A/N: New novel here! This is set in my world of Orlath, like the trilogy, Golden Heresy and Splendor's Shadow, but it contains no spoilers for the other novels, and you don't have to have read them to understand this. It's laid a hundred years after even Splendor's Shadow, for one thing, so it doesn't share most of the same characters. And it's going to be the first of a series of five books about silly quests that the royal heirs mentioned in the title go on, so it has a different plot than the others (though of course influenced by them).

This story has five viewpoint characters: Nightstone, the Dark ruler of Orlath; and the four guardians of the royal heirs. Hopefully all of them are going to be annoying and satiric in their very own special ways. Feel free to tell me so ;).

Here we go.

Prophecy of Four Royals With One Mistake

Prologue

449 OR (Orlathian Reckoning)

"You understand the reasons why we have to exile you, Kymenos?"

Kymenos sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He had sat through the explanation of the reasons last night, and he didn't see why he needed to hear another recitation. "Yes, I understand," he said. "Though I would remind you, my Lady, that I requested to leave the Star Circle even before the sentence of exile came through. This is my choice as much as the Circle's."

The Lady serenely ignored him. Kymenos had found that his fellow mages had a habit of doing that, even when he was making the best points in the argument. In fact, they may have had a greater tendency to ignore him when he was making the best points in the argument. He sat back against his chair and folded his arms across his chest, scowling at the Lady.

She was white-haired and clad in the white robe that proclaimed her status, but other than that, there was no sign of her age. Her face was unlined, and her blue eyes tranquil in a way that could have meant the wisdom of the elderly or the odd calmness of spirit that Masters of the Wonders usually attained very young. She stared out the window, and took no notice of him.

Kymenos composed his mind the way he had been taught, when he had still been intent on mastering every Wonder they set before him, and also stared out the window. Children were shouting in the courtyard. He scowled. They have no idea what they're getting into. They think it's all games and elemental magic, but they'll learn the truth soon enough.

"I have decided."

Kymenos looked up. "You had already chosen to exile me. What was left to decide?"

The Lady stared at him, her eyes as cold as they ever got. "We had to decide if we would strip you of your powers before we let you leave."

"What powers?"

Again, the serene ignoring, though Kymenos fancied it took a bit more effort than before. "I have decided that you must keep them. I can sense the Destiny that flares around you, and it is obvious that you are going to be important to the Light. You will need your powers for that."

"I can only control a few elements haphazardly," said Kymenos. "What good will that be?"

"You could have controlled many more, if you would only pay attention to your studies," the Lady began, actually falling into debate. It was something that none of Kymenos's teachers had been lured into doing for quite some time. "You wanted to learn too many of the advanced Patterns and not enough of the basic ones. Your exile and your lack of learning is no one's fault but your own."

"They didn't teach me in an interesting manner," said Kymenos, knowing he sounded sulky, and not caring. "They kept trying to train me to control Metal magic, when I had shown that I had no aptitude for it."

"You could have, if you could have concentrated." The Lady shook her head. "It is a waste, Kymenos. We need Masters of Twenty Wonders, and you might have had the talent to become one of them. But you chose to waste your time instead."

"It was well-spent!" Kymenos stood up. "I managed to grow that new healing plant that even Master Diessa said was useful."

"It was wasted as far as your gaining mastery of the elements was concerned," said the Lady, only a slight flush showing her vexation at his interruption. "And then you didn't turn to a study of Crop magic."

"Why should I? I grew the plant using Light magic. What does Crop magic have to do with any of it?"

"Crop magic is involved with the well-being of plants and animals, Kymenos. You must have used it, even if you didn't realize it. Won't you please sit down?"

Fuming, Kymenos sat down again, but kept his gaze fixed on the Lady of the Star Circle. Her smile was a bit more strained than before. She glanced at him and then out the window again.

"We don't like doing this," she said. "I had to argue with Master Diessa and a few others who thought that your time among us could be spent well, even if you didn't apply yourself to your studies." She turned around again. "But control and concentration are the things most needed for a study of the elements, Kymenos, and you don't have them. I am very sorry to have to inform you of this."

Kymenos shook his head. "Never mind. I should have left the moment I learned to control those elements I like."

"An affinity is not the same as liking," said the Lady. "And you were right to come to us. Your powers were spinning out of control. They could have endangered someone else. I am only sorry that you could not learn the way that we needed you to learn."

