Prologue

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Sir Tyrus Neelson marched with purpose down the winding marble steps to the palace's crypts. The knight was a large man by western standards, standing a towering six foot six and well built sporting a chiseled face framed with a fiery red beard. It was often rumored that the silver dragonscale of his armor hid dragon instead of man.

Sir Tyrus was the knight representative of his lord, Lord Governor Kious Belengard of the Turnkey Province. Every provincial lord sent at least one knight to stand at court in the royal palace as a show of their fealty to the king and the kingdom, as was custom. These knights would often speak on their lord's behalf, and if the need came, serve to protect the king. Sir Tyrus was well known for speaking out for his parish, often clashing with heated debate against the recently appointed mouth of the king, Lord Kyp Valen.

Kyp Valen's own appointment to that of Mouth of the King was a bit of a controversy. He had been little more than a simple scribe, lord only due to the nobility of his blood, when the previous Mouth of the King suddenly fell ill and died. The fact that this happened soon after the loss that drove the King to despair led many to whisper dark suspicions about Lord Kyp. The rumors seemed not to matter though for none would dare to challenge their beloved King, who the Mouth of the King was seen as an extension of.

The last argument with Lord Kyp had been the final straw for Sir Tyrus. This time he meant to take his grievances against the Mouth with the King himself. Finally reaching the bottom of the stairs, the knight came before the cast iron door of the crypt and the two knights guarding it. Both shorter than Sir Tyrus by at least a head, they wore the dark blue scale armor of the king's personal guard, the Shadow Guard, so named as they were to be always in the shadow of the king. “Let me pass,” bellowed Sir Tyrus in a voice that would not accept objection, “I must speak with the King. He must be aware of what Lord Kyp is doing in his name!

The guard on the right shook his head, “Would that I could, but His Grace wishes not to be disturbed unless there is a true threat to the kingdom.” Sir Tyrus could tell that the Shadow Guard wished to say more, but he was honor-bound to not say anything that could tarnish the King's image. “Then surely the king must hear me,” Sir Tyrus protested, “for the future of the kingdom is at stake.”

The two Shadow Guard glanced at each other saying nothing before the one who spoke earlier relents, “Very well knight of the realm, you may pass.” They both step aside giving entry to the door behind them. “May you be successful at reaching His Grace,” the shadow guard added. “May the Mogen David will it to be.”

With a deep breath to steel his nerves, Sir Tyrus Neelson passed through the iron portal into the darkness beyond. What little light there was seeped through the open door behind him and from the single lantern on a side table next to the king. All other sources of light had been long extinguished, but what little light there was was enough. King Armeas Mercleis, son of the great Arameas Mercleis who defeated the Ascian nation in the previous age sat before him. He was hunched over and what valor and strength the king may once have possessed had been eaten away by despair. A man who had once been undeniably handsome with strong features, deep blue eyes, and thick, curly blond hair looked ragged and fully beaten. Though shorter than some when he stood straight at five foot ten, he looked much smaller in the depths of his depression. Sir Tyrus couldn't help but to shed a tear for his king as he knelt before him.

King Armeas had once shown great promise. When he was barely a king, his great skill of diplomacy had settled the feud with his brother Camden, giving him land to rule as his own since Camden refused to share the realm. His great vision had helped to bring peace and prosperity to the kingdom, and all had loved him. But then tragedy struck, and the king lost not only his wife, Queen Lea, but also one of his twin daughters, Princess Campella. Ever since then the King has hidden himself in his despair deep within the royal crypts, seemingly paralyzed by grief.

The king barely looked up at Sir Tyrus before looking back down at the dress and the doll he clung to, his eyes seemed clouded and distant as if the king wasn't truly there. “Your Grace,” Sir Tyrus finally willed himself to speak, “I am Sir Tyrus Neelson, representative knight of Lord Governor Kious Belengard of the Province of Turnkey. I come before you to inform you of the terrible darkness that awaits the kingdom of Lord Kyp Valen isn't dealt with.”

Sir Tyrus waited a moment, hoping to have some kind of reaction from his king, but the king sat there saying nothing. “Your Highness, Lord Kyp has been executing people without trial, in your name sire!” Sir Tyrus almost shouted hoping to rouse his king. King Armeas simply mumbled, “T…. tell Lord Kyp…. He… He'll know… what to do….”

“You can't be serious!” Sir Tyrus shouted, “Lord Kyp is the problem! He's proclaiming all born under the runic element of death as enemies of the realm, sending them to work camps or having them killed out right!” Sir Tyrus wants to grab the king and shake him, but he knows to do so would cost him his own life. “He's even sending babies to their death Your Grace! Babies! All because they have the misfortune of being born during the wrong months!”

“T…. tell Lord Kyp…. He… He'll know… what to do….”

“Are you not hearing me, Your Grace?!” Sir Tyrus's face was flushed red with anger. “Lord Kyp has even broken the Treaty of Asteria, signed and put into law by your father, by sending people to the abomination that is Turnkey Prison which was ordered closed by the treaty! Sire, the eastern and mountain provinces are outraged over this! Your Lord Kyp will break our country in two!”

“T…. tell Lord Kyp…. He… He'll know… what to do….”


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Rare books were always a passion for Gossford, but when he came upon the rarest of the rare, he promised himself to bring those books to Lord Armeas.  It was a volume he had never seen before and straight away he hobbled as fast as he can to the kings chamber, book under his right arm and cane in his left hand as it taps the ground as he hobbled along with it.

" Never have I seen a book this rare.  And anything as rare as this must be brought to the right person, for safe keeping."   He mutters as he slowly makes his way down the corridors.

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