Wow, I can't believe it. I've actually written the first chapter of this story. Honestly, I was beginning to think that it would never happen, but it's actually here. It's actually all typed up and ready for publishing. If I weren't so tired, I swear I'd be screaming and squealing like the best of them.

Anyways, this story is a bit of a challenge to myself. My goal is to be able to push out a new chapter every two weeks. I want to see if I'm capable of this goal and if I can work under a strict-ish deadline. But that aside, please review friends. I want to know if this story is anywhere near interesting or if I'm just wasting my time.

To those who do review, know you'll have my undying affection and that I shall have a cookie in your honor .


Prologue: Those Who Bear the Crown


The boy can't help but think that he should be in some kind of pain.

There's blood on his hands—thick, bright, rivulets of red that make his chest constrict and his head spin. It's not that he fears the sight of such things−he knows he doesn't, really, he doesn't−but rather that he fears what it could should be hurting right now, the boy reasons. There should be something wrong with him. Bodies don't bleed unless they've been hurt; unless they've been bruised and battered and broken. He knows this somehow. And it scares him.

"...so sorry."

The words filter down slowly as if from a distance. They are words of apology, spoken softly and with regret, but the boy cannot bring himself to care. The man speaking to him now is a stranger. He is nothing but pale skin and white hair and tall, slender limbs and for some strange reason the boy just doesn't want to listen anymore.

"I'm so sorry...I'm so sorry..."

The boy wants to tell him to stop; wants to tell him that he doesn't want to hear his apologies. They hurt, he decides quickly. His words actually hurt. They dig and they twist and he hates how weak he feels against them; hates how some part of him seems so desperate to reach out and understand him, to believe in this stranger.

Somehow, the boy knows that such a thing would be impossible.

"...why?" The word flutters from between bloodless lips in a thin mist of white. Its cold, the boy realizes with a jolt. It's cold and he doesn't even feel it. "Why are you doing this?"

He wonders if the man will even reply. He has no real reason to after all, no incentive, but the boy hopes he will nonetheless. He doesn't like the quiet that envelopes them, the seemingly absolute stillness. It's suffocating, he thinks. It's oppressive and confining and so undeniably desolate.

He is a child raised in open affection; of sunshine days and fading laughter. He doesn't like silence.

So talk, he wills. Say something, please.

"I'm angry." The boy wonders if the man even realizes just how lonely he sounds. Where there should be bitterness and rage, there is instead a hollow kind of longing; an overwhelming sense of anguish. He is lonely, the boy can't help but think. He is lonely and scared and really that's all it ever takes. "I'm angry...and I don't think I want it to stop anymore."

The boy is only eight, but he understands the danger implicit in those words. There is a humming inside his head now, a whispering scream telling him to run. This man will burn down the world, the voice tells him. So run.

He doesn't.

"Being angry doesn't help anyone." The boy whispers, but he is confident in his answer. "My brother told me that all it does is make people hurt even more."

"And would that really be so bad?" The man questions. He is no longer staring at the boy, but stands tall and proud, his gaze locked to the skies and the stars as if searching for an answer he can't quite grasp himself. "Would hurting other people really be such a horrible thing? Even if they deserved it?"

The boy cannot answer. He is suddenly reminded of how inexplicably young he is, how tiny and inconsequential. He has lived his short years through the beliefs of his brother, through the guidance and expectations of his kind words. That he might one day chose to question his principles, to challenge his ideals, had been an idea so far from his thoughts that even a slight contemplation felt like a betrayal.

The man laughs suddenly, one hand pressed over his mouth as if scrambling to keep the noise from leaving his mouth. The boy is frightened, but he does not know where to go. He hasn't for quite some time now. "You aren't going to help me are you?" The man kneels down as he speaks. He faces the boy with no bitterness, but a kind of resignation. There is barely any space left between them now and as close as he is, the boy can see how beautiful his eyes really are. Bright and round and so blue that they seem to burn in the darkness. He answers his own question, amused. "Of course you won't." He reaches for the boy's face and places two fingers right under his left eye. "You're nothing like me, are you?"

There is something dark smeared across the bridge of his nose and the boy does not think as he reaches forward and brushes his fingers across the stain. He pulls his hand back, surprised at how warm and viscous the liquids feel on his fingers.

It's stained with red.

The boy suddenly knows that this wrong. He shouldn't be here; he shouldn't be talking to this man. He's dangerous, he thinks. He's dangerous and wrong and bad and all he wants to do is hold onto his brother's hand and not let go, but why can't he remember the brother he doesn't want to let go?

He feels eyes on him suddenly—different eyes, familiar eyes, the boy can't help but think and he lifts his gaze in search. He sees her only feet away and he wonders how he could have not seen her before. She is tiny and pale and so familiar, but he doesn't remember the why or the how and he feels helpless because of it.

She kneels in the snow, dressed in a simply shift of white and he wonders if like him, she doesn't even feel the cold. Her hands are clutching and desperate, but it doesn't matter how many tears she sheds or how much she pleads because the body at which she pulls lies crumbled and unmoving and really the boy doesn't think he will ever open his eyes again. Somehow, he knows that the blood on his hands is his and he wonders if maybe, just maybe, that man was important to him as well.

There is a burning down his spine.

The boy falls, crumbles into himself and smothers a cry. He feels as if his body is slowly breaking apart, as if fire is bursting and spreading and searing through his blood. He wants to scream, but he thinks he's forgotten how to do that or maybe he just doesn't have the breath. But he feels as it all gathers, feels it built under his skin—this power, this something that feels so familiar, but threatening all the same. It's inside him, he knows. It's always been inside of him, but just as he is sure of this truth, he knows that it was never meant to be seen.

Light floods his vision—gold and bright. The boy doesn't understand how this has happened, but even as he wonders and struggles through the haze, the golden light wins and he is flung into darkness.