The Castle On The Hill part 1

You can choose between reading this book in the reader or on the page, in case the reader is malfunctioning for your specific device.

This story was made available in the book ‘Tales of Asnor: Invasion of Domnex. It takes place in the world of this novel, known as Asnor. Everything written here is 100% canon and enriches the existing lore. I’ve decided to re-publish this story here, because I want people to enjoy this without having to purchase my book. (This isn’t the main story of the book)

Spoiler grade: Minor to no spoilers for Tales of Asnor: Invasion of Domnex

Content disclaimer: Nudity, gore and very ugly shoes that I’ve edited out (thank god)

Word count: 4,969

Chapter 1: Krystine and Violet

12th day of Nemophys – 725 (Asnor counting)

14 years before first invasion of Domnex

Old trees watched the two young women from either side of the dirt road as they approached the castle on the hill. Despite a clear sky and the afternoon sun spreading its warmth over the Southern Isles, the woods radiated a chill that seeped into the very souls of the twins. Both of them imagined the branches clawing at them, threatening to pull them into the darkness of their roots if they strayed too close to Greatwood’s edge.

     The girls remained in the middle of the road, holding hands as usual, their eyes trained on their destination.

     The castle on the hill.

They hadn’t stopped in Claeshire to replenish their supplies, for much better food and thicker beds awaited them in the castle.

     “It doesn’t look very inviting.” Violet, the oldest of the twins, whispered to her sister, squeezing her hand hard in irrational fear.

     “Don’t be silly.” Krystine responded, trying her best to sound cheerful and even managing to produce a fake giggle. She cursed herself for sounding so scared. “That’s the home of King Keres. It’s the safest place in the Southern Isles, and we can spend the night there. Maybe even several.”

     Her brown eyes inspected the castle on the hill, but she realised it didn’t look safe at all. Crumbling stone towers cut through the sky like knives with grey tiles on top of them. A murder of crows circled them, their caws echoing down the hill.

     As they approached the gatehouse and walked under the portcullis, the girls squeezed each other hands even harder, almost breaking each other’s bones. They held their breath as the sharp ends of the metal gate rose over their heads like spears, and exhaled long and loud after they left it behind them.

     At last, their journey was at an end.

     Things looked more joyful on this side of the wall. Several houses were built on the grounds with people leaving and entering. A well in excellent condition rested in the centre, with a wooden stage only twenty feet from it. A handsome, shirtless man wearing colourful tights juggled daggers blindfolded. Fourteen people were watching him. Some wore dresses or noble suits, while others had donned a common brown outfit of thick cloth. The contrast shocked the twins.

     At the far end of the small village within the walls, rose the real castle. A massive building with a hundred windows and five tall towers. Golden statues were embedded in the wall, depicting strong kings and knights, warriors and scholars. The grey stones of the walls were old and crumbling, but it still protected those who lived within.

     A single man wearing a golden crown walked from that castle to the well, where most of the people were gathered. His black hair was washed and combed to the left, and his clean-shaven face showed sharp cheekbones and a dominant chin. The man wore a grey shirt with the top buttons opened, so the sun could warm part of his chest. A black cloak danced behind him in the wind.

     “Is that…” Krystine whispered to her sister, unable to tear her eyes away from the crowned man.

     “King Keres Fern.” Violet answered as the man approached the twins. They both kneeled for him, their brown trousers getting covered with the hay on the ground in the process.

     “Two fresh souls have arrived at the castle.” King Keres declared loudly as he signalled the girls to get up. The jester in colourful tights stopped his juggling and took off his blindfold, and everyone watching him turned to the twins. “Welcome at Vreyhold, my home and that of many others.”

     “It’s an honour to be here.” Violet blushed as she spoke, and for a brief moment, the twins had forgotten all about their dreadful journey which started in Edon. “Your offer is still on the table, I hope.”

     “Of course.” King Keres said, the crowd now almost completely surrounding the twin girls. “I’m still renting out beds at the castle at an absurdly low price. I take it you’re here to experience life at the castle first-hand? It’s a… life changing opportunity.”

