The Fallen Diadem
The sun no longer reached within the halls of the castle. Days and nights passed with no distinction, an unending current as the king held his ground. The swamp clung to him over the years. It saturated him and blurred the line between himself and the mud.
Something awoke him to the darkness. He sat on his throne and not even insects disturbed the air. All seemed as it had been; his court and soldiers collapsed where they had stood and held in a daze. They were the fading shadows of the kingdom, barely able to smudge the glitter of the gold that surrounded them.
The king leapt from his throne and spun, ripping his sword free. No heart thumped within his chest. No lungs demanded air. No fire of life at all.
The fluttering dust settled, a shadow of a shadow. His crown remained upon his head. The queen’s upon her seat. There had been no intruders. He had not failed his duty, but something was yet wrong.
The castle was dark and sunken. The granite floor sloped beneath him, slick with water that froze beneath his steps. The king could not remember the way, but his body trudged up the steps to the high tower above. Something drew him there.
The lost city of Vichtstein sprawled about him, rising in every direction like the walls of a bowl cluttered with empty homes. Something approached. Something bespoke of men, of horses and steel and ill-intent. An army marched through the morning twilight; invaders, thieves.
Anger boiled inside the king. He gnashed his teeth and stormed down to the aerie. The dragons had to be released; but, the aerie had long since flooded and there were no dragons to fight. Stablemen sat about their posts, unmoving and unaware of his presence; useless. The army marched on Vichtstein and its great defenders did nothing.
His knights sat in their barracks, playing games with cards whose lacquered faces had long since worn off. They at least rose and followed him. With his men at his back, the king marched forth from the castle, out the great gates of his main hall, and to the courtyard.
His march stopped there. The road was gone; sunken beneath a lake of algae and cave fish. They could not reach the invaders, not without boats. The castle had not enough wood to make even a raft.
A moat worked in both directions however; keeping the thieves out as much as it kept him in. They could come, they could try all they might. Vichtstein could last a siege. The castle had stood for three hundred years and would withstand this too.
‘Let them come,’ the king thought, grinning without lips. The aerie was bereft, but the great defenders had not gone far. The dragons waded through the lake and they heeded his call. The king of Vichtstein held up his hands to welcome the morning light. War would begin that day. ‘Let them break themselves upon our walls for their greed.’
I post this with great trepidation, as one must when they change the very beginning of a completed story. I feel that it's necessary however, given the sight I have over the full novel now that I lacked when I began. Hopefully you all agree.