Duncan Frain: Part 10

King Ithril looked Duncan over as the princess recounted her tale for the royal court. King Ithril nodded in understanding and commanded his royal tailor to create a dress for their guest.

“Without the service of your royal guard, I would be dead,” Madeleine told the king.

“Duncan Frain, you are to be commended with a celebration in your honor,” he bellowed. The members of the royal guard are wore looks of jealousy as Duncan smiled.

With the king’s dismissal, Duncan stuffed his hands into his pockets. His hands felt the smooth black stone from the princess. As Princess Madeleine was taken under the wing of King Ithril’s court, Duncan sought out the royal page.

As he walked through the winding halls of the elaborate castle, Duncan found Thornton sitting at his desk. Upon Duncan’s arrival, their eyes met.

“Yes?” Thornton asked with a sigh. As far as he was concerned, he was much too busy to be bothered with a member of the royal guard. To him, they served as meat shields in protecting those of higher stations.
“I won’t take much of your time,” Duncan began. “During your travels to Baylas, did you encounter the royal family?”

“Of course, the message was intended only for those of royal lineage,” Thornton said with a haughty, holier-than-thou attitude.

“Did you bring the family a gift from our king?” Duncan persisted.

“Of course, as a gesture of good will, the people of Olivian extended gifts toward those of who we wish to acquaint ourselves. What are you getting at?”

Thornton looked displeased at the line of incessant questioning. Duncan persisted; he had to know if the gift from Princess Madeleine held any true meaning.

“Did they offer gifts in return?” Duncan asked.

Thornton exhaled deeply and said, “No, of course they didn’t. The people of Baylas only offer gifts to people who they wish to show affection. Gifts to them are love tokens.”

Duncan felt his heart race. Thornton’s words made him feel relieved. He smiled as his fingers ran across the smooth surface of the gemstone, feeling its texture in his pocket.

“Thank you,” Duncan told the man and made his way out of the wooden door. He sped down the winding halls until he found Madeleine.

She stood there with flowing hair, bright almond-shaped blue eyes and a glow that was like a beacon of light that illuminated the room with her presence. Duncan pulled the smooth black stone from his pocket and showed it to her.

“I’ve learned what this means,” he told her sweetly. As he spoke, the stone’s color changed from black to purple and finally, it lit up light blue. Duncan was mystified by the strange stone, but he saw her face as it beamed.

“I don’t know what that means,” he told her. She took his hands in hers and drew closer to his ear.
“As you may have learned, this is an eternal moon stone,” she whispered. “My people use these and other gifts to show affection to those of whom we owe our lives or care about.”

He remained silent as she whispered, “When it changed from black to purple and then rested on this light blue color, it meant that you and I share the same feelings for one another.”

Duncan’s cheeks reddened as King Ithril cleared his throat.

“A royal wedding it is!” he shouted. Duncan never thought to object and became eager to claim his prize.

Duncan Frain: Part 9

“All of the glory, huh?” he asked sarcastically. Duncan liked the sound of a beautiful princess honoring him with such words. He felt the rush of excitement as it overcame him.

“All of the glory to you,” she said and bowed with a smile pasted on her face.

“I think I like this glory stuff,” he told her. “I should slay thieves in your service more often.”

Madeleine’s face flushed as Duncan’s words made her heart flutter.

“Shall we go?” he asked as they walked toward the criminals. Duncan ripped the masks from their faces and revealed a shock to Madeleine’s system.

“Those men – they are the ones that robbed me and murdered my escort,” she cried. “Those evil, evil men!”

“Well, they’re dead evil men now,” Duncan said matter-of-factly as he hoped it eased her conscious. He rubbed her shoulder and tried his best to comfort her the only way he knew how.

Madeleine walked to the sparkling lake nearby as Duncan followed closely behind. She knelt down to study her reflection and pulled something from the water.

“For you,” she said as she extended her hand to place the item in Duncan’s hands. A tear escaped her eyes as she told him, “For avenging my royal escort.”

Chapter Six

Duncan opened his hand and revealed a black gemstone of the likes he’d never seen. It was smooth and the light of the three moons bounced off it as it shined.

“Thank you,” he said, unsure of the meaning behind the mysterious gift. “Shall we depart for Olivian?”
“Yes, now we may depart for Olivian,” she said and smiled at Duncan. Her heart skipped a beat as he escorted her to his city under his protection.

