Prologue

Finally, he had some time away from his encumbering role as king. Of course Marble City was busy, but for once it seemed to be getting on perfectly fine without him. Vertico wanted to spend time with his sons, Terbino had come of age two days earlier and Lokken was becoming a very intellectual young man. After a brief glance out the glassless window, king Vertico proceeded down the highly decorated limestone stairs towards the central hall.

The maids were as courteous as ever, giving the odd polite bow as they performed their usual duties. It was clear there were new recruits among their ranks expressed through their shy faces. He'd take some time later to settle their nerves, as he found that a happy staff is a much more productive one. His grandfather ruled using fear... He remembered one of his first lectures from his father... how the maids and kitchen staff would make constant mistakes due to their endless fear. Kindness is a hard thing to do sometimes, as strange as that seems, but the results it produces can be quite staggering... This is something he had learnt personally.

He gave a warm smile as two of the newer recruits slid past him shyly. They smiled in turn, though slightly forced; more nervous than anything real. The younger of the two had long luminescent red hair... a beautiful combination with her averted reflective blue eyes. Red Hair, sky blue eyes, smooth skin and even a nervous smile made his heart feel young again. She must be around Terbino's age he thought. He somewhat wondered whether his youngest son even looked at females in that way yet. His smile widened as they continued on their way; he was clearly getting a head of himself, Terbino was still a young lad. He may be considered to have come of age, yet... he has lived such a sheltered life. The worst thing to have befallen him was a scrapped knee and a bad cold. Vertico doubted whether Terbino would look at the opposite sex until some time into the future.

A warm surge of heat greeted the king as he strolled into the main hall. Flaming torches hung on their charred stone pillars. The walls, some distance from these well-crafted pillars, were red and black; the representative colours of Marble City dating back to his grandfather's father's rule. Red was a colour of intimidation and black was a shade of emptiness and distance to the Vertico. Such colours did not sit well with his personality and yet it was something of Castle's history and who was he to change that... well he was the king but the past should be preserved.

The king inspected the marble and gold encrusted staircase, which extravagantly consisted mainly of limestone with several gold nuggets engrained into the wooden rails; a reminder of the uninhibited rule of his great grandfather. At the base of the steps was head councillor Mylan. He was a chubby fellow who obviously abused his free food privileges, yet he was such a jolly and cheerful man. Vertico personally made sure the man rose to the head of the councillors as he was fair and merciful in the courts. The high councillor was only several years younger than him, so it also felt good to have another aged member of the court in the councillor's hall when proceedings of the week were called out.

Mylan was busy trying to interpret script written on a piece of sentinel parchment. His rounded face leant closer to it but his blank expression clearly told Vertico that the old timer was losing vision, at least his near-sighted vision. The high councillor let out a defeated sigh before looking up. A friendly smile grew quickly as he spotted his liege.

"Ah... How is my good king this afternoon?" he queried as he hobbled up a few steps.

"Free for once... I almost forgot what it felt like. How is the high councillor?" Vertico replied, maintaining his friendly smile. Mylan gave a semi-grim expression.

"Well alright I suppose. It is just this new calligrapher... Sweet young boy, but I swear to the greater good he's never touched a quill in his life. I've tried all morning to decipher his writing. It looks like a Hildurian Ogre's breakfast," he commented.

The king gave a half-smile, half a sympathetic expression. It was a weird look however Mylan missed it whilst resuming the staring competition with the parchment.

"You'll decide what's best Mylan, you always do my old friend. Now I best be off, I wish to spend some time with my boys," Vertico stated cheerfully. With a small chuckle brewing he quickly made his way to the other side of the hall. After a brief farewell, he heard Mylan's strained grumbles over the parchment as he walked away.

