PHOENIX (Chapters 1-3): An Elemental Fantasy Novel



'You're only a prisoner if you believe you are.' Magic. Sheltered from the cruelties of the world, Princess Violetta came to adore it. When a terrible tragedy befalls her realm, she vows to shun her royal duties, setting off a chain of events that will see her true power come to light.


A Brief History of Peradon

Peradon. Once a united land with four ruling families, now four Realms separated for the good of all. The two main religions: The Purists & The United Sect, waged war against one another, leading to violent disputes. While The United Sect wanted to exist in unity, allowed to worship their separate elemental deities, The Purists were disgusted by anyone different and decreed that only one God could bring them eternal light.

Desperate to stop their people from warring, the Four High Mages of the time constructed a grand tower to stand as a monument to peace. When even this could not slake the people's blood lust, it is said that a powerful Air Mage was tasked with blanketing the whole of Peradon in an all consuming storm. While the High Mages forged a new plan, those that dared to venture outside forfeited their lives to the very elements they worshipped.

Growing desperate, each High Mage named a successor, before infusing their magic into four separate discs. Each was placed in a secure location and acted to split Peradon into four separate Realms, which would forever belong to one of the four seasons and house citizens who shared in the matching elemental power.

So it was that the citizens of Peradon abandoned their faiths and were forced to start over in their segregated lands. To bar these newly created Realms from attack are the borders; dark and insidious lands, like long barren graveyards, housing nothing but the bones of wandering vermin. People rarely pay a visit unless travelling between Realms and even then, it is no passing comfort. Four specially constructed bridges were formed to allow safe passage. However, should a citizen wonder too far, they would collide with magical barriers, which have been known to crush every bone in one's body.

With the great storm having abated, the four High Mages gave the last of their life force to protect the four discs and surrendered themselves to the world of the dead. Since the separation of the Realms many eras past, no-one dares to discuss religion. At long last, there was peace in Peradon. Or so it was thought.





Chapter One

YEAR C-4      Month 1/10





Emperor Jugan had stared into the jaws of death before, this Arlas knew. They had both awaited today's meeting with something he would have described as akin to joy and yet he could not shake the panic that coursed through his veins. If the Seer's foretelling was correct, then Arlas would soon be put to work.

The oppressive walls of the throne room made Arlas quiver. He watched as Emperor Jugan nestled into the grooves of his white gold throne. Jugan was the power of the grand Frost Realm and this was the seat from which he governed his land. His eldest son Ryore was due to turn sixteen. This was a good time to consider marriage for most, but Arlas knew that Jugan had other plans. He wanted Ryore dead.

To see his plans through, Jugan had enlisted the help of a powerful young woman. Reiza. Peradon's latest Seer apprentice was said to be one of the most enchanting young women one could lay eyes on. Enchanting, but deadly.

The emperor grinned when two of his most trusted guards approached the doors to the throne room and allowed the little creature to enter. Arlas gasped at the sight of her. The young girl shuffled toward the throne, her body shaking from head to toe. Her white hair and fair eyes lent her an innocent appearance. In truth, her beauty was nothing to be fooled by, yet it still had Arlas captivated.

'Welcome Reiza,' boomed Jugan, 'Tell me, are you certain about the visions you sent word of? Your scroll was rather specific.'

Jugan's lips drew tight as he studied the child. It was strange how one so young could wield such power. She still looked but a novice. Nowadays, even that marked her as a precious commodity as most Seers were long dead, leaving the few that were born to fend for themselves.

'I am certain, your Grace. Your eldest son is destined to marry the enemy. If that happens, then there is no doubt that he will have secured your throne for future generations and doomed his beloved home realm.'

Fear crept into the emperor's eyes. His Eldest son, Ryore, was his crowning disappointment. Jugan had recanted his flaws to Arlas on numerous occasions, from his lack of reasoning, to a mind that seemed to be plagued by emotion, as no emperor should be.

Jugan eyed the young Seer, with her stark white locks and vexing beauty. The last of her kind. Her eyes roved about the glittering room, seeming to memorize every detail, from its cold blue walls to the harsh glare of the light orb above. All that power,and all you do is stand there, shaking, thought Arlas.

Reiza's visions had brought shocking details to light for both Arlas and Jugan. While they knew she was conveying the truth of what she'd seen, there were certain details that had caused Jugan's mind to rage. His eldest was never to ascend his throne. Ryore made a weak prince and would only make a more pitiful ruler. No. Jugan would plot his own son's demise and Arlas was prepared to help.

