Meanwhile, not far from the outskirts of the capital of Odairo two men were travelling towards the palace.
“Declan wait up!” a blond man in his early twenties shouted as he ran through the trees to reach the second man.
“You’re too slow,” Declan’s cold husky voice came, he didn’t once turn to look at his comrade as his dark eyes scanned the area ahead. The colour of his eyes were not common in Ehlesaar who se people had lighter coloured eyes, with blond or brown hair and skin pleasantly tanned under the summer sun. Declan was the opposite of the warmth of the people of Ehlesaar, his pale skin and his dark black hair gave him a foreign look. He stood at six foot four, and towered over most, with a lean yet muscular build. He would turn twenty this coming winter.
Declan was an orphan and despite his traumatic past, he remained composed and strong. However, behind those dark grey eyes he held secrets - pain and nightmares of long ago. His frown deepened as he looked at the palace of the royals.
The time had come to face the man responsible for the death of his family. He had bided his time, keeping his pain inside him for years. No matter how scared and confused he had been as a child, his father's words kept him strong. He had always been advanced for his age, but after that dreaded night he had changed even more, shedding away his childish dreams and whims and focusing on revenge. To learn the truth and to bring justice to his House, Declan had risen through the ranks in the army, excelling in every field and if ever questioned about that night he would say he did not remember.
When he was a child and awoke screaming and crying from a haunting dream of the massacre, he would never divulge what his dreams contained. And with time, he learned to keep silent waking in a cold sweat. Till now those nightmares sometimes returned, haunting him and filling him with regret that he had not been able to protect his family.
“Ah… can you stop with that frown,” Aren the blond spoke up, bringing Declan out of his dark thoughts. He ignored him as he continued walking.
His black pants and black tunic with his grey belt that held his twin swords held nothing to show off his status. Gloves covered his hands despite the warm weather and a black cloak fell over his shoulders. He held the reins of a white stallion, that carried a few bags. A soft wind blew through the trees ruffling Declans’ black chin-length hair.
The city was getting ever closer, and Declan wanted to reach it as soon as possible.
“If you’re done talking, shall we continue?” he asked coldly. Aren sighed inwardly knowing this was not easy on his best friend and closest confidant. They were sent to the palace by the general of the western border. General Elian of House Halan, one of the five generals of the king.
“You know we were sent because general Elian trusts us more than most,” Aren said quietly,
Declan didn’t reply and from the way he stood, emotionless and calm, one would not think Declan of House Storm was the only survivor left of the entire clan. A clan that was once said to be as powerful as the royals. A clan sacrificed for the betterment of the kingdom.
Aren pulled himself out of his dark thoughts despite the pain it bought to his chest, he was one of the few who would never forget the gift of peace that cost Declan his entire family.
“Well do you think we’ll get to see those pretty little things?” Aren said suggestively a small smile playing on his lips.
Declan did not need to ask to know what he meant. The four princesses were said to be the most gorgeous women in the land. Not that he cared, nor was he interested. He would never feel anything but hate and disgust for the royals who sacrificed others for their own selfish gains.
“I'm not interested, remember why we are going there, Aren,” he said curtly as he raised his hand, a ball of lightning crackled around it as Aren stepped back. Or I won't mind reminding you,”
Aren winced “Ok, ok, I get it,” he said, “you’re no fun,”
“Good,” came the cold reply as the younger man walked ahead leaving his comrade behind once again.
The streets of Odairo were busy despite it being so early. The market square was full of hustle and bustle and the street vendors were already set up. The air was filled with the many smells of everything available to purchase mixed with the smell of women’s fragrances. The fresh breeze was a reminder that despite being the capital, Ehlesaar was still nature’s haven Trees and bushes lined the cobbled streets that had fountains and small flower beds with benches scattered around.
Women in elegant yet often revealing gowns sashayed around, with nothing better to do than come to the market for some fun. There were young children running away from their parents, either to annoy them or to play with other kids.
Middle-aged women stopped amid their shopping to gossip about the latest news of the neighbourhood. And men smoked their cigars or had a cup of tea as they laughed jovially over the discussions of a hunt or an upcoming wrestling match.
