Prologue The Night of Sorrows The explosion tore through the night, shaking the royal palace. Every head jerked upward with horrific noise, except for the Queen’s. Deep in the throes of labor, she heard nothing. King Dorian’s handsome face went rigid with fear. He was already worried about his wife and now something else was happening. The birthing of the twins seemed to be taking longer than he thought necessary. Now, it sounded like the royal palace was being attacked. Throwing hurried glances at his protector, the Krannion knight-champion Bertravis Liolbane and his new personal battlemage Colin Lightbringer, King Dorian made a split second decision. “Colin,” he ordered in an anxious voice, “go find out what’s going on!” Grabbing his red oak mace staff, Colin raced towards the throne room in a blur of black and gold. After a few minutes King Dorian frowned. Turning to his champion, who was also wearing a dire expression etched upon his face, he said, voice cracking with worry, “Check on the knights in the hall.” The tall, stern faced knight champion moved toward the door, hand gripping the hilt of his proctor’s sword. The ringing sounds of metal filled the birthing room as he opened it. Alarm flashed on the champion’s face when he didn’t see the knights outside. He found them down the hall, side by side fighting with Colin, who was desperately weaving spells. The three were attempting to hold back what looked like Terian northmen from reaching their chambers. At least the knights had the formidable assistance of the powerful battlemage. Two wails split the air behind the knight champion. Immediately he saw a smile cross the face of the blonde haired man leading the invaders. He redoubled his efforts against Colin, whom he appeared to have singled out. Bertravis Liolbane slammed the door shut, quickly sliding the thick iron bolt into place. Turning to the dark curly haired king he was sworn to protect, he said, alarm filling his voice, “Sire, we are under attack from Terian invaders!” King Dorian, more astonished than alarmed, said, “Here, are you sure?” “That’s what they looked like sire,” answered the knight champion, grimly serious. “And they are heading here! Help me block the door, hurry! We have to get you and your family out of here. We can use the escape way in your chambers.” As King Dorian grabbed up pieces of furniture and began piling them in front of the door, Bertravis turned and saw Lady Alice, the Queen’s mother, holding the second newborn in her arms and the Queen holding tight to the first. Bertravis called out to the ladies in waiting, “Get the Queen and the heirs out of here and into the royal bedchambers.” Lady Alice turned and bent over the Queen, saying something into her daughter’s ear. For a moment the new mother looking distraught, shook her head fervently no. Panic filled her face as she stretched out a hand towards the baby in her mother’s arms. Shooting a hard look towards the door and in a commanding low voice, Lady Alice said something else more forcefully. Travis turned back from the growing pile and saw the Queen reluctantly take the other baby from her mother. Then she allowed the first to be given into the hands of her most trusted maid. The other maids then set out carrying the weakened Queen out of the birthing room. Bertravis turned back, hearing the fighting grow louder. Then, in one instant it was over. Eerie silence and the shuffling feet of the maids were all the other two men heard as they continued piling furniture. Seeing nothing else that they could put in the way of the invading Terians, the King and his champion turned, facing each other. Both began praying that what they had done would buy enough time. Suddenly a familiar, rich, baritone voice came from outside the door. “They are in there?” A cold, imperious voice answered, “Yes Sire.” Both the King and his knight looked at each other in relief, surprised at hearing the King’s younger brother Vargas, outside of the door. His next words turned their blood to ice. King Dorian’s fourth and only surviving brother said loudly, “Cyadine, destroy the door. We have to kill them and the heirs quickly. They can’t be allowed to escape or we will be put to death for treason.” The sound of the wizard’s incantation caused King Dorian and his champion to race out of the chamber, running towards where the others had fled. The maids carrying the Queen quickly stepped through a side room in the royal quarters used as a wardrobe closet and onto a hidden narrow stone staircase. It spiraled down into the bowels of the castle, straight to an underground chamber where a little known underground river flowed. As King Dorian and his champion ran, Bertravis noticed that there was no sign of Lady Alice or of the birthing rags she had been clutching. He couldn’t spare time to worry about her though. King Dorian spun back around, demanding, “Give me your sword!” “What!” shouted Bertravis, grabbing the leather wrapped hilt in his hand, “Have you taken leave of your senses Sire?” “Give me your sword, Bertravis Liolbane,” the dark haired King ordered again, pulling out a worn leather fighting glove, slipping it onto his left hand. The knight protector and champion stared directly into his King’s dark blue eyes, and tightened his hand even more on his sword’s hilt. He had seen the numbers outside, he knew he couldn’t hold back all of the men coming after them but it was his duty to try. For the first time ever he refused. “No Sire,” he said shaking his head. “I will not. You and yours are my responsibility. You are to be kept alive at all costs. I will die here protecting you, as is my sworn duty. Go with the women and the children to the boats below. Sire, please,” he demanded urgently. The King, eyeing the taller man, said resolutely, “Someone has to stay! Give me your sword Bertravis Liolbane. I want you to go with them! I want you to ensure the safety of my family after they escape. They must be saved! I will buy you that time.” A deadly serious expression covered his face and death filled his dark blue-eyes. “You that I am more capable Bertravis. My children must survive. Promise me on your own honor that you will see to their escape. Promise me that they will survive and retake the Throne and Crown” As he finished, the stout door to the birthing chamber disappeared in an explosion of wooden splinters and men began removing the piled furniture. King Dorian’s eyes were still pleading with the knight. Finally the protector of the royal family withdrew his Proctor’s sword and hesitatingly gave it over. King Dorian took the mythryll sword and gave it a few swings, testing its balance and weight. With tears filling his eyes Bertravis Liolbane quickly knelt at his King’s feet and swore, “I will see to the safety of your family and their escape Sire.” The King of the fourteen kingdoms looked down at his champion and lifted the sword. In keeping with the oath ceremony, he quickly kissed the sword’s silvery blade, touched each of his champion’s shoulders with it and accepted his pledge. Then King Dorian slowly turned, his facial expression grim and faced approaching men. Standing bravely in the narrow opening at the top of the stairs with the silver proctor’s sword clutched tightly in his left hand, he hoped he could kill enough of the men charging at him to give his family time enough to get away. With hot tears spilling down his cheeks, the knight champion and royal protector turned and fled down the stairs, heading towards the underground chamber, following the Queen and her babies, vowing to fulfill his promise to his King and keep his family safe.