Sample Four

City of Death

It was rare for the entire Sparrow family to sit down and share a meal together. Normally the twins Chaos and Despair would eat their meals together in one of their private studies. Their wives Rhea and Lilith normally ate together with their sons Pluto and Atlas in one of the smaller dining halls of the mansion. Dread the younger brother of Chaos and Despair would often eat alone in his own house and every so often with the boys under his care. Though he tended to only eat with the boys under his care on special occasions or to make an announcement. For the entire family to share a meal was very strange and it scared both servants and advisors.

The family had been sitting in silence for almost half an hour as everyone slowly ate. Chaos at one end of the table with Despair at the other. Next to Chaos on his right was his wife Rhea and sitting next to her was their nine-year-old son Pluto. It was the same with Despair though his wife Lilith was on his left with their also nine-year-old son Atlas next to his mother. Sitting in the very middle of the table was Dread who was eating just slightly faster than the rest of his family. It was clear he didn't wish to stay any longer than he actually had to. It was a surprise to everyone when the silence was broken.

"Father, why did you insist that we eat together? We haven't eaten as a family for years. More importantly why is a servant eating a meal with us?" Atlas asks his father. Before the meal, his mother had told him that he was only to speak when spoken to. Advise that he had chosen to ignore.

"Atlas, it is rude to question your father even if only family is present at the table." Lilith says, shaking her head while concentrating on her food. She never once looked over at her husband Despair or brother-in-law Chaos. It had only taken a few weeks into her marriage for her to learn her place.

"Tell me boy who exactly at the table do you believe to be a servant. Your cousin is someone I expect you to respect as one day when both myself and Chaos are dead, the two of you will be in charge of the city." Despair asks, his son. His voice calm and staying at the same volume which was only just above a normal volume.

"The man sitting in the middle of the table father. He's not part of the family and I've heard you and uncle Chaos giving him orders." Atlas says, pushing his luck that his parents won't punish him. His father especially was known for coming up with some highly creative punishments.

"Despair, I believe your son is referring to Dread. It is unusual for him to attend any family occasions. Maybe on this occasion you can restrain from punishing him." Chaos says a grin on his father as he looks at his twin.

"Father would be extremely disappointed to know that we are not planning to punish my son. Of course, he would expect us to punish Pluto as well. His motto always was never punish one when you can punish many." Despair answers, a grin on his face that was very evil.

"That does explain why he sent us both away." Chaos responds with an equally evil grin on his face.

"So, umm dad who exactly is Dread to us?" Pluto asks, after Atlas kicks him in the shin. His voice is barely above a whisper but arguing with Atlas is not worth the bruises he will gain from the argument.

"He's going to be our servant once our dads die." Atlas responds, not noticing the warning look his mother gives him.

Lilith looks over at Rhea as if expecting her sister-in-law to help her. If that was to happen then something would be seriously wrong or her sister-in-law would have to be up to something.

Rhea smiles back at Lilith. She's happy to know that her son is not the one causing problems. "Pluto, it is unusual for you to speak unless spoken to. Did your cousin kick you?" She asks, determined to keep her son safe even if it means getting another child in trouble. All she cares about is keeping Pluto as safe as possible. As she speaks, she looks to her husband to protect their son.

Chaos also turns to look at his son. While he does not spend a lot of time with his son, he does trust that his wife knows him. "Son, if Atlas kicked you then the thing to do is kick him back. If he was somebody else's son then I would expect you to show him why you don't mess with a member of the Sparrow family."

"Yes dad." Pluto mumbles, still barely loud enough for everyone at the table to hear.

"Atlas why did you kick your cousin?" Despair asks, his voice a low and dangerous growl.

"Darling, I'm sure it was an accident and they are too far away to actually kick each other." Lilith tries to say, glaring at Reah for trying to get her precious boy in trouble.

"Personally, I find that when young boys want to fight, they always find a way. They might not be sitting awfully close to each other but both are gifted." Dread says, speaking for the first time.

"How exactly would you know Dread?" Chaos asks, unhappy that Dread would dare to speak.

"You do not have a wife or even bastard children of your own." Despair says, as always taking his twin's side.

