Chapter 1

I could only let out a sigh as I leaned against the window in my bed chambers. The sun's light passed through the window and hit my body, touching black, and my tan skin. My mind drifted as my hazel eyes stared at three rings that made up Idris' capital of Castella.

The buildings within the Outer Ring were small, yet housed many of the poor and lower classes. Their homes were in terrible condition, made from mud bricks that suffered damage from rain and hail. Crime was well known to happen, as many people were murdered, raped, or mugged of their belongings, so others could make a living.

As for the Mid Ring, the merchants and scholars lived in houses of better quality, made from bricks of cement. There were a few schools to give their children enough education to become like their parents. Still, they were not completely safe from the threat of poverty as merchants had been known to lose their business, and some schools have lost funding due to ridiculous taxes.

Then, there is Central Ring, where nobles and the royal reside in, including myself and my family that made up the noble House of Kronal. Here were lived in luxury, housed by large mansions protected by the king's guards. The homes of the nobles surrounded the large palace of the Lindrans. The streets were cleaned by the servants of each house. Still, there were a few beggars hanging around the small corners of the Central Ring.

"Taral!" a familiar feminine voice called out to me from the halls of my family's home.

I turned head around from the window towards the door, catching a glimpse of the red mattress of my bed. I saw the wooden door swing open, revealing a woman in her fifties, whose skin tone was the same as mine, but her long hair was dark brown, not black. I did get her hazel eyes, but not her sense of fashion for she wore a bright green dress with golden threads on the sleeves and skirt. Despite how annoying she could be, I had to live with the fact that she was my mother.

"Taral, we need to hurry!" my mother chastised as she rushed into my room. "The party will start soon!"

I tried my best not to roll my eyes, remembering what this part was exactly. The king was promoting my oldest brother, Bale, to the position of royal guard. Since it was supposed to be a momentous occasion, the king was going to throw a party to honor my brother.

Parties were a common thing with the king. So common in fact, that it became quite ridiculous. He even threw a party for his pet cat, one time! Still, there was nothing I could do except go for the party, since my family and I were the guests of honor to this particular event.

"Yes mother," I said in a restrained voice as I headed towards the door.

However, my mother got in front of me, blocking by exit. "Wait!" she told me in her motherly tone. "You're not going dressed like that!"

I looked down at myself to see what my mother was talking about. I wore a simple green shirt and black pants with a white sash around my waist. Knowing my mother, she cared about my brothers and I wearing the best clothes at all times to show off to the other nobles.

Raising my head back to my mother, I told her, "Alright, I will wear something else."

With that said, I turned around to get some fresh clothes, while my mother finally left my chambers.

I found myself standing at the front iron gates of the Lindran royal palace, placed within the center of Castella. The green shirt and black pants was replaced with my family colors of the dark red shirt and white pants. Placed over it was a black robe with red threads on the edges. My black, leather shoes touched the red carpet that was laid out on top of the streets made from white stone.

My eyes traveled from the red carpet up to the royal palace of the Lindran family. The palace was ten times large than my family's mansion, its brick walls covered a red color and stained-glass windows placed on the top. The roof top was slanted, allowing any rain water to slide down into the small pipes that were placed on the edges of the roof.

"Come on Taral, we don't have all day!" a voice called out to me.

I recognized the roughness mixed with the typical noble arrogance, and I turned to see the owner of the voice was none other than the head of my family's house, my own father.

My father was a heavy man, his belly twice the size of a normal man, and his skin flabby and soft. His face was pale from not being out in the sun, and spending most of his time eating all the food. His black hair ran down to his neck, yet no one could see the bald spot on his scalpel with the red hat on top of it. His fur robes had the same colors as mine, covering the dark red pants and shirt that had white threads on the edges.

His lips were large, containing the great void known as his mouth that loved to brag and brag to other nobles. It was a trait that made me wish I was deaf so I would not hear his arrogant voice at all, but there was nothing I could do to of my father's behavior.

I prevented myself from releasing a sigh as I looked at his green eyes. "Yes, father," I told him.

Quick on my feet, I walked over to my father's side, and I saw mother standing with him. When I arrived, all three of us walked inside of the palace, passing through the long halls that constituted most of the palace as my parents quietly chattered amongst themselves. As they talked, my eyes took a look at the palace.

