Arcades cheek twitched as he shifted in his saddle to lift up the reins and toy with the ring on his middle finger, turning it round and round as he rode his coffee dappled and blonde maned stormcloud horse at a walk.  "A friendly visit...a friendly visit," he spoke to himself, then his eyes darted towards a bush as something stirred there, and a small rodent leap up and bounded away.  He scoffed a breath and fixed his orange eyes on the horizon from beneath a deep, grey hood.  All of his clothes were one shade of grey or another.  His white hair spilled out from beneath the hood onto a pair of armored paldrins, the shoulders beneath as beautifully sculpted by his martial practices as the rest of his body.  His flesh was ivory, white even for the Albino he was, and beautifully archaic runes etched his face and the flesh hidden beneath his leather and plate armor, cut through and damaged by scars here and there.  His movements, no matter how subtle, had an animalistic quality to them.  He was slinky, he was inhumanely twitchy with alertness, he looked at things in a different way, he smelled things and listened to sounds with wolfish attentiveness.  As he moved and behaved inhuman, he was also emotionally and mentally unique.   The world was his enemy and his mother, and he was a survivor and pack protector first.


He rode alone.  Arcades had no fear of death.  He did not seek it either.  He did not fear attack from the slayers who had killed his yougest son and third wife recently.  He had not been close at hand when they had been killed; No, he had been with his damned friend Audaante.  Damned, yes, all demons were, weren't they?  Even if they didn't deserve it.  Arcades didn't know what Audaante deserved.  He did not believe in passing jugdment on others but in acting according to instinct and how others related to you, and you to them.  Arcades had known Dante since he was a child, and as he grew they had become friends.  They agreed about some things, disagreed about others.


Arcades owed him a debt.  Dante had saved his eldest son Colten, alpha of the Red Fang Pack, from the same fate his late wife and son had met a year ago.  The Windstorm bastards had caught him alone and if not for Lord Eleghir and his escort showing up when they did, his son could not have survived.   Audaante had lost a lot of clan members and Arcades a lot of pack members to unprovoked attacks in the past five years.  Audaante had become Prince because of that loss.  He resented becoming Prince in that manner and Arcades sympathized with him.   Arcades had earned his position as Alpha of the Sword Dancer Pack.  The pack had long been renowned for their martial sword skills thanks to Arcades and the arts he had passed on to his pack members over the centuries, male and female alike.  It was their keystone combat skills that their pack had been named after.


When Gabrian had come to the demon and lyranthrope asking for their support, Dante had been willing and eager to offer his clan to the cause, and to beg Arcades to pledge himself to serve Gabrian  as well.  Arcades had refused to pledge himself to anyone.  His pack was all the oath he needed, but he did agree to lend himself to Dante as his ally and to Gabrian by that association.  Arcades had made his terms express, he and his pack would fight for them only when they chose to.   The animal in Arcades was all about free will.  He could offer himself and his pack to someone for a lifetime without a verbal commital.


When Gabrian suggested they seize Eremaes territory Arcades had laughed at him and told him he was crazy.  Gabrian assured him that he was quite insane, but that Eredor could be theirs if they gathered enough arms in spite of his madness.  No lycanthrope in the Shadowlands had a castle, not one.  It was a tempting thought and one Arcades finally let take root in his ambitions.  Arcades was not the oldest Lycanthrope, but he was the first of his line and he could see himself as a king.  He had what it took to be a king.  Now here he was, riding alone to meet with another King, to offer him his terms with the honor he believed the Namas Patriarch might deserve.


Ah well, deception was not something Arcades would pick up for his worst enemy.  You did not have to be good to be honest, Arcades was proof of that.  He was not evil, he was not good, he just was.


Clicking to his horse, he hastened his pace down the coast.  He was on the shore now but soon cliffs would force him to higher ground.  The ring he had been twisting was a gate ring, but he enjoyed the ride and so did his horse.  Horses did not naturally get along with lycanthrope predator types, but Arcades had spent a lot of time gaining his stallion's trust.   He did not train his horse, he gentled him, earned his trust and friendship, then taught him things.  Something about the word train bothered Arcades. Maybe that is because the word train was used when you talked about making an animal submit, or because many vampires 'trained' Lycanthrope for daylight guard dogs.   Maybe it was because masters trained their pets and slaves.


His mind turned with various thoughts as he rode, his cloak protecting him from the burning rays of the sun.  His albinsm caused him many headaches, the sun burned him, he pratically glowed in the dark unless he used dark body paints and clothing on himself.  Typically he rode at night when the moon was shining down.  He had control of his shift, seeing the full moons no longer forced him to shift. He was ancient enough for that. He was riding during the day now because he intended on arriving during daylight hours.  So called normal people tended to sleep at night and curse guests calling after sun down.  He was being polite according to human custom.  He had met with Ereme only once and Prince Eleghir had done all the talking.  Now Lord Eleghir had a Namas nobleman's knack for being devious, albeit he would never lie to or deceive Arcades.  Well, he wouldn't if he knew what was good for him.  Dante was all about diplomacy, Arcades was about being blunt as a rock.  They actually made a well rounded duo.  Arcades was not unintelligent at all, he was just blatent.  Deceit pissed him off.  Honesty is where all things made sense to him.


Humans...They were so damn devious.  All of them lied, they even lied to themselves.  Namas had the same skill for justifying everything.  In the words of the Windstorm Slayer's Namas leader 'We kill lycanthrope because they are cold blooded killers who turn people against their will.  Sure there are exceptions, there always are, just like some forms of the flu will not kill you.'  Arcades had not appreciate his kind being compared to the flu.   He also knew that the cold blooded cannibals and those who forced others to turn were the trueexception.  Arcades had killed humans, plenty of them, and though not all of them had been enemies, most had been.  The ones that had not been?  Food when game was scarce.  He had come from a land where game was not easy to come by, and when humans killed off what remained?  Well they made themselves the game in Arcades eyes.  Then he developed a taste for human blood and flesh, like any man eater did.  Arcades could tell you that people tasted good.  Like chicken?  More like pork but mostly like humans.  For all his sagacity Arcades had an evil streak in him; He had built it up in himself, forced himself to be cold even ruthless when he needed to be.  When you were hunted like a rabid animal by people who misunderstood you, you had to get some evil in your mettle to survive.

He would reach Ereme's castle when he felt like it.  If the king was not there, he would wait for him.  At least Ereme was known to be a man who stood by chivalry.  Arcades just hoped there was not too much he found to like about the king.  That would make things difficult.  Would it change his mind?  Doubtful, just his tactics.

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