The seagull could sense the incoming storm in the way the wind flowed and gusted around him. As he turned to the east, the wind caught his wings and lifted him even higher above the glistening ocean, towards the distant shore. The setting sun reflected a glimmering orange path, leading to the safety of land. All along the coast other gulls soared in from the sea, pushed by the oncoming storm. Upon reaching the shore, the gull began to turn south, heading towards a well sheltered bay. It was dark when the gull reached its destination. It recognized the flicker of torches, towers of smoke, and the clamour of music and voices that rise from a city on a warm summer night. The gull flew over the northern wall of the city, and was immediately lifted into the sky by a rush of warm air and oven smoke. The city stink of sewage and sweat gradually faded as the gull passed over the peasant quarter, and was replaced by the enticing scent of baking bread. Encouraged by the distant cries of its fellows, the gull flew towards the castle that stood over the city. Before it could reach the docks, a glimmer from the largest tower in the castle caught his eye. He circled the tower once, before landing on the ledge of the window that had piqued his interest.

A man sat in front of the window, writing by candlelight, so intent on the parchment he did not notice the gull at first. The man was dressed in clothes cleaner than anything else in the room, his white shirt reflecting the moonlight to produce an eerie glow. The flickering shadows from the candle flowed in and out of the wrinkles that characterized his face, giving it an almost statuesque appearance. On the desk beside the inkwell sat the thing which had lured the gull, a crown of brilliant gold, studded with gleaming jewels. The gull was transfixed by the way the light played across the perfectly smooth metal, the colourful explosions of light that the gems created, but most of all by the divine aura these things instilled in the man’s appearance.

It was then that David noticed the gull, perched on the window ledge above his writing desk. It was calmer, quieter and closer than any gull he had seen before. There was something in its expression that was familiar. He stared at it for a moment, trying to remember what that something was. Before he could, however, a firm knock on his door startled the gull. It leapt into the night, soaring towards the docks, screeching a warning to its winged brethren.

David rose, and moved to the door. Upon opening it, he was met by the stern face of Trent Decimus, the Lord of Minat. The sight of his old friend brought a rare smile to his face, as David exclaimed,

“Trent! It’s been too long my friend. Come in, come in, I had not expected you till the morrow. I made good time, and had good motivation.” Noticing his King’s quizzical expression, Trent said, “It is a tale of too much significance for words at the door, let us sit, eat, and talk of that which we must.”

Trent loosened his boots and made himself comfortable at the table, while David answered a softer knocking at his door. This time it was a servant bearing a platter of warm food and a jug of ale.

“Master Fion sent me, my liege. He saw Sir Decimus arrive and knew he would be hungry.” Trent let out a gruff snort of amusement, “The man knows me well, did he include those delicious little bread things of his?”

“Of course, my lord”, said the servant as he laid the food on the table. Wasting no time, Trent devoured three of the finger-sized treats before the servant could make his exit. David sat across from his old friend, and took a deep gulp of the ale, as Trent continued to gorge himself.

It was some time before they got to talking of Trent’s important tale, lost as they were in tales of their new lives, and reminiscences of the life they had shared. It was near midnight; the torches in the city below were mostly extinguished, and the music had ended, when David asked Trent to elaborate on his cryptic greeting. Trent took a moment, sipping from his mug of ale, staring out at the few stars not masked by heavy clouds.

“The Locyanese mounted a raid on the lowlands near Jinta, and they brazenly passed through Lord Skye’s northernmost domain. No more than a half thousand of them, all knights from Ember. They crossed the Tilth river into our territory about two weeks ago, then rode north to cross the Maxus and attack Cosnian.”

“A disturbing precedent to be set of course, but not altogether unexpected”, replied David, easing back into his chair. Trent sat up a little straighter, pulling his eyes back from the night sky. As he did, the storm announced its arrival with a cacophonous clap of thunder, followed by the rushing sound of rain.

“A group of merchants and magistrates from the local towns in Pallendum were visiting their neighbours to the north and had the misfortune of being killed along with their hosts. Nobody of any nobility was killed, nobody important enough to start a war over, but the fact is something has to be done. If this was likely to be an isolated incident we could simply demand reparations and be done, but this war between Cosnian and Locyana is just getting started.” They sat a brief moment in silence, permeated by the pitter patter of rain on the roof.