     “Yes.” Violet smiled, reaching into her pocket and revealing a tiny money pouch. “Two loaves of bread are more expensive than a night at this castle. That is, if you ignore travelling cost.”

     King Keres gently closed Violet’s extended hand holding the pouch. “Please, there’s no need to pay just yet. Clearly, you’ve come from far. The last thing I want to do is already trouble you with transactions.”

     “How kind of you.” Violet put her money pouch back where it came from, briefly glancing at the crowd surrounding her. They had a contemplative gleam in their eyes as if they were all lost in thought. One man looked different.

     The shirtless jester in his colourful tights. His warm brown eyes invited Violet, who discreetly stroked her sister’s hand to get her attention. Krystine liked the brown-haired man as well, but she never saw his eyes. His lean upper body and unmistakable bulge in the tights drew her immediate attention. Krystine gave her sister a brief, wicked smile.

     “Behave.” Violet whispered to her in a condescending tone.

     “The rules are simple.” King Keres’ voice brought the twins back to the business at hand. “You can choose any bed in the castle, and live a day in the life of that person. Before you make your choice, I must know something. Do you know where the castle is?”

     Violet chuckled upon hearing the king’s question. With her finger, she pointed at the large building Keres had come out of.

     “No.” King Keres smiled. “That’s simply the keep. The castle is everything within these walls. Every building you see here is part of that castle. You can choose to sleep in the keep or any other house. It doesn’t affect the price.”

     “Any bed, you say?” Violet inspected the crowd around her once more, trying to determine who had the most interesting life to live for a day. She was always pulled back to the same man.

     Krystine felt the same. Just one look into her sister’s eyes was enough to tell what she felt. It had always been like that.

     “The jester’s bed.” The twins said in unison. Both their hearts jumped when the shirtless man approached them.

     “Excellent choice.” He said as he took their hands and kissed them, before bowing deep and dramatically. “The life of the jester is one filled with entertainment, excitement and fun. We should celebrate your fine decision!” The handsome man walked to the well and pulled up a bucket attached to a rope. A woman from the crowd placed two cups on the edge.

     As the jester pulled up the bucket and placed it on the stone of the well, water spilt over the edge and splashed over the man’s chest, down into his tights. The wet fabric now clung to his manhood under it.

     Krystine almost shrieked in excitement upon seeing it but managed to contain her outburst to squeezing her sister’s hand, who gave her an annoyed look. Violet had always been more composed and reserved compared to her sister, but Krystine knew that even she couldn’t resist the jester.

     The man in wet tights handed over two cups filled with the well-water to the twins, who accepted it with a wide smile. Their joy vanished immediately when the water touched their tongue.

     It was the foulest thing they had ever tasted. Both of them spat it out, gagging and panting for air.

     “Not used to the taste of spring-water, are you?” King Keres laughed as he took the two cups away. “You won’t find a purer spring in the entire Southern Isles, but I guess it’s an… acquired taste.”

     “I’m sorry.” Violet apologised. She realised her actions could be seen as disrespectful. The girl barely resisted throwing herself on her knees.

     “Don’t worry about it.” King Keres waved away her worries. “I won’t take up much more of your time. I’ll let you two and your jester have your fun, and I’ll see you tomorrow.” With those words, the king turned around and returned to his keep.

     Krystine was still coughing, trying to recover from the foul water. The jester carefully patted her back, trying to help her. “My name is Seth. I live right here, near the well.” With his head, Seth pointed to the wooden house with attached stage behind him. The daggers he had been juggling were still laying on the wood.

     “I’m Krystine.” The coughing girl said, holding Seth close to her as she took a lot longer to recover from the water than needed. Violet gave her a death-stare.

     “I’m looking forward to seeing where you live.” Violet stiffly declared as she pulled her sister near her. “You’re the first jester we have ever seen, so we’re not quite sure what to expect.”

     With a slick smile, Seth guided the sisters to his front door. It was a small house made out of wood with a thatched roof, but the stage attached to it made it unique and special. Seth opened the door, which immediately gave way to a small sitting area. Two wooden chairs stood before a fireplace with fresh logs. Various animal pelts decorated the ground. The wooden walls were painted green, and over a hundred people were carved out, acting out their own stories. Some were hunting animals, others dancing or drinking, and a select few were passionately kissing and doing other things.