Aren whistled softly as his eyes ran over two women who walked by. They both cast him a look, giggling as they whispered to one another admiring the warriors.
“The women of Ehlesaar are the most beautiful,” he murmured to his dark brooding companion. Declan did not reply, ignoring the looks that he got from passing women, he was not interested.
The crowds were filled with heads of brown or blond hair, and he did not miss the curious gazes that came his way. It was a shame that a clan that was once so famous had been forgotten so quickly. Did the people of this kingdom forget about the pale-skinned, dark-haired House of Storm completely?
They had decided to cross through the city as it was the fastest route to the palace. Aren rushed to buy some fruit for himself and hurried after his friend. Offering him a ripe mango which he refused. Aren shrugged tossing the horse an apple.
As they got closer to the palace they could see the guards spread around the outer walls of the palace and along the bridge . The guards at the first gate asked them their business, only to notice Aren of House Silver Mountains Crest. Allowing them entrance, a stable boy took Pedro's reigns from Declan stating that he would be fed and sheltered.
“Duke Declan of House Storm, Lord Aren of House Silver Mountain, I welcome you on behalf of his royal majesty - come I will escort you to his office,” A man in a smart grey tunic spoke, the Ehlesaar Crest of a White Wolf howling at a silver moon with three claw marks tearing through the moon was embroidered on his left shoulder. He bowed his head politely to the duo.
He had never accepted the dukedom of his house… how dare the king call him by a title he did not earn… He clenched his free hand that was not resting on the hilt of his sword under his cloak.
Rage blazed inside him, licking his insides and consuming him, inch by inch… his hands crackled with electricity, but he closed his eyes controlling that inferno of fury within him .
They made their way through the palace and were led to the king's private wing. Not looking where he was going he knocked into someone. Hearing a soft gasp, he automatically grabbed on to the woman before she fell to the floor as his eyes widened in shock. His breath hitching in his throat, as he found himself staring into the most beautiful set of eyes he had seen. Gold and red, rimmed with thick lashes.
“Sorry,” she said her voice was soft, her plump lips slightly parted.
Layana looked into the dark stormy eyes of the handsome man who had knocked into her. He reminded her of the night, a sense of mystery and danger seemed to envelop him. He was an extremely handsome man, she thought surprising herself. His long black silky hair brushed back, a very light beard peppered his jaw, and his thick brows were set in a deep frown.
He let go suddenly as if touching her burned, trying not to notice her ample breasts slightly bigger than average. Her creamy skin and pouty plump lips looked as if she had been carved by the gods to perfection. She looked ethereal, too beautiful for this world, he thought.
“Watch where you’re going,” he said coldly realising what he had just thought
“My Lord, this is Princess Layana, third daughter of the king,” the servant said thinking did the man not know she was royalty
Aren was staring as if he had never seen a more beautiful woman and Declan had to agree, neither had he… the rumours had indeed been true. Despite her not wearing a tiara, and with minimal jewellery, there was something ethereal about this woman.
“It’s fine, excuse me,” Layana said shaking her tumbling blond hair.
“Forgive my friend your highness, he’s a bit of a broody jerk,” Aren said bowing, suddenly remembering his manners, Layana smiled gently,
“It’s nice to not always be bowed to…” she said softly although it seemed she was talking more to herself.
Her eyes met Declan's for a moment, her heart hammering under his intense cold glare. Curtsying she hurried away, Declan turned slightly watching her walk off, his eyes skimming over her tiny waist, and pert behind.
Layana paused, curiosity overcoming her, she glanced over her shoulder blushing lightly when she realised the man was still watching her. He looked away as Aren smirked at his friend's reaction as he turned and continued walking.
The men arrived at the king's office shortly, and the two guards exchanged a word with the servant.
“The king is expecting you,” one of them said stepping aside.
Declan looked at the door as it opened as if in slow motion, this was it, the moment to meet the king he had only ever seen from afar… Maybe he should just seize the moment and behead him right now. He clenched his jaw. No, he needed answers first. He needed to know if there was even an ounce of remorse in the king for the decision taken fifteen years ago. A decision that had made him an orphan…
The burning anger raged through him like molten lava and if it were not for his strong self-control, he would have killed the king right there. He cared not if he was apprehended after. Even with no weapon, he would have been able to take him on with ease. He still had his ability to bend and control lightning to his will and even the weather, something that was rare even for those with the ability of the Storm bloodline.