It had been only a few weeks since I last been to the palace, and I could tell the difference from then and now. The tanned-brick halls were complete covered by flowers and red cloth, save for the glass-stained windows. The servants of the royal family stood patiently on the sides of hall, man, woman, and child meant to bow to us when we passed by. The walk would come to an end as we approached the entrance to the throne room.

The large, wooden doors were watched by two men who wore the uniforms of the royal guard, comprised of a golden helmet and armor that covered their entire upper bodies. The guards were equipped with a shield in one hand, a spear in the other, and a sword sheathed at their left hip. We passed by them to find ourselves in the throne room of the royal palace.

It was not the first time I stepped into the throne room. I had been in here before, attending multiple parties and festivals thrown in honor of whoever the king liked. This case was no different.

The arched ceiling was supported by the naves and columns that were added into the palace a century ago. The throne room was large, capable of holding up to a hundred people, at most. There was a glass stained window on either side, allowing ray of light to beam on the noble families invited to the ceremony. Flowers and long red sheets were placed on the green-colored bricks that constituted the walls of the room. On the far end was the ivory throne of the king, placed right in front of a barred window.

Among the families were the Houses of Nuran, Enad, and Roth, each and every one of them as arrogant and aristocratic as they came. They simply mingled with one another on the sides of the room. They did their best not to step on the red, long carpet that stretched from the entrance to the empty throne. They did so not incur the anger of their king.

From amongst the crowd, I saw a familiar person walking towards my parents and I. It my older brother, Bale, the same man who the king was throwing this party for. He was a young man, almost a decade older than me. His black beard was clean and his hair was combed. Bale had father's gray eyes, and even his old sword, which he carried at his hip. He wore the golden armor of the royal guard, accompanied by a white cape hanging from his shoulders.

Ever since I could remember, I saw Bale as the arrogant type. He loved to poke fun at me, and he was well known for flirting with the beautiful woman of the other noble families.

Despite my thoughts about him, Bale was an excellent swordsman. Father trained him for him, making sure his eldest son honed his skills into perfection. It worked and it gained the attention of the king, who appointed Bale as a member of his royal guard, and now he going to become captain of the guard, hence the party the king was throwing.

"Father, mother!" he greeted my parents first as he hugged my mother. "So good you're here!"

"We would not miss this for the world, my boy," father let out a laugh at Bale. "It's not every day that one's son is appointed the captain of the king's guard!"

I did my best to not roll my eyes. Father would always prefer him simply because Bale wanted to fight with a sword, just like he did. I was more of a scholar than a soldier, personally, and father did not like that.

Then, Bale turned to me with his cocky smile on his face. "And how are things for you, little brother? Have you found a girl yet?" That last question was spoken in a mocking tone.

If we were not in front of so many people, I would have whacked Bale over the head. I was sick and tired of his prideful attitude, even when he spoke. In many ways, he seemed to be a copy of father, always wasting money on useless things. His tone was even the same as father's, filled with the same arrogance and vanity.

However, I just smiled and said, "I'm fine."

"That's nice," Bale spoke before he ignored me and faced our parents. "And what of Akel?"

Father's face turned into disapproval when he heard the name of my other brother. Fortunately, it was mother who spoke for him. "I'm afraid he could not come," she replied. "He said he was busy with his studies."

I knew what they were talking about. Akel, the second son of the Kronal family, has been in another part of the city, attending to a university that taught magic. He was well skilled, but it did not seem fit in our father's eyes, for he wanted his sons to be soldiers.

It did not seem to bother Bale as he commented, "I see. It's a shame he will be missing the ceremony."

Before anymore words could be exchange, the chatter between me and my family-along with the chatter between the other guests-died down at the sound of a horn. We all turned to see the one who blew the horn was a royal servant, dressed in the same uniform I had seen on the other servants. After the servant finished, he lowered the horn from his lips and announced only three words: "The king approaches!"

Everyone was dead silent as the servant once again played his horn, accompanied by a few more horns as the king entered the chamber through a side entrance. Footsteps echoed through the throne room and all eyes fell upon the current king of Idris, Jaq IX.

His brown hair was growing gray on the sides as well as his beard. The king's blue eyes stared at his guests momentarily before he drank his wine from the golden glass in his hand. His build was that much of my father's; fat with pudgy arms and legs, and a plushy face that could match a babe's. His robes were made from the finest hides of animals, placed over his dark brown shirt and pants.

