PROLOGUE - THE FEAST

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Prologue - The Feast

He will come in a time of sorrow.

Man will be primitive.

He will manifest the Ko'delish without word.

- Prophecy of the Unspoken One

6,500 YEARS LATER

Kaescis Midivar, seventh in line to the Mindolarn throne, strolled through the gardens outside his uncle's grand palace. He was late, but that was usual. Tardiness would attract attention, and he needed to stand out. This Mindolarn Prince needed to be seen today. There would be others not of the Empire dining at the feast tonight. If he stood out, people would remember him. Important people. He was dressed like the others of the royal family, wearing a fanciful crimson coat with tails hanging partway down the backs of his thighs. It was adorned with gold and white tassels, and embroidered with patterns all paired in groups of seven. Seven was an important number in Mindolarn. He wore a ruffled shirt, cream colored and charcoal pants with matching boots. Kaescis couldn't change what he looked like, so he had to do something else to stand out against the backdrop of Mindolarn aristocracy.

The harmonious sounds of music reached Kaescis's ears. The royal orchestra was playing its third movement, heralding the next part of the momentous feast. He hadn't missed much. The first course had been served, but he didn't care for much of what was offered then.

As he rounded a corner, a brown-haired man speedily approached him, wearing a violet coat with silver tassels. He wore white beneath the coat, a formal tunic and pants. His black boots echoed as he hastened along the stone pathway.

"Your Grace!" the man hollered, stopping a few paces from Kaescis and bowing. "I was worried. When you didn't show, I–"

"Calm yourself, Practil. You've been my servant for how many years, and you still don't understand my methods?"

"Thirty, Your Grace," Practil bowed once again. "Forgive me, but there is someone here in the palace who wishes to speak with you."

Kaescis raised his brow, confused. The Feast of Sorrows was not time to hold conversation. Its partakers were to observe reverence and solemnity. If one needed to speak it was to be in a whisper. Nothing more.

"Who is this person?" Kaescis asked, continuing through the garden path. Practil followed beside him.

"He wouldn't say," the servant said, ashamed he didn't have the answers his master desired. "He was shrouded, in a black cowl. But... he spoke the words. And uttered the vow."

Disturbing. Anyone who knew such things wouldn't desire to speak during the Feast.

Troubled, Kaescis continued. He and Practil wound their way through the gardens, coming to the place where the feast was held. It was a large space behind the palace, vast, with a view of the grand city of Mindolarn. Banquets and feasts were often held here, where dozens of tables could be set up. It could comfortably seat hundreds. Kaescis, however, ignored the banquet yard, searching for the stranger mentioned by Practil.

A hulking man lurked behind a pillar, not far from the palace. He was shrouded in black robes, his head buried beneath a cowl. His hands, however, were covered in thick plate gauntlets. Curious. Who would wear robes and plate? Especially to the Feast of Sorrows.

The orchestra's third movement quieted as Kaescis approached the stranger.

The hulking man noticed them, standing resolute beside the pillar. "Cho'k, su'zak, Cho'k." he hissed from beneath his cowl.

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