“Ethan, Ethan, wake up, Ethan!” A voice shouts from all around me, “GET UP ETHAN!”
I bolt upright head butting whoever was yelling, as I recoil in pain I notice that it’s a young girl around my age is looking down at quite annoyed and holding her head.
“Um, hello, where um where am I?” I ask confused as the last thing I know is we were being surrounded by guards.
“You’re in the royal palace's dungeons,” The mysterious girl informs me before throwing me some clothes, “Get dressed and meet me outside.”
As I watch the girl leave confused I look down realizing that I’m naked causing me to blush like crazy as I start pulling on the pitch black trousers and navy blue shirt, however, I notice that I wasn’t given any underwear shrugging it off as nothing unusual. Running outside I’m temporarily blinded by the sun as it glares down at us from high in the sky.
“Fuck, what time is it?” I ask rubbing my eyes as blurry spots could my vision.
“Midday, Ethan, You remember me right?” The mysterious voice says.
I vaguely remember her voice from the slums where I met Eric and James.
“You’re the girl who attacked me a couple days ago!” I say going for my weapons just to see she’s holding them.
“Yep, the name's Astrid,” Astrid states unimpressed.
“Okay?” I look at her confused, “Am I meant to know you from somewhere else?”
“Don’t worry, go meet this person,” She says handing me a piece of paper with an address on it.
Once I sorted all my equipment out I look up to ask this mysterious girl named Astrid a question, only to find that she has vanished into thin air. As I look around for her I start walking towards the market square.
“Where the hell am I meant to go,” I groan to myself.
Taking out the note to see where I’m meant to go it reads “See the Dragon of the Four Forts AKA Jasper Fort, at the Scorching Magician Tavern,” once I figured out where I was meant to go I asked around at some of the shops for directions to the tavern most told me to get out and to not bug them but after asking at a hunting shop after forty minutes of asking around they pointed me towards it, after saying my thanks I made my way to the tavern reaching it in about fifteen minutes.
“So this is the Scorching Magician Tavern I wonder what this Jasper Fort person was like and why I needed to speak to him?” I mused to myself as I walked inside.
As I walked inside I was taken aback by how fancy it was inside compared to the old oak wooden exterior. The interior was a stone flooring decorated with a few rugs which look like they were made of the finest furs possible, the tables and chairs were beautifully crafted from I think maple or maybe yew, the fireplace was made of solid marble adorned with flickering candles.
“Wow,” I gasp shocked as I make my way to the barkeeper, “Excuse me, Ma’am, I was just wondering if you could tell me where I could find someone known as the Dragon of the Four Forts?”
“Why’d you wanna find him, kid?” The barkeeper asked me slightly confused.
“I was told to seek him hear by a girl called Astrid,” I reply, confused myself a bit. “I’m new in town and she gave me this note.”
I dig the note out of my pocket as I show the barkeep she points me to a dark corner that seems devoid of any light. I thanked her and made my way over to the corner.
“Um sorry for intruding, but I was wondering if you were Jasper Fort the Dragon of the Four Forts?” I asked slightly nervous.
The elderly man simply ignores Ethan and grunts at him annoyed that his peace and quiet has been interrupted.
“I really am sorry sir, but please it’s important that I find this man,” I say practically begging him.
“Hmph, such an annoyance,” The man grunts at me causing the waitress nearby to drop her tray of drinks and food as everyone stops and stares at the two of us.
As the man stands and moves to the stairs presumably heading to his room I move to the waitress and help her pick up the mugs bowls and plates as I hear people starting to whisper in hushed tones. Once I helped her carry the plates and bowls to the bar I decided to ask her what happened.
“Excuse me, ma’am?” I timidly ask as several patrons were still watching me, “I was wondering why you got so shocked when that man spoke just now?”
“Well, that man is the legendary warrior, Jasper Fort the Forth,” She explains as I look to the stairs to see him disappear up the final steps, “He must see something in you as he doesn’t talk to anyone.”
As I take in what she said, I thank her for the information. After getting his room number I decide to head out to the training dummies out the back of the tavern to practice my swordsmanship wondering why his room's window looks out directly on the training ring.
