Part One:

Prologue

The dark streets of the Hexic realm were completely deserted and, as Nefarious Blake made his way along the path to the Castle, the world held its breath.

When he walked, his movements were all controlled—purposeful. His reason for being out at this time was not a pleasant one. It was a long trek from Merlyn's Mountains to the Castle and his bare feet already had cuts and scrapes, as though he had been on the road for days.

Which, of course, he had.

The dark cloak that splayed over his back shimmered as he walked and the only disruption of the illusion of finery was his hood, which had been sewn back on. It was the only piece of semi-decent clothing that he owned.

He wouldn't—couldn't—let those damned royals get the satisfaction of seeing how poverty stricken he'd become over the years.

His magic allowed him to see the green aura of an invisible guard, who stood at the entrance into the Castle grounds. As the clouds sheathed the moon above him, and the shadows around him grew stronger, Blake easily dispatched the invisible guard, leaving him a broken heap on the stones.

"Wait."

Blake spun, releasing a flurry of shadow daggers behind him. But the man with the midnight-blue aura was unscathed and hidden beneath a dark cloak of his own.

"What do you want?" Blake hissed.

The mysterious figure didn't say anything but pushed past him, leading Blake through the shadows to the outermost tower of the Castle. He turned to face Blake, took out his wand and traced a complex charm in the air. The stone behind him creaked with an ancient, foreboding sound that sent shivers up Blake's neck.

"You've never done anything like this, have you?"

Blake didn't answer, shoved past the man and began walking into the belly of the Castle. He sent his shadows ahead of himself, to check for any traps or guards waiting in hiding. There were none.

He scoffed and carried on.

"Not the Princes."

Blake spun. "Why?" he hissed.

The man didn't wait for a pause, coming to join Blake in the tunnel. "I trust you've heard the prophecy? One will mean your freedom, the other your undoing. Isn't it clear as day? It's the Princes. One will kill, one will liberate. If you kill both, you'll never know which one is which. If you kill both, no one can free-"

Blake's eyes narrowed, and he blinked before asking, "Why should I trust you?"

The stranger stared at him, with a sly smile on the corner of his mouth. "Did I not just speak a piece of a long lost prophecy that you've only ever heard from one place before?"

Blake's shadow knives that had been inching forward behind the hooded figure's back dissipated into nothing.

The figure pushed the door closed behind Blake. All that Blake heard, before continuing on, was a whisper behind him.

"Let the future begin," it said.