     “Wow.” Krystine whispered as she approached the wooden wall. “Who carved this out?”

     “I did.” Seth admitted with a confident smile. “One of my masterpieces. Every person on that wall is someone I’ve met. I carve them the way I want to remember them. I might even add you two to my wall.”

     Krystine traced the figures in wonder, her fingers lingering on two people being intimate. “What will we be doing on your wall?”

     “That remains to be seen.” Seth chuckled, walking deeper into the house. A cluttered kitchen marked the end of the sitting area. An old stove dominated the place, with metal pans and a kettle attached to it. The few counters were cluttered with dirty plates, rags and cutlery. “I wasn’t really expecting guests.” Seth muttered as he quickly collected the rags and threw them on one pile. “The bedroom is through that door.”

     The twins left the kitchen through a door in the right wall and entered the jester’s bedroom. It was even more cluttered than the kitchen. Clothes were thrown all over the floor and bed, most of them were colourful and tight like Seth’s current outfit. One piece in particular stood out, and Krystine picked it up with a grin.

     “I’d love to see him in this.” She whispered to Violet, who looked at the thin red cloth attached to a single string. “Do you think he wears this to bed, or when he’s alone?” Violet tried to keep a straight face, but even she started to giggle upon seeing the strange underpants.

     “Those are for private shows.” Seth suddenly said, walking into the bedroom and taking the loincloth from Krystine. “As a jester, I entertain people in any way possible. You’d be surprised how much people pay for… personal enjoyment.”

     Seth threw the loincloth on a pile containing many more obscure articles of clothing. The other tights in the room were thrown on a different pile. “This is where you’ll be sleeping tonight.” He said once the bed had been cleaned up. “I’ll lay down near the fireplace. Tomorrow you can assist me during my morning performance. I already have the perfect act in mind.”

     “What is it?” Violet and Krystine both said, excited to hear the plans.

     “If I can train you enough, The three of us can juggle some balls together, but I don’t want to spoil the main event just yet.” Seth winked at the girls.

     For the rest of the day, Violet and Krystine were on the jester’s stage. To Krystine’s disappointment, he had put on a colourful shirt that matched his tights. Seth showed the twins how to juggle, and after two hours they finally managed to work with the three balls he had given them. Seth himself juggled lit torches, daggers and even the four shoes of the twins. In the evening they shared a warm cup of tea before finally getting into bed.

     Two hours later, Krystine still hadn’t managed to fall asleep. Violet was snoring loudly, and poor Krystine’s throat was as dry as sand. She got up, slipped into her nightgown and entered the cluttered kitchen looking for some water.

     They had used all of it to make tea, so the only way to get more was the well outside. As Krystine walked towards the front door, she stopped near the hearth where Seth was sleeping.

     The jester had taken a thick blanket and some pillows, but in his sleep, he had kicked the blanket away. The dying fire in the hearth painted Seth’s naked body golden, and Krystine couldn’t resist admiring the man in all of his glory.

     She knew it was wrong, so she quickly moved on and left the house behind her to fetch some water. Even though it was the foulest thing she had ever tasted, she had to drink something. Even boiling it and adding tea leaves couldn’t mask the horrible taste. She pulled the old bucket out of the well and took a little sip.

     Krystine tried her best not to spit it out. She gagged in the dark night but took a second sip the second she had recovered.

     “How can water taste this bad?” She asked herself in the darkness. After drinking enough, she lowered the bucket again and turned around.

     She stood completely still, her legs pushing against the stone of the well, looking at the man who waited behind her.

     It was Seth.

     He stood only a few steps away from her, just as naked as when Krystine saw him near the hearth. For a few seconds, she was frozen in shock.

     “Get inside, you’ll catch a cold like that.” She eventually whispered to Seth.

     “I’m used to it.” The jester responded with a smile. “You’re the one who could catch something, leaving the house barefoot.”

     Seth chuckled and walked over to his stage, climbing on it. He invited Krystine to join him.