The king took his time as he moved from the hall and entered one of the many lengthy corridors Marble City Castle held. Several well-crafted portraits hung upon the walls to the left and right, contrasting well with the beige marble behind. There was also the odd torch here and there but not enough to maintain a steady flow of heat. While keeping his purposeful gait, the king came to a forty-five degree fork. He lost all expression for a small moment, while his eyes remained transfixed on the right passage. This direction led to the Hall of Kings, such a noble title, but this was the resting place for all of Marble City's previous kings, all one hundred and sixteen of them... And one day he would join them, it was a bizarre feeling. He'd join his father once again.

His small session of daydreaming was interrupted as two broad men passed, one was fully dressed in a guard's uniformed armour and the other was his advisor and old battle companion.

"Dreaming in the middle of the hallway again my king?" the advisor said with a cheeky smile. "You're getting old." Vertico couldn't help but smile back.

"I'm only as old as I feel Elsen... And if I'm counting right you're more than twice my age," he replied smugly. The advisor named Elsen nodded grudgingly with a genuine smile. This was no normal man. He looked barely over thirty, yet was roughly one hundred and thirty years of age and at one stage was Marble City's finest general until Vertico asked him to be his personal advisor.

"So what brings you to the middle of this corridor my king? I would've thought you'd be in the councillor's hall listening to Duglio's attempts to rise up in ranks," Elsen questioned. Vertico looked down the right passage one last time before replying.

"Mylan has left Curdler in charge of that meeting, and that leaves me time for my boys," he answered.

The patrol guard was standing at attention the whole time the older veterans chatted. Elsen gave him a gesture of freedom. Quickly, yet unobtrusively the guard slipped away from the two.

"Terbino's just finished his practise for today, learns quickly that boy. He'll make a good king someday," the advisor commented gleefully. The king's eyes narrowed quickly.

"You know as well as I do that right is for Lokken... He is the oldest," he said in an authority-filled voice. He knew all-to-well that his tone would play no effect on Elsen. That man could wrestle with an ogre or troll and come out on top.

"I think I'll need to give you some of my 'advice' on that one Vertico. I do not wish to upset my king, but you must realise some things about Lokken... Anyway I've revised some patrol routes, I best explain them to the guards starting their duties. Terbino was heading to the yard with the archer girl… urm Mylan's Daughter, last time I saw."

Elsen nodded his head in farewell as he continued to stroll in the opposite direction to his king. What he had said put a twinge in the back of Vertico's mind. There was a secret about Lokken that he planned to take to the grave with him. In actual fact, Terbino was the one with the right to the throne but... it doesn't matter, the past is the past, Vertico convinced himself as he walked onwards.

He knew his way well around the castle, even more so when it came to the cunning secret passageways, something he'd have to tell his sons about one day. Eventually he emerged from the flame-lit corridors into beautiful unfiltered sunlight. He could not help but squint and shelter his eyes from the sun's intense glare. The air was fresh with nature and pollen, which brought back memories of his younger days when there was war with the ogre tribes, the wilderness smell.

He felt the squelch of fresh grass under his royal blue boots. It truly was a good day. He temporarily forgot what Elsen had said as he strode forward examining the surrounding courtyard walls which were looking rather worn. The patrolling guards emerged from random trap doors dispersed on top of these walls. Even from where he was standing, he could see their expressionless faces. It would be such a tough draining job to look so emotionless while on duty, though Vertico could sympathise as he'd have to act similarly when performing deliberations in the councillor's hall. Without dwelling on it further he moved in the direction of the hedge maze. There were several benches and pretty trees within and it was likely Terbino and the archery girl Mary were there. Mary was an attractive girl, odd though, not at all feminine. She liked most male hobbies and activities, that was likely the reason his youngest son became such close friends with her. She was similar in personality to her father Mylan, but far more independent.

The outside of the hedge maze was well trimmed, the odd inner twigs stuck out here and there but generally it looked well maintained. It took up a vast area within the two marble and rock walls to its sides, and reminded him slightly of the city's much larger labyrinth far to the south. He, once again, pushed the thought from his mind and continued towards the less-feared hedge maze.

