King Alrand Thelonius stormed violently around the castle, cursing left and right, smashing vases and cursing the gods for his wicked luck. He ordered the oracle strung up for three days and three nights over the castle walls so all the people in Gardia could see the woman who had once more caused the kingdom the greatest distress. Queen Thalia made no effort to calm her husband, she had locked herself in her chambers and wept violently over her misfortune.

A daughter... once again a daughter. They had not wished for a daughter, only a son could rule Artunus, the queen was not becoming any younger and soon she would not be able to safely bare a child.

"You shall regret this!" The oracle screamed violently as she was dragged down the hall of the castle, "I curse your daughter to the fires of Darinar, cursed do you hear me?!"

The queen gave a cry from behind her chamber door and fell to the stone floor, shaking violently and begging the gods to spare her daughter from the curse, the Kingdom could not suffer the loss of another royal child, it would destroy Artunus.

Nine months later a shock rushed over the kingdom. Word was swept to the four corners of the country, the queen had born a prince and a princess, twins. They both lived for a fortnight, then a month and soon enough both daughter and son were giggling and smiling healthily, it seemed as if the Kingdom could at last rejoice for now there were two heirs to the throne. The day swiftly approached when the prince and princess would be presented to the kingdom, the nobles and the gods. The entire palace was abuzz with excitement, forty-eight chefs had been hired to design the grandest cakes and sweets adorned with towers of elegant spun sugar. Three hundred footmen and maids had been recruited from the neighbouring Kingdom of Tiron for the many guests who would be staying at the castle in Gardia. Hundreds of yards of colourful silks from the Yteria island had been bought to make the queen's gown and the gowns for her ladies in waiting. It was the most elegant sight in the Kingdom and said to be the largest gathering of Nobles ever recorded in the history of Artunus.

The day of the presentation, the throne room was embellished with blue and pink silk for the prince and princess. Their cradles were placed side by side in the in front of the thrones, the children lay beneath soft linen covers, wide-eyed and solemn as if they understood that it was a very regal occasion in which they had to remain silent.

One by one, nobles from the many Kingdoms approached the cradles with gifts for the princes and princess, they lay the gifts in a pile off to the side and were then given a moment to view the children. Following the nobles from the allied countries, the representatives from Artunus's enemies were allowed to come forward and pay homage, the queen had complained severely about the tradition and the king had been forced to hire several magicians to check over the gifts from the countries before they were allowed to come near the children. The next group to view the children were the fairies, although they were a dying breed, they came as representatives of the gods and their gifts were by far the most important.

It was Teika Riverblossom who represented the water goddess that felt it coming from the princess. She turned quite beige, which you must understand was not good, for a River faerie was usually a shade of blue. Teika rested on the edge of the princess crib and shook her wings slightly, her light blue hair was a mess and dripped water onto the princesses cheeks. The young princess wiped her face and glared rather forcefully at the fairy, as if demanding to know why she was getting wet.

"You have been cursed...." The fairy whispered to no one in particular.

The princess seemed to understand for she cooed a small response, her eyes transfixed on the fairy. Teika rose up, her fragile wings fluttering slightly, and rested her tiptoes on the small nose of the princess.

"You shall do many great things, princess... I cannot remove the curse of an oracle but I will bless you and your soul. You are not alone, others seek vengeance for their curse, you will find them and Darinar will not consume you in its flames."

She leaned down and gently kissed the princess, the young child giggled and clapped her hands, as she did the fairy disappeared and a bright sprout of blue sparkles which lay over the princesses linen blanket.

"All rise and witness the birth of his royal highness and heir to the throne of Artunus, Prince Roland Arlo Serge Thelonius and her royal highness, Princess Nadia Cecilia Aralia Thelonius. Long live the prince and princess!"

And so it became known around the kingdom that the princess was cursed, it didn't bother the Artunian's because they knew the prince was a strong, smart and healthy young man who was wise about his kingdom and the goings on around it. Nadia was raised in the only fashion appropriate for a princess, she took dancing lessons, learned how to ride side saddle, she learned to sew, weave and cook. She learned table manners, royal courtesy and everything a young princess needed to know. Nadia was said to be the most stunning beauty in the land, her raven black hair was long and flowing down her back, her eyes were the most peculiar shade of blue which seemed to change to a deep violet colour as her emotions ranged.

