life. Raising their hands in unison, they aimed their magic at the baby. Just as they were about to send it out, the Queen, with the last of her strength grabbed the hand of the woman.

"Please! If you have ever cared for a child, do not do this. I can not die knowing my son died with me." This caused the woman to pause. In that moment, the Queen died and the tether was broken.

The Three turned from the Queen and left the room. They passed the King as he held his first born. They could hear his wailing as he discovered the fate of his beloved. In a blink, they were gone.

The midwife approached the King as he knelt beside his wife's bed, tears running down his cheeks.

"You have another. She gave birth to another. You have two son's your Majesty."

Slowly he turned his head to look at the child in her arms. Dark eyes met dark eyes. "Take him from my sight. I can NOT look at the monster that killed his own mother. I do not want to look upon his face. He is nothing but an extra mouth to feed. He will never be more than that. His brother will rule, his brother is the only son I need."

The midwife took a step back, shocked at the venom in his voice. "Your Majesty please, he is nothing but a babe. He needs you. He needs your love."

The King lept to his feet. "He will have all that a son of mine is entitled too. Schooling, finery, combat training, but he will never have my love. Or my name. I am King Rendel, and my first born will carry that name. His brother will be known as Prince Rendel, Heir to the Throne. This…this…child will be known by my insipid weakling of a cousin's name. Daulin. Second in line. He may have that, but he will never have my love. Now, do as I command and remove him from my sight. Have a wet nurse care for him. I will see to Rendel."

As the boys grew, it became obvious to those in the Court that Rendel was more than the favorite. He was always by his fathers side, hunting, listening to his stories of battles long ago, and Daulin was always in the shadows. Looking for any little scrap of affection from the King. As they became teenagers, the abundance attention that was showered on Rendel spoiled him. He became cruel to Daulin, taunting him at every turn. Always reminding him that he was second best, never loved, never wanted, the one who killed their mother. Daulin retreated into himself. Avoiding the Court and escaping to the forest as often as he could, which was often since no one really paid him any mind.

He sat by the river, watching the deer on the other side, wishing with all his heart that they would run, be gone from this forest, for he knew that his Father and brother were going hunting at dawn and these were the very deer they hunted.

The Elders, known in the castle as The Three, watched the young man. He was different from his brother, he had a kind heart, he hadn't let the years of abuse change that. He wasn't their first choice, his brother was, but he was a much better choice. They approached him.

"You have a kind heart Daulin." They said, in that way that they always do.

Daulin jumped up from his rock and spun around to face them. "Who are you? How do you know my name?" he asked, his voice shaking. No one, but the woman who had cared for him called him by name. Everyone else called him Second Best.

"We have been watching you. We were there on the day of your birth. Of you and Rendel. We cared for your mother during her pregnancy. We were looking for The Chosen. We thought that was your brother, until you came into the world. We were not expecting another."

Daulin's face turned from surprise into a frown and darkness clouded his eyes for a moment. "No one was. Of that I have been reminded every day."

The Elders paused for a moment, seeing that flash of darkness sent an alarm through them. They decided that he was entitled to a little anger at his treatment and proceeded.

"We have watched you and Rendel. He is not fit to be The Chosen. He would take that power and abuse it, turn it dark and use it for evil intent. You have kept the kind heart that your mother saw in you, and therefore that makes you The Chosen."

Daulin stepped closer to The Elders. "What does this chosen do?" he asked.

"He pulls souls from the wicked, creates a Soulseed and plants it in The Garden, so that it can never harm an innocent again. They are conduits of good."

Daulin took another step closer. "What if they don't plant the seed? What if they decide they don't want to do good? Do they still have the power?" his innocent face looked up at them. His dark eyes wide and curious.

The woman took a step back, something didn't feel quite right, but her male companions ignored her warning, as they often did.

"If the soul seed isn't planted, The Chosen can use that power for their own, as fuel to strengthen their magic. Yes, they can do ill, if they chose, that is the point, you always have a choice, and you have to make the choice to do good. Which every Chosen has done since the beginning."