“It seems clear we have but one course of action to take, we must take up the Cosnians and the Locyanese on their offers to send envoys to Tarkage to make their case. If they are agreeable, we will convince them to leave us out of their war and I can live out the rest of my days in peace. If they are not, I shall have a war to occupy the last years of my life, and a war to leave to my son Jake”, David said with a flat, indiscernible expression, while staring at the candle which illuminated the wooden table. Trent couldn’t help but let out a hearty chuckle.

“Well this is something I never thought I’d see. King David the Conquerer, seeking diplomacy. There was a time when you’d have ridden to battle the next morning at hearing news such as this.” David’s face cracked into a grin; the daunting situation gone from his mind in an instant.

“I’m getting too old to be conquering anything. Jake’s almost sixteen now, the next war should be his to fight.” David’s parental concern sent Trent into another fit of chuckling.

The two of them spent another hour discussing everything from what kind of world they wanted to leave for their children, to what was the best way to cook mutton.


The morning sun, half shielded by the grey remnants of the storm, illuminated the city, and the light drizzle that still enshrouded it. The main streets were rivers of mud, flowing channels which had formed overnight had already been trampled by the waking city. Carts which had waited out the storm trundled slowly through the mud, carrying the wares of the city’s tradespeople, raw materials from the surrounding countryside, or just the owners to their homes. Beside the carts trudged servants carrying all matter of foodstuffs, boxes, barrels and tools while between them all dodged messengers, children at play, and apprentices in a desperate rush to complete some neglected chore. The clatter, voices, and general din which rose from the awakening city floated on the air to David’s window, joining the voices of the gulls in an attempt to wake him. Their efforts were made unnecessary by a sharp knock on the thick door, which was followed by the calm voice of Anacletus Evaistus, the head priest.

“My Liege? Have you arisen?”

“I’ll be with you in a moment”, David replied. After pulling a plain shirt over his head and pants over his legs, David opened the door and invited his high priest into the chamber. Anacletus informed him that Delmar Skye and Regan Gareth would arrive later that day. Along with Trent, they were the Lords of Pallendum, leaders of the south and north respectively.

"Did you hear the news?", asked David.

"Aye, most everyone in the city has by now my liege", replied Anacletus. David turned and slowly walked to the window.

"And what do you think we should do about it?", David asked slowly.

"Ideally, we would not get involved at all, but if we have to choose a side I think we must decide based on the morality of the common people in each land", Anacletus replied in a measured voice. David turned to face him again, an amused expression on his face.

"And by the morality of the common people you of course mean their religious leadership, right?", David's knowing smile was mirrored in Anacletus' face.

"That's one way to put it, though one could say that the leadership determines the morality, and thus the two are essentially the same thing."

"True enough", acknowledged David, "Though personally I think God couldn't care less about who is in power. He will be worshipped and honoured no matter who owns the land." On this philosophically morbid note, Anacletus made his exit in order to attend to his duties, and left his King to prepare for the council that would convene later that day.


Light poured into the room in which they met through an ornate set of windows. Opposite them, the dark grey of the stone wall was masked by brightly coloured tapestries. Each was embroidered with scenes from ancient legends of terrible beasts. A rectangular table crafted from pine, took up most of the room. Engraved upon the table was a map of what was now Pallendum. The kingdom was divided into four, as it had been when the map was carved. When King William, David’s father, had ascended to the throne, Pallendum was made up of three separate kingdoms. Throughout William’s rule, his territory had expanded and contracted with every successful campaign and egregious defeat. After thirty odd years of war, William’s kingdom was roughly the same size, and five Kings were vying for control of Pallendum. Hoping to avoid the mistakes of his father, David had set about conquering the entirety of Pallendum, with ferocity and determination uncommon even among invading monarchs. He was the first King to succeed at his goal, and now the land which had once been ruled by five separate kings and five separate courts was now ruled solely by King David, with the help of those who sat around the table. To David’s left sat Anacletus and Trent, and to the right Delmar and Regan. After the morning pleasantries were dispensed with, David got straight to the point of their meeting.

"It seems nary a day has passed since we last sat here, plotting the conquest of kingdoms. Now we have our Kingdom, and must defend it". His voice grew slightly louder and more commanding as he continued, "The armies of Pallendum have always been far stronger than those of our neighbours, but that may not be the case for long. The Empire of Cosnian has been expanding to the northeast, recruiting more and more peasants into their army. The Guild Council that now controls Locyana is scared, so they've started to build their army by bribing southern chieftains with promises of land and slaves. We are still the undisputed military might in this land, but we need to carefully consider our future actions if we are to maintain that position. So, my Lords and friends, what shall we do?" A brief moment of silence followed, as the King's Council pondered his words. It was broken by Anacletus,

"It seems to me the only sensible thing to do is take a side, and continue to expand the Kingdom, along with our new ally. And if the Locyanese are truly conspiring with those barbarians in the south, we ought to have nothing to do with them."