As the two suns rose, they lit up the walls of the sacred city. Like clockwork, the chains clashed together as the guards of the tower opened the city gates. Duncan walked with Madeleine inside and paid no attention to those who stared at them. He was a guard in his king’s service after all and felt that no one had the right to question him.

Duncan and Madeleine made their way to the castle, despite her appearance of that of a beggar. In the hall of the king, Duncan walked with her on the black stone floor and gained the interest of King Ithril.

“Who do we have here?” he asked Duncan.

“Your royal highness, it is my honor to introduce you to Princess Madeleine of Baylas,” he said as he knelt before his king. King Ithril looked to the princess as he studied her tattered clothing.

“Princess of Baylas, you say?” he asked in his smooth voice.

“Yes, your highness,” Duncan relayed. The king motioned for the guard to stand erect and Duncan immediately obliged. Standing tall, he awaited further questioning from his ruler.

“This guard found me in the deep forest and fought off thieves who pummeled my royal guards and stole my property,” Madeleine spoke up in Duncan’s defense.

Duncan Frain: Part 8

“How could you possibly know that to be true? You’re a princess shrouded in secrecy, only to make your presence known in court,” he said snidely.

Madeleine tapped him on the shoulder and snapped him to reality. “Look around, this doesn’t look like court to me.”

They both studied the dark night that surrounded them. It had none of the familiarities that Duncan had come to know and love about being a guard in the royal court. She was right.

“Are you really a princess?” he asked, unsure if he really meant the offensive question. If she was a princess, she could’ve had him hanged for such treasonous questions. He stopped himself short.

Before she could speak, Duncan said, “My apologies, my lady. I don’t know what came over me. I should never have been so disrespectful. ”

She chuckled at his immediate change of heart and explained herself. “I am a princess of the city of Baylas and my father doesn’t hide me away only to free me for court.”

“He doesn’t?” Duncan was sure that surely some traditions had to be the same among those of the Olivian city and its neighbors.

“Of course not,” she said brightly. “One day I will rule Baylas.”

He laughed at the suggestion, his cheeks reddened and he shook his head in disbelief.

“What is so funny?” she questioned him.

“Women are allowed to rule the city of Baylas?” he wondered upon his first instinct that she hadn’t been joking.

“Of course, it’s almost tradition for the women to have control of Baylas,” she said matter-of-factly. “My father is king, but my mother, Queen Adrienne is the ruler of all.”

At that point, Duncan realized that he had a lot to learn about the neighboring cities that surrounded Olivian. Madeleine hadn’t taken offense to his prying questions and offered anecdotes from her city that had been passed down from generation to generation.

“Shhh,” Duncan advised her as he raised his finger to his lips. He stood quietly as he listened to a nearby sound that seemed inaudible to Madeleine. He crept over toward the noise stealthily and drew his sword slowly.

Two masked men emerged from the bushes and jumped into view. With their weapons in hand, they yelled, “Give us everything you’ve got or pay with your lives.”

The sound of metal clashing against metal filled the air as Madeleine watched Duncan take on the two men. They hadn’t seen her and while she wanted to help, tradition dictated to let heroes carry the burdens and valor that battle brought. She held her breath as Duncan ran one of the men through with his blade.

Yanking the sword from the man’s body, it was covered in blood. Duncan laid the other thief to waste and promptly checked on his new friend.

“Are you alright?” he asked her as he moved closer. He extended his hand to help Madeleine to her feet.

“Of course, I did nothing. All of the glory in battle goes to you,” she said proudly.

Duncan Frain: Part 7

“What’s this?”

“It’s the Scepter of Baylas,” she cried. “Those who have the marking of the scepter are of royal lineage. The suns are the ones that guide our paths.”

He nodded in agreement, but shrugged to show her that she might as well have been talking to a brick wall.

“Staff or no staff, I will protect you on your journey,” he offered. He considered the thought of Madeleine being a clever assassin who could’ve intercepted the royal message. He wondered if she meant the city of Olivian any harm. Would a rival city send a beautiful dealer of death? Did Olivian have enemies? Duncan knew that the path that lay ahead of him was riddled with questions.

“Scepter,” Madeleine corrected him, interrupting the thoughts that ran wild in his mind.

“Of course,” he said as he watched her sheath her sword.

“Should we leave now?” she questioned him as her big blue eyes followed his movements.

