• Prologue

    "Prince Aiden! Please, you must go into hiding!"

    The castle doors strained against the weight of the battering ram. Aiden hesitated, and then shook his head.

    "I cannot, Jeremiah. I am very sorry, but my mind is made up. If our land is conquered, then I shall die with my father. I will not shiver in hiding like a coward while my country is being sieged and innocent people are dying. I will fight with my soldiers...to the death if need be." vengeance burned in the young prince's emerald eyes, ruining his otherwise gentle appearance. His pale skin was illuminated by the fire from the torch he held in his trembling hand. His dirty blonde hair was matted to his forehead from nervous sweat, causing him to shiver from the ghostly chill that had descended inside the castle walls. "If dying today be my fate, than that be my fate. There is no way to prevent that, and if I decide to hide like a coward, than I will surely be killed."

    Jeremiah, servant to Aiden's father, sighed. His brown and slightly graying hair was also matted with sweat, his from running more than hidden nervousness. He gripped Aiden's deep-blue tunic tightly, turning the young prince towards him.

    "Prince Aiden, I am begging you. Please, we have to take you underground. If worse comes to worst, you will be the kingdom's only hope, my prince. With all due respect, you must listen to me!" His brown eyes were fraught with worry, his tanned, slightly wrinkled skin glowing in the firelight. "If they do defeat us, how will we get our kingdom back without a living, blood heir to the throne?"

    Aiden sighed sadly, looking up at Jeremiah. He reached up and gripped the man's shoulders tightly, staring him straight in the eye.

    "Listen to me carefully, Jeremiah. You are my close friend, and I take everything you say very seriously. No matter what, however, you will not get me to hide from this attack. I am going to help. I will not cower in fear, living on, while my father and my people are dying." the prince's voice was more high-pitched than most - he was, after all, only thirteen. He only came up to Jeremiah's chest, but he spoke and carried himself with more authority than any other prince his age - because he had to make up for his small size with wisdom and knowledge. His green eyes often blazed with intensity when he spoke, like now, because of his passion for the subject, whatever it may be. "I refuse."

    Jeremiah searched the prince's eyes. Fear laced the outer edges of his young eyes. The boy was quite peculiar, to be sure, often choosing literature over conversation. His fear was rare, and very hard to pick up on, but Jeremiah could clearly see it now.

    The thought that skipped through Jeremiah's mind next was not a comforting one: the prince had learned to fight, but not well. He had never had the heart to learn to kill.

    He could really die today, Jeremiah's eyes grew wide at the realization, I cannot let that happen. I promised his mother that I would keep him safe...no matter what. And that is what I will do.

    Before Aiden could say another word, Jeremiah snatched his wrist and yanked, dragging the young prince behind him as he bolted for the hallway that led to the escape tunnels beneath the castle.

    "Jeremiah! Stop this at once! I demand to go back and fight! My conscience will not allow me to do this!" Aiden yelled, pulling against the servant's grasp, but failing to free himself.

    "And my conscience will not allow me to let you get yourself killed, your highness! I apologize for disobeying your orders, but I made a promise to your mother that I intend to keep!" Jeremiah spoke hoarsely, attempting to avoid drawing attention to himself and Aiden. "Your late mother, God rest her soul, made me swear to keep you safe. Now, please, allow me to do so!"

    Quickly, Jeremiah pulled Aiden into a passage and glanced both ways, pulling a few blocks from the wall to reveal a small doorway. They quickly ducked into it, Aiden stopping to put the blocks back. They ran down the narrow, winding hallway, reaching the end in mere moments. A wooden door with a large, metal ring fit snuggly into an exit on the floor. Jeremiah pulled it open, picked up the young prince by the underarms, and dropped him into the hole none too gently. Aiden yelped, and turned his face upward.

    "Please, Jeremiah! Reconsider!" he yelled from the bottom of the opening. Jeremiah shook his head.

    "Your highness, take the catacombs into the forest." he half whispered. "You remember the way, correct? But I beg of you, sire, make haste."

    "Jeremiah!" Aiden wailed now, his authority dissolving. The prince was terrified. "Please, don't tell me that you are going to leave me to do this on my own!"

    "Aiden, this is for your safety." Jeremiah said quietly.

    "But I cannot find my way on my own!" Aiden was sobbing by now. This boy, who had insisted on staying for the gruesome and bloody battle to come, was showing his true fear because he had to navigate the passageways alone. Jeremiah's face twitched into a slight smile.

    "Now, now, that is not true, your highness. You have used the tunnels many times on your own." Aiden was silent for a moment.

    "But, Jeremiah...you cannot leave to fight unless you take me, as well. I refuse otherwise." he said firmly.

    "I am sorry, Prince Aiden. Do this for your mother! I implore you, sire, think of her."

    And with that, Jeremiah shut the trap door, leaving Aiden alone in the dark tunnels to find his own way.


    He had cold blue eyes. That was the first thing Jeremiah saw about the man leading the enemy army - the man who was nothing more than a boy.

    The second thing Jeremiah took in was the rest of this boy's appearance. Shoulder-length black hair, pale skin, and tall - much taller than Aiden, their own prince.

    The ravenette boy looked around for a moment, raking in his surroundings. His icy eyes drifted over Jeremiah, sending a chill up the older man's spine.

    This was Prince Silas, the Merciless. The seventeen year old prince from Curainia who had gained a reputation of murder and bloodshed that was worse than that of the worst person who came to your mind.

    This boy would kill them all.

    Except Aiden.

    Jeremiah felt a small burst of pride. He had kept his promise - he vary well may have saved their kingdom from certain doom at the hands of this tyrant. Aiden would return the first chance he got; Jeremiah knew this for a fact. He would never abandon his people.

    The harsh blue eyes were on him again.

    "You know something." his voice was young, but deep, not yet that of a man, "what is it?" Prince Silas studied the crowd of servants and soldiers. "And where is your beloved Prince Aiden? Bring him forth, that he may know the sting of my blade!"

    That sent the people into an uproar. He silenced them all by flashing his horse whip through the air and snapping it down on someone's neck. The man fell over dead.

    "When I ask a question of you peasants, I expect an answer, not a riot. You will quickly learn how I expect things to be done, and there will be no excuses. Now, one of you useless wastes of skin, answer my earlier question. Where is Prince Aiden?"

    No one answered. No one knew.

    Jeremiah had been struck by the whip.