"The expression is 'judge a man by the company he keeps', not 'judge a man by those he hires to do his dirty work'", responded Delmar Skye, the Lord of Wesnomen, "The Locyanese are as civil and learned as us. Not only has there been an increase in trade with them as of late, but my peasants have grown to love the gifts their merchants bing to each town they visit. It would be a mistake to end this mutually beneficial relationship". After Delmar finished, Regan wasted no time in voicing his disagreement,

"These merchants bearing gifts are nothing more than spies bearing bribes. Their civility and generosity in our lands is only an indication that they want us to favour them so that they may roam our land with impunity and recruit skilled tradespeople to their Guilds."

"You have lived near the Cosnians too long my friend, and now you see dark motives in harmless trinkets", replied Delmar, a mischievous smile creeping across his face, "Not everyone who extends a hand of friendship is holding a knife behind his back."

"If I had been living with those scheming merchants for neighbours, I would be suspicious of their motives. The Cosnians hide none of their intents, and have an honour code worthy of the truly civilized", Regan finished with an air of stern finality.

"Obviously both of our neighbours are trying to appear favourable," interjected Trent, "so we should assume that the image of themselves that they present is that which they think we will find favour. Hence it is pointless to argue over the philosophies of these people. We should concern ourselves instead with the practical realities of the situation. How well trained are the peasant armies of Cosnian, what weapons and armour do the southerners bring, exactly how much trading goes on between the peoples of our lands?"

"Trent is right that we should be primarily focused on the realities of the day, but we must not ignore the effect that allying ourselves with a foreign land will have on the prevailing social order", added Anacletus, "Both Cosnian and Locyana have neighbouring lands which they may yet conquer, and once they have grown more powerful, they will be able to influence our decisions far more than we think possible now." The subtle wavering in Anacletus' voice suggested he was trying to say something without actually saying it. David assumed he was worried, as he himself was, about both the increased power the Guilds would enjoy if they allied with the Locyanese, and about the ominous influence a larger Cosnian would gain.

"You have all lent valuable council, as always, but this matter should not be settled solely on the basis of our impressions based on trade dealings. Thus I have sent messages via the semaphores to Ember and Jinta. Their emissaries will be here in a matter of weeks", David informed them. The conversation then turned to matters of state, and the troubles of the outside world were put aside. In the three years since they had last met, a multitude of administrative chores had built up in the kingdom. There were always territorial disputes in the southern farm belt, the continuing construction of the semaphore lines and the financing of the army to attend to. The lords and their King talked for a few more hours, before dispersing about the city to enjoy the capital of their kingdom.


It had been a tedious week of trade negotiations and tactical discussions with the Cosnian emissary, and the arrival of Luthan Loka , the Locyanese emissary, provided an excuse to celebrate. He arrived with considerably more fanfare and grandeur than his Cosnian counterpart Rhochan had, bringing with him a large host of servants and entertainers. All business was forgotten on the night he arrived, in favour of an impromptu feast. There, Luthan introduced his wife and children to the nobility of Pallendum. His eight year old son, Tom, struck up a quick friendship with Trent’s son, Robert, who was a year his senior. The King and his court spent the night eating, drinking, and becoming better acquainted with their guests.

As the revelries began to die down, Luthan’s wife, Lilith struck up a conversation with Anacletus,

“Your Holiness, it’s an honour to meet you”, she said with a bright smile, “I have always wanted to meet a great man of religion.” Anacletus, too inebriated to detect the obvious flattery, merely smiled and thanked her. Lilith went on to describe the absence of religious leadership in Locyana, and her own desire to talk with a learned man of God. She let him ramble on about tradition and rituals, pretending to be interested as the priest grew more confident and relaxed. Most of the revelers had left the head table, leaving the two of them practically alone soon after they started talking. The conversation turned to Locyana’s rituals and traditions, of which Lilith said little, but mainly focused on the lack of leadership in such matters, and the Cosnian attempts to impose such leadership in areas close to the border. Lilith, like her husband, was a master of subtle conversation. She left Anacletus with the impression that his religious order would have no trouble flourishing alongside Locyana, and that the opposite was true of Cosnian. It was an angle he had never really considered before, as it had seemed absurd to him that the power of God could be subverted by the power of man. As he stumbled back to his chambers, his envisioned himself preaching to thousands of enraptured converts, who had travelled hundreds of miles to hear him speak. The crowd gasped, prayed, and wept in adoration, reacting to his every word and gesture.