“We could leave, but we will not be able to get inside the city walls until the suns rise,” Duncan advised her.
“We’re stuck out here?”

“Of course we are, Olivian is sealed tight as soon as the suns set and the blackness of the night takes over,” he recalled his king’s words. “We have just opened the city’s walls after a hundred years of solitude.”

“So, you’ve never been outside your city’s walls?” she asked him, curious about the laws of the land.

“Yes, when the walls were opened days ago, I went on an adventure – like tonight.”

Madeleine was confused at the entire idea of being trapped inside a city without being able to explore the world around him.

“Ancient texts of Olivian explain that our ruler is charged with the protection of our city no matter the cost,” he explained to her confused face. “So, he kept our walls sealed tight for the protection of our people.”

“Protection from what exactly?” Madeleine’s face filled with curiosity. What did the almighty king of Olivian know that wasn’t common knowledge to the people who walked these same paths daily? She studied him as he prepared his explanation.

“Protection from the wild animals, shrieks and thieves that roam these lands,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Wild animals and shrieks?” she questioned him.

“Of course,” Duncan was adamant.

“What wild animals and what is a shriek?”

“The dangerous beasts that will rip out your eyes and feast upon your entrails,” he relayed, trying not to scare her. “Shrieks are vicious creatures of the ghostly night that scream as they murder you in your sleep.”

“There are no wild animals in these lands and there are certainly none of these shrieks of which you speak,” she corrected him in a know-it-all voice.

Duncan Frain: Part 6

“Halt!” he yelled as he held his sword high in the air. As a burly warrior, he had never been one to lower his weapon first and he hadn’t wanted to start.

“Stay back!” she bellowed as she raised her sword in defense.

He assured himself that no woman as beautiful had the capacity to hurt him. He chuckled at the thought of the tiny woman with bright blue eyes wielding a sword that looked bigger than she was.

Showing her displeasure, she said, “Just what are you laughing at?”

“You might want to put that thing down, you may end up hurting yourself,” he warned her.

“Or I might hurt you if you come any closer,” she barked. He studied her tattered light blue gown and her dirty, round face with her plump pink lips. He felt less than threatened and felt it was his duty to offer his protection.

“Settle down, I’m not here to hurt you,” he told her. Duncan lowered his sword as he tried to gain her trust.

“I’m afraid I can’t say the same,” she said as she watched his every movement.

“I’m Duncan Frain, member of the royal guard of Olivian, in service to King Ithril,” he announced proudly.
“How do I know you’re not making this up?” she asked him pointedly.

“A guard of Olivian never lies about his station,” he countered as he drew closer to her. Duncan’s intended on showing her that he meant her no harm, but his efforts were lost on her.

She swung her sword in his direction as he moved to deflect her attack. He raised his sword in battle and struck hers until they were engrossed in battle.

After they spent a few minutes sparring, Duncan backed away and lowered his weapon once again.

“I’ve never lowered my weapon in the field, but I have done so today – twice,” he advised her. He threw his weapon to the ground and knelt before her. “Do your worst then.”

She stared down at him as her weapon grazed his neck. “Who are you?”

“Duncan Frain, member of the royal guard of Olivian, in service to King Ithril,” he reiterated. “I mean you no harm.”

“Of course that’s what the murderers said when they attacked my carriage,” she said.

“Murderers?” he questioned her from below. He stood up as her words piqued his interest. He scanned the area that surrounded them and picked up his sword from the ground.

“Yes, murderers,” she recalled. “They took all I had and when they weren’t satisfied with that, they killed my guards and left me there in the dirt.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” he told her. “Where were you coming from?”

“Baylas,” she commented. “I’m Princess Madeleine Alianna and I was on my way to Olivian at your king’s request.”

Duncan studied her for some reassurance that she spoke the truth, but her torn dress and dirty face betrayed her revelation. He wasn’t sure he believed her, but hadn’t wanted to put her off.

“And these men you spoke of, they killed your escort?” he asked as she recalled the horrific details of the men her guards encountered.

“I see,” he muttered, confused as to why someone of such a high station would be out in the world in the dead of night.

“You don’t believe me?” she said defensively. “I can prove it – here.”

She turned away from him and bared her shoulder. On it, he saw a symbol of a scepter in front of two orange suns etched into her skin.

As a little bonus, I thought this was a great intro to storytelling in blogs. I know I certainly have learned a lot by continually writing, and this video says the same thing.