     She thought over her decision for a full minute. Violet would scold her if she ever found out, but there was something about Seth that just pulled her in.

     She got on the stage as well and sat down next to the jester.

     “Why didn’t you put on shoes?” He asked her. It was a weird question coming from a naked man sitting on a stage.

     “I guess I just forgot.” Krystine responded, trying her best to keep her eyes on Seth’s face.

     “Bullshit.” Seth laughed. “You knew you had to leave the house and you made the conscious decision of going barefoot. Just like you chose to get an eyeful of me while I slept. Just like you chose to get on stage with me, despite my lack of clothing. Your sister would have put on shoes, she would have tried to ignore my naked, sleeping body and she certainly wouldn’t have joined me here.”

     “Just a few hours and you already know us?” Krystine whispered, impressed by Seth’s statement. “I’m sorry for… looking.”

     “Don’t be.” Seth responded with a chuckle. “I made the conscious decision of sleeping naked and getting rid of my blanket.”

     “So it was on purpose?”

     “I wanted to see what kind of person you were, which brings me back to my question. Why didn’t you put on shoes?”

     Krystine looked at her toes, which were covered in dirt and hay. It would take her a while to wash them, but it would have been worth it. “I guess I like feeling things.” She whispered to her dirty feet. “I’m always chasing the next experience, good or bad. Even when I know I might get burned, I still play with fire. My sister is always doing things properly, following our parent’s rules perfectly. That’s boring. That’s why I convinced our parents to let us come here. It would be such a unique experience. Violet said that we had to keep on working, it would be stupid and silly to come here. A waste of time and money.”

     “You might be perfect jester material.” Seth said after listening to Krystine’s story. “We follow our hearts, trying to bring colour to a monotone world. We don’t need rules, only fun and entertainment.”

     “I don’t know the first thing about entertaining people.” Krystine chuckled. “We make clothes, back at home. Something you could really use right now.”

     Truth be told, Seth didn’t look like he could use clothing. The way he was sitting down, leaning back on his hands and legs spread out dangling off the edge of the stage, made him appear more at ease than anyone else Krystine knew in Edon. An untold sense of freedom and tranquillity radiated from his bare skin. The kind of freedom Krystine desired with all of her heart.

     “We have two clothiers at the castle right now.” Seth whispered in the night, his eyes looking up at the countless stars above. “An old couple, always making the same designs over and over again. We could use someone like you here. A free spirit, unburdened by tradition and rules.”

     For a second, Krystine thought Seth was joking, but his handsome face never showed sign of a smirk or smile.

     “You would convince the king to hire me?” Krystine said in disbelief. Only a select few ever got the opportunity to see the king, and only fewer actually work for him.

     “No.” Seth responded. “A good word isn’t going to get you anywhere here. Your strength of spirit will.”

     “Violet is going to freak out when she hears about this opportunity. Mother and father might get a heart attack.”

     “I don’t think this is the place for your sister.” Seth turned his brown eyes to Krystine. It was the first time she had ever seen him looking this seriously. “It definitely isn’t the place for your family. Maybe you can work here, but only you.”

     “No.” Krystine got on her feet, surprised by Seth’s words. “I’m not going to abandon my family for a job. No matter how good the money is. Besides, I’d never get hired here.”

     “King Keres will judge you tomorrow.” Seth got up as well, taking a step towards Krystine. “There is something we can do to improve your chances, though.” He let his hand slide over Krystine’s arm, who took a few steps back in surprise.

     “No.” She said again, extending her arms to keep Seth at a distance. “I’m not going to sleep with you to get a job.”

     The naked jester started to chuckle. “You still don’t get it.” He laughed. “This isn’t about satisfying my needs, this is about you. If you just let go and give in to your desires, you’d be a lot happier.”

     “Look, you’re very handsome.” Krystine muttered, her eyes once again admiring Seth’s body. “And maybe I would have gone through with it, but not under these circumstances. I’m sorry.” After her apology, she left the stage, ran back into the house and joined her sister in bed.

     “I’m the one who’s sorry.” Seth whispered to the empty stage. “Maybe I was wrong about you.” For the first time in years, the jester shed a tear for someone else. He knew what needed to be done tomorrow.

