Long ago, the kingdom of Ravenford was a peaceful, prosperous kingdom ruled by the benevolent King Tobran. This king was fair and just, brave in battle and firm in his leadership. He was known among his subjects as "the Shepherd" because he cared about his people in a genuine way. He was loved by his people and feared by his enemies. But most of all, he was envied by his own brother, the Black Knight, Sir Emmeric. Sir Emmeric was the Master of the King's Guard and it was his duty to see to it that the king was safe from any threat. Not even the wisest mages and fortune tellers in the land could foresee what was to happen next. One night, as the royal family slept in their beds, Emmeric slew those of his men who were loyal to his brother and kept those who were loyal to him and him alone. Having dispatched those whom he deemed traitors, Emmeric stormed into his brother's bedchamber under the pretense of an emergency.
Moving to the queen's bedchamber, he did the same, rousing her from her slumber. The queen grabbed the newborn Prince Lantris from his nursemaid and she and her husband, along with her ladies-in-waiting and other servants, followed Sir Emmeric and his men to the dungeon where a secret tunnel under the mountain awaited them to take them to freedom and salvation. To their horror, however, the tunnel led not to freedom and salvation but to death. Their fates were sealed. As soon as Emmeric closed the door behind him, he gave the order to his knights to execute the royal family and their servants, putting them to the sword.
"Guards!" the king cried. "Guards!"
"You know this castle as well as I do, brother," Sir Emmeric said with a sinister grin. "You know as well as I do that no living mortal can hear you in these tunnels. And even if they did, they wouldn't be able to get to you—because they're dead. None of your guards here are loyal to you. They have long sought a new ruler—me."
"Because you are weak, brother," Emmeric said, before Tobran could finish asking his question, silencing him with a sudden stab to the stomach. "Long live the king."
All around, blood flowed like rivers and sprang up like fountains, spraying the walls and arched ceiling of the tunnel. There was no escape. Royal and common blood mingled on the stone floor and seeped through the cracks into the waiting earth. Maidens pleaded for mercy, squires and page boys fought for as long as they could but alas, it was all in vain. In the chaos of the massacre, a sharp cry filled the narrow hall and caught King Emmeric's attention.
"The princeling is alive?" the usurper asked in surprise. "Kill him! Kill him now!"
"Yes, Your Majesty," a knight said, raising his sword to end the life of the little prince.
"No!" Lantris' nursemaid screamed. "Spare the child! Kill me instead!"
"Kill them both!" King Emmeric commanded.
"No," the soldier said, turning to face his new king.
"No?" King Emmeric echoed.
"No," the soldier said, rushing at Emmeric and knocking him unconscious with his heavy iron gauntlet.
"Come with me!" their savior said, forcibly pulling the maid to her feet, the infant prince in her arms. "We will have to fight our way through. This way!"
Sure enough, King Emmeric's men blocked their exit and the knight had no choice but to battle his way through, killing a good number of his comrades in the process. Once the coast was clear, knight, maid, and infant prince rode under cover of darkness to the safety of the woods.
"Why are you aiding us?" Orla, Prince Lantris' nursemaid asked. "What are you getting out of this?"
"The satisfaction of knowing that the Prince will be safely hidden until his time comes," the knight, Sir Drinian, said. "And if Emmeric should find out and execute me, well, death would be more preferable to serving under a usurping tyrant such as himself."
"You are loyal to my lord the King then?" Orla asked.
"I am," Sir Drinian answered, saying nothing more until they reached the deepest portion of the woods.
It was already early morning when the company found a safe place to stay. The sun rose, painting the forest with streaks of red, purple, and pink. At nightfall, they would have to move again.
"Keep him safe," Sir Drinian warned. "Hide him. For all our sakes."
"I will," Orla assured him. "Where are you going?"
"To get my affairs in order," Sir Drinian said. "And then to die."
And so it was that Sir Drinian died a noble death, stripped of his armor and executed in front of a large crowd cheering the executioner on. Meanwhile, Prince Lantris was safely hidden away in the deepest parts of Ravenford's forests until his time came.
Twelve years later...
A young boy sat on the edge of his bed looking out the window of his square tower. What was special about this window and the rest of the windows in the tower was that they were enchanted windows, each showing a different scenery. The tower was constructed with aid from the Fae. Orla, the Prince's nursemaid, was half-Fae, and so she sought the help of her kindred to keep her charge safe. The tower was made out of four grey stone walls and dark mahogany floors. It was protected by Fae magic and to any outsider, it appeared as nothing but ruins. It had three levels. The first was the dining room and kitchen where Orla would cook meals for the two of them. It looked like an ordinary kitchen castle save for the lack of windows and doors. There was no door. Or rather, it was hidden by magic. In the center of the room was a wooden table and two benches where Orla and the boy sat to eat. The place was illuminated only by candlelight and lamplight and by the fire in kitchen's oven. Herbs and cookware, and the occasional meat, hung from the ceiling above them. The next level was Lantris' bedroom. This was the only room in the tower where there were windows. The third level contained the library and Orla's bedroom. There were no windows there as well and the only light she had was candlelight.
As Lantris looked on, the shapes outside the west window began to distort, swirl, and reform, revealing a raging storm on the sea and a ship battling the angry winds, waves, rain, thunder, and lightning. A gargantuan tentacle burst forth out of the black roiling waters, lashing the puny ship with all its might. Another tentacle burst through the water, snapping the ship's mainmast in half with a deafening crack! He heard men faintly screaming in the howling wind and driving rain. Large, heavy raindrops splattered against the windowpane and the furious waves threatened to break it. It seemed as though water would spill into the room at any minute. Lantris watched as the ship broke apart and the foul beast reared its ugly arrow-like head to swallow alive both men and ship. Some managed to swim to safety while others met their untimely death in the waiting maw of the mighty Kraken. Lightning flashed and the boy dived under the covers to hide himself from the lightning and the terrifying beast of the sea.