Jugan stared Reiza down.

'Have you told anyone else of these visions?' he asked.

'No Sire.'


Her honesty was to be admired.

'Step forward!'

Jugan's words were like ice, cutting across the blinding space. When Reiza prepared to take a step, the emperor held up his palm.

'Not you child. Him.'

The emperor pointed directly at Arlas. Before now, Arlas had been content to wait in the shadows. He took a sharp breath and stepped out of his hiding place, cutting a towering figure in his stark black robes. He grinned at the way Reiza stared, in awe. Like a night-time shadow, Arlas glided along the cool stone floor, intent on reaching the waiting emperor. With him came the powerful sensation of Air Magic; a tingling that Jugan said started within the toes and gradually worked up the rest of the body. When the brilliant light hit Arlas' skin, every one of his solemn features was revealed.

Jugan chuckled at Reiza's stifled gasp.

'Do not fear him.' The emperor held his stomach from the raucous laughter. 'He is no more a thing of shadow than you.'

As usual, Jugan was correct. Arlas stood before the child, his pale flesh reflecting the light of the room. What caught the girl's attention, or anyone's for that matter, were his eyes. Reiza gazed into them with a silent fear that Arlas had grown accustomed to. His irises were blood red. Like shimmering rubies, they stared others down, piercing into the deepest depths of their souls.

'Emperor Jugan, a pleasure.'

Arlas' deep voice reverberated off the walls. He performed a low bow before the emperor, his mane of silvery hair trailing down his neck.

'Welcome, Prince Arlas. You may rise.'

Arlas immediately straightened. He looked to Jugan as a servant would its master. He could feel his eyes glowing their fearsome red.

'Still dressed as the stealthiest of shadows, I see.'

Arlas grinned at the emperor's joke, a set of pointed fangs protruding from the base of his gums.

'I suppose you're wondering why I summoned you, Arlas.'

'The thought had crossed my mind, Sire.'

Arlas gave the emperor a good-natured wink.

'Young Reiza here is quite certain of the visions she's been having of late. She believes that the daughter of our greatest enemy is destined to become Ryore's wife. As you can imagine, this presents a problem for me.'

Emperor Jugan worked his fingers into the soft flesh of his chin.

'If that were to happen, then Ryore would gain a firm grasp on my throne, particularly if he is able to produce a strong male heir. As such, I will be needing you to do me a favour.'

He shot Arlas a serious look, which would have stricken terror into any mortal man. But Arlas was no mortal. Despite his youthful appearance, he was an Air Mage; an individual known to live well into their hundreds, as long as they were willing to make the occasional sacrifice.

Arlas gave the emperor a polite nod, wondering what such a favour could entail.

'My price, Sire, for carrying out this favour?'

Jugan's gaze passed from the Mage to the young Seer beside him. Arlas followed the direction of his gaze. If Reiza's predictions were in fact true, then he would need to act swiftly. But, what could Jugan offer him? He was already immortal.

'Power,' came Jugan's answer. 'I can grant you access to magic that you've only heard of in your wildest dreams, provided you do not fail me, of course.'

Arlas considered the offer in silence. He scratched at a mess of stubble on his chin, nodding once to agree to the bargain.

'Good. As you know, I would like my youngest, Prince Fadius, to take my throne once I am gone. In order to make sure he becomes my successor, I need you to dispose of the girl who is destined to become Ryore's wife.'

'Sire, if I may?'

Jugan signalled for Arlas to speak.

'Why not simply do away with Ryore? After all, who would suspect a father of murdering his own son?'

Jugan's lips curved into a sneer.

'Alas Arlas, my eldest has quite the few tricks up his sleeve. He will be hard to take out. No, impossible. It would be better to break his soul and ensure that he cannot gain future claims to the throne.'

Arlas nodded his understanding.

'And then, I can have Ryore for myself?'

Reiza's small voice had surprised him. It chimed out through the room, filled to the brim with desperation. Jugan waved his hand in the girl's direction.

'I suppose, so long as you are still pure when the time comes for him to wed.'

Jugan's guards, having seen the dismissive gesture, began to approach the elaborate throne. They were beefy men, with more muscle than any one man should have.

'Sire?' They gave brief bows, their eyes focused upon the Seer. 'Are we to escort the young Miss out?'

Reiza glanced up, clearly horrified. Tears had begun to form in her eyes as the large brutes pressed in at either side of her, waiting for the emperor's command.