"A wife would bore me and they'd complain non-stop about me barely being in the city. I do not have children of my own, at least non that I'm aware of. Four boys do currently live under my roof. Patroclus the youngest of the boys is not one for any kind of fights. Jason and Theseus on the other hand are always fighting with each other. Tomas, the oldest is by far the worst and without a doubt the reason boys under my care have disappeared. He cares nothing for the other three and shows that hatred very openly. I'm thinking of sending him back to the Academy so he can be in a group with boys as dangerous as himself." Dread explains, calmly as he continues to eat his meal.

"How dare you speak so openly to my father and uncle! Do you not realise that they are the twin lord to the city of Death? The only sons of my grandfather who this city is named after." Atlas shouts ignoring the hand of his mother on his shoulder.

"Actually boy, he was named after the city and for his gift. Plus, your grandfather lord Death had at least three sons. Your father and uncle were just born first and so were his heirs. Neither will ever tell you who was born first and none except lord Agamemnon would be willing to ask. I was born ten years after them to your grandfathers second wife. I'm their half-brother and by allowing me to sit at this table I have every right to speak my mind." Dread explains, his voice becoming dangerously cold as he glares at Atlas. It's a tone that the other adults sitting around the table recognise.

Atlas glares right back at the man claiming to be a member of his family. He knows that he only has one uncle and that his father is crazy enough to share the city with him. If he'd been unlucky enough to have a younger sibling, he would have made sure that the sibling didn't live for exceedingly long. It was bad enough that his father wanted him to share the running of the city with Pluto. He thinks all of this as he glares at the man, he had always taken to be a servant. More than anything he wants to spill his guts and tell his father once again that this man has no place in their family, it is only a strong feeling that doing so would be extremely dangerous that stops him.

Lilith try's her best to smile, "your half uncle is actually telling the truth. Your grandfather was named after the city and it just so happened that your grandfathers' gift was. Well, his name explained his gift. Do not worry my darling boy you do not need to call him uncle. I don't believe he wants to be an uncle so it works out."

Reah turns to her own son who she can tell is just bursting to ask many questions. "Darling," she turns to her husband Chaos, "could Pluto have permission to ask Dread some questions before we discuss the real reason for this family meal?"

Chaos studied his wife's features and seemed to think about the answer. His own father Death had never been happy when any of his three sons had asked questions. Asking even a simple one could have you thrown in the dungeon for a week and that had been a relatively kind punishment. At least in comparison to the type of punishment he could dish out to servants just because he was bored. Turning from his wife he looks at his nine-year-old son who has always been well behaved. Showing any kind of affection though was not something he felt able to do. It still didn't mean that he could not show just the smallest amount of kindness to his only child. At least the only child that he was aware of. It is possible he has many children scattered throughout the world or even in his own city.

Before he can begin to even form the words Despair starts to speak, "Pluto, if you would like to ask Dread some questions, I can honestly not see the harm. Chaos as he's your son it is of course your decision. I do not want to step on any toes. Your wife seems alright with Pluto speaking. Again, though it is your choice. Atlas you are only allowed to ask questions if they are not rude or stupid."

Atlas grins, believing that his father is actually proud of him for questioning the presence of Dread at the table. As one of the future leaders of the city he did feel it was his right to question things. "So what name were you given at birth?" He asks, not giving Pluto a chance to speak.

Chaos snarls, "where you give permission to ask your question first?"

"No uncle, I just thought that because I am older that I had the right to go first." Atlas answers, moving closer to his mother upon noticing just how angry his uncle was with him.

Lilith pulls her son closer matching the glare Chaos is giving her son with one of her own. She knows that she can't do much if Chaos wants someone punished, but she can still act like a protective mother. "I'm sure that Atlas just became excited about asking Dread questions. To both boys he is a virtual stranger. Surely it is only natural for them to be curious." She says, deciding that if Atlas was punished the Pluto would be punished as well.

Rhea for once decided to show a small amount of kindness towards her sister-in-law. "I'm not normally someone who agrees with Lilith even if we spend a lot of time together. However, I do not believe that Atlas was trying to be rude or stop Pluto from asking his own questions. I think though that it should be up to Pluto if Atlas gets told off for his interruption."