Daulin thought this over, smiled sweetly at The Elders, and stepped even closer. Close enough for the toes of his boots to touch the hem of the robe of the woman. She shuddered.

"What do I have to do?" He asked.

The two men stepped forward, in front of the woman, who was screaming in their heads not to do this.

"On your 21st birthday, you will ascend. We will be with you until then, guiding you, teaching you the ways of our magic."

Daulin's face turned to a scowl. "Three years? I have to wait three years?"

The men stepped back. "Maybe you are not the one we seek."

Daulin quickly reigned in his feelings. Settled is face back into that placid harmless look. "I am, I'm sorry. I have just waited so long for someone to care about me, I was over excited."

The men smiled at him, even though the woman still spewed warnings at them silently.

The years passed, and Daulin was an excellent student. He mastered all tasks quickly and adeptly, until he was almost as good as The Elders. Over time, even the woman changed her mind. He was an exceptional student, and showed kindness where ever he went.

The day of Daulin and Rendel's 21st birthday dawned amidst a raging storm, much like the one the night they were born. The King had planned a grand ball for Rendel and Daulin, as usual was left to his own devices. He raced into the forest as the sun began to set, just as he had been told too. In a circle of fire stood The Elders.

The flames receded in a spot large enough for Daulin to pass through, then they shot back into place.

The Elders began the ritual and Daulin felt something inside him open. Light surrounded him, engulfing him, and passing through him. He could feel himself filling with so much magic that it almost hurt. He dropped to his knee's, buckling under the pressure of all the knowledge that was flowing into him. An eternity of wisdom given to each Chosen one, all the magic, all the power, and the will to make the choice. Slowly the flames died down as The Elders finished the ritual.

"It is done Chosen One. Use your power wisely, and always make the choice for good."

When Daulin looked up they were gone and he was alone in the forest. He rose to his feet and a slow smile spread across his lips. He knew just where he needed to be. There was a birthday party he had to attend.

The festivities were well under way when Daulin entered the great hall. Rendel was, as usual, at their fathers side. Daulin walked across the room to stand in front of them. Their father looked up at Daulin in surprise.

"I don't believe you were invited Second Best. Doesn't the cook have something for you in the kitchen?" he sneered. Rendel laughed.

"I don't need an invitation any more Father. Nor do I need you. You see, I was given a great power today. One to do good, if I choose. I have been training for the last three years, all for this moment."

He raised his hand, and the King clutched at his chest. "Son, please, what are you doing?" he begged

Daulin laughed. "Son? Now you call me son? You've had 21 years to call me that. Yet you chose to remind me every day that I was the reason Mother died. That I was nothing to you." he screamed.

"Now, you will be something to me." he pulled the soul from his father and in his hand sat a Soulseed. He placed it in the pouch on his belt and turned to his twin brother. "I really can't blame you for being how you are. Father made you, just as he made me."

Rendel looked at the dead man beside him and quickly knew he had to switch his allegiance if he wanted to live. "I always wanted to be closer to you brother, but Father forbade it. You and I can rule together. True brothers. Finally."

Daulin laughed again. "Oh dear brother, too little too late." He pulled Rendel's soul from his body as well and watched, expressionless as he fell beside their father. He placed that Soulseed with the other in the pouch and felt a surge go through him.

The Elders appeared just as Daulin was taking the throne. "What have you done?" they asked.

He looked down at them. "What I have been planning since the day we met. I am done with you now." he flicked his finger and they disappeared.

The people at the party were all crouched and hiding when Daulin rose from the throne. "Know this. This is now MY party, My kingdom, and my throne. If any come against me, they will know the same fate as my Father and brother. Spread the word my darlings. I am the new ruler here." He stepped down onto the floor and walked to the center of the room.

"I do need a new name though. To go with my lovely new power and position. I know, I will honor the Father and brother who hated me so. A name to always remind me, they are the ones who made me who I am. From now on, I will be known as Ren Daul. The darkest power to ever walk this land."

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