Anacletus blinked slowly, struggling to ignore the pain in his head. The light from the morning sun shone through the window, forcing him to rise from his bed. As he stumbled around his quarters, waking himself up, fragments of the previous night's conversations floated through his mind. Now sober, he realized the full implications of what Lilith had said. The lack of spiritual leadership which she had described meant that Locyana was ripe for religious conquest. He recalled the King’s words about God not caring about politics. If this were indeed true, then God could not be counted on to guarantee the continuation of his order over another, and the duty must fall to him. The more he thought about it, the more certain he grew that an alliance with Locyana was by far the best choice for all involved. It was in the midst of this pondering that he realized today was the day that the King, his Lords, and the emissaries would all meet, and therefore the day most likely to influence the King’s decision. Still struggling to overcome the late night of drinking, Anacletus left his room to find Luthan, the only man in the castle who he was certain would not only share his viewpoint, but also be prepared to act on it.


The Locyanian emissary saw the priest heading towards him from across the castle courtyard. He had not expected his wife’s words to have such an immediate effect.
“Good morning to you, your holiness”, said Luthan with a smile, “What can I do for you today?” Anacletus joined him on the bench against the wall, and immediately launched into an explanation of the thoughts that had occurred to him that morning. Luthan listened intently, while watching the activity that filled the courtyard in front them. The bench they were seated on was positioned against the wall of the castle, meaning they had an unobstructed view of all of the comings and goings of the courtyard. Soldiers trained in a corner off to their right, servants ran to and fro carrying everything from firewood to dead chickens, and the whole area was permeated by the stench of the stables. When Anacletus was finished, Luthan inquired as to what action he planned to take.

“Well I’m afraid there’s not a whole lot I can do. The King may seek my council, but his decisions are wholly his own”, replied Anacletus.

“You may not be able to affect his decision directly, but it might be possible to influence the way in which Rhochan presents himself. If he is anything like most Cosnian nobles, he is very proud, and easy to offend. It should not take much for me to antagonize him before this afternoon’s council, making it easy for you to set him off with seemingly benign questions”, explained Luthan. Anacletus was thoroughly convinced, to the point of enthusiasm. The two of them spent the next half hour, talking about things Cosnian’s were known to be particularly sensitive about.


The plan went perfectly. The moment Rhochan entered the Council chamber and sat at the pine table, it was apparent to Anacletus that Luthan had succeeded in his goal. The Cosnian’s expression was stern and unmoving, and occasionally he shoot a venomous glare at Luthan. The High Priest did his part by subtly questioning the divinity of the Cosnian Emperor, whenever Rhochan mentioned it. The conspirators were met with a stroke of luck when it was King David himself that was tactless enough to ask a Cosnian noble what guarantee there was that he would keep his promises. Rhochan exploded in a fury of swearing and threats, implying great harm would come to the families of anyone who “opposed the might of the Cosnian Empire.” After the outburst, Luthan quietly slipped out, and was soon followed by Anacletus. The King and his Lords were quite bemused by what had just happened, and spent a good while trying to comprehend it. Regan had some experience with the fierce pride of the Cosnians, but he had never before seen an outburst of quite such magnitude.

Anacletus was unable to catch up with his co-conspirator, and gave up when he reached the harbour. As he wandered along the shoreline, back towards the castle, he spotted Luthan returning from the small beach, hidden from view of the harbour, that was reserved for the children of nobility. He was using one hand to hide something in his coat, and his face was not that of someone who’s plan had just gone better than expected. Anacletus fell into step beside him as they both headed back towards the west gate of the castle.

“Is everything al-”

“Don’t worry”, Luthan interrupted. “Everything went perfectly. If it comes up, you saw Rhochan coming back from that beach, not me.” Before Anacletus could inquire further, they reached the castle and Luthan disappeared amongst the crowds of merchants, sailors and servants. The High Priest slowly walked back through the courtyard, past the stables, now just as bemused as his King had been at Rhochan’s outburst.