Duncan Frain: Part 5

He followed behind Thornton and Dante to the city of Honselle. The city appeared bereft of life, but a man greeted the emissary from an underground hatch near the emissary’s feet. Duncan looked on in awe as Thornton was welcomed into the underground lair. Both the page and guard disappeared, but Duncan remained curious.

Later, he followed the page and guard to the city of Liandon, excited about the adventure that lay ahead. He gazed upon the beautiful city as it lit up the horizon with pulsating lights.

As he walked through the silver lined streets, Duncan felt the warmth of the exquisite people that meandered through the streets. The lights of the city cast doubt on the time of day. Duncan lost track of time as he became engrossed in conversations with the polite city dwellers. As much as the city of Cresse’s people were rude and arrogant, the city of Liandon was the direct opposite.

Duncan watched as the royal page and guard made their way to the entrance to the city, but he was so taken with the people in Liandon that he wanted to stay. He was in unfamiliar territory, but enjoyed the experience greatly.

After several hours that followed the exit of the royal guard, Duncan decided to leave the beautiful city behind him. He walked the silver streets to the entrance and left the city as he walked toward his home city of Olivian.

As he neared home, the stars in the night sky illuminated the landscape of the foreign lands of which he traveled. When he closed in on the city walls of Olivian, he caught a glimpse of the walls as they sealed shut with him on the outside.

“Oh no,” he muttered in awe. He was too late. As much as he wanted to scamper toward the walls, the guards at the towers wouldn’t have been able to hear his pleas.

He turned toward the wild forest that encompassed the area around him. He longed for the lambskin bed that comforted him in the night. Duncan felt unsure about where his journey had taken him, but wanted desperately to be home babbling to Nirill about the everyday trappings of being part of the royal guard.

Duncan sought refuge under the protection of a giant oak tree. He shuddered at the thought of the wild animals that he was assured lurked in the night. Stories of old spoke of fearless beasts, ghosts from the underworld and shrieks who screamed as they murdered their prey. He held himself tightly and tried to push the thoughts from his mind.

He felt his eyes grow heavy and drifted off into an uncomfortable sleep. Duncan heard a rustling noise in the leaves from a distance. It jarred him awake and made him hyper aware of his surroundings. Grabbing his sword from its sheath, he stood at attention – ready to attack these fierce beasts.

Duncan moved toward a shadowy presence that felt threatening and studied the movement with his squinted eyes. He readied his sword and with a quick movement, opted to meet his fate.

A young woman stood before him with her sword drawn, ready to attack. He was taken aback by her beauty, but he wasn’t entirely sure if she was a ghost or what she had been doing out in the dangers of the night.

Duncan Frain: Part 4

As the night drew near, he watched as Thornton and Dante walked through the gates. He eagerly met their pace from behind and walked through the gates just as the suns disappeared. The night sky filled with the sparkling of thousands of tiny lights, colored vibrantly in their splendor. As the gates sealed in the city from the outside world, the cold air filled Duncan’s lungs. He shivered as he briskly walked toward his residence near his friend Nirill.

Olivian’s three moons lorded over the mountaintop city and it reminded Duncan of the legends that were passed down from the ages. He had questions for the people of Cresse and those of Baylas.

Had they not believed in the protection of the moons? Had they not believed that the suns had returned daily to bring life to their people? Why was carrying a sword made illegal with the exception of the doctors?

Duncan knew the royal emissary’s task was far from over, so he lay down on his lambskin bed and pondered the possibilities. He drifted off to sleep, but his vivid dreams reminded him that his adventures were real and were far from over.

King Ithril summoned the royal page and learned of the people of Cresse and Baylas. He listened intently as Thornton rattled on with information about the royalty of the foreign lands and the values they held dear.

As Thornton talked, Duncan thought back to the cheer that being in Baylas brought and the rude behavior of the woman in Cresse. He shook his head, but snapped back to reality and hoped no one noticed.

“Scribe Dylan will take your account of the foreign lands for the royal records,” King Ithril advised the page. “You will take the guard and leave again in two days.”

Thornton bowed before the throne as Queen Delilah gave her approval.

“Do the people of Cresse not sleep?” she asked, completely amused at the thought. “Does their king not care about his people?”

King Ithril shook his head in agreement with his queen. Her bright green eyes lit up as she stood and pressed her lips against the king’s face.