As he approached, he heard laughing and sniggering. The louder masculine one was likely to be Terbino. He had developed into quite a burly steady person and with it his voice deepened. The main question that grew within Vertico's mind was, why they were laughing in such a... flirtatious way. He had never imagined those two more than friends. Terbino was still young at heart. He'd not look at girls in that way till many years... would he?

Curious, yet slightly worried, Vertico marched into the entrance of the tall hedge maze. It truly was a beautiful creation though it was one of the dew places Vertico knew little about the history. It was around before he was born and has always been treated by the royal gardeners. As he walked forward the laughter stopped abruptly. Could they have heard him already? He took several more corners and routes to try get closer to where he thought Terbino was. It took him very little time to realise he was now utterly lost, a sigh escaped his lips as he looked at the surrounding walls made of pruned leaves. He decided to retrace his steps to find that elusive son of his. Unfortunately that resulted in another dead end. He had to admit that the architecture of this magnificent maze was flawless. Everywhere looked identical. It took him a further five minutes to discover he was repeating the same circle route. After many more attempts to retrace his steps, he discovered a small central opening. Benches lined the periphery of the area and there were two exits, the one he was standing at... and another several metres to his left. He walked forward smiling, as sitting on the ground and on one of the benches was Terbino and his usual gang of friends. Mary was sitting next to him on the bench. Councillor Duglio's little brother was also there gnawing on a piece of Lorn meat. He sat content on the ground while the rest chatted away. Several other councillor's daughters and sons were here.

There were Councillor Curdler's twins lying on their backs staring happily up at the sky, gossiping about something that had recently happened in sword class. The twins weren't identical. One was a boy, the other a girl. They were still fifteen years old and hadn't actually been considered of age. The final youngster among them was a maiden's daughter. The girl was much younger than the rest but seemed perfectly fine fitting in.

Mary and Terbino were the first to notice the new comer. The rest looked around and quickly sat up as if their literature teacher was present. Duglio's brother was so surprised at the king's unexpected arrival he threw the Lorn meat into the plant wall behind him.

"Father," Terbino said standing up. He paused for a bit thinking of something else to say.

"Son," Vertico replied with a smile. "I do hope I am not interrupting anything..." Terbino shook his head with a smile still present.

"Of course not, did you have need of me?" he queried with expecting eyes. The king noticed Mary shuffle slightly away from Terbino's side. She obviously did not want the king of Marble City to think she was attracted to the prince.

"I was hoping I could have a word with you Terbino... nothing serious," Vertico replied.

Duglio's brother stared up to Vertico with awe-filled eyes, it was as if he were beside the greater good itself. The twins were calm and relaxed, smiling politely yet didn't seem too effected by Vertico's presence. Mary was slightly tensed up, but that was just because she was previously resting against Terbino's side and she didn't want to make the wrong impression. Terbino looked around at his friends and waved.

"I'll be back in a minute. Hendrick, don't steal my seat!" he ordered in a comical manner. The male twin gave a gesture Vertico was not familiar with. Terbino smirked then followed his father out of the opening.

When they were some distance from the young congregation of companions, Vertico could hear them laughing and chatting again.

"You know I think you better lead. I wouldn't have a clue where to go from here," he commented with an exasperated baffled expression. The young prince smiled and happily took charge, and within a minute they were out on the soft courtyard grass. Resting beneath one of the limestone walls of the courtyard was a small cosy bench. Vertico gestured to Terbino to follow him to it.

Once seated, Vertico let out a cheerful sigh. It felt good to be relaxing for once. The bench was wooden yet reasonably comfortable. It was likely his snug noble robes that kept his bottom nicely padded.

"I have some time off from the city's affairs so I thought I'd see how things are progressing for you," he explained. Terbino raised his head a bit.

"Progressing in what father?" the boy replied softly.

"Oh, I mean I just wanted to see how you were doing. It must be nearly a month since I've had a proper talk to you and Lok," Vertico answered. "How is sword class? Can you beat your old man yet?" Terbino looked smug for a second.

"Top of my class... I think I may finally know a way around your famous 'Hilt guard'," he replied happily.