“I hope he’ll speak to me again maybe he can explain why I’m meant to meet him here, I also need to figure out this quest. I’m at the tavern but I don’t know who the rebel high command is,” I mutter to myself as I draw my short sword and start to practice.
After 3 hours of training my sword skills, I managed to increase my Strength and Agility by six points each when I hear the light tapping of a cane hitting the wooden terrace behind me. Deciding now would be a good time to take a small break I head over to where I placed my shirt and where the waiter has placed my food and drink along with a towel to wipe the sweat from my body, as he sits on a chair watching me from the patio.
“You’re dropping your right arm when you strike it makes your attack more shallow and won’t do as much damage,” He lectures.
“Why are you speaking to me?” I ask confused, “Also why are you lecturing me?”
“You’re the one who was looking for me right?” He says with a bitter tone.
“Well yeah but I don’t know why. Astrid told me to find you here.” I state annoyed at his tone as I pull out the note and walk over to him.
“Hmmm, so the queen wants you to meet me?” He states in an amused tone.
“What? The queen?” I ask getting more confused.
“Very well, I’ll give you a week’s teaching, however, I will not address you by your name you are simply boy to me,” He commands scaring me a little at the sudden change in his tone from gravelly and grouchy to a commanding presence, “Now take your attack stance.”
I groan and grumble as I haven’t had the chance to sit yet, but reluctantly I take my stance as he hobbles over and pushes me over with his cane.
“HEY!” I snap at him for shoving me with his cane. “What the hell was that for?”
“Again boy,” He commands as I stand up and take my stance again getting annoyed, “Legs wider, back straight, arms loose but stern.”
As he orders me about he hits my arms and back and drags my body around until he’s satisfied with how I am then he shoves me with his cane again but this time I don’t fall.
“I didn’t fall over?” I ask confused.
“That is a proper stance to take when attacking,” He states, “Now I want you to attack the dummy, boy.”
I groan as I go to slash at the dummy, however, I fall to the floor unable to get the momentum to slash due to being inexperienced in this new stance.
“Keep practicing, however, for now, go home,” He says hobbling off.
I groan and grumble as I decide to eat the food the waitress brought me. Once I rested for an hour I decided to head back to the market square to see if Eric and James were there, however, as I entered the tavern to pay I bumped into Eric.
“Ethan, where have you been?” Eric says worriedly.
“Um, a strange girl called Astrid told me to meet someone called Jasper Fort the Fourth,” I state confused
“Lord Jasper?” Eric questions to himself, “Ethan, What did Lord Jasper want with you?”
“Um well, I’m not sure,” My words cause Eric to look confused as he tries to work out the reasons.
“He did help me with my stance,” I say as I think back to the training, “Although he’s kind of strange and a bit rude.”
Eric chuckles as we head to the barkeep to pay. Heading into the market square after paying, Eric pulls me down a path leading to the palace.
“Hey, Eric, why are we heading towards the palace?” I ask confused assuming we would be heading to the adventurer's citadel for the continent.
“James and I have to report our success to our employer. Yelvun has gone to get us lodgings at one of the taverns in the upper districts,” Eric explains to me that Yelvun is tamers name while we walk, “And I thought it’d be better if you came with us to confirm some things for our employer.”
I nod as we walk, taking in the stunning surroundings of the cobblestone paths, lined with houses made of thatch and stone with the occasional store dotting the street, the street lit up by the magical warm glow of blue flames inside of the lanterns that line the streets, fire sprites dancing majestically in the midday sun. As I watch we arrive at the palace gates, large towering obsidian gates lay open with the royal crest sat in a shield of gold lined with rubies, diamonds, and emeralds forming a serpent above the open gates.
“We’re here to see Prince Alexi Lightheart,” Eric says as the guard nods and directs us to a golden white building.
Once we arrive at the building Eric guides me inside, the hallway decorated with red curtains lined with gold edges, silver framed pictures dotting the walls at regular intervals and the occasional ceremonial weapon displayed. After walking down the long winding hallway we arrive at a large room with a stone table in the center with eight chairs surrounding it. Five people are already seated including Astrid and James.