     The people had to be entertained, and Seth had planned a killer show.

     The next morning, Krystine and Violet were munching on a piece of bread. They couldn’t eat much, because they were both nervous about their performance in half an hour. Seth had already donned a fresh pair of tights and matching shirt in a black and white chequered pattern. Even now, Krystine couldn’t stop admiring his beauty.

     Had she made a mistake last night? Even after their strange encounter, the girl stayed awake for another hour, doubting her decision. She had come to the castle for new experiences. An amazing one presented itself to her, and she just ran away. She had almost left the bed again to join Seth near the fireplace, but Violet had turned around and her arm had been pinning Krystine down in the bed.

     Perhaps it was a sign. Even in her sleep, Violet was looking out for her sister. In the end, Krystine stayed where she was, ignoring the little voice in her head that was curious about Seth.

     “I found some outfits for you.” Seth said as he approached the breakfast table. He gave Krystine and Violet a set of tights in yellow and pink. His brown eyes looked for Krystine’s, but she deliberately avoided his gaze.

     “Are these washed?” Violet asked, sniffing the pants with a grimace.

     “Ehm, s-sure.” Seth stuttered in an unsure voice. “You only need to wear it for an hour, it won’t kill you.”

     When they finished their bread, Violet and Krystine returned to the bedroom to squeeze themselves in the outfit Seth had given them. It was more comfortable than Krystine had thought.

     “I look ridiculous.” Violet sighed after donning the tights. “We should have chosen a bed in the actual castle, one that came with a dress.”

     “I like it here with Seth.” Krystine’s mouth said before she had realised. “He’s really pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone.”

     “Hah!” Violet snorted. “The only thing you want to push is your body against his.”

     “Would that be a bad thing?”

     “It’s not decent.” Violet pulled at the tight trousers and straightened the shirt before walking out of the bedroom. “Come on, the show is almost starting.”

     Decent or not, maybe it was something Krystine wanted to do. It wasn’t right to sacrifice happiness over decency. Seth always did what he wanted to do, leaving the house in the nude and offering daring propositions to the woman before him.

     Krystine shook the thoughts out of her head and followed her sister outside. A crowd of people had already gathered in front of the stage, and Seth was entertaining them by standing on his hands and stretching his body in unusual positions. Even now, Krystine couldn’t resist the urge to admire how the tights got trapped between his butt cheeks as he lunged forward.

     She would do it.

     After the performance, she would accept Seth’s proposal and take the plunge. Krystine didn’t want to spend the rest of her life regretting this missed opportunity. The men in Edon were nowhere as attractive as Seth, and they certainly weren’t as charming.

     Violet and Krystine got on the stage and assisted the jester with his act. He performed a handstand on their shoulders and let both of the twins stand on his. Even King Keres himself was attending the performance. Everyone in the crowd was excited and cheering for Seth.

     After everyone had juggled some balls, just like they had practised, it was time for the finale.

     Seth rolled a big rectangular box on the stage and opened it.

     “I always like to end shows with my most spectacular stunt.” Seth said to the crowd as he helped Violet crawl in the box. She was confused but trusted that Seth knew what he was doing. The jester locked the lid after she had taken place. Her head stuck out of the box, and so did her feet. “Today, I’m going to cut this girl in half!” Seth shouted as he picked up a large saw.

     Violet looked at her sister in shock. They had never practised this before.

     “Don’t worry.” Krystine mouthed to Violet. Surely, Seth wouldn’t actually saw her in half. It was a trick.

     “Try to make it as believable as possible.” The jester whispered to the girl in the box.

     The crowd quieted down in anticipation as Seth placed his saw in the middle of the box and started pulling back and forth. Krystine tried to look as dashing as she could, hoping the people would be entertained by everything that was happening.

     Then, Violet started screaming. Her feet were kicking in the air, and her head shook violently. The crowd started to cheer. For a while, Krystine maintained her pose for the people, impressed with her sister’s performance. She was really screaming her lungs out.

     “Krystine, HELP ME!” Violet shouted. Krystine’s wide smile slowly vanished as she turned to her sister in the box.