"Well let's go to the arena then my boy," Vertico suggested, rising with effort. The prince nodded his head in enthusiastic agreement.

They walked across the courtyard and through several guarded gates. While strolling to the arena they passed the old barracks where the armoury and blacksmith were once located. Both of them knew the old arena keeper had blunted swords with him, some of them very well crafted. This was the location where severe law-breaking convicts once fought to death to gain freedom. Since Vertico's father's rule, the practise had stopped. The king and prince talked about a great many things as they neared the arena, girls... wives... battles... history, and such. Vertico was surprised to hear that Terbino was starting to look at girls a bit more. Terbino was telling him of a 'goddess-like' girl who was the daughter of one of the veteran guards, describing her with such passion and lust. Fine blonde hair; smooth skin; extraordinary figure... And so on.

It was a short walk from the old barracks to the arena, about the same length as a typical battle line. Sure enough as they approached, the old arena keeper marched out flailing his withered fist.

"King Vertico! I am thoroughly disappointed in you. You should not be out here by yourself. Where are your bodyguards?" the keeper yelled angrily. The king rolled his eyes. This man was incredibly aged and frail yet he had the opinions of a conquesting Torkilian.

"My son will be my bodyguard today," Vertico answered with a wink. This made the lad puff up slightly in a proud way.

"That may be very well and good, but I tell you there are malicious things in this world and I promise to the greater good they'll be more than happy to remove you from the physical plain," the keeper grumbled. "Well I suppose it's up to me to make sure you're safe. Your father would be rolling around in his grave."

The way this old gentleman went on was quite baffling. He was about twenty years older than the aged Vertico... that made it even more unbelievable that he was even standing upright.

"I think granddad would be rolling around in laughter if anything," Terbino whispered up-close to his father's ear. The king smirked and nodded in agreement.

"Very well Ian. You may be my bodyguard for the time being," he conceded as if giving him a great honour.

"You may be king, Vertico, but I am still Keeper Ianolus to you! Now, why are you here?" the elderly gent barked in a disgruntled fashion.

It was clear that Terbino was finding this man quite rude... And to act in such a manner to a king seemed unspeakable. Vertico smiled and walked forward.

"My son and I wish to practise in your Arena," he said calmly.

"Do you now? Well you won't be using those sharp things in your belts. I won't be responsible for the death of the king or the prince. I'll get some of my duelling blades," Ianolus grumbled before whipping around and marching into a small hut located on the periphery of the Arena.

The two nobles strode into the middle of the sandy area. The king was quick to disrobe leaving him in his under garments. Terbino was not wearing the usual royal robes; instead he had on casual higher class garments that were unlikely to restrict his movement. The king was quite bulky for a man of his nobility and even more so for a man of his age. Usually time would weather away muscle tone but it seemed he was lucky enough to escape that process.

"It will be interesting to see how the sword moves have changed since I was classed," he commented happily.

Ianolus soon emerged holding a rusty sharp axe and two duelling swords. He limped over to the two royal men.

"If I see any stupid moves... I'll take these off you in a second," he warned.

"What's the axe for Ian?" Vertico questioned with genuine interest. Ian's eyes narrowed.

"My name is Ianolus, Vertico. And this axe... it's to make sure you two stay safe from any possible assassination attempts," he replied gruffly. The king gave a small chuckle but quickly converted it into a cough.

Both royal men simultaneously grabbed their weapons and inspected them. The edges were spurred and several millimetres thick, it would be incredibly hard to cut anything with them. The points were rounded off to the shape of a typical gold coin. With the force of two trolls it might be possible to skewer a sack of grain but otherwise these weapons could only cause bruises.

"Alright you young'ens. Anything above the neck will result in an instant disqualification. I want to see some good skill now. Fight!" Ianolus yelled with a sudden burst of cheerfulness.

