"The walls will not hold. Davenport will not survive this attack!"

"And you, Minister Roth are speaking words of treason!"

"Are the times so changed that words of truth are now treasonous?" the older man fired back. "I may be older than this castle, and deaf as a doorknob when the occasion comes, but that does not give you the right to ignore my advice. I was on this Council before you were born!"

"And that is precisely why you no longer belong here!" came the thunderous reply. "The times have changed Councilman. War has changed. Your advice is no longer needed, Councilman Roth. Please retire in peace," the much younger price said tiredly.

The war had begun years earlier. In the time of his father's father. Battles and strategies and destruction was all he had been taught since he was old enough to walk. The prince sighed and sat down heavily.

"You know I am correct, young prince," Roth said softly.

"And that is what fear," the prince replied in defeat. "I know not what to do, Roth."

The councilman's face lightened at the news, but he worked hard to keep his visage grim. "You know what you must do, milord. We have no other choice."

The young man raised his head quickly, his startled and angry expression meeting Roth's passionate one. "You speak of madness!"

"I speak the truth!" the older man thundered back. His eyes softened momentarily and he gently rested a wrinkled hand on the prince's shoulder. "Darius, I have been an advisor to Davenport's crown for almost forty-five years. I was your father's advisor—"

"And look how far that got him," Darius responded wryly.

Paying him no heed, the older man continued, "and he defended this state successfully against six full sieges. Trust me, Darius. Listen to what an old man's wisdom tells you. If nothing else, listen to me as your godfather."

The prince sighed, fatigue landing suddenly on his shoulders. "Roth—there is no other way?"

"There is none," he replied softly.

"Guards!" Darius bellowed. "Accompany minister Roth and I to the dungeons, there's a prisoner that needs to be released."

In less time than it would take for the clocks to chime the hour, Darius and Roth found themselves standing before the lone dungeon master. The man's job was dull at best. After all, Davenport's royal dungeon had boasted a grand total of three prisoners in the past century and currently it housed only one.

"Milord, beggin yer pardon, but are you sure you want to release this prisoner. Ain't said a word since she came here. She just growl an' bites when I bring her meals. I still 'ave a scar from the last time—"

Roth struck the man's hand aside. "We did not come here to listen to your tales dungeon master. The ruler of Davenport does not need advice from peasants," he snapped.

"Aye, they have to be dressed in silks and purple first," Darius responded angrily. "Roth, the man has a point. Ill stated perhaps, but a valid point nevertheless. What hold do we have on this prisoner? What is to say that she won't simply turn on us and finish the job she started two years ago? Why are we doing this?"

"Because she's the only human being capable of stopping this carnage."

"She is also the only human being capable of bringing about the end of Davenport with nothing more than a thought."

"She will comply."

Darius looked at his senior advisor doubtfully. The man had guided his father successfully enough, and he had not led him astray thus far—but this, this must be folly.

"Release the prisoner, now."

The dungeon master looked to Darius for consent. He would not be responsible for releasing such a monster into the world without his liege's final approval.

Darius looked doubtful, but nodded anyway. "Release her," he whispered.

It had been two years since he laid eyes on her face. Two years since she graced him with a smile. Two years since she murdered his father. Two years since she tried to stab him in the back. Two years since she broke down in tears because she could not bring herself to do it. Would she hate him now? Did the dungeons harden her reserve? Would she kill him now? Nothing Roth could say or do could convince him that this was indeed their only recourse.

A harsh laugh resounded in the stone cell in front of him, and he looked fearfully at the cell where Roth and the dungeon master had gone ahead without him. Regret flickered in him briefly before he stamped it out. No, there was no other recourse then—he had had to imprison her. Just as there was no recourse now—he had to free her.

Hysterical laughter met his ears again. "It's been two years, Roth! Two years. What do you want with me now? Care to have another stab at me, Roth? Care to humiliate me in front of the people I care about? Or have you finally decided to kill me and end it all? Eh, Councilman Roth?" she spat the name out. "What is it now?"

"We need your help Lithara."

Another harsh laugh greeted Darius' ears. He could not simply wait outside. Not anymore.

"Get out!" Roth said harshly to the dungeon master.

The little man scurried out of the cell as quickly as possible, bumping hard into Darius on his way. "Milord, I apologize! I should have been more careful—"

"It's alright, dungeon master. Please, be on your way."

The man fumbled and performed a badly executed bow before scurrying off once more. Silence met Darius' ears for the first time since he entered the dungeons.

"He is here," a feminine voice whispered softly.

"Yes, Lithara. He is here," Roth responded.

Darius froze. He knew he should walk into the room, the tiny stone cell in which she was imprisoned, but every instinct screamed for him to run as far away as possible. To shut the door and let her continue her life in the dank prison.

"Afraid of me still, Darius?"