'Please do. I've had enough of her visions for one day.'

'Yes, Sire.'

Arlas watched as each guard seized one of Reiza's arms, hauling her toward a pair of grand double doors.

'Sire. Wait!'

Her wilful protests echoed along the halls. Before long, they were no more.

'You know Arlas, I think this might actually work.' Jugan beckoned the prince towards the throne. 'Young Reiza named a Miss Violetta Flame as Ryore's future bride. She is the one I would like taken care of.'

'Is there any particular way you'd like her dealt with?' asked Arlas.

The emperor rose up, out of his icy throne. His eyes locked onto the Mage.

'I would like you to put an end to Miss Flame.'

Arlas frowned. He understood what was expected of him. This was his chance to prove himself to the emperor.

'Arlas, you look troubled. Tell me, does this task displease you?' asked Jugan.

'It seems like a bit of a gamble, Sire.'

'Life is a gamble! All we can do is play the cards that we are dealt and make a little extra of ourselves if given the chance. I'm offering you the cards that lead to power and influence. Play them!'

Arlas contemplated his choice of actions. Immortality was lonely without a partner and he did despise being seen as inferior to his brother, Jork. Perhaps Jugan could offer the power he sought.

'Now, I'll ask again,' called Jugan, 'Does this task displease you?'

Arlas stared into his master's eyes.

'No Sire. The task is mine to carry out.'

Jugan relaxed back into his throne.


He dismissed the boy with a wave of his hand.

'Oh, and Arlas?'

The Air Mage glanced across his shoulder.

'Do you think your brother will suspect?'

'No Sire. He will not suspect a thing.'




Chapter Two





'Keep up, Darius!' Violetta cried.

The moat islands were her favourite place to play, with no shortage of hiding spots and with trees as thick and as tall as the palace towers that shadowed them. The gentle trickling of water warned Violetta away from the edges of the bank, where the moat would eventually curve into the Aum River.

Her brother, Darius, hurtled toward her. The ball they'd been chasing rolled down the incline, gathering speed.

'Oh, no you don't.'

Darius was still some distance away when Violetta pelted forward, after the gift. She strained to keep an eye on the stunning patterns. They had never failed to bring a smile to her delicate features. Even amid the excitement of the game, she could recall Lord Jork's words when he'd presented it to her.

'Violetta, dear child. Let this always aid you in your troubles. Let it heal any holes in body or spirit.'

Violetta was pulled out of her reverie by Darius' call. He was gaining on her now and made no attempt to slow his pace.

'Keep up, slowcoach!'

Violetta met his gaze and grinned. There may have been three years between the pair, but Violetta could still outpace him. Despite his exhaustion, she saw Darius smile. It was a rare smile that her brother only gave her. There was a hint of playfulness at its edges, that showed every bit of his love for his sister.

'You know, I will beat you one day, even if I die trying.'

Violetta could feel blood rushing to her ears. She heaved in several short breaths as she tried to maintain her focus on the ball. It was hurtling down the banks now, with little intention of coasting to a stop. Her brother's heavy footfalls vibrated against the packed earth, like the thrumming heartbeat of the world itself.

'Getting close!'

Violetta weaved past her favourite tree, where it was said her mother had given birth to her. She spied the ball rolling past its roots.

'Hey! You're going to kill yourself at the pace you're going!'

Violetta jolted. She hadn't realized just how fast she'd been sprinting. Darius had drawn up alongside her, his arms, which had begun to pack on muscle, stretched out in a vain attempt to steady her.

Violetta giggled and chanced a sideways dodge, intent on trapping the ball beneath her skirts when her legs buckled. Time passed in a prolonged wave. She could feel her heart beat in her ears as she watched the ground rush up to meet her.


With a throbbing head, she blinked her eyes open. Darius knelt over her, his face framed by a glowing mass of stars. Wait. Stars? Was it really that late? Violetta studied the look on her brother's face. Concern etched his every feature, one arm extended toward her, glistening with traces of sweat.


Violetta watched her body respond. Her hand met his, the skin oddly cold to the touch. It almost seemed to vibrate. No, not his hand. Something else.

Darius pulled her to her feet. Once Violetta had regained her balance, she felt the sensation grow stronger.

'Darius, can you feel that?'

A tingling sensation seeped into her bones. It pulsed through her, prickling the hairs on the back of her neck.

'Darius, something feels wrong.'

