This is a third book so everyone in it has been identified, looking for mistakes and emotion whether it flows thanks Caliban stepped into his best friend’s chambers with a heavy heart. He had been gone for a long while from the palace and did not like returning bearing dire news, especially not the sort that he was bringing to his only boyhood companion. Seth was sleeping at his desk but Caliban saw something odd about his position and realized his friend was clutching the golden crown of the Fourteen Kingdoms. He knew Damien was the rightful heir and that the crown truly belonged to him. It looked odd in Seth’s hands and he wondered why he was holding it. The white haired assassin mage coughed slightly and the son of the royal regent jerked awake. His eyes lit with pleasure at the sight of his best friend until he saw the sad look in Caliban’s slate blue ones. Caliban slowly reached into his pocket. His hand shaking, he showed Seth what he had found outside of the murderers cells. Seth met his friend’s look and flashed him a curious expression until he saw the scrap of black and red cloth, the bloody blonde hairs and the golden office amulet clutched in Caliban’s shaking fist. Recognizing it, his expression crumbled. Not able to make his legs work, Seth let out a anguished howl and fell from his chair. Sinking onto his knees, his face as white as death, he focused again on the glittering object in Caliban’s hands. Head falling into his hands, he began sobbing uncontrollably. Caliban understood, he had felt much the same when he had discovered his mother in Westlake. Finally the tears stopped flowing from the royal regent’s son’s eyes. Looking up, Caliban saw that the innocence that had always filled his best friend’s face had died. Murderous hatred had replaced it and Caliban took a few steps away from Seth, even though he could have easily defeated his normally good natured friend. Seth’s entire being had changed as he stared down at what he held in his quivering hands. His tears had stopped but his eyes burned with unshed ones. A few trickles of blood appeared around his fingers as his grip increased on the crown. Turning to Caliban, he motioned for him to close the door. “We have a lot to discuss about what has happened tonight here besides just this.” His eyes never left the golden medallion clutched in his right hand or the crown clutched in his left. * * * Lord Vargas Salidor stood tall and erect in front of the temporary ruling council of Highlords in charge of the kingdoms. The look on his shrewd, handsome face wasn’t one of a man whose life was at stake for crimes of treason and murder. Instead it was nonchalant and unworried, as if all that had happened during the night and what was now happening was of no little or of no account, merely a nuisance, barely a bother. It seemed he thought this council couldn’t do any sort of harm to him, despite the circumstances or reasons. Stripped from him though was the King’s armor and weapons. Gone were his royal robes and missing was his amulet of rank. Somehow he had lost it in the prisons, the day before. He stood alone wearing nothing but plain grey robes. His thick combed black hair and neatly trimmed goatee made him look regal and he still radiated power and leadership. All could tell he was still the brother of King Dorian and a member of the royal family, same as Damien. That was why until yesterday all had elected to follow his lead for the past twenty years. Lord Gildon Seahorn glared at the lesser highlords who had quelled under Vargas’ penetrating stare. At seeing his expression and the look of hatred on the newly named Lord of Castlekeep, Berus Daverge, they remembered Vargas was being accused of murder. With only a look Lord Gildon took command of the situation. The only exceptions were Vargas’s lackeys and he knew they still had their hands in the capitol city’s coffers. Unable to bear the silence anymore, Vargas spoke with ringing words of condemnation that filled the palace hall. “Exactly what am I doing here?” he demanded, contemptuously glaring at the council. “Can anybody tell me the meaning of this?” His manner changed, sarcasm filled his deep resonant voice. Everyone speaking in the royal hall fell silent. “Why was I captured and put in chains while trying to defend the royal palace against treacherous and traitorous rebels.” He spat out the words out and they almost seemed strike the councilmen. Seeing the Headfather of the clerics of Dar, the hand of justice, brother Melvynn Shutton staring at him from his eagle-like face and stroking his thick dark brown mustache, he spoke directly to the protector of the laws of the kingdoms. “Am I to be charged with something?” Holding up his manacled wrists, he added, “Or are all of the laws of the kingdoms going to be set aside just so that I can be incarcerated for nothing?” “You have been brought here for crimes against the Throne and Crown,” growled the new Highlord of Castlekeep coldly. Berus’ gray eyes were stone and his tone could have broken it. “What crimes have I committed? What did I do except behead a man who was treasonous and defied my laws as the appointed ruler and regent?” Vargas spat back. Shocked gasps filled the hall and the color drained from Berus’ face at the mention of his dead father. “I was deceived by my staff and they committed atrocities in my name but their guilt should not be named as mine.” Arcing one manicured eyebrow disdainfully, he turned away from Berus who was still as white as a bed sheet and continued speaking to the Headfather. “This council is ridiculous, is there any proof that I committed their crimes? By the gods hells, committed any crime!” A few of the lesser lords and some Highlords gathered shifted uneasily, either