Her voice was like a siren's spell, drawing him closer. Like a siren's spell, closer to inevitable hurt. Slowly, Darius walked into the cell and faced the woman. She was thinner now than he remembered, her long blonde hair was straggly and dirty. The voluptuous body once clad in only the finest silks and jewelry was much smaller—he could see the faint lines of her ribs under the dirty rags. Around her arms were two small golden coloured bracelets. Darius knew better. The inconspicuous bracelets were the only things which bound her to the cell, restricting her powers to the point where she was forced to survive on a purely human level. The proud, dangerous sorceress was no more.

"What is the matter, husband? Is my body no longer to your liking?"

Darius flinched.

"Be quiet, cursed woman! You relinquished the right to address him as such when you tried to take his life!" Roth roared.

Lithara smiled. It was a sickly smile. Sweet, yet cunning, and full of treachery. She looked like a cat, her green eyes regaining a little of their former sparkle, a cat ready to pounce. "I am the princess of Davenport, Councilman Roth. Or have you forgotten?"

"You are no more princess than I am king, Lithara."

The woman sneered. "But is that not your goal, Roth?"

The old man straightened and glared. "Davenport has no king. It is a principality. I exist only to serve its prince."

Lithara turned her eyes back to Darius. "Would you let this man address your wife in such a manner?"

Roth started, but stopped when she turned her glare back to him. "Do not deny it, Roth. I am Darius' wife, regardless of what you have told the people. Why else would he continue to wear his ring? Honour his vows? Rear our son?"

Darius snapped. "Solan is no longer your concern, Lithara."

"Ah, so he does yet speak. It is good to see that Roth has not become your tongue as well as your king."

"Roth is a councilman and I am yet its ruler, Lithara," he said quietly. "It was Roth's decision to seek your aid today. Not mine."

She raised an eyebrow in response, choosing not to say a word.

"The Renians are attacking again. They have captured our eastern ports and are in the process of scaling the walls. We are defenseless."

A peal of laughter met their ears, and Roth winced at the sound. Perhaps this was a poor idea after all.

"Poor Roth and Darius. The two men the good people of Davenport look up to. The two men they trust to save their measly lives." Lithara laughed again. "The two men they trust are begging help from the very woman they locked in a dungeon! Does the irony not strike you, Darius?"

"We need your help, Li," Darius said softly.

"You imprisoned me for my magicks and now you wish them to be subjugated to your service?" she asked incredulously.

"You were imprisoned for conspiracy, murder and attempted murder, Lithara. Or have you forgotten?" Roth said harshly.

"No, I have not forgotten. Unlike you, Roth, I possess a conscience."

Darius looked up at this. "Is that the same conscience that stayed your hand two years ago, Lithara?"

She sniffed. "I will drive back the Renian hordes. But I will not do it without something in return."

"We would not ask that of you, Li. Roth and I have already convinced the Council to grant you a full acquittal of your crimes. After the war you will be free. Your mother's lands and goods will be transferred into your possession again."

"I have no need of possessions, Dar. Give the estate to Solan," she paused, "you know what I want Darius Laen of Davenport. I want my son."

Roth made a strangled sound, but Darius cut him off. "You know that is impossible, Lithara. Solan is almost six, he does not remember you. To him, you are the woman that died alongside his grandfather. He is Davenport's heir. No, Lithara, what you ask is impossible."

"The years have treated you well," she remarked suddenly. "You look just as I remember you. Your hair is still that lovely black, no gray hairs like your father grew in his youth. Your eyes, Darius. It is your eyes that worry me. You are tired, worn out from this war—no, not just war Darius, life."

"The powers have not seen to grant me with an easy one," he responded simply.

Lithara laughed and turned slightly to face them both. "I will dispel the Renians. In exchange, I want my freedom and my mother's lands. I also want to be able to see me son grow up. I don't care how you do it. I will be a visiting noblewoman if that is what it takes. I will see him regularly."

"No. You will have your freedom and your lands, Solan is still my son. You will see him once you've been cleaned and dressed—and prove that I can trust you."

"I would not hurt my only child, Darius!"

"But you would kill your husband?"

Lithara glared. "I did not hurt you."

"Yes you did, Lithara. You hurt me more than you will ever know."

"I am truly sorry, Dar," she whispered softly.

"You will be able to see him once a month on days of my choosing and supervised by those of my choosing. I will always be present at these meetings. You are not to tell him who you are, we will find you a new identity. You will be allowed to remain at his private birthday banquets as well, but no other holidays."

Lithara flinched. "Am I to remain little more than a stranger to my own son?"

"It was you, Lithara, who decided that two years ago."

Roth cleared his throat, reminding the two that they were not alone.

"Leave us, Roth."

For once, the old advisor followed his liege's orders with no question. This was a matter in which only Darius could make decisions.