Violetta turned and was surprised to find Darius facing away. His tall frame appeared to have frozen beside her much loved tree, his face turned up toward the sky.

'Brother? What's wrong? Tell me.'

Violetta followed her brother's gaze.

Darkness stole over her. Violetta could see the storm a mile off and it showed no signs of letting up. She flinched as she felt something hit her face. Water? Darius began to stir, but Violetta's eyes remained fixed on the sky. She had heard of rain. It was said that the Air Realm was frequently visited by such cool showers, but never had she heard of a storm in the Flame Realm. At least, not since the Almighty Storm of the Ancients.

Violetta felt her courage flee her. She let out a high-pitched squeal; a reaction to the hands that had forced themselves around her arms.

'Shh, it's just me.' Darius stroked the golden waves of her hair. 'We must get inside. Understand?'

Violetta gazed into her brother's dark eyes. She nodded.


'Good, we haven't got long before the storm hits.'

Violetta dove toward Jork's ball. She trapped it between her wrinkled skirts, gathering it up in her slender arms. The rain gathered speed.

'Darius, I've got it!' she squealed. Silence greeted her. 'Darius? Where are you?'

Violetta could hear raised voices in the distance. They were muffled, likely from inside the secret passage they had used to get down here.

'Darius?' She spotted a limp shape stretched across the lap of her tree. 'DARIUS!'

Something struck Violetta hard in the shoulder, lifting her clean off the ground. Her mouth formed a silent scream as she flew through the air, clinging tight to Jork's ball. To Violetta's surprise, she landed on her feet.

Violetta's vision swam, her shoulder screaming in agony at a chunk of ice that had pierced the flesh. She glanced about, searching for Darius when something else zipped past her ear. Violetta tried to put thoughts of the pain aside. She gazed above her, where the sky had become a blinding white.

Violetta's fingernails dug into her ball and the agony she felt appeared to diminish. Her eyes snapped down to her shoulder, which only moments ago had been spiking with pain.

'That's not possible,' she gasped.
Violetta's skin was pale and smooth, not a cut or scratch anywhere in sight. Her eyes wandered down to Jork's ball, before flocking back to the pale skies above. This had to be a dream. The sky here wasn't white. It was a bright and beauteous blue, always.


Remembering how Darius had been struck, Violetta returned her gaze to her tree.


Her legs carried her over to him, aching with the sudden chill. Violetta was unsure of what she was going to find. She drew close and saw the tree's tangled roots embracing Darius. His mop of dark hair was slick with the rain, his eyes only just glazing over.


Violetta knelt down and gasped at the sight of her brother's chest. A large needle of ice had speared his flesh, spilling ruby liquid around its edges. A banshee's wail exploded from her.

All sound escaped Violetta's world. The edges of her vision darkened, leaving her only with eyes for her brother.

'Good Lord, Prince Darius!'

Clarisse's harsh voice cut through the silence. The elderly nursemaid sprinted past, her cold stare fixed on the limp form of their Realm's heir. She bent down to examine the prince's wounds, shooting an angry scowl Violetta's way.

'Just what did you think you were doing?' she snarled.

The veins in her forehead began to rise, as though attempting to escape from their fleshy prison.

Violetta's face was devoid of emotion. She could do little more than stare when a startled scream sounded nearby.

'My boy!'

'Mother?' Violetta got back to her feet. 'Mother, ice is coming down from the sky. We must go. Darius said-'

Violetta locked eyes with her parent. Tears ran afresh down Queen Isobel's face as she raced through the rain to reach her child. Her golden curls, which were usually pinned atop her head, now hung loose and trailed limply down her back.

No-one noticed the shards of ice soaring past. Violetta wanted to run. She wanted to warn her mother before it was too late, but her body felt like it had frozen in place. She strained against her fear with all her might.

'Mother, we must go! Now!'

The queen darted across to the great oak tree. She scooped up the body of her only son, wailing against his dark mop of hair.

The despair in her voice matched the feelings that stirred within Violetta.

Queen Isobel refused to part from her son. He lay there, still as stone, his flesh growing colder by the moment. Violetta would remember this day for the rest of her life. She clung tight to Jork's gift and prepared to race, to grasp hold of her mother, when another shard shot out of the darkness. A struggling scream filled the air. It was a scream that would haunt her forever.