It was the guilt of the king, for causing his only daughter to be cursed for her life, that was reason for him to spend any time with Nadia at all. He taught her the smaller things in life, respect for herself and for the people of Artunus, no matter how meek and lowly or high and mighty they seemed. People whispered that secretly the king was raising Nadia to be the next heir to the throne, this of course was not the truth, and both Nadia and Roland knew that. They were content with their places in life, neither wanted anymore or any less.

"I'm sorry Cordell, she's dead." The midwife pressed her hand over the glossy eyes of a young woman and gently lifted a young babe, draped in clothes and tickled the child under the chin. The child giggled and grabbed her finger with his small hand.

In the corner of the poorly lit farm house, a young man held his head in his hands and gave a sob. He did not wish to live a life without his wife, they had worked so hard to reach Comin, it was unfair to have her taken away from him so soon after. The midwife walked forward and gently pressed the fragile bundle into his arms. Cordell sniffed and rubbed his red nose with his finger, the child lay quite quiet in the warm clothes, as if it understood the seriousness of the situation.

"I don't want it." He forced the child back into the midwife's arms and turned his head away from the small babe, afraid to make eye contact with it, as if he would be unable to look away once the contact was made.

The midwife would not stand for any of this nonsense, she understood his pain and sorrow easily enough but this was his child. She forced the silent babe into his arms once more and the man found himself staring down unwillingly at his newborn child.

"What'll you name the lad?"

"Lan, Landieran."

"From the Earth," The midwife murmured as she gently tickled the young child once again, "It suits him."

"He'll grow up like his mother, able to grow whatever he puts his mind to."

"You'll keep him then?"

"I must," Cordell lowered his head and held the fragile body closer, "She would not want me to lose him."

The midwife nodded and walked over to the window where a bowl of warm water was waiting for her to wash the blood from her hands. She peered out the window to the barren Comin land, for ten years the drought had plagued the country, farm lands were bare and wars among the separate provinces seemed to only further the destruction. She knew it would be a trying few months for Cordell and his new son, with little food and the land being unfertile they had no way to make money. Still, she was certain he'd find a way. That was when her weary eyes caught a glimpse of something fluttering among the plowed fields. It was a little something at first, a mere sparkle against the night sky. Soon that one sparkle became two, and the two became four and very soon dozens of little flecks of green danced along the land.

"Cordell, there's something out there." She whispered.

"Don't be silly Irina," He stood up, still clutching the child in his arms. "It's past curfew, only..." His voice trailed off as he saw the flecks of green sparkle across his land. "What in Shethia's name are they..."

"I believe..." Irina's voice was fragile as she spoke, "I believe they are fairies."

"But...how?" Cordell watched as the green lights danced around the land, settling in one spot no longer than two or three seconds.

"It's a sign..." Irina murmured quietly, "A sign from the gods. Your son has brought fertility to the earth." As she spoke this, droplets of water began to sprinkle from the sky, splashing on to the fairies which squeaked and hissed in protest. It was common knowledge that the earth fairies despised getting wet.

"Nonsense, Irina," Cordell said as he turned back to the child. "He's a babe, he hasn't been blessed by anyone, gods or man alike."

"Believe what you wish," Irina said calmly, still captivated by the sparkling lights. "You're child shall bring great things to this world."

But as the darkness set in the faeries appeared to diminish, almost fall to the earth and disappear as if something or someone had cast a spell on them. Forced them to stop their magic. Neither Cordell nor Irina spoke as they certainly could not understand the phenomenon, but the child called Lan began to cry profusely.

"He's missing his momma." Irina whispered.

"It's a boy," massive tears fell from the mans eyes and landed on his new born child. His wife, too, wept with joy. Neither of them unable to control the pure happiness and good luck that had befallen then.

"He's beautiful," the woman whispered as she tickled his chin, "What shall we name him?"

"Rydan," The man replied, "Rydan is an excellent name for one born under this reign of hate..."

"He'll bring good into the world, Gob..." The woman gently accepted the child into her arms again. "No matter what they say..."

She trailed off as a sudden pounding came from outside of their door.

"Imperial Soldiers!" The woman cried in a sharp whisper, "What do we do?"

"Open up in the name of King Verrai!" One soldier yelled.

"Gob, you must take him!"

"Open the door!"

"But Lina..." The man could not even begin to protest the idea.

"Take him and go!"

Before Gob could even consider moving from his spot the door of their small hut burst down in splinters as six imperial Soldiers rushed forward.

"You bore a half breed this evening." The first soldier said, "We have come to claim the child."