After the light faded, Lantris threw the blankets off of himself and turned his attention toward the eastern window. There, he saw a meadow strewn with beautiful wildflowers—pink, purple, white, yellow, and blue. The sun shone brightly through a cloudless blue sky and purple mountains stood tall in the distance. Birds sang their lilting songs as they flitted from branch to branch, and then the sound seemed to vanish suddenly like a candleflame being quickly snuffed out. The silence was followed by a hideous shriek and a slithering creature came into view. It killed every living thing in its path simply by staring. Its breath was also deadly and Lantris watched as a calf fell victim to its deathly jaws. Just when it seemed all hope was lost, a shepherd came running, sword in hand, raising it high above his head. The boy watched in fascination as this lowly shepherd engaged the basilisk in combat with only his shepherd's staff and a bejeweled sword. The battle was long and bloody, but the shepherd ultimately won the day—or so it seemed. Just as it appeared as though the tide of the battle was turning, the serpent sank its venomous fangs into the shepherd's feet. He let out an agonized scream, poison now coursing through the blood in veins. Before he could succumb to the poison in his blood, however, the shepherd struck the basilisk in one final attempt to rid the kingdom of this dread creature. Young Lantris watched in awe as the shepherd sank his sword into the basilisk's head, driving it through the skull with a sickening crunch, through brain matter, the roof of its mouth, and tongue, until finally coming out of its lower jaw. After pinning the basilisk to the ground with his sword—to the hilt—the shepherd collapsed on the ground and breathed his last.
In the south window, Lantris saw a knight battling a dragon that was guarding an ancient tower where a princess was being kept prisoner. The battle lasted for two nights and a day, neither side gaining ground. Each time the knight wounded the dragon, the dragon's wounds closed up instantly and it looked as though it were never hurt to begin with. But the brave knight was relentless in his quest to save the young maiden and would not let the dragon win. Each time the dragon spewed fire from its churning belly, the knight would raise his shield to defend and then counter attack, parrying the dragon's swipes. As the sun rose, a female archer in a long flowing white dress appeared in the nick of time to aid the wounded and exhausted hero. Together, they slew the dragon, giving the knight an opportunity to finally free his beloved from her stone prison. Before the hero could take another step, however, he fell backwards, succumbing to blood loss, burns, and exhaustion. To Lantris' surprise, the beautiful raven-haired archer transformed into a doe before his very eyes and lay down by the dead knight. Slowly, the knight rose, dazed and confused but alive and well. His wounds had closed up and now, there were no burn marks from the dragon's fire. Beside him was his unexpected ally, lifeless on the ground. She had turned back into a woman and the prince finally recognized her as his lady love. Weeping bitterly, the knight wrapped her broken body in his cold arms and kissed her. At that instant, the woman stirred and opened her eyes, breaking the kiss.
"My Prince?" the princess inquired. "Why do you weep?"
Overjoyed, the prince could not answer and kissed her once more, clinging to her for dear life. The princess reciprocated, throwing her arms around her savior's neck and returning his kisses.
Above his bed, the northern window showed a cave on an island, enchanted chains crisscrossing across its gaping mouth. The chains were held together by a massive padlock. Inside the cave were eight-hundred and a thousand sleeping knights put to sleep by a malevolent spell. These knights have been asleep for three-thousand nine-hundred and seventy-four years, six months, and ten days. Four boats approached the island, bearing four men in each boat, numbering twelve in all. As the band of adventurers disembarked from their boats, they were met by their enemies and one former ally. The battle was bloody and the men were routed. Their leader was summarily executed and the evil knights stripped the brave warrior of his armor and left him in only a loincloth. They then tied him with ropes to a tree so he could be food for the birds of the air and the squirrels of the forest. The sun rose and set three times, and on the morning of the third day, the ropes snapped like threads over a flame and the warrior returned to life, donning his armor once more. Walking towards the enchanted cave with renewed purpose, he drew his dagger from his belt and cut his palm with the sharp blade. Blood oozed from his hand and dripped onto the massive rusted padlock. At once, the padlock glowed a warm brilliant gold and slowly began to melt away, loosening the chains that covered the mouth of the cave. The warrior transferred his dagger to his wounded left hand and sliced his right. His blood dripped onto a sleeping knight and one by one, the eight-hundred thousand sleeping knights rose to their feet and bowed before the warrior, swearing fealty to him even unto death. Then he and his men led the knights to victory, taking back his father's kingdom.
Puzzled, Lantris turned to Orla who had just come up the spiral staircase from the kitchen below. The enchanted windows showed different stories, almost all of which Orla had told Lantris at bedtime. He was familiar with these stories. But he was unfamiliar with the story that the northern window above his bed showed him.
"You've never told me this story before, Orla," the boy said.
"That's because that is the prophecy," Orla said. "I did not wish to reveal to you what the Mirrors have revealed to me. But it seems the Mirrors have deemed it the right time to tell you themselves."
"The Mirrors?" Lantris asked, confused.
"Yes, child, the Mirrors," Orla said, indicating the windows that surrounded them in a sweeping motion. "These are the Mirrors. They show us stories from people's past, present, and sometimes, they show us things to come. Like the prophecy of the Warrior and the Sleeping Knights."
"Am I the warrior in prophecy, Orla?" the boy asked. "Orla?"
"Yes, my son," Orla said, a single tear sliding down her cheek as she thought of the fate of they boy she had come to love as her own son.