     Just one look into her eyes was enough to tell what she felt. She was in pain.

     When Krystine wanted to rush to her sister’s side, Seth was done sawing. He pushed the two halves of the box apart and revealed the gruesome contents.

     Blood and intestines poured out of it, with Violet still faintly whimpering. Her legs weren’t kicking anymore. The saw was covered in blood, and some had even sprayed on Seth’s face.

     The crowd cheered.

     “No!” Krystine shrieked as she ran to her sister’s body. “This isn’t an act, this is real!” She yelled to the people. “Someone get help!”

     They were all laughing at her, even King Keres.

     “What is wrong with you? My sister is dying!

     “Save your energy, that’s not going to work.” Seth calmly said as he picked up the daggers he had juggled earlier.

     “Wh…what is happening?” Krystine wept, confused by the entire situation. This couldn’t be real. She was still in bed, having a terrible nightmare.

     Seth threw one of his daggers, which hit her in the shoulder.

     It was real. The pain pulsing through her body was real. Her sister was really killed before her eyes.

     The force of the dagger knocked Krystine down, and the crowd went wild. She mustered all of her remaining strength and pulled the blade out of her. Seth was already preparing a second throw, but Krystine rolled over and stumbled off the stage.

     “Help me!” She cried as she ran to the two guards standing watch near the closed gate leading outside. They unsheathed their swords and warned her to keep her distance.

     They weren’t going to help her either.

     Krystine fled to the jester’s house and locked the door behind her. A few seconds later, Seth began kicking it down. Every kick was like thunder going through the girl’s body. She pushed against the door best she could, but Seth was stronger than her.

     The lock broke and the door flew open. Krystine fled to the bedroom, crying and terrified. She closed the second door and shoved the bed against it.

     To her surprise, Seth politely knocked.

     “Krystine, please open up. It doesn’t have to end like this.”

     “You killed my sister!” She yelled. “You’re a monster!

     “You came here to experience new things. If you decide to stay, you’ll be free. Unburdened by family or law or morals. You can do whatever you want in Vreyhold, no matter how dark and vile it is.”

     “Just leave me alone. I only want my sister back.” Krystine cowered in a corner of the room, hiding her head under her arms.

     “I know it’s hard. It was hard for me too, but I managed to move past that. They killed my wife, but now I’m happier than ever before. You just have to open up to it.”

     “I only want my sister.”

     Seth sighed, and for a few moments, there was complete silence. Then, a loud thump against the door startled Krystine.

A second thump, a third. Wood splintered, and the head of an axe poked through the wood. In only thirty seconds, Seth had completely destroyed the door.

     “No, no, no, no!” Krystine whimpered as the jester grabbed her arm and dragged her back outside, back on the stage where the crowd was still waiting.

     “I really thought you had potential.” He whispered before thrusting his dagger in her heart and slitting her throat.

     The crowd clapped as blood oozed out of her wounds. They savoured the sensation for a few minutes before the guards came and dragged the two bodies away. Both of the girls were dumped in the well, where hundreds of other corpses welcomed them in the dark cave under the castle grounds. Their decay purified the waters, and everyone drank from it with pleasure.

     The jester and some of the guards spent all day scrubbing the stage, house and the box clean from blood. The water from the well washed it all away. When the hard work was over, Seth retreated to his house and pulled out his carving knife.

     Three more figures were added to his wooden wall. Krystine and Seth himself, entangled in an intimate embrace, and Violet who glared at them from a distance.

     A polite cough interrupted his work halfway.

     “How are you holding up?” King Keres said as he entered the Jester’s house. He sat down near the lit fireplace and invited Seth to do the same.

     “I think I’ll be fine.” Seth sighed as he sat down, his brown eyes staring into the dancing flames.

     “You seemed quite invested in these girls.”

     “Krystine reminded me of my wife. I was hoping she would be like us, but I guess I was wrong.”

     “You care too much.” King Keres placed one hand on Seth’s shoulder in an attempt to comfort him. “That’s always been your greatest weakness.”

“I guess I like feeling things.” Seth whispered, his brown eyes wandering to the wooden figurine of Krystine carved in his wall.