The door closed behind them as the king motioned for his men to leave, a clear indicator he trusted the men before him. A foolish mistake on the kings’ part, Declan thought.
A hand on his shoulder bought him out of his dark thoughts as Aren gave it an encouraging squeeze motioning at him to bow. He himself enclosed his right hand over his left hand that was curled into a fist and bowed to their sovereign who stood at his desk observing the dark-haired man.
A stabbing jolt of guilt ran through the king as their eyes met. Declan did not bow; he did not care if it branded him insolent or classed it as treason. He would never bow to filth.
Aren looked up at his friend in alarm, did he have a death wish?
“Declan of House Storm,” Evaan said quietly looking at the handsome young man who did not even show him respect.
Memories of long ago flashed in his mind and the burning flame of buried guilt only grew stronger.
“House Storm is long forgotten; Declan alone is fine,” Declan said his voice so cold it could cut through stone.
“My apologies… Declan...” he said quietly
Aren looked between the two men confused at their exchange. It was clear Declan's dislike and contempt for the king was barely hidden. Yet the king was ignoring it, and was speaking calmly…
Declan stepped forward placing the sealed scroll onto the table for the king to view.
Both Aren and Declan exchanged looks wondering what exactly was in that scroll. They had only been told to get it to the king at all costs.
Evaan sat down as he broke the seal and opened it, scanning the slanted scrawl of the general. His eyes widening as his heart raced, no… this could not be possible, he looked at the two men before him.
“Is this… is this true?” he said.
Declan did not speak as Aren stepped forward,
“We do not actually know the contents of the message, sire,” he said,
Evaan stood up, his brows furrowed, clasping his hands behind his back as he went to the window.
Declan stepped forward taking the scroll from the table as he scanned it. His eyes widened in shock as he read it…
‘To my King, I hope this letter finds you in the best of health as I give my greetings to their royal highnesses. But I am not writing for pleasantries today. It is with a heavy heart that I am forced to relay this message to you, I am trusting two of my best men to get this to you swiftly and safely. The Forgotten lands have begun to stir. I took no notice of it despite the suspicions and the sense of foreboding that has consumed me over the slight change in the beasts and monsters that roam the land. If it was not for the men I have lost and the marks on their body I would not have believed it. Just like back then, it is the very same. The threat we had hoped never to face again has returned, he is not dead, and I fear he lay dormant regaining his strength over the years. But without a doubt, he is back and the promise of vengeance that was promised to us fifteen years ago when we destroyed him or so we thought, is clear on his mind. The last of my warriors who were attacked,
It was late in the evening and the four sisters were in the princesses drawing room, discussing the upcoming engagement. It had been a shock to them all as they were not expecting it to take place until December. The room was glowing warmly from the dazzling chandeliers above while the balcony doors were open, allowing the cool breeze from outside to enter the room. The distant hum of the bustling palace life faded away slowly as time went by and gradually everyone began to retreat for the night.Terania sighed softly, it was not often she let her emotions show. “Is everything ok Terania?” Layana asked as she completed another page of the punishment her father had set for. She still had so much more to write and her fingers were aching. “Of course it is, Lord Zephyr will be arriving in a few days and soon we will be officially engaged. I have barely spoken to the man since our proposal was put forth,” Terania reply her deep melodic voice sounded tired. “You will be ok, it's your du
The morning sun shone through the library's arched stained-glass windows. The stunning glass shards were in shades of browns and orange sending an even warmer glow through the large hall. From one end you could not see the other, rows and rows of dark cherrywood bookshelves covered the entire room, with certain areas left open for tables made of the same dark cherrywood and some chairs. Each table had a light at the centre. Chandeliers in browns and orange crystals hung from the ceiling spread out in rows casting their glow around the entire area. Along the shelves hung the occasional bracket of lights. The floor in between the shelves had long strips of woven mats in deep blue and right at the back of the library was the silver metal wall that reached the ceiling. It was this wall that separated the restricted area from the main library. It towered rather high, more than three-quarters of the way to the ceiling. Layana shivered as she looked at the centre of that wall from where