All eyes instantly turned to look at Pluto who was doing his best to seem tiny. He had never enjoyed being in the spotlight and having everyone staring at him waiting for an answer terrified him. "Umm" he starts feeling the annoyance coming off both his father and uncle. As a future leader of the city, he was expected to enjoy the public attention and know how to make speeches and more importantly bloody good ones that keep the people in line. In their city it was extremely important to keep the people in line. "Atlas should not be punished." He finally mumbles.

"Pluto, sweetheart it's alright to speak I promise. Neither your father nor your uncle are going to punish you." Rhea says, looking to her husband to agree.

"Your mother is correct I have no plans to punish you for asking sensible questions." Chaos says with a shrug of his shoulders adding, "What about you brother, do you have any plans to punish my son?"

"Not currently no." Despair confirms with a chuckle.

"Despair!" Lilith says before she can stop herself.

"It was a bloody joke. I admit not my best one. Pluto, please ask Dread whatever you'd like to and Dread I expect you to answer them. Do we understand each other?"

"Completely Despair. I am to allow the boy to ask me whatever he can think of and to answer honestly." Dread confirms, taking a long drink from his glass.

Despair moves as if to hit Dread but is stopped by Chaos speaking. "Brother, we do not need to punish Dread, he is deliberately trying to test our patience. If you wish to punish him later then I'm certain we can think of something. For now, though I believe it's best if we just leave it. Pluto ask your dam questions!"

"Yes uncle." Pluto responds and clears his throat before starting with his questions. "As a child where you sent away the same as my father and uncle? If you were, then what happened to you? The boys under your care are they family to you? If they are should Atlas and I call them our cousins? How are you the same age as my uncle and father if you are ten years younger than them? Is your mother still alive? Do you have any plans to become a leader of the city? Who is lord Agamemnon?"

Dread's grin grows wide, he has always enjoyed being asked questions even if some had very obvious answers. If he'd been asked by one of the boys under his care, he would have simply slapped them and then locked them in the basement. Pluto though was different and not just because he happened to be the son of one of the lords of the city. He'd slapped plenty of children whose parents served as members of Chaos and Despairs council. Their parents had of course complained and wanted him punished, but for some reason that he had yet to understand Despair and Chaos would always just laugh.

Despair frowns and glares at Dread, "would you bloody hurry up and answer the brat."

"My son is not a brat." Chaos says, not sounding very convincing.

"He's your son Chaos. My son is just as much of a brat. Mine might actually be more of one. The point is Dread answer the bloody questions!" Despair shouts causing everyone at the table except his twin to jump in fear.

Dread nods knowing that he's tested the little patience that either of his brothers poses to the very limit. "Please forgive me Despair and of course Chaos. Pluto it would be my honour to answer all of your questions." He takes a deep breath to think about each of the questions and what the answers could be. "I was sent away as a child but not for the same reason as your uncle and father. Death believed that members of his council saw me as a threat. From what I remember there were also members of his family who were not exactly happy about my birth. The boys in my care are not what I would call my family. If you wish to call them your cousins then I cannot actually stop you. Tomas will highly likely be a bastard to you so I suggest you avoid him. Jason, Theseus, and Patroclus are a much safer bet if you would like to make friends. The secret to my age is well a secret. As far as I know my mother has been dead for a long time. How she died I'm not sure but it's very possible that she was murdered. I have no desire to take control of the city. Being in control of this city means actually caring about its fate. You really do not know who lord Agamemnon is?"

Atlas frowns, "What about my question?" He asks, glaring at Dread.

"What exactly was your question Atlas?" Dread asks, both sounding and looking very board.

"I asked what your name was before it was turned to Dread. Grandfather was eccentric but even he had a name before he was Death, just like my father and uncle." Atlas responds, looking at his father and then at his uncle.

Dread just smiles.

"I demand that you tell me! Pluto ask him the same question and then he will have to answer. We deserve an answer."

"Atlas, I don't think he's ever going to answer that question. Neither of our fathers would bother to answer it and so why should Dread."