“Good night, my darling, may the grace of the three moons protect you,” she told him as she walked through the winding, gray castle halls to the chamber they shared.

Days passed by, but Duncan felt antsy as the day for travel converged upon him. As the softness of the lambkin comforted him, he closed his eyes and fell into a slumber.

The red-orange light emanated from the hot suns as it invaded Duncan’s eyes, waking him. He sat up and replayed the events of three days before. He shook his head at his recollection and wondered how the foreigners handled their day-to-day affairs. He jotted notes down in his journal and locked it up for safe keeping.

Duncan sprung from his bed, shoved part of a loaf of bread in his mouth and tucked three more pieces in his bag for his journey. He was determined to find out exactly what else was out there in the world that he was unaware.

He walked out of his house and slowly walked to the city walls. He watched closely as the guards raised the gates as they allowed Dante and Thornton to pass. On the outside, he felt a sense of renewed adventure. He had to make today count and he knew that he wanted information on the far away cities that held secrets of which those from Olivian descent were unaware.

Duncan Frain: Part 3

He thought of the years of stories that King Ithril and those before him had told the people of Olivian. He assured himself that he’d never leave his family unwatched as they sleep.

Duncan followed the men to the city of Cresse, but everything about the city was high class and polite. He gruffly walked through the city streets as he took notice of everything that surrounded him. Unlike Baylas, there was no music that filled the air, no happy faces and no beautiful rivers to reflect the light of the suns.

Cresse was polite but devoid of any joy, he thought as his eyes met with stern looks on the faces of the foreigners. Duncan’s attire and mannerisms caused him to stick out like a sore thumb among the neatly dressed, shocked elite masses of the people of Cresse.

“Is that a sword?” a woman with flaming red hair asked Duncan as she glared at him in disgust. She studied the steel item at his waist, concealed in its worn, brown scabbard. He pulled it from its leather encasement and brandished the blade proudly.

Duncan shrugged his shoulders as a series of questions flooded his mind. He shook his head in disbelief as she sized him up.

“Yes, it is a sword,” he said.

“What are you doing?” the woman shrieked. “Put that away!”

She backed away from Duncan, frightened by the shiny metal object. He wasn’t sure what was so fearsome by a blade such as his. It wasn’t even the best his local blacksmith could forge, but it was what he got for two gold pieces.

“Haven’t you ever seen a sword before?” Duncan questioned her.

“Do I appear to be a criminal to you?” she asked as she stared at him arrogantly.

“I don’t understand how you’d think carrying a sword makes any man a criminal,” he blathered.

“It is a criminal offense in Cresse to carry a sword if you aren’t legally required to do so,” she advised him.

Her demeanor told him that she was a complete know-it-all. In Olivian, her ilk would be ridiculed for their arrogance.

“Legally required to do so?” he said flummoxed. “Who would be legally required to carry a sword in Cresse?”

Unmoved by his critical voice, she answered, “Doctors.”

“You don’t look like much of an doctor to me,” she scoffed. The redheaded woman retreated inside her giant estate, glad that she was no longer subjected to entertaining Duncan’s questions.

He walked away, shocked by what he’d learned in only a day’s time. In Baylas, there was music and happy people, like the ones at home. In Cresse, the people had sticks firmly thrust in their nether regions and they had strange laws. He chuckled at the thought.

The day grew dimmer as the two suns became shielded by a stream of clouds in the sky. Duncan took that as a sign to high-tail it back to Olivian before the night drew nearer.

He began his way back to his beloved cloud city, but felt more determined than ever to gather tales for the townspeople. He told himself that the information he gathered was for the good of the people.

Duncan Frain: Part 2

“Maybe I should join Dante and Thornton for this little adventure,” Duncan mused to the guard next to him.

“The king’s orders were clear,” the guard barked.

“Sure, sure,” Duncan caved, but his plans were clear. He planned to follow the guard and page as they made their way to the outside walls.

Duncan went back home and prepared his belongings for the adventure of a lifetime. He planned to come back to amuse the local tavern ladies with wild tales of life outside of the walls of Olivian. He told himself that they’d have no choice but to fall into his arms willingly.

“I’ll get all the ladies, Nirill, you’ll see,” he said to his closest friend Nirill Bodlian.

“Just be sure you’re not out in the world after sunset,” Nirill warned. “You don’t know what’s out there in the world below. It could be very dangerous.”