The two quickly began circling. Foot work was the most important asset in any form of fighting and both their stances formed an 'L' shape, which was a sturdy yet manoeuvrable position. Terbino twirled the sword around. He faked an attacked to Vertico's torso then quickly whipped it down towards the king's shins. Vertico remained quite still. The only action he took was to raise his leg just in time so Terbino's blade whistled harmlessly past. Allowing gravity to take its toll, Vertico guided his blade towards Terbino's masculine right shoulder which the prince barely escaped by shrinking to the left. Vertico noted that Terbino's footwork was very good, his entire body shifted to the left making his left leg the leading one. This made his unequipped left hand the leading one as well.

Many inexperienced fighters would think an empty hand had little use in combat... but it is more likely to be a better asset than the sword. Terbino kept his left hand out front as if using it to predict possible future strikes, and Vertico had limited attacks at this point. There was the choice of a corkscrew strike, or an upper thigh slash, or he could change his stance to mimic his son's then he could grab Terbino's left arm and use it to manipulate against upper body attacks. The prince was on the defensive position at this time, his sword in line with his body instead of in front. This was a dangerous place to be if he wasn't quick enough to glance away possible thrusts... Although if he did pull it off he could monkey-grip his father's sword and there was nothing his father could do then.

Once again the royals' blades clashed. Vertico faked a corkscrew strike to the centre of Terbino's chest and his son took the bait and attempted to shunt the blade away. At the same time the king stepped forward, then at the last second Vertico dipped the sword and pulled it over for a slash across Terbino's clearly open chest. Something Vertico did not count on was Terbino's free hand, which his son used to grab the incoming sword's hilt leaving Terbino's blade the only one free for attack. To make a strike it would require the prince to either make a long twirl which would allow Vertico time to recover, or he could cross over his arms which was a move strictly forbidden in sword class, but it would provide the perfect thrust into the king's stomach.

Terbino made his decision quickly. He crossed over his arms and proceeded to push the point towards his father's exposed stomach. Vertico knew exactly what Terbino would do before his son did, and he had set up a trap for just the occasion. Crossing over your hands for the quick kill looks good but there is a reason why the experienced fighters don't do it. Vertico had his leg and knee out ready. As Terbino brought the point downwards, Vertico stepped to the left using only his left leg, then with all of his might threw the prince over his outstretched right leg. With physics and speed on his side, the young prince awkwardly rolled over the leg and landed with a thump on the sandy arena. In a semi-gloating way the king tapped Terbino's neck with the blade.

The fight was relatively quick and there was no pain involved. Vertico sent a hand out for his son to grab, and Terbino took it while Ianolus was roaring with applause.

"I see you still have it Vertico," he shouted some distance back. The king gave a wave of thanks then pulled his son from the ground.

"You crossed your hands Terb," he stated.

"Yeah, I know," the prince replied looking slightly disappointed.

"It is very easy to manipulate an opponent when they cross themselves up. In that fight you defeated you. I was but a catalyst," Vertico continued. "Care for another round?" he asked in a hopeful tone. Terbino nodded with a smile.

"Always keen to spend quality time with you father," he replied with a smile.

Again they readied themselves into the correct battle position and distance. Each following fight did not take long. Terbino would get steadily closer to winning, however Vertico, with many years of practise and training, was always one step ahead of him. He was the best combatant in Marble City after all... well actually second. Elsen was by far the most extraordinary fighter in these parts. After the fifteenth battle, Terbino puffed out a retreat. He was a very fit boy but he had never been in a real battle before. Vertico had his fair share in Shining Forest against the Ogres, who were immensely strong, brutal and merciless. The only upside was he was far more agile as strength meant nothing if it was manipulated against its wielder. The royal sword fighting classes he was given were absolutely crucial to his success in the field and the number one rule he had learned for battles with multiple foes was: 'let your opponent make the first strike.'