Atlas did not like his cousin's response, as he had expected Pluto to obey him. "We deserve to know the bloody answer. Now I command you to ask the question."

Pluto almost laughs, "Atlas command all you want but I am not asking the one question that we are banned from asking. I don't even want to know what his name once was because it no longer matters. Our uncle is called Dread I would assume because it is the name grandfather granted him."

"I would still like to know what stupid name he had before he became Dread." Atlas grumbles but doesn't ask the same question again.

Despair and Chaos seem to have a private conversation with each other. They look around the table but neither bother to include the others in the conversation. This was not unusual as the twins would often have private conversations about all kinds of different things.

After nearly another half an hour of the family just sitting in silence with the plates now empty of food Lilith decided to speak. "Should I call for the servants to clean the table or are we going to learn the reason we are actually eating as a family?"

Despair grinned at his wife; she was obedient when she needed to be but what he liked about her was her confidence. There were times when she would speak her mind and not be too worried about the consequences.

Chaos frowned at his sister-in-law, unlike his brother he preferred it when the women didn't question him. His wife knew her place and it was just one of the reasons she had managed to survive. "Pluto please go with Atlas to your room or the training field. I do not think at nine you need to hear what we need to discuss."

Pluto stands instantly ready to do as he has been asked. He was aware that his father could be incredibly cruel and vicious when he felt the need to be. At the same time though he knows that his father is the only one who will bother to be polite. "Would it be alright if I went to the library rather than my room?"

"Yes, that's fine. What reason exactly are you going to the library rather than to the training field or your room?" Chaos asks his son.

"I would like to do some family research. Our family is incredibly interesting and I believe that it is important to know one's family history." Pluto explains, leaving the room as soon as he's given permission to do so.

Despair turns to his son, "will you be joining your cousin in the library?"

"I would much rather go to the training field. It's important to know how to defend oneself against the enemy. If Pluto wishes to waste his time learning about the family, then that's his choice. I thought would much rather learn how to destroy." Atlas says a cheeky smirk on his face as though he was up to something.

Despair nods, "try not to destroy too many of your opponents. We cannot keep replacing them every time you have a tantrum. Go on the adults need to have a conversation."

Atlas nods, quickly smiles at his mother before leaving the room in a hurry. As he leaves, he notices that there are no servants about and so he just makes his way to the training field. For once he decides that the safest and most sensible thing to do was just walk away. A few years ago, he would have tried to listen to the adult conversation.

Rhea and Lilith watch as Atlas leaves the room waiting for the other to speak up.

Lilith is the one who eventually clears her throat and looks between the three brothers. "Would you like for Rhea and myself to stay?"

"We do not have to if you would rather that we leave as well." Rhea hastily adds. She does not want to risk annoying either of the twins.

The twins share a look before looking at their wives in turn. They seem to be having a private conversation when Dread interrupts by speaking.

"If you want to hear about how we are sending armies to destroy cities. Then you are more than welcome to stay. We will though be discussing the best way to kill every member of each royal family. Those families have children and as mothers you might not want to hear such terrible things. I believe we are also sending a message to the assassins within the city of Eden to attack."

The twins again share a look before they both glare at Dread.

"It would probably be better if our wives left the room. If they are here then the enemy can torture them for information." Despair suggests.

Chaos slowly nods, "go and do whatever it is women do. The men need to talk and I really would not want either of our wives to end up with terrible nightmares."

Rhea and Lilith take this as their cue to leave the room. They leave the room as quickly as possible without actually running from the room. Doing that would have only angered the twins and amused Dread.

Chaos turns to Dread and passes him a letter.

"Who sent me a letter?" He asks, confusion slipping into his voice. It had been many years since he had last received a letter and he was sure that he could no longer remember who had sent that letter.

"That would be our dear lord and master." Despair answers, before continuing "it seems he wants a member of the Prophets to travel to the Town of Utopia. One of his many great grandchildren needs a reading. You have been asked to accompany this member. He wants someone strong but who will actually be terrified of him."

"We were thinking that you should travel with Phoebus. He's young but he is according to Ares one of the strongest Prophets in years." Chaos finishes.