staring down at their feet or at the ceiling, not meeting the eyes of their companions or the Royal Regent’s angry glare. Vargas continued in a superior voice. “I was put in chains for unknown reasons and brought down here for only doing my duty by arresting parties that were being disobedient and treasonous to the laws of the lands and to the Throne and Crown. Am I to be incarcerated for arresting people who violated their sworn oaths of fealty and loyalty by committing treason? Whatever crimes my staff committed I assure you,” Vargas said, raising his manacled arms outwards as if encompassing everyone in the room, “I had nothing to do with. Their actions were their own and all that I have done is tried to pursue a course within the guidelines of the law.” Lord Gildon Seahorn snorted audibly and rolled his eyes disgustedly, but stopped short of commenting when met with a glare from Lord Melvynn. Snapping his mouth shut with an audible click he shook his shaggy head. “You are charged with murder and treason against the royal family, your own brother and his wife’s murders and the attempted murders of their rightful heirs by trying to deny their rights of ascension.” Lord Melvynn intoned, his voice a deep baritone. Now it was Vargas who snorted contemptuously and rolled his eyes in an exact imitation of Gildon’s, but unlike the Highlord, he didn’t keep his mouth shut. “Preposterous!” the Royal Regent shouted, his face twisting with outrage. “I was attacked in my chambers by a band of intruders who I thought were traitors and murderers. All I did was defend myself. If my staff committed crimes against the Throne and Crown, somebody should have informed me. I would have put an end to it. Only this morning, while lying in prison, did I found out what was going on. I was told by both my royal advisor and my chief proctor that this young man who proclaims he is my nephew.” Vargas leveled an accusing finger at Damien, “had staged his own death and helped in killing my own royal ambassador and was attempting to escape justice. All I did was what any ruler would have done. I put a reward on his head, then I dispatched knights to capture him. Again I ask, what did I do wrong?” Damien was amazed as he listened to this stretching of the truth to the point of almost non plausibility but was even more amazed that some of the councilors and Lord Melvynn were shaking their heads in agreement. “That one,” Logan said, whispering with an almost admiring look in his green eyes, “could give both Jediaa and Simon runs for their money on telling believable truths and hidden lies.” “And then this woman,” Vargas paused, leveling an accusing finger at Alyssa, “who is accused of Lord Dalmar’s murder, bursts into my chambers in the middle of the night and attacks me. That,” Vargas paused again, looking at the Headfather, “is also a penalty of death. Lord Shutton, you were there, and yes in the heat of rage I almost killed her but that is no reason for me to be killed for treason against the Throne and Crown.” He shook his dark haired head as if he was amazed by the audacity. “In most cases, that would be a reasonable request for self defense.” “Notice, he didn’t mention that he was almost defeated by the woman who burst into his chambers and tried to capture him. If it hadn’t been for a lucky stroke of that poisonous sword of his, we wouldn’t be going through all of this right now,” exclaimed Alyssa softly to both Damien and Logan. Hints of anger and rage filled her sky blue eyes. “I certainly would have killed him if the roles had been reversed.” Kendle overheard and hid an evil sounding laugh behind a burst of coughing that was followed by a wide grin in the direction of the female cleric. “Regardless,” the Royal Regent stated in a matter of fact voice as his shrewd dark eyed gaze swept out again, meeting the council members, “none of this is relevant and I definitely now can’t be charged with denying his or her, their right of ascension to the Sunstone throne.” He again pointed over at both Damien and Alyssa and scoffed derisively, “Due to Highlord Melvynn Shutton’s appointment last night because of a declaration of war against Teria, before I was attacked, they, like me, no longer have any claim to the Throne and Crown.” A smirking grin spread out over his handsome face. “They are heirs no longer.” Hushed silence fell over the large chamber, then Lord Gildon demanded in a loud voice, “What sort trickery and deceit is this! His claim has been already been proven by his possession of the rings. Damien Daverge has been acknowledged by all of us, by the council of knights, and by the elvynn of Myramoor as King. Even the dwelven living in Malfarra have acknowledged him.” All heads turned in the direction of the white skinned Ganiss who looked about and smiled proudly. “By what right do you state that he has no claim and cannot be named king?” The Royal Regent grinned and Damien saw the Headfather of Highold’s face fall into his hands. He looked as if he were cradling a moan. “By right of war and by right of birth!” said Vargas with a smug satisfied smile. He looked like he had just pulled something out of his sleeve, like a Tricksman at festival would do when he had done something deserving applause. Damien saw both expressions and knew they must have overlooked something or else Vargas wouldn’t be looking pleased and Lord Melvynn wouldn’t be looking crestfallen. A sinking sensation filled the pit of his stomach. Alyssa also noticed, because she immediately whispered, “You know more about these court politics than I do, what in the gods hells is he talking about? I thought we are the only heirs because Seth doesn’t come to age for another two weeks.” Logan, who had actually listened to some of Abraim’s