There were several reasons for this. There was the possibility his opponent was not hostile but instead defensive. That could avoid combat all together and lead to peaceful negotiations. The second reason was by looking at your opponents strike you can judge much about their style of fighting. A skilled ogre chief would fake a majority of strikes before directing a truly devastating blow somewhere critical to life. The grunts of the ogre tribes would just attack haphazardly... they were easy kills. A slash across the leg would render them defeated in seconds. Another reason for waiting was the chance to regain your breath; as if you have just fought twenty opponents and emerged victorious, it is likely you'd need a quick break before your twenty-first.

Vertico smiled as he walked to the arena walls. He leant against them with a sigh of relief. Ianolus collected his swords and shuffled back to his cabin.

"You fight well my boy. Only thing is you are too keen to get into it. I can assure you in a real fight the opposite feeling will occur, although you use your legs well. There were many times you could throw me, but that is something you'll learn in time," Vertico said quietly. Terbino nodded in agreement whilst puffing.

The sun was between the horizon and the middle of the sky. It was nearing nightfall, and Vertico let out one last sigh before pushing off the wall and collecting his sandy robes.

"I'd better head off to see Lok. And no doubt you want to get back to your friends," he stated while walking towards the exit gate, and Terbino nodded. Vertico gave Ianolus a final farewell before continuing up the path with his son.

The castle looked magnificent with the fading sun in the background. It was truly a marvel of Sendurius Region. It was difficult to imagine that this place was once forest like its surroundings... It seemed so aged and had an ancient feel about it. He smiled as he watched Terbino run off to catch up with his friends. His son was a good boy and truly just and righteous. If only he were born before Lokken... But now he was going spend time with his first son. The castle winded closer as the king strolled up the pathway... songs soared out from birds as they nested for the night. It felt amazing being free for but one day. This day he would remember and cherish.

The corridors within the castle zigzagged in all directions, but Vertico navigated them well. He knew every nook and cranny of his ancient home, every secret, every passageway. It felt good walking the corridors with his sense of direction. It was home and he knew exactly which path he'd take to get to his son. Flames from many-more torches were lit early by servants... They lined the walls below the heightened windows which grew dim as the sun outside faded behind the western forest trees. Long thick blankets were rolled down to cover the glass-less windows. Heat at night was a luxurious thing, just for Marble city castle workers.

His walk took some time, as Lokken had chosen a room far from the busy day lifestyle that remained fairly constant near the centre of the castle. Vertico did not mind the walk however. It was nice strolling and reminiscing. Encountering another person along the corridors became far more infrequent compared to the morning. Few maids stayed during the night, guards were always prevalent but they had specific duty routes. Councillors and distant relatives were usually with their families either in castle rooms or high-classed homes in the residential area of the city. Then again he was rarely wandering at this time; his duties took the best part of the day and night, usually leaving him exhausted.

Eventually the corridors opened to a small groomed courtyard. The grass was trimmed short, without a single flower present. A lone path traversed the middle of the courtyard leading to a rather gloomy doorway. The entire courtyard looked relatively dark at this time, with the walls surrounding the small courtyard blocking the sinking sun, casting a dull shadow over the area. Vertico continued forward toward a lone guard that stood at attention in front of the chamber door ahead. His spear moved vertically, allowing Vertico passage.

"Evening my king," he greeted with an expressionless face.

"And to you, Quill. I trust my son is home?" Vertico queried.

"That he is, hasn't left all day."

"I see, thank you. I wish to speak with him now, and I may be a while so you have a good night if I don't see you when I come out."

"I will, you as well my king," the guard named Quill replied with a stiff but courteous bow.

With that, Vertico walked forward and knocked on Lokken's door. The reply was fairly instant.

"Who is it and what do you want?" The tone sounded tired as well as grumpy.

"Your father and I've come to see you," he answered turning the handle of the door slightly. There was a frantic movement inside and within seconds the door was opened. Lokken smiled brightly as he opened the door.

"Father! What brings you to see me?" the boy asked with genuine happiness. Vertico smiled in reply.

"Must there be a reason my son?" he answered.

"No... Of course not. Come in."