"So, you read my letter. Even though it was addressed to me and not either of you." Dread asks, ignoring the command for the moment that he has been given.

"Brother, there were three letters in one envelope. One for myself, one for Chaos and the last one for you. Lord Agamemnon believes that you are useful and will not only deliver the Prophet but be able to help with something. He did not state how you are going to help, just that only your skills would be useful." Despair explains.

"Exactly, you are useful. Despair and I just have to send out armies to destroy enemy cities." Chaos added, as though it wasn't obvious what they would be doing.

Dread sighs, "I can leave first thing in the morning."

The twins share a look and then nod.

Chaos coughs, "could you ask Polynices to meet with us tomorrow morning. It might just be useful to have our advisor in the room when discussing battle tactics."

Despair nods, "make it clear to him that we are not asking nicely."

"I really don't think he will ever think that it might be a request." Dread says, as he heads towards the door.

Dread leaves the room and makes his way out of the manor. He reflects back on the dinner and decides that it did not go as badly as he felt it would go. Unfortunately, the meal had also not lasted as long as he wanted it to. This meant that when he got home at least two of his boys would still be awake. If he was unlucky then it would be Tomas who would ask stupid and pointless questions. Jason and Theseus would be polite but stay out of his way. Patroclus might offer to make him tea but wouldn't ask questions. At least he thought to himself as he stood outside the home of Polynices the advisor of Despair and Chaos, he could waste some time doing as his brothers had ordered. It would be a dull task and he was not really a fan of Polynices but wasting time was wasting time.

The front door opens and an unamused Polynices is standing there, "Dread what do you want?"

"I have a message from Chaos and Despair. They wanted me to deliver it straight away. Even wanted me to be polite to you. Do you have company? Is that why you are blocking my entrance into your house? Unlike you I do not conduct my business on the door step now let me in." Dread says, pushing past Polynices and stepping into the entrance way. He notices that in the entrance way are two sets of shoes and he knows for a fact that only one set belongs to Polynices. Upon spotting the second set he smiles something that for him is incredibly rare. His smile widens when he realises that the second set do not belong to a woman. A fact he knows Polynices will not want anyone in the city to know about. It does not really bother him but he's not kind enough not to use it against the advisor.

Polynices glares as Dread enters his home and slightly shivers upon seeing the smile. "What the hell are you smiling for? I didn't think it was even possible for you to smile." He growls out as he follows Dread.

"I was just admiring the shoes and was wondering if your feet change size. A useful gift if you are being chased in the forest but completely useless in the safety of the city. So, I was just wondering who the second pair belongs to."

"I have no idea what you are talking about Dread."

"The shoes on the right are larger than the ones on the left." Dread points out.

"Maybe someone left them here."

"Someone left their shoes in your home and so walked out onto the streets in bare feet. Just admit it Polynices you have someone here."

"Well, I do have friends. And I never said they had a choice in leaving the shoes. Does it even matter?"

Dread starts to cough to stop the laugh that is rising in his throat. "Please don't tell jokes. You have no friends just like me. If they had been dragged from your house then I would know about it."

"Fine I do not have friends but I do have enemies." Polynices says with a sigh, leading Dread into his living room. Ignoring what Dread had said about knowing when citizens went missing. Knowing that there is simply no point in doing so.

"You have one person crazy enough to actually call you, their enemy. No one else would be brave enough and my brothers barely acknowledge you unless you are being helpful."

"Fine. I have one enemy and he is here in the kitchen. We hate each other but there are times when we have to work together. Tonight, happens to be one of those times." Polynices admits sitting down in one of the two armchairs. They are the only two pieces of furniture in the room aside from the coffee table that is located in the middle of the room. He had decided that there really was no point in continuing to lie.

Dread smirks as he takes the only other available armchair. "So where exactly is your enemy hiding?"

"As I just told you he is in the kitchen at the moment continuing with the work. This does not mean I have all night to chat so you can avoid the brats."

"How is Eteocles?"

"Why do you think it's him?"

"He is the only one in the city that you actually consider to be your enemy. No one else even registers for you except for maybe my brothers. Even you though are not dumb enough to think of them as your enemies or your friends." Dread says, still smirking at Polynices.