lessons as a child groaned in much the same manner as Lord Melvynn. Abraim and then Simon, for years had coached him in the game of politics. As a spy, politics were a very important field and he realized what was going on as soon as he placed the comment about a declaration of war. “Unless a war is declared,” Logan said slowly. “Then,” he explained like a teacher, “a legal heir of any age can be raised and appointed in order to command the actions of the kingdoms military. That must be why Lord Melvynn as the Headfather of the Darian clerics was called here. Only a Headfather can appoint a new ruler to the Throne and Crown.” Vargas must have heard the spythief’s groan and the smile on his face grew even wider as he bowed before the council, saying arrogantly. “I am the Royal Regent no longer and have not been so since early yesterday evening.” A loud murmuring erupted, like thousands of swarming buzzing bees, all of it following Vargas’s words. “I abdicated the throne yesterday. By the laws of war and by the right of ascension, I no longer hold a claim and neither,” he said, indicating the twins with an arrogant point of his chin, “do they.” Vargas gave Lord Gildon and the rest of the council a smugly satisfied look. “My son Seth has been raised, and now he rules over all of you instead of me.” All of the lords at the table huddled together, speaking in low voices with an occasional outburst that was followed by several hisses for quiet. The great palatial hall went completely silent as Alyssa suddenly pushed away from where she stood next to the others and stepped out into the forefront. A sort of majestic power filled her as she did and Damien looking at her in the gleaming silver armor of Dar recalled their grandmother’s words about their patents first born. Vargas stared hard eyed at her from across the floor and Alyssa met his stare, returning it, her icy sky blue eyes twice as hard. Taking a deep breath she turned her head addressing everyone in the hall, but it was obvious her words were directed only at the Royal Regent. “As a ruler, you were to lead. All that you have done as Regent is tear the realm apart. You have put us on the brink of civil war amongst ourselves and at the edge of another war with another nation, all for nothing more than your personal gains.” Pausing momentarily, she rounded angrily on the Royal Regent, her words coming like thrown daggers. “Where is the ruler or leader in you milord? Where is the champion of the people who would look out for their welfare first, rather than for his own? Your deeds, sire, have left the kingdoms torn apart and ruined, and about to be destroyed by civil war. Now is not the time for this. Terians are already on kingdom lands and yet you have done nothing to regain them or protect those that will be attacked next.” Alyssa paused, looking into the eyes of the each of the ruling lords, her sky blue eyes locking with each. Only those siding with Vargas couldn’t meet her gaze and the others smiled, nodding approval at her choice of words and actions. “Any actions you have taken should be dismissed as of the day Damien took hold of the dragon rings. On that day he became King and that is the way it should be.” A loud cheer filled the chamber as she finished and a solitary beam of sunlight shone down through one of the overhead windows illuminating her and the silver armor in golden light, causing her gleam brightly in front of all like a radiant champion of justice. The cheers fell silent as Lord Melvynn sitting amongst the clerics of Dar, who were all frowning worriedly, stood. Solemnly, a deep frown creasing his face, he held up his hand for silence and waited until it became so before he spoke in a voice filled with both sadness and regret. “The laws of the fourteen kingdoms were put in place to insure that the proper things were properly done, but I regret to say that today it seems those same laws are to act improperly. Because even though Damien Daverge possesses the Dragon rings that do name him and you,” he said, looking at Alyssa, “heirs to the Throne and Crown, he was not here before a legitimate heir was named and raised. That is the law. I was duped into doing so by this piece of dirt in front of me,” the Headfather stopped speaking and gestured angrily towards Lord Vargas who glared hatefully back at him. “But the laws of the land are still law and by rights of war and ascension, Seth Salidor is now truly the King of the fourteen kingdoms.” Vargas’ glare turned into a contemptuous sneer as he stroked his oiled goatee and smiled smugly at the council, but as fast as it appeared the grin faded as a booming young voice filled the chamber, causing all to fall silent once more. “If I am the King then I demand the right to speak before this council.” Seth Salidor, accompanied by Caliban dressed in his molded Elvynn armor, pushed out of the surrounding crowd and walked out onto open floor slowly and deliberately. In his hand, as if it were nothing, he nonchalantly carried the sunstone crown. The crown looked like it was just whatever happened to be in his hand and not the reason why everyone else was here. His youthful tall thin frame looked almost graceful as he moved, but for some reason Damien thought he looked melancholy with his head hanging low. “Now what?” asked Kendle suspiciously, whispering to the others who just shrugged in response. “I don’t know, but he looks something’s on his mind.” answered Logan. “That’s what I was thinking,” put in Damien, and all looked over at the young man on the floor who stopped in front of the council. Seth raised his face. His thin face didn’t look at all sad. Instead it looked as if it was smoldering with concealed fury and Seth’s dark eyes were filled with burning flames.