Trent took a large bite of the mutton, juices running down his chin and a mix of spices dancing between the chunks of flesh. Beside and across the table from him, David and Anacletus conversed about the events of the previous night. Anacletus’ misgivings about the Locyanese had disappeared after Rhochan’s outburst, yet David was still skeptical of his neighbours to the south. Trent was in no mood for politics. He was content to enjoy his food, and let the King side with whomever he may. Halfway through their meal, a knock came at the door to the King’s chambers. After it was opened, Master Fion came tumbling in, his eyes wide and fingers fumbling. He was unable to meet any of their eyes as he delivered the news of his discovery. The peaceful morning Trent had been enjoying was shattered in an instant; the shocked expressions of his friends making the news of his son’s murder all the more horrifying. Fion had been searching for a particular type of seaweed that grew near the children’s beach, when he had noticed a swarm of gulls trying to get at something that was jammed into a crevice between the boulders. Upon closer inspection, he had found Robert, Trent’s only son, with his throat brutally slashed. After the initial shock had subsided, and Fion had recounted the details of where he had found the body, a horrible realization hit Anacletus. The cryptic words of Luthan suddenly made sense, and without thinking twice, Anacletus blurted out,

“Rhochan! I saw him storming off towards the beach right after the council.” As David and Trent looked incredulously at him, Fion nodded slightly and said,

“A drunk we found asleep beside the docks said he saw ‘one o’ dem foreigners’ heading to the beach as well. It must have been him.” Trent had heard enough, and stormed out of the room, grabbing the sword he had left at the door. The others followed, calling after him, but the fat chef Fion, the old King, and the conspiring priest were unable to keep up. Trent reached the room given to Rhochan, and shoved open the unlocked door without any warning. Inside, Rhochan was calmly gathering his possessions for the journey home.

“Fleeing somewhere?”, menaced Trent, his unsheathed sword glinting in his hand as he stood at the doorway. Before Rhochan could properly answer, Trent ran at him, bellowing curses and swinging his sword. Rhochan was able to deflect a couple of blows with bits of his luggage, before Trent’s sword ripped through the top of his shoulder in a mighty downward swing. The carotid artery was severed instantly, spraying a fountain of blood over them both. Rhochan’s arm was barely held to his body by flesh and tendons, the bones completely shattered. David was first to arrive on the scene, moments later. He found Trent on the ground beside his victim, crying out for his lost son.


The day’s events had left David mentally drained, but he couldn’t get to sleep. He had seen thousands of dead bodies in his life, but none had affected him as much as the crumpled and bloody remains of Robert. Maybe it was that he had known the boy, or the way in which he had been so cruelly and callously slaughtered, or maybe he was just getting old and soft. Thinking that the fresh night air might clear his head of such thoughts, he descended the stairs from his room. Before reaching the bottom of the spiral staircase, he took a right turn through a small wooden door. This led to a smaller set of stairs, which ended in a heavily bolted door. Upon opening it, David was greeted with a rush of fresh, salty air. He was standing in a small alcove, formed by the huge boulders that lay below the southern wall of his castle. The door from which he had emerged was hidden behind one of these boulders, so that from the sea, nothing but rocks were visible. From the spot where he stood, a meandering path led down to the water, to a small cave of sorts, where a boat was kept at all times for a quick escape from the castle. This emergency route had not been used since David’s father had been King, except as a place for the king to unwind. There was something both surreal and entrancing about watching the sea at night. There were few clouds, and the brilliant canopy of stars made those that remained appear as holes ripped in the sky. The moonlight gave the dry rocks a pale glow, and turned the wet ones into glistening, shifting patches of light. To his right, he could see a small section of the harbour, long piers jutting out into the sea, masts with sails furled around them making the piers appear covered in bristles. As David looked out on the peaceful scene, he saw a light travelling along the easternmost pier. When the man carrying the light reached the end of the pier, he paused for a moment, before waving his lantern from side to side in apparent signal to someone still on the shore. David had never seen anybody even on the docks this late, never mind anybody acting so suspiciously. As he strained his eyes to see who it was that stood at the end of the pier, the man extinguished his lantern, rendering himself almost completely invisible. By the moonlight that remained, David saw another man making his way along the pier; presumably it was the same that the man already on it had been signaling. There was no mistaking the oversized hat which the second man wore, it was Anacletus. David’s curiosity was fully piqued now, so he began to descend the path to the shoreline, after making sure his sword was securely belted to him. When he came to the end of the path, Anacletus had reached the man that David could now see was Luthan, and the two were having an animated discussion. David now found himself on the small private beach on which Robert had been murdered. He could just barely hear their muffled voices, and they became clearer as he made his way along the rocky shore. When David reached the base of the pier, he crouched among the smaller rocks beside it, and began to listen.