"Despair and Chaos are the leaders of the city and I would never assume to be good enough to be a friend to them. So why are you here?" Polynices says, trying not to glance behind him and towards the doorway of the kitchen.

"My brothers need to see you first thing tomorrow morning. I believe that they feel that your advice will be useful during the attack on Eden and the other royal cities. So, tell me why he is here and don't just say work."

"He wanted some help with organising the children into groups. According to him the other teachers are beyond useless and I will at least tell him the truth."

"So, he came to your house late at night to discuss his job?"

"Dread it is barely eight in the evening and if he works in his office in the Academy then he will constantly be disturbed. Coming to my house according to him will keep the idiots away." Polynices says, standing and indicating that it was time for Dread to leave.

Dread stands as slowly as is possible before finally leaving the house. As he exits the house, he hears the sound of a key turning in the lock. With his order completed he finally heads home to face the brats who live under his roof. Brats who he had been avoiding for most of the day.

Polynices leans against the door as soon as he has turned the key in the lock. He hates that Dread had entered his home and acted as though he was in charge. What was worse was that Dread knew he wasn't alone in his house and had not believed the lie. Though it had not all been a lie.

"Are you already panicking? Dread couldn't care less about who you share a bed with. Granted it's annoying as everyone believes we hate each other but he is not a gossip. So why did he barge into your home?" Eteocles asks, a smug smirk on his face as he joins Polynices leaning against the front door.

"It is not funny. Maybe Dread is not a gossip and won't tell anyone what he saw tonight. He might decide to use it against me or even you. For all these reasons I am still allowed to be worried. Chaos and Despair might decide to kill us for sharing a bed."

"Did I say that you were not allowed to panic. I have known you well forever and telling you not to panic is pointless. Even before we became..." Eteocles says, slipping down to the floor pulling Polynices with him.

"Don't worry Eteocles you don't have to define what we are. We agreed that we are not dating and that we don't put a label on what we are." Polynices responds, looking down at the floor rather than at the man sitting next to him.

Eteocles looks at the man next to him and is unsure what to say. They have never put a label on whatever their relationship might be. In public they are mostly enemies but in private they are almost friends. Not wanting to potentially start an argument he decided to slightly change the subject. "So why was Dread even here? It is not like him to volunteer to enter someone else's home. Are you his new friend or something?"

"Dread does not have any friends and he definitely did not volunteer to come here. I believe that if what he told me is true then Despair and Chaos sent him." Polynices answers, forcing himself to get to his feet and then holds out his hand to help Eteocles to his feet.

"Why would Despair and Chaos send Dread of all people to your house?" Eteocles questions, noticing that their hands are linked but doing nothing about it.

"I have been summoned to see them in the morning. Apparently, my advice might be useful with planning an attack on Eden. Don't ask when we are attacking because I honestly do not know. Even if I did know it would not be safe for me to tell you. I would prefer not to be executed for sharing information that should not be shared. Personally, I also do not want you to be killed either for knowing too much."

"Would you feel guilty if I was killed because of you?"

"Not in the least. I would just be annoyed that I hadn't been the one to get rid of you. As your only enemy it is only fitting that I kill you or if you are lucky that you kill me." Polynices says, a smirk appearing on his lips for the briefest of moments.

Eteocles smirks back "well as Dread said I'm the only person foolish enough to take you on. Though why he thinks that is beyond me. I'm just as strong as you."

"Dread is many things but he is not an idiot. Underestimating you would not just be foolish but make him an idiot. I assume that he thinks you are foolish because you do not have any obvious gifts. I on the other hand have the power to control ice a gift that somehow is not only rare but considered to be evil."

"Then the city is very lucky to have you on its side."

The two of them make their way back to the kitchen discussing many different topics. Both avoid any topic that could have the potential to start an argument.

