By John Page

The woman ran for her life. She was being chased by four men. She was alone and frightened for her life.

She deeply regretted leaving her old life behind and trying to travel to a new land. She realized that she knew nothing of the outside world and shouldn’t have been on the road late at night in a storm.

Why didn’t she stop at an inn she kept asking herself. She had decided to push on so she could get where she was going. All she got for her troubles was getting soaked and walking into a bandit’s camp.

When the women had stumbled onto the camp she had been lost. The road had disappeared and she was just trying to find a dry place. The four men were as surprised as she was but quickly went to kill her.

“Bandits don’t live long if people know where they are”, is what they yelled to each other as they grabbed weapons. The woman was confused as to why they were telling her this she ran out into the storm.

The bushes ripped at her clothes and she had to fight to stay upright. Any desire to stop was crushed by the shouted threats she heard come from the men. She ran for what seems like hours till she found the road again. What might have been a blessing instead was a curse as now the bandits could see her and try to shoot her. The woman was swift and seemed to outpace them but fear and exhaustion was taking its toll. An arrow grazed her shoulder and she felt dizzy. She nearly fell but recovered in time. She heard another arrow be readied but the sound stopped amid shouts of fear. She risked a look behind her and stopped out of confusion.

Behind her it was a sunny day. The stormy night was gone. The road was not old and torn up but new and paved with brick.
Coming up the road was somehow just as an unexpected sight. A royal procession was racing down the road. A regal looking man was leading it on a beautiful horse. He was dressed like a king and seemed from his bearing to be one. Which king this man was the woman was unsure though he dressed like a man from eight hundred years ago and the kings she knew were much older than this man.

The strangely dresses man raced toward the bandits. The bandits took one look and the man and fled for their lives. They ran past her without a second glance. This was odd but not unwelcome.

The regal man chased the bandits and cut them down with amazing easy. Four men died in as many strokes.

The man turned toward the woman and rode to her. The woman felt self-conscious and tried to think of something to say.
The man dismounted and bowed to her and said, “Greetings fair princess. I hope that those ruffians were unable to hurt you too much. I see they cut you so come with me and my doctor will see to you.”

Ignoring the woman’s confusion he put her on his horse and led her to his procession. Everyone there was beautifully dressed and seemed to radiate light. Though the fact they had no reacted to the death of the bandits was off putting. The woman was led to a stern looking man who swiftly cleaned and bandaged her. The woman was in shock and said nothing. After that the regal man looked upset and told her, “My goodness, my lady. I forgot to tell you my name. I am the world famous king of the Yiulmar, Ahazon the Sixth. What is your name and where you are you going?”

The kingdom Ahazon meant nothing to the woman and she could only reply, “My name is Nancy Newbor. I was going to Ruby City when I got lost.”

Ahazon looked confused but replied, “Lady what is this ruby city?”

Nancy was surprised as surely anyone would have heard of Ruby City. It was the largest city in the world and a man who was a king would have surely known that.

She told him, “Sir, sire, your highness …. Ruby City is the greatest city in the world. It is by the Black River and the Royal Road.”

Ahazon seemed unsure of her but seemed to cheer up and clapped. Servants stepped forward and present him with a dress and his horse. He gives her the dress and waves forward a female servant. The woman looks like a kindly old woman from any picture book. Nancy was told that since she is soaked and her clothes are torn she could wear Ahazon’s sister’s dress.

Nancy decides that she might as well change her clothes as she is shivering. She was led to a coach and climbed into it. She changes her clothes and started to feel better. Ahazon’s servant ask if the woman would like them to take her to Ruby City.

The woman asked her, ”You know where it is?”

The servant replied, “Lady, while our king is unaware of most of the world, we are not. We humor the king and work with him.”

Nancy was concerned by that but was exhausted and sensed that she needed to sleep. She told the servant to that she would appreciate this.

Ahazon knocked on the coach’s door and asked if she is alright. Nancy replies that she was doing better now and was very grateful for his help. He tells her that he hopes the journey is restful. The woman tells him thank you and promptly falls deeply asleep.

Nancy wakes with a jolt. Why had she agreed to go with people she did not know? It was almost like she had been enchanted.
She shakes off this thought and looks around. The coach seems different. While before it was elaborate and shiny it was now old and ruined. The coach smelled awful. Nancy blinked in surprise but then felt terror and she looked at the servant. Instead of a kindly old women she saw a decaying corpse. The corpse turns to her and her jaw drops open. From the corpse she heard a cracking voice say, “Dear you are awake. Don’t be alarmed.”

Nancy jumps up and opens the door. She tried to leave by a ghostly hand stoped her. “Careful miss, if you need us to stop just let me know.” Nancy is confused by the voice but nods yes. The coach stops. The corpse stands up and looks right at her. Nancy tried to back up but has no where to go. Before she can scream again the corpse covered her mouth and told her to not scream. “This will be hard my dear but please don’t scream. You are safe with us.”

As the corpse tells her this, Nancy saw a horrible looking being wearing regal grab. The being was a dark blue decaying bat like humanoid. It’s eyes glow bright red and its incredibly long teeth. It steps toward her and says to her in a voice out of the deepest of human terrors, “Princess are you all right? You seem ill. Can I get you anything?”

Nancy asked to be able to walk around. The monster, the ghost and the corpse follow her. The entire procession looks like a caravan of the dead. Each coach is rotten and is pulled by skeletal steeds. Nancy sees that within each coach are corpse and ghostly figures.

The monster came up to her. He asked her if she is all right. Before Nancy could say anything the corpse told her, “Before you say anything remember you are safe with us. The court of the mad blood king shall keep you safe till you get to your city.” The monster king seems to not notice the corpse’s comment and stares ahead blankly. Nancy turned to the king and asked if she could leave. The king bowed to her and said, “You are free to go whenever you want but if you need us please take this brooch. I shall come if you need us.”

Nancy took the brooch and quickly walked away from the procession. She tried to not look behind her.

Eventually she reached an inn. She got a room and sat down. What just happened to her seems unreal. If not for the cut and the gifts she was had been given she would have thought it was some kind of nightmare.

Later that night she heard others talk about the mad king of the road and his court. She decided that she should go home.

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