Violetta swallowed her fear. Her heart thundered within her chest as she thought of what her father would say. She and Clarisse stepped over the sopping thresh-hold, lowering their burden for the briefest of moments. They knelt down, panting with the effort of the bodies they'd carried. Both were exhausted and in no fit state to venture on.

Violetta's skirts were bundled and soaked, her body trembling as she raised her head. When the colossal doors permitted them entry, the sodden entourage were gazed upon with fear.


Waiting guards clapped eyes on the unconscious forms of the queen and her son and rushed forward to unburden the women of their still forms.

Violetta's lips trembled as her mother and Darius were laid, quite unceremoniously, upon the grand hall's floor. She heard maids being called to fetch warm towels as tears slipped down her pale cheeks. She stared at the bodies that lay on the floor. It was my fault. If Darius and I hadn't gone down to the Moat Islands...

King Eagan appeared from around a bend, having been summoned by the senior staff. As soon as he saw the bodies, he froze. Violetta stood there, bedraggled and carrying Lord Jork's ball.She tried to blink. Her head felt too heavy for her shoulders to carry. She could feel that same weird energy from before, as though it were calling to her, mocking the unfortunate situation.

Violetta looked to her father, who hadn't yet spoken a single word. He was gazing down at his wife and son. Both looked so frail, their bodies frozen in an eternal embrace as Queen Isobel cradled her first born child. Her mother's energy, her very essence, seemed to have fled from her stiffening form. Even her familiar fragrance; the jasmine and lilies Violetta had adored, was no more. She could do nothing but stand there, powerless. Even her father; a mighty king, could neither move nor speak with the pain that held him. He bent over his precious wife, knowing that it was too late to do anything but arrange a burial.

It was late into the night when her father sent for her. The ice storm lingered, rain joining to lick at the palace windows. The servants had done all they could until the royal bodies could be taken away. There was, after all, a limit to one's duties as far as death was concerned.

Violetta stood at her chamber window, her figure pale in the moonlight as she digested her father's news. Dead? Part of her didn't want to believe it, yet how could she not? She had seen it with her own eyes. She felt her world growing distant; her surroundings like some grand illusion given to her by a merciless god. Sounds grew fainter, moments dragging out as though stretched by some elaborate machinery. Even the rare sight of the twin moons in her realm could not save her.

The undertaker had arrived not long ago. Violetta watched, helpless as the funeral carriage drove away from the palace; away with her beloved mother and brother in tow. Her nails gripped the edge of the window frame. She was convinced that they could have been saved.

'Why?' She whispered into the night.

She felt so helpless, staring out of her bedroom window. She could still feel her father's pain when he'd arrived to find his wife and son lying cold on the sodden floor. And here she was, in the room that had only last night housed the sleeping form of her brother.

Violetta leant forward, watching the rain spatter against the window. Its furious pounding imitated her heart as tears began to pour down her face. Her broken sobs restored the sound to her world, her body quivering with each uneasy breath. If only the storm would envelop her. She wanted to be with her mother once more, to hear her soothing voice as she drifted off to sleep.

Violetta sucked in a breath and stared down at the ball she held in her hands. She shuddered to think of what it represented. She longed to be rid of the wretched thing, to simply send it out of existence so she could go and reclaim the family she'd lost. Her eyes zipped between the rain strewn window and the tiny sphere. What use was it now when the very object she held was the source of her family's demise.

Violetta struggled against the free flow of emotion. She could feel her body heating, but paid her growing rage no heed. Her body tensed, veins bulging with the effort of her slight form containing such raw power. She screamed into the darkness and her anger gave birth to flame.

Fire sprung from Violetta's tear-streaked palms, gorging itself on her delicate flesh. The beauty of the flames danced in her eyes.


The princess whipped round, her face contorted in the throes of rage. King Eagan appeared, his face stern.

'What in the name of Peradon do you think you are you doing?'

The ends of his hair shimmered, igniting at the tips. Violetta could see him searching for restraint, his eyes focused on the flames she wielded.

'Well? Do you think magic is a game? It was rogue magic that killed your mother, and Darius!'

Violetta didn't trust herself to speak. Instead she aimed one hand in the air and allowed her power to consume her. Crimson flames ignited about her, enveloping her from head to toe. She turned back to the window, peering through the heavy downpour that was no match her tears, for her worst nightmares had been realized.

'Enough child.'

A sigh escaped her father's lips as he drew close, resting a large hand upon her shoulder. Her roiling flames immediately extinguished.

'Father, I—'

'You must not be so careless, child.'