Dread came to a stop in front of his home and let out a huge sigh when he noticed how many lights were still on. Tomas the oldest of the boys had started getting into the habit of leaving on a light so Dread was able to find his way home. In theory it was a nice gesture but Dread knew that Tomas was not leaving on the light to be kind but to score points against the other boys. With so many lights on Dread knew that all four boys were still awake and somewhere downstairs rather than in their rooms. He prefers it when they stay in their rooms and out of sight especially when he has had a long day. With a roll of his eyes, he enters his home and finds Tomas pinning Patroclus to the ground screaming at him with Jason and Theseus trying to pull him off. If this was the first time that he had walked into such a scene he would have called it chaos but this was a scene he had walked into several times since Patroclus had joined the house. Not that he blamed the young boy who was mostly obedient.

"Tomas get off Patroclus right now! If the four of you plan to become Midnight Foxes, then you have to get along. I honestly do not care if you secretly hate each other just as long as you can complete missions effectively." Dread says, not really needing to shout as the moment he started speaking he saw shivers go down the spines of three of the boys. As he stepped closer, he also noticed fear in their eyes as they all backed away.

"I'm sorry sir but the little bastard was trying to run away. It is my job and duty to stop any of them leaving of their own free will." Tomas says, with a grin. It amuses him greatly to think that the others will be punished instead of him. He especially likes it when the other boys disappear.

"Jason how long has Patroclus lived in this house?" Dread asks, looking to the second oldest.

"Almost two and a half years sir." Jason says, keeping the younger boy behind him as Theseus looked down at the floor.

"How many times has he tried to run away since joining the family?" Dread asks.

"I don't think that he has ever bothered sir. He has nowhere to go and he knows what happened to the other two boys who tried to run away. Patroclus is young sir but he is not actually an idiot." Jason answers, doing his best to stick up for the younger boy. It was dangerous to protect the boy but he couldn't bear to see the younger boy harmed.

"Ah yes Peter and Abel. Tomas, I believe you are responsible for what happened to them. Why don't you tell the story again just to make sure that Patroclus does in fact know the story?" Dread suggests, noticing that Jason is trying to be brave by protecting Patroclus. A habit that normally he would have tried to discourage but if they really were going to try and become Midnight Foxes then Jason being protective might just grant them some points against the competition.

"With pleasure sir. Personally, I hated Peter and Abel. Two boys who refused to learn their place and that I will always be higher up than the rest of you. Everybody in this house is very aware Sir that I am your favourite and the only one you see as your son. This mean Patroclus that unlike the rest of you I am irreplaceable and that is because of my family." Tomas starts, as predicted going on about himself rather than getting to the point.

"Tomas! Just get to the bloody point would you." Dread shouts, though the volume of his voice barely rises and the tone of his voice stays very calm.

Jason, Theseus, and Patroclus all take a step back upon hearing the anger in Dread's voice. Not one of them wants to test his patience if he is about to lose his temper and take it out on the nearest boy.

"Sorry sir. It's just that whenever I think about them, I simply become incredibly angry. They were just the worse. As you said though I need to get to the point. Abel convinced Peter that they should run and they got out of the house but did not make it further than the lake. I personally made sure of that fact that they regretted their decision but didn't live long enough to realise their mistake. I don't mind getting rid of annoying little brats and for me the bloodier the better."

"I thought Peter and Abel jumped in the lake knowing that they would die. So technically you did not actually kill them. I do not doubt though that you are capable of killing anyone who annoys you. Killing me though would be foolish." Patroclus says, suddenly feeling brave due to how angry he was starting to feel.

"I personally drowned them and watched as the light left their eyes. If you do not believe me then ask Theseus, he is the one who told me about their escape. The coward did not even give them a head start. Killing you would be easy and not one single person would try and stop me." Tomas growls, taking three steps towards Patroclus and laughing when the younger boy moves to hide behind Jason.

"That's enough Tomas! All of you go to your rooms and leave me in peace." Dread says, glaring at all four boys before making his way to his study. He knows he will have to leave early to reach the town of Utopia but he still has work to do.

The following morning Dread leaves his home before the sun has even begun to rise. The journey he knew would take at least a week and he was not looking forward to it. Instead of heading straight to the stables to find horses and a carriage that could take him to The Town of Utopia. He heads instead to the home of the Prophets of the stars.