The Council meeting had given Declan a short distraction from Layana. Having spent the three-hour meeting filling in the council of ten high ranking nobles at the king's table of everything that had gone on at the border to the forbidden lands. From the dead livestock and other odd occurrences. Currently they had no idea what was linked to the dark lord and what was not. The king had shared the letter of the general too. Despite some of the council members being a little doubtful of the claims in it, the majority ruled they had to play it safe. One thing that was crystal clear was that none of the council liked him. The hostility was clear, but it didn’t bother Declan. After the council meeting, Declan and Aren had been invited to dinner with the royals. Much to Declan's annoyance, Aren on the other hand was extremely excited to meet all the princesses. Something Declan hoped he would be sorely disappointed with. Dinner with the royals also meant dressing more presentably, but D
Declan's cold glare turned to the beauty before him, one thing was clear unlike her sister she was not begging for his attention, rather she was frowning at him, her plump lips set in a determined pout. “Layana,” Evaan said his voice dangerously low. Declan did not look away from those mesmerising eyes, “No. let her speak, let’s see what the sheltered princess has to say,” he said mockingly, his words were like a knife to Layana. For she knew the truth in them. Evaan heaved a deep sigh glaring at his daughter to back down. But both the temperamental princess and the cold heir of House Storm were staring the other down. Dark grey eyes boring into those iridescent red and gold. “Yes, we may be ‘sheltered’ in your eyes, but it does not mean we are ignorant to the world around us. Perhaps we have not seen as much as you have. You might look at us resentfully for the blissful ignorance that we have. But I assure you it’s no fairy tale. Before judging us, remember we are human beings for
Layana had reached the large open doors to the library as a few professors walked out. She slipped inside, unravelling a scroll in front of her. No one spared her a second glance, after all, everyone knew princess Cordelia often sent her staff to get her books. The librarians were too busy signing some books out for several apprentices. A few young scholars were packing away their scrolls and papers on the tables. A servant was cleaning up, wiping down the empty tables and chairs and a librarian was putting away some books. She only hoped she found the book without being caught. Soon the library became quieter with each passing moment. The humming of chatter was soon completely gone, she heard footsteps as one of the staff pushed in the last few chairs and headed out, only when the lights were shut down did Layana release the breath that she had been holding. Now she needed to move to the shelf where she had hidden her small bundle. With the room now bathed in darkness, only the moo
Layana had barely spoken a word to Declan, both did not ask the other for more information on what they were looking for. The only time Declan had spoken was just before the guards had entered. He had approached her making her turn the mage stone off, a finger to his lips. The guards had walked in, barely staying for more than two minutes, and were gone. The moment they had left Declan went off again. Layana only had a title, no author, or any further information about the book she was looking for and despite scouring so many shelves there was nothing. Although there were not as many books in here then the main library, there was still hundreds. She sighed softly as she slowly stepped down from the ladder from yet another shelf. Nothing. No sign of the book, she looked around losing hope, her eyes travelling to the far end of the library. The shelve that ran along the entire back wall looked even more worn and dusty than the rest of the room. Scrunching up her nose she walked ove
“Ignite!” she whispered, feeling the coldness envelop her despite it being a warm night. Deep in the stone walls of the palace she felt cold. “Ignite!” she felt frustrated with the stone that remained dark in her hand. “It won't work, these passageways are probably made so no magic can work here,” Declan's voice came “Then how are we supposed to see ?” she replied trying to feel for the walls when her hand touched something warm, she froze realising she was touching Declan's chest and made to pull away “sorry!” “I'm beginning to wonder if you simply just wanted to get me alone,” he said mockingly gripping her wrist, something about her touch awakened something inside of him. “You wish,” she retorted jerking her hand free from his hold “Don’t think so highly of yourself princess, you are not my type,” he replied, thinking if he had a type she would be it. “Good, and you are not mine either,” she shot back not knowing why his blatant refusal irked her. “Well, since we’ve clarifie