My eyes quickly left his face and fell upon the crown placed on his head. It was a black crown with a red gem placed in the center and a blue gem placed on either side. I recognized it immediately for the crown was the sign of the king, made by the first Lindran king two centuries ago. It was sign of power that united the rule of the people: the Ebon Crown.

I saw the crown many times before. The first time was ten years ago, a child of twelve, and I wanted to hold in my hands. My parents would not allow me, and ever since then, I had been curious about it. It was just an object, not worth anything-except for those who were willing to sell it at a high price. Yet, I wondered how such a crown could give one so much power.

My mind returned back to reality as I saw King Jaq now standing in front of his throne, his back straight and a hand holding onto the furs of his robe. His eyes were focused on the other noble families standing at the sides. "My friends, today is a momentous occasion," he began, his voice echoing throughout the throne room. "For today, the oldest son of the Kronals, the most loyal nobles to my family, will be becoming the captain of my Royal Guard!"

The king's eyes left his audience and came upon my older brother. "Bale Kronal, step forward," he commanded.

I could see my parents grinning at the call of their oldest son's name as Bale turned to me and gave me a smug grin. "Try to not be too jealous," he told me.

I did my best to not roll my eyes at my oldest brother, who turned to face the king of Idris, his back straight and any pride on his face had been replaced with a mask of humility. The metal boots clanked against the floor echoed as he slowed marched towards King Jaq, like stopping short at the bottom of the staircase that led up to the throne. Bale lowered himself onto one knee and his head raised towards the king, his eyes focused on the one he would be serving.

King Jaq slowly walked down the staircase and stopped at the lowest step so his shadow fell over Bale. He reached his right hand to his hip and I could see the black handle of his sword sticking out from long robe as King Jaq unsheathed his sword.

The king rested the flat-end of his blade on Bale's right shoulder, then his left. "By the power bestowed upon me by my ancestor, King Lungrad, I, King Jaq, hereby appoint you, Bale of the Kronal family, as Captain of the King's Royal Guard!" King Jaq X announced. Removing the sword from Bale's shoulder, the king raised his free hand. "Rise, Captain Bale."

As my oldest brother rose from his knee, the entire room was filled with applause from the other noble families. It had only been a few seconds until my own parents claps joined in and a moment later, my hands were clapping as well. However, my claps were not as enthusiastic as everyone else's.

I watched as Bale stared at his prideful eyes at the crowd, spiraling from the edge towards his parents and I. A humble smile appeared on his face, but it was as fake as my enthusiasm for the ceremony. He now had more reason to brag and his position would no doubt go to his head.

No else cared about that, and neither the king as he sheathed his sword and spread out his arms in welcome. "Let the feast begin!"

What happened next was an entire two hours of dullness and boredom as my parents and Bale started to mingle with the other nobles. Their discussions were usually the same: business, wealth, and their families. I could hear the nobles giving snobby remarks in regards with the status of the lower classes that lived within the city.

I decided to stay away from the crowded throne room and waited outside, in the hallway. I felt uneasy amongst the nobles and the stuffy atmosphere of the throne room made things more unsettling. The royal guards remained at their stations, keeping their eyes peeled for any possible threat to the king's guests, but they did nothing to me.

The golden cup was held tightly in my hand as I slowly treaded through the halls, my eyes focused on the red-colored wine in it. The wine had been brewed by the king's servants and it was said to be the most delicate of drinks in all the land. However, I tasted the wine before and it made me feel sick to my stomach. I only took one cup of it just now to please my parents and the royal host of the party. Fortunately, I did not need to drink as I left the throne room soon afterwards.

My footsteps slowed down near one of the windows as my eyes caught noticed of a small event occurring at the gates of the Lindran royal palace. I could see a single man covered in rags being beaten by the king's royal guards with the poles of their spears. I was far up from the ground, yet I could only imagine the screams of pain coming from the poor man.

For years, I often wondered why people were so poor. "What made them people this way?" I constantly asked. Both my parents told me it was because some people did not deserve to have any wealth. However, the more I saw the poor, the more I started to disagree with my parents on that.

It was only a matter of time until I noticed it was because of the Lindran royal families and other nobles, including my own family, exploited the people in exchange of protecting of them. I had seen it through the taxes that the people were made to pay. I visited the dungeons filled with people who could not afford to pay their debts to the king. Most were poor husbands and wives, trying to feed their children.