Kymenos sat through the rest of the lecture, which was, as always, about the need for discipline and control. And he fumed quietly, as always, because the answer was right there under their noses.

I do have control and concentration. Why can't they see that? I couldn't have produced that plant without control and concentration. But they don't teach me the right way.

Kymenos dragged his thoughts back to hear the ending of the lecture, so that he could nod and stand with the Lady.

"I think that you will be very important in the wars between Light and Dark someday," said the Lady, clasping his hand. "That is the main reason that I wanted to leave your powers intact."

Kymenos snorted. "What wars of Light and Dark? They haven't happened in four generations now."

The Lady turned her head and stared into the distance. "Those of us with Mastery of Time," she said, "can sometimes see the shadows of things that are about to be born, before even the priestesses of Elle can see them."

Kymenos sighed. "My Lady, if something is going to happen that's important and involves me, then why don't you tell me?"

She turned her head and looked at him, and for a moment Kymenos felt as if he were falling into ageless blue sky. Then he shook his head and jerked himself back. That was only a trick that the Masters of the Star Circle pulled to make themselves look powerful and special. He should know better than to be ruled by it.

"Because the shadows might be wrong," said the Lady. "There is still much we do not understand about Time, and we might interfere in something that we were not meant to interfere in, do we move too quickly."

Kymenos bowed and left the room as quickly as he could. That was another reason for leaving the Star Circle, an even better one than all their teaching methods being wrong. They wouldn't fight in wars, even when one side was clearly right and the other clearly wrong. Kymenos could never have held himself back so.

They're all wrong. Why can't they see that only I am right?

Of course, they probably thought they were too high and mighty to listen to someone who was only nineteen years old.

******

"Farewell, Kymenos. I wish you were staying."

Kymenos forced a smile and clasped Turor's hand. "Thank you, Turor. The elements watch over you, and the Cycle turn to bring your magic into being."

"Thank you, Kymenos." Turor peered at him, as eager as a puppy. "You'll come back someday, won't you?"

"Maybe."

Kymenos turned his back before the boy could delay him any more with meanderings. Turor was a star student, capable of learning whatever the Masters wanted to teach him, and he was probably going to be the Lord of the Star Circle when the Lady died. Kymenos hadn't heard any rumors about that, but it was a good guess. And Turor was perfectly fitted for the job; he was already working on perfecting his cool gaze into the distance.

Kymenos walked down the street, nodding out of habit as he passed the old ruins of the palace. The royal family of Dalzna had once lived there, and their statues still stood outside the palace gate, too beautiful for even children who had loved the Dark all their lives to deface. They were mostly statues of the Queens, the strangest rulers and thus the best subjects for legends, with the black hound that represented the Death they could see beside them. Kymenos had often come here to complain to them, and they had always seemed to listen.

Then came another turn, and another, and then he was passing out the gates of Serian, the capital city of Dalzna. No one paid much attention to his going. Kymenos didn't like most people and hadn't made many friends; those had all bid farewell to him before he left the Tower, mostly after trying to convince him to stay. Kymenos smiled slightly. Perhaps it would be better to say that I once had friends, at that.

He took a deep breath and studied the landscape before him for a moment. Serian backed up to the Dalorth Mountains, and snow still gleamed on them, even this late in the year; winter never quite left the heights. Pine forest crowded their flanks. Kymenos sniffed, and he could smell the pine scent from here. It might be good to go and walk in those forests.

Instead, he turned, jogging along Serian's wall until he reached the edge of it, and then stepping determinedly south.

I'll go where I like. Besides, there will probably be some demand for my products in the south. He patted the pack slung over his shoulder, which contained the seeds of the plants that he had been working on breeding. Master Diessa will no doubt be distressed to find them gone, but the Star Circle would have tried for years and years without me to make them bloom again. It's better this way.

He lifted his head and told himself to cheer up. He was like a hero in the old history-tales, going south to seek out his fortune, and if he found it in Arvenna or Ilantra or even the jungles of Doralissa, what did that matter? He would find it.

Kymenos's mind, which had an unfortunate habit of doing this, pointed out to him that all the heroes of those history-tales were either older and more experienced than he was, or younger and consumed with powerful Destinies.

Oh, shut up.