Darius looked at her once again. Her beauty has not faded—or perhaps it was simply how he viewed her. Filthy and shackled in a dungeon she still held herself with the pride and grace that had first attracted him to her one hot summer day.

Once Roth had left, Lithara looked and Darius and smiled softly. "Go ahead, Dar. Ask it."

"Why, Lithara? Why did you do it?"

Her smile turned sad. "He wanted me to kill you. He would have hurt Solan if I didn't kill you. So I killed him."

Darius looked at her in disgust. "Your years here have driven you mad."

"You asked it of me, Darius! I merely provided the answer. The answer you would never accept!"

"My father would never want me killed!" the prince roared.

"He hated you, Darius. Hated you far more than he hated the Renians. He would have preferred Roth rule until Solan came of age than have you succeed him."

"You speak foolishness, woman. How can a father hate his son and love his grandson?"

Tears flowed down Lithara's face. "Because he was not your father, and neither is Solan his grandson," she whispered.

The honesty in her eyes brought tears to her husband's eyes. "You have been driven mad. Cease this nonsense woman! I am the son of Exeter Laen and his wife, the Lady Selena."

"You speak truly. You are the son of the Lady Selena Laen, but not the offspring of her husband."

"Roth!"

"No! Darius, wait! Let me speak."

"Foolishness and lies, my prince. That is all this woman speaks! Listen to her not, we can find another way to dispel the Renians."

"You said this was the only way," Darius responded harshly.

"I may have erred," he councilman said quietly.

"As you do now," Lithara said angrily. "Listen to me Darius."

"Leave us, Roth."

"My prince—"

"Leave us!" Darius roared again. "I am Davenport's prince, you will obey my commands!"

"Yes, milord," Roth murmured, before turning and leaving.

"Lithara, please cease this insanity! There is no way you can be reintroduced to the court if you continue in this foolery."

"It is no foolery, you stubborn man! Why do you think Exeter ignored you? Hated you? Reviled you at court? Questioned every idea that came out of your mouth? Only had words of disgust at your achievements? Why, Darius? Why?!"

"My father loved me—"

"What father treats his son, thus?"

Darius swallowed hard. He could never treat his son the way his father treated—no, abused him.

"Why do you think you look naught like Exeter?"

"I received my mother's looks, people at court have always stated thus."

"And your eyes, Darius? From whom did you receive your gray eyes?"

At this, the prince had no answer. It was true, he knew. His eyes were a stormy gray while his parent's both had brown eyes.

"Where, Darius?"

"I—"

"You know the truth, Darius. Accept it! Exeter did not want someone not of his lineage on his throne!"

"Then why Solan? Why would he want the son of his wife's unfaithfulness on his throne? Your story does not follow through to the end. Like an amateur bard you have forgotten to connect your plots," Darius said coldly.

Lithara's sobs echoed off the stone walls, her tears running freely down her dirty cheek. It was all Darius could do to restrain himself from unchaining her and bringing her back to his side—where she belonged.

"You will hate me," she sobbed.

His restraint faltered. "I could never hate you Lithara, not even after what you had done."

Lithara looked up to meet his eyes, her own filled with agony and guilt. "Solan, is not your son," she whispered. "He is the son, the sole heir of Exeter Laen, former ruler of this principality—and the rightful prince of Davenport."

Darius reeled back. His hands flew away from her in disgust. "Lithara."

She reached out feebly to touch his cheek and he pulled away as if burned. It made sense. How else could his son, his beautiful son look so much like Exeter Laen when he himself was the son of another?

Pain.

That was all Darius felt. Pure pain, worse than anything he had ever felt before exploded in his chest. He covered his ears as if to stop the sound of her voice from reaching them, backing away until he hit the stone wall.

"Darius, believe me—it was not what I wanted. I loved you, I could not tell you!" Lithara screamed.

"You slept with my father, bore his son, and conspired against me—the hapless husband," Darius laughed hysterically.

"I loved you, Darius! Exeter—he forced me!"

"Am I to believe the word of a sorceress?" he asked coldly.

"Believe the word of your wife," she whispered.

Darius threw his head back and laughed. It was a terrible sound. The laugh of a tortured soul—pure anguish escaped him. "A wife," he stated flatly. "I have no wife."

The clang of iron bars and the grating of locks being put into place interrupted his next words. Lithara looked at the door in fear.

"It is as Exeter would want it," a voice came from beyond the cell doors.

"Roth?!" Darius queried, his voice a mixture of anger and surprise.

The councilman merely laughed, footsteps echoing to show that he was leaving them.

"He is right," Lithara whispered softly. "It is as Exeter would want it." She looked at Darius, her eyes pleading forgiveness as her haunting whisper was etched into his mind.

"We are locked in."


A/N: I've replaced the first chapter with this--it's the exact same with only one difference--Solan's age is now six as opposed to three.