My thoughts were cut off when I felt the pointed end of an elbow bump into my back, almost making me spill the wine in my cup. I turned around to see the elbow belonged to one of the king's servants, young boy with red hair and blue eyes. In one hand was a plate meant to serve cups of wine to the guests. "I'm sorry, my lord," the servant quickly bowed his head low in apology.

I simply waved off the apology. "It is no trouble," I assured him. "There is no need to apologize."

A look of surprise appeared on the boy's face. "V-very well, my lord," he said.

The boy walked away, and I felt my lips turn into a small smile as the servant left on his merry way. However, I noticed my belt felt empty for some reason and looking down, I noticed the large belt around my waist. My eyes widen as I remembered I previously left a small bag of coins, as my father had instructed. That same bag was gone!

"Is everything alright, my lord?" I heard.

I raised my head from my belt to see one of the king's royal guards approach me. His eyes shown he took notice of the fear and surprise on my face.

At first, I wanted to tell the guards what happened, but something made me stop the words from emerging from my throat. Making a scene would catch the attention of the other nobles and the king, and my father would simply berate me for my incompetence.

I did not want to take such a big risk over a small thing, so I told the guard, "No. Everything's alright."

Turning around, I quickly strutted down the hall in pursuit of the servant, who was already at the end. When my eyes caught the boy servant's red hair, I quicken my pace, ignoring the wine constantly swaying in my cup and spilling out onto my sleeve.

When I finally caught up to the young servant, I stretched out with a free hand to grasp him by his shoulder. I whirled him around to see a look of terror on the boy's face and the tray of dishes dropped onto the ground with a clang. He quickly tried to make a run for it by swatting away my arm. While one hand was swatted, I released my grip on my cup of wine and used that hand to grab the servant by his wrist. The servant struggled but he could not break free. The boy had nowhere to run now.

"I believe you have something that belongs to me," I told him, my eyes glaring at him.

The young boy's stubborn look turned into a plea as he dropped on his knees. His blue eyes were filled with fear and he begged, "Please, don't tell the guards! They'll kill me!"

Again, my first thought was to inform the guards, but I found myself hesitant. Did this boy have family? How many brothers and sisters did he abandon to become a servant? If he and his family had food in the first place, would he need to resort to such lowly methods?

"Is everything alright?"

I turned around to see a few of the royal guards approaching, the tips of their spears gleaming in the sunlight that entered through the windows. I had to quickly think of something or else they might kill him.

I dragged the servant forward by his wrist. "This servant dropped the king's wine on the carpet," I informed the guards. To prove my words, I gestured to the fallen cups and tray with the wine on the floor. "I'm just here to teach him a lesson!"

With my free hand, I slapped the servant across the cheek. He recoiled in pain with a whimper and a small part of me pitied him as his free hand went to his now bruised cheek.

"Make sure that doesn't happen again," I told him as I released my grip on his wrist.

The servant did his best to keep his tears from welling in his eyes. "Y-yes, my lord," he answered before he quickly grabbed the tray and proceeded to place the cups on it.

I face the guards and spoke, "That will be all."

The alarm on the guards faces disappeared and they returned to their posts at the entrance to the throne room. With them gone, I brought my gaze to the boy. He already finished picking up the cups and his blue eyes met my hazels.

Stretching a hand, I ordered, "My money."

The servant reached into his uniform with a free hand and I saw the purple bag of coins placed into my hand. I stared at it for a moment and an idea popped into my head: there was a stack full of golden coins. My father would not tell the difference if a few had been missing.

I opened the bag, revealing the multitude of golden coins to the servant. His eyes were gleaming with fascination and want as I grabbed five coins from the bag. Each one was small with the Lugrad's symbol etched on one side. I placed the five coins in one of the cups, and the boy's fascination turned from the coins to me.

As happy as I was to help him, I knew we both had no time for I did not want the guards to notice. "Get out of here," I whispered to him, my voice soft enough for only him to hear. "And make sure I don't catch you again!"

A large smile appeared on the young servant's face. "Thank you, my lord!"

The boy quickly rushed down the hall and headed towards the kitchen, that smile never leaving his face. I stood there, a part of me glad as to what I did. However, another part of me knew that I could not always be so generous.

Charity was something the nobles within the captial of Idris had not been known for. If words gets out that I gave away money to a servant, other servants might take advantage and I could not risk ruining my presence among the other nobles.

I needed to get out of here. Fortunately, I knew how.

AN: Alright, that's chapter one of The Ebon Crown! Please leave your thoughts in the reviews and please leave constructive criticism! Thank you!