Prologue

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"So lost, my dear friend," Friziel whispered. "So dark and cold where you are. Do not fear. I am at your side." He lay his withered hand upon Moyle's heaving chest and pressed his nose to the sleeping king's forehead. "Always at your side."

The room was black, the air thick and stale. Myole's broad face hadn't seen the sun in months and had grown wintry and sallow. Friziel tried best he could to recall the glow of his king's cheeks, the golden wealth of his auburn beard and lustre of his hair. It was fading all too quickly from his mind, as most things were these days.

Friziel had crept into the room when all others had retired for the evening. He had sat beside the giant bed and whispered stories of their past adventures, hoping that a single tale would ignite a spark, but for weeks nothing.

Myole was growing weaker. The mysterious illness had reaped his vitality and left him a shell of a once great king. Soon his divine light would pass, and his queen would take command of all Myole had created.

This was something Friziel could not allow. "I will make this right..."

He took up his gnarled staff and hobbled across the room, his body hunched and thin. He could hear the guards chatter outside as he passed the huge wooden doors. Friziel did not even glance at the bronze handle, instead making his way to the very corner of the bed chambers and putting all his weight behind a slab in the stone wall that was slightly lighter in colour than all the rest.

The wall creaked and slowly gave way, revealing a dark passage. Friziel had no need for light, he had walked this hidden tunnel and many others a hundred times during his time in Castle Kalavar. For a short while the only sound was that of his own shuffling steps, but soon they were drowned out by music and laughter. Friziel approached another hidden door and leaned into the rock. This too gave way and Friziel found himself in a darkened alcove near the grand dining hall.

The music and merriment were louder now, and it had Friziel incensed. How could there possibly be any sort of celebrations with Myole so gravely ill? He marched to the door, thumping his staff with each step to be sure he caught the guard's attention.

They exchanged displeased glances.

"You are not invited to this event, old Eye," one called. "Return to your room before you upset, her grace."

"You should know by now boy, that I live only to upset, your grace," Friziel snapped.

The guard rolled his eyes, half-heartedly crossing his chest with his polearm. "I ask you again, old Eye. Please leave, there's nothing to see here."

"Oh I agree," Friziel said. He tugged back the hood of his deep orange robe revealing an ivory braid of hair draped on his shoulder, thick as a mooring rope, that nearly reached the floor. But it was his eyes that held the guard's unease, murky white pools that had been blind since he was a young man, even so, all was his to behold. "I would happily scratch out what little sight I have if it meant I did not have to observe the irreverence unfolding behind those doors, boy!"

Friziel grinned. He called the guard boy because that is how he remembered him best. He once played in the courtyard with wooden sword and tattered trousers. Now he stood strong in the golden armour of the ruling family Dubraycon whom he served, his chest emblazoned with the white summer-lion, the sigil of their house. He was proud and loyal, traits that had earned him Friziel's patience over the years. Not tonight though.

"I will not be denied, little Arman," Friziel taunted, "I have collected many secrets that would make a fool of you, things that might be frowned upon if you one day wish to ascend to the King's Guard."

Arman scoffed. "I am an open book, old Eye. I have no secrets."

"Ohhh ...," Friziel chuckled. "These secrets are not yours. They belong to your beloved whom I bumped into at the market." He waved his hand, his fingers dancing upon the air. "I did not have to dig deep. It was all right there, just below the surface. You must love her dearly, Arman, I mean ... your children have his eyes."

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