“Let me worry about the world below,” Duncan assured his friend as he sheathed his sword and readied himself for departure.

As the page and guard made their way to the city walls, the outer guards lifted the gates. The clunking metal sound rang out in the air as the guards let them through. Per the king’s instructions, they left the gates open as an invitation for those who wished to seek his royal counsel.

Thornton Mayhew and Dante Scottson sauntered through the gate and to the outside world as Dante followed from a distance. With his chainmail armor on for protection, he stowed his helmet inside his leather bag. As he ventured forward, his eyes met with greenery that spanned the countryside.

Duncan felt the staggering distance in his travels as he walked in solitude to the neighboring city of Baylas. He’d noticed the sun as it bounced off of the ripples of the river in the new city.

Glorious music filled his ears as he received a hearty welcome to the foreign city. He studied the people inside the city, but was taken aback when he realized they weren’t fierce creatures of lore that had been passed down through the generations.

“I can write a book about this Baylas place,” Duncan assured himself as he walked the pebble-filled road to the local market. “It’ll make a hundred gold pieces, at least!”

Duncan took notice of the royal page and guard of Olivian as they walked from the castle to the road that led to the city’s edge. Baylas was not shielded by walls, guards or watchmen at the city’s entrance. He shook his head.

“The people of Baylas go unprotected in the night,” he whispered to himself. “How does their king allow such nonsense?”

Duncan mused to himself, “Maybe these people don’t sleep at all.”

The thought drifted away from his mind as he thought of the walled off place of which he grew up. Olivian was a bright and cheery city, like Baylas had been. Olivian was full of life with bustling markets and such, and while crime wasn’t a common occurrence, there had always been measures in place that maintained the status quo.

Duncan Frain: Part 1

“All hail King Ithril!” royal page Thornton shouted to those in attendance as they watched the king make his grand entrance. All of the guards stood straight up in a single file line along the grand throne room.

King Ithril walked into the room at the page’s announcement and sat down on the elaborately decorated golden throne next to his beautiful wife, Queen Delilah. He looked at her with grace, nodded to show his respects and smiled. He cast his gaze upon his guards and those who gathered for what he called a historic announcement.

“It is a great day, loyal subjects of Olivian,” he announced as his eyes scanned the room. “For today, we will open our doors to the outside world.”

His subjects looked at him with intense awe and looked at each other like they weren’t sure they heard the king correctly. King Ithril hadn’t wasted any time with pleasantries.

“Today, Olivian will dispatch a royal emissary to the cities of Baylas, Honselle, Liandon and Cresse in order to establish diplomatic relations with the people in the cities below,” he bellowed as his eyes grew wide with excitement. The audience murmured to each other quietly as he tried to judge their opinions on the proposal.

“Today is a new day and we hope to establish formal relations with those in the cities below so that we can learn new traditions and customs, while sharing ours with their citizens,” he said proudly.

Princess Leilanie rushed to her father’s side and bent his ear. She looked like a blur of long, blonde wavy hair and bright blue eyes encapsulated in an intricately designed green gown. The men gasped whenever she appeared before them, all desperate to win her hand in marriage.

The king wore a look of amusement as she whispered her thoughts in his ear. When she finished, he nodded his head in approval.

“When we assemble royal dignitaries from each realm, we will entertain them with a ball!” he shouted to the room. A hush fell over the crowd as they gasped at the thought. Never in the span of a hundred years had a ruler suggested not only opening the city to outsiders, but to share the sacred tradition of having a formal ball with them.

In Olivian, formal balls were saved for only the royalty of the mountaintop city. It was written in sacred texts that balls were to be held on days of celebration, but the people of the elaborate city looked shocked at the suggestion. Was opening the city walls to outsiders a cause for celebration?

“Page Thornton will be accompanied by one of the royal guards,” the king said as he gazed upon the men before him. “The page will be accompanied by Dante Scottson of the king’s guard!”

Dante looked at the king with appreciation in his eyes. He’d be the first of his family to see the cities below the place they called home. The page wasn’t thrilled at the prospect, but he smiled gracefully at the announcement.

Page Thornton gathered his belongings along with the royal invitations to the ball. As Dante offered his sword in the page’s protection, another guard, Duncan Frain, looked on the idea as an opportunity. Others uttered words of jealousy that Dante was gifted such a historic mission, while a few stared in horror.