“Ethan time to take our seats, sit next to me,” Eric says in a serious tone.
Eric takes his seat next to James leaving the seat next to the golden white-haired boy free. I take my seat as a woman wearing the most elegant of gold and silver dresses, adorned with a pattern of a crimson
fox running along the dress' sides meeting in the middle, walks in from the side and takes a seat next to the boy. Looking around I see six of the seven seats taken as I wonder who the seventh person is.
“Your majesty,” James starts talking in a formal manner, “We’ve brought Ethan Shadowmark here, per his highness request, however, we did run into a little issue along the way.”
“Please explain Master James,” the women replies.
“The three adventurers your husband ordered us to bring betrayed us, however, Yelvun, the Tamer class adventurer helped defend Ethan,” James explains before looking to me, “he, unfortunately, lost an arm in the skirmish defending Ethan.”
“I see, Alexi, what are your thoughts on how mister Yelvun should be dealt with?” the Women questions looking to the golden white-haired boy next to me.
“I believe to be safe we should lock him up until we can be sur…” Alexi says before being cut off.
“THAT’S NOT FAIR!” I yell standing from my seat, “He saved my life and almost died you can’t lock him up.”
“Ethan, sit down now!” Eric scolds me, “You’re in the presence of Queen Rosella and Prince Alexi. Forgive him, my queen, he was brought up on the street.”
“It’s fine Master Eric, I believe it’s time to inform young Ethan of the true reason he was picked,” Queen Rosella says in a calm and relaxed voice causing me to become anxious and on guard.
“Are you sure, my queen?” James questions confused.
“Yes, it is time for him to know his past,” Queen Rosella says smiling towards me.
“Oh boy,” Alexi states chuckling next to me, “Well you're in for the shock of a lifetime Ethan.”
“Ethan, you are the second Prince of Estella, youngest son of King Aratax and Queen Rosella, younger brother of Alexi Lightheart,” Eric explains.
As I try to comprehend what's being said, an elderly man in a navy blue robe adorned with a winding silver dragon that seems to move as he walks enters the room and takes a seat in the remaining chair.
“I see we have forgotten my advice already your Highness,” The strange new man speaks as his words seem to carry a mystical feel to them.
“Welcome Master,” James stands and bows to him, “Her Highness believed it was best he knows now.”
“And do you support this James?” He queries but his eyes never leave my face.
“I do Master Magikan,” James respectfully bows his head.
“I see, well young Ethan” the man named Master Magikan addresses me.
I don’t respond to the man, however, I look up at him waiting to see what his question might be.
“It seems you are at a loss for words aren't you?” Master Magikan rhetorically asks. “I am Vulmer Magikan, Grand royal Mage to Estella and dear friend to her Majesty Rosella.”
“And he’s the one who’s been helping my uncle keep an eye on you,” Alexi blurts out resulting in Vulmer to stare at him with an unamused look, “Sorry Master Vulmer.”
“Is this meant to be a joke?” I ask confused and annoyed, “and what do you mean to keep an eye on me? I was abandoned when I was three to fend for myself, and not even a week ago my family and boyfriend were slaughtered in the king's name hunting me!”
“Yes, we knew about the king's bounty on you, which is why we sent Eric and James to protect you,” Vulmer says in a calming voice.
“Protect me or my family?” I ask with a hint of venom to my words not really wanting anyone to answer.
“Ethan, we are sorry about your family, I have tried to protect you from a distance as much as I could without letting on that you were still alive,” the queen states near in tears.
“Why did I have to be hidden away? Why am I being hunted by the king?” I ask with more questions than answers.
“Ethan, the king had a vision that he believes to be a prophecy…” Vulmer pauses as he tries to work it out, “his vision is of an elf-child born to the human kingdoms royal family will bring about his end… you are that child, an elf born with the blessing of shadows to the human royal family.”
As Vulmer explains the vision I slump back into my chair conflicted and confused. After half an hour of sitting in silence, Alexi suggests that we all take a break and resume the meeting in a few days' time to give me time to adjust.