Violetta could see the pain in his eyes. She reached out to take her father's arm, but he drew back, keeping her at bay.

'Magic is dangerous and such power requires extreme caution. Do you understand?'

With a stifled sob, Violetta nodded.

Violetta felt herself being embraced, allowed to nuzzle into her father's side. He stroked her golden fall of hair; the same coppery shade as her mother's had been.

Violetta withdrew from her father's arms and pulled him to sit by the rain-flecked window. Together they strained to see the under-taker's carriage as it disappeared into the pouring rain. There they sat, Violetta with her knees pulled up to her heaving chest, in the company of her only family.





Chapter Three


Month 2/10






'Arlas, my boy. How goes the plan?'

The forlorn prince stepped into the throne room, his body weary from his strenuous task. A month had passed since he'd been charged with Jugan's favour and the emperor looked just as happy to see him. How could Arlas tell him that he'd failed in his task? He peered through the harsh light of the throne room, his stomach roiling the closer he got to his master. The emperor wore a sly smile and stood up to welcome the Mage.

Arlas stopped short of the glistening throne, his eyes fixed on the stone floor.


The prince refused to speak even a word. He heard Emperor Jugan sink into his throne, his bulbous fingers drumming on the arm, restless.

'Come now, Arlas, why so silent?'

The emperor's words only made him more nervous. Arlas couldn't bring himself to gaze up at him, for fear that he would be struck to the ground.

'The thing is, Sire, we may have run into some complications.'


Arlas faltered.

'Forgive me, Sire. I meant I have run into complications, of course.'

He bowed low, ignoring the trails of sweat that coursed down his back.

Silence stretched on between the pair. The emperor appeared to digest his news slowly.


Arlas was glad of the broken silence. His eyes raised up, to find Jugan's face pursed in a look that spoke of tart lemons. That one glimpse was enough to make him stare back at the floor, when a foreign sound commanded his attention.

Jugan's eyes snapped down to him.

A harsh sneer bent his lips as he began to draw magic from his core. Violent waves of frost rippled into life before Arlas. They surrounded Jugan's clenched fists, threatening to storm the Mage's space. Arlas bit his lip. His eyes scanned the room for some means of escape. He felt his lip tear open, oozing the familiar tang of blood.

The Frost surrounding the emperor's fists grew thick. Tall waves of it appeared before him, promising to deliver Arlas into a world of pain.

'Are you sure there's nothing you'd like to add, Arlas, before I accidentally lose control of my powers?'

Arlas stared into the voids that were Jugan's eyes.

'I will try again, Sire. You have my word.'

A low crunch sounded overhead. Emperor Jugan was withdrawing his powers. Arlas watched in awe as tiers of frost magic zipped back into flesh and bone.

'Very well.' Jugan reached up to his face with one large hand, scratching at a patch of dark stubble. 'But, you'd do well to understand that you are not out of the woods yet.'

The emperor continued to stroke his chin in thought, as though considering all that Arlas had told him thus far.

'My youngest, Fadius, shall accompany you on your Quest. Better yet, so will Reiza. You shall remove Ryore from the throne by any means necessary and ensure that Fadius serves as his replacement.'

Emperor Jugan rose from his throne, frost forming back around his palms.

'Do you think Reiza would agree to such a thing? Asked Arlas. 'She appears to be quite taken with Ryore.'

Jugan waved his frosted palm, as if he could dismiss the issue with a mere show of magic.

'Let me deal with her if need be.'

Arlas sucked the blood from his lower lip.

'Of course, Sire. And the princess?'

Jugan's fingers danced through the glistening air, creating symbols that would appear foreign to most.

'Forget her. It is Ryore you must focus your efforts on now.'

Arlas gave a weak nod.

'Yes, Sire.'

'Good.' Jugan brandished his hands in the Mage's direction. 'But heed my warning. You and your new accomplices shall complete your task by the end of year C-8. By then, my eldest son will have reached the age of twenty. You cannot allow him, at any cost, to produce an heir.'

Jugan's hands continued to spin of their own accord, sending coils of frost to shoot in Arlas' direction. He grinned as Arlas was accosted by a sharp stab of pain. It wormed it's way into the depths of the Mage's heart, where it would continue to pulse, now as much a part of him as his heart or lungs. Arlas glanced up at his better to find that Jugan's sneer had returned.

'That curse will not lift until your task is complete. Fail me again and even my youngest son's life shall be forfeit!'



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