"He is not yours to claim!" Gob shouted angrily as he held his new born son protectively in his arms, "He is born under the sign of a new moon! Leave him be!"

"King Verrai allowed your sinful union to take place within his boarders, now he lays claim to the child as an imperial."

"You'll never-." Gob's words were cut short as the six soldier's removed arrows from their hips and placed them in bows, much faster than either husband or wife could have predicted.

"We will take the child now."

"His named is Rydan," Lina whispered to them, "Rydan De'Montrane."

"The child." The soldier said again.

Lina looked at her husband and then fondly once more at her new born son. "We will see you again my son, you will bring heat to the frozen hearts of Mondorune."

In the village of Emata, which was dangerously close to bordering Tiron, a light had arisen. A mother had died only minutes before after giving birth to a daughter. A husband had been killed by Imperial raiders long before and now all that remained of the broken family was a grandfather, a brother and the new born sister.

"We are a dying breed, Celes." The grandfather rocked the child in his arms, she cooed and giggled as his beard brushed her smooth skin. "With the Imperial soldiers coming and taking or killing the newborn paladins all over the world, eventually they will come to Artunus. Until then you are safe."

"Grandpa?" A young boy tugged the corner of his grandfathers robe, "Can I hold the baby?"

"Be very careful," The elder lay the child in the brothers arms. "She's very delicate, Jem."

"I'll protect her, those Imperial soldiers won't get nowhere near my sister."

"Anywhere, they won't get anywhere near your sister, and I hope not." The grandfather sighed wearily, "Already they have travelled through Yteria and the Phoenix Isles, Comin will be next, then Tiron then us Jem. At this rate... She won't be a woman before they come for her."

"No!" Jem suddenly tightened his grip on his sister, very much afraid that the Soldiers would come sooner than later. "I won't let them!"

"Of course you won't." The old man said fondly. "No give her back, I must give her something. Lay her in her crib gently, that's it."

It was an old crib, made out of one of the elder Orl trees in Testerf. The child fit so perfectly in it that the elder could not help but wonder if faeries had carved it for the child. He moved over to the mantel place under which a fire was roaring. He quickly removed a small oak box from its place of honour and brought it over to the child's crib.

"Oh," The boy's eyes became wide with awe, he had never been allowed to play with the oak box in grandfathers house.

The elders hand shook as he opened the lid. Much as he had expected, something within the box glowed a bright golden light.

"I knew it." He smiled softly and removed a glowing medallion that was hung on a chain. "She has come."

"Grandpa, is she making that glow?"

"She is my child, she is bringing a light to a dark place."

"Why do you sound so sad then?" Jem asked absently as he peered over the edge of the crib and watched his new sister.

"Because," The elder gently hung the medallion over the child's crib. She gently reached up and tried her best to touch it to no avail. "It means that they will be here soon. And soon they will take her away."

The world was suffering, no one could deny it. It appeared as if the gods had forsaken the world, forgotten their people and left them to die. In fact, it was the other way round, the world had forgotten the gods. Power had overtaken everything. Without believers, the gods simply ceased to be. It was the gods chosen ones, the Paladins, that continued to keep them alive in spirit and belief.

The country of Mondorune was spreading, King Verrai and his Imperial soldiers were storming the world and destroying the Paladins. A race of people gifted with magic that had always lived in harmony with the rest of the world. Thanks to Verrai they were now seen as monsters and it had been suggested that the Paladins be locked up with the Immortal creatures in the realm of Darinar. Darinar was only for the damned and the hated and the world had turned its back to the Paladins.

Lone villages of magic were being destroyed. Children born of Paladin blood were being enslaved or taken by Imperial Soldiers and raised without the knowledge of their magic. The gods watched this in fear and began to realize their time was slowly coming to an end unless they could revive the world of magic once more.

As they contemplated the many options for their revival, something very strange happened. A gate on the Phoenix Ilse opened, releasing several hundred griffins and Basilisks into the world. This inexplicable action was seen by the people of the world as a sign from the gods. They were angry with the Paladins and were to be punished. In reality the gods did not control the gates, the gates were controlled by the elements. As the world slowly died away and the world became a darkened mass, the gates weakened and so the immortals were set free.

That was the problem, and the gods knew it. They understood that without a world full of life and harmony, there would never be a chance for them. Something, a power greater than the gods themselves was bringing darkness to the world. The power would kill them all if they did not stop it. If someone did not stop it...