“That’s beside the point! There was no reason to go this far, Rhochan had already shown himself to be unreasonable. You didn’t have to make him out to be a murderer as well.” Anacletus’ raised and angered voice, drifting across the water, shocked David more than anything else had. In a state of dumbfounded disbelief, he continued to strain his ears.

“Of course I had to”, Luthan retorted, “Your plan was not at all foolproof. There was no guarantee Rhochan would not regain his composure, and our whole conspiracy would have begun to unravel. I had to do something to get your King emotionally invested in waging war against Cosnian.”

“You speak of people as if they were pieces on a board for you to move and manipulate at will! You have no regard for our God given humanity!”, yelled Anacletus, forgetting the need for stealth.

“Of course I have regard for humanity, Anacletus. But there is a difference between having a regard and being blind to what must be done. I have ensured that my people, your Kingdom and your religious order will continue to prosper for many years to come, and whether you like it or not, it could not have happened without you”, Luthan finished. Anacletus seemed stunned into a short silence, and this was when David revealed himself. He had heard enough to gather what had happened, and was boiling over with rage. Luthan spotted him the moment he rose from the shore to the dock, his eyes growing wide in shock. Anacletus noticed this, and turned to see his King stomping towards him and his co-conspirator.

“My Lie-”, Anacletus was cut off by David’s harsh shout,

“Silence! I’ll deal with you later.”, he growled as he pushed his priest out of the way. David drew his sword and brought the tip within an inch of Luthan’s throat. With a dangerous and disturbed look in his eye, David intoned,

“So Luthan, you killed young Rob?”, it was an accusation, question and threat all in one. For the first time since he had arrived in the city of Tarkage, Luthan appeared both to have nothing to say, and to be afraid for his very life. As the three of them stood on the pier, Luthan’s eyes were wide with terror, David was an unmoving statuesque figure of vengeance, and Anacletus’ mind was racing, trying to find a way out of this. He had gambled everything to maintain his power, and now it was all crashing down around him. David continued to rage at Luthan, who continued to cower and mumble, but none of it penetrated the panicked mind of the high priest. In that moment, Anacletus did not see his King standing before him. He saw an old man, unable to realize what must be done to protect a Kingdom, unable to see the things Anacletus saw, unable to properly rule. Realizing he had but one chance to salvage his plot, and preserve the delicate balance of power he relied on, he pulled the small dagger he carried beneath his coat, and plunged it into the back of his King. David cried out in pain, letting his sword fall to the ground. Luthan seized the opportunity, and ran David straight through the heart with his dropped sword. The dead body of the former King fell sideways, drenching the wooden planks of the pier in blood. Luthan reached down and pulled Anacletus’ knife from the corpse and tried to hand it to him, but the priest was beyond such practical matters. He stood perfectly still, an expression befitting a child who had lost his mother wrought on his face. Luthan had to shake him before the trance was broken.

“Anacletus! Anacletus! Snap out of it man! We have to do something with this body”, Luthan commanded. Anacletus’ only response was to mumble something unintelligible before breaking down into tears. Realizing that the priest would be of little to no use, Luthan decided to flee. He had been careful to make sure that no one had seem him come here, though after the King’s appearance he was far less confident of his stealth. Luthan felt the uncomfortable rise of panic in his chest, but it was soon calmed by an idea. Anacletus was now crouched by the king, still sobbing. Luthan knelt in front of him and grabbed his shoulders,

“Anacletus, not all is lost. We can still protect your order and your kingdom. We both know that the only way to do that is to make sure Jake does not find out that a Locyanian killed his father. You must claim to have acted alone. Do so for the good of your kingdom”, Luthan finished with a practiced look of earnestness on his face. In his distraught state, Anacletus failed to realize the obvious ulterior motives of his co-conspirator, and simply nodded, trying to blink the still flowing tears from his eyes. Wasting no more time, Luthan sprinted back along the pier and off into the dark.

Anacletus did not move until he was found the following morning, lying in a pool of his King’s blood, clutching the crown which had fallen from his head.


The High Priest was true to his word, revealing nothing of his plot. Jake donned the crown a week and a half after his father’s death, in a ceremony followed by the execution of the former High Priest. High above the ceremony, the seagull recognized the glimmer of gold adorning a new head, and let out a squawk of derision at the eagerness of youth to repeat the mistakes of their forefathers.