Vertico strolled into the chamber as Lokken gestured to come in. The room was not well-lit. Several small candles lit up a dreary desk on the far wall. Jars containing odd things within lined the shelves hanging off the walls. Scrawled parchment and several empty bottles of ink were scattered here and there. The royal bed was made-up and had seemed unused for some time. To the right of the room stood an excessively large bookshelf being home to numerous black-covered books, tomes and scrolls, overall a rather dim and depressing room, especially in Vertico's mind.

Lokken hurried over to a dust-covered seat and pulled it out. He gestured to it in an attempt to please his father. The king smiled and graciously accepted it.

"What have you been up to these days Lok?" he queried, slightly curious to the odd collections of vials and jars.

"Oh, some very powerful stuff father, you wouldn't believe some of the secrets hidden in magic," Lokken started before turning on the spot. An adventurous cockroach scampered across one of the blackened desks. Vertico traced it with his eyes. It was odd that this place looked so dirty and unmaintained. Lokken was always a clean-freak, not to mention the maids were paid to clean every room.

Lokken spotted the lone cockroach which had paused briefly to allow its antennae to inspect a piece of coiled up parchment.

"Watch this father," he said quickly. Vertico watched intently as his son pointed his finger at the small creature. After muttering something under his breath, a very thin crack of reddened lightning struck outwards instantly singeing the minute animal. The king released a small gasp but maintained his composure. He certainly did not approve of black magic... but then again he had been saved by black magic in the past. Elsen bore some skill in that department.

"I... uh... wow Lok. That was... neat," he stated, obviously startled.

"Wait, wait, wait. You haven't seen the best bit yet," Lokken cooed with happiness. He walked over to the bug and then hovered his hand above it. With almost hypnotising pulsing movement of his fingers, he muttered more words under his breath. The charred creature twitched slightly. As Lokken's chants grew louder, the insect regained its colour. Within seconds it seemed normal again. It gave a shake of its abdomen before hurriedly scampering out of sight.

This time Vertico could not maintain his composure. He was obviously worried and this was given in clear sight of his son. That spell was resurrection – a form of necromancy which was a truly dark form of magic. Some of the deepest dark magics only dominant in evil places of Gaulatraus region, far to the west, were prevalent in that type of spell. Vertico tried not show his mild fear but Lokken had spotted it, he looked significantly disappointed.

"Don't worry father, it's safe. I would never abuse these spells. I've been taking lessons from Master Maurus to make sure they don't get out of hand," his son quickly explained. Vertico paused.

"Did he teach you that spell?" he asked with eyes narrowing. Lokken looked worried himself now.

"Uh... no. I found it on an old piece of parchment. It's been hidden in the library for a while now," he answered staring at his feet.

The king gave a small sigh. He felt slightly sickened but did not want to show it, he always wished to show an interest in both his sons' lives. It was just disturbing that Lokken had taken a fancy to the dark magic of all things. He remembered when Lokken was first interested in magics, one of the first spells he conducted was a light spell of healing. On the better side of magics but as long as Lokken did not abuse his skill, then... he supposed there was no harm.

"I am very impressed son," the king lied. "I haven't seen such... skill in some time," he continued. "Maybe you should get some extra teaching from Elsen? He knows his magic well," he finalised. Lokken gave a wavering smile but his posture rose a bit.

"Yeah... maybe," he replied still unsure.

Lokken did not show his father any more spells during that visit, the look of fear on Vertico's face had obviously struck a nerve, but for the remainder of the time that Vertico stayed with his son, they talked, ate dinner, and discussed future matters, Lokken showing particular interest in the day-to-day affairs of being a king. Perhaps showing a bit too much interest at that stage of his life... but Vertico ignored this. He enjoyed spending time with his son, the non-darker side of him.

Eventually later that evening, he decided sleep would be a good idea. The following weeks would likely be busy again. It saddened him that he may not have quality time with his sons for a fair while, but one thought picked him up again. His sons were good people, maybe misguided or growing up too fast, but they were decent. He had done a good job somewhere down the line. He gave an unobtrusive smile, things were going to be alright.