Despair and Chaos had given him extremely specific instructions to escort a member of the Prophets to Utopia. Though he could no longer remember who that Prophet was meant to be. A simple enough order but his brothers had not actually told him specifically which prophet he would be taking to Utopia. All they had done was suggest but the name had slipped from his mind. This was very typical of them, to give a simple order and then not explain everything.

Having no idea who to bring to Utopia he decided to have a conversation with Ares. If anyone had any ideas about which Prophet to bring it would be him. After all Ares was the current leader after the previous leader had come to a sticky end in what people were calling an accident. Dread and anyone in the know were very aware that accidents did not happen to leaders of the Prophets. When the leaders came to unfortunate ends or even just members it was known that they had been taken out.

He knocks loudly on the door and then rings the doorbell to make sure everyone inside the building had heard. On any other day he might have been prepared to wait for a bit longer than ten minutes. Today though he was in a rush and the journey to Utopia would take several days and that was only if he was lucky.

The door opens and a boy of maybe nine is in the doorway. He is wearing the uniform of a leader to the prophets and the three sashes on the left sleeve identifies him as the third leader.

"How exactly did you become a leader of the Prophets at six?" Dread asks, staring at the young boy.

"Actually, I'm ten and my father recently died and I gained the position. Can I help you with anything?"

"I need a strong Prophet to come with me to Utopia. Lord Agamemnon needs someone to read the futures of his great grandchildren. Despair and Chaos did not tell me if the Prophet was needed for anything else. This Prophet will need to stay in Utopia for a while and this means living in the North with members of the Titan family." Dread says, deciding in his mind at least that he does not actually need Ares to help him. The boy in front of him is clearly powerful if he's been made a leader. He does though need permission from Ares.

"Ares is the strongest as he has survived all attempts to get rid of him. He has had the position for almost three years old which is much longer than the previous leader. Hermes the second leader has had the role for a few months now and then there are hundreds of other members. Most of them are adults as traditionally child members are not allowed on missions until they have completed their schooling." The boy answers as he steps aside to allow Dread to enter the house.

"What about you boy? Are you powerful or did you just get the position simply because the original third leader was your father?" Dread asks, as he steps inside the house and stands in the entrance way. If he had entered the home of an average citizen then he would have demanded to be shown to the sitting room. The Prophets had their own rules and he was not liked enough by his brothers to risk annoying any of the members of the Prophets even a chid member.

"He was my father sir in name only as I had no biological connection to him. Ares and Hermes believe me to be powerful and different."

"Do you have a name and what do you mean by different?"

"My name sir is Phoebus and they have never told me why I'm different. They might believe I'm different because I was adopted into the group rather than being a born member. Hermes especially looks down on those who have not been born into the group. Ares is one of the few members of the Prophets who believes that having friends is useful. I personally believe it is why he has survived for so long. Having allies is useful when you live among a group of people who will slit your throat in the same breath that they will hug you." Phoebus says, watching Dread as though studying him for some type of reaction. He was not expecting a huge reaction as the man in front of him was a member of the Sparrow family and none of them were big on huge reactions. Still, he was expecting something more than a raised eyebrow.

"Family is especially important to the Titan family and clan. Here in the City of Death it is not the most important thing. Tell me are Hermes or Ares related to each other or the previous third leader?" Dread finally asks, his eyebrow lowering as he spoke.

"Not to my knowledge no. Though I believe that they are friends and have known each other a long time. If there is any family connection then at the most, they are either second or third cousins. My adopted father did have a family connection to Juno who is married to Ares and happens to be the first leader of the Seers of the Destined. They were not brother and sister but I know that they were family because she came to the funeral. Would you like me to go and get Ares and Hermes? I believe only they have the authority to send a member of the Prophets out of the city."

"Do you not have the authority to send lower down members away?"

"If I was an adult, I would be able to send people out of the city but Ares felt that because of my age no one would be willing to listen to me. So, until I'm of age Ares or Hermes will take over that duty for me. In exchange for helping me I have been given the task of sorting out their prophecies. A task that is not easy but well I do my absolute best though I'm sure you are not really interested."

"You are correct I am not all that interested in your work. I think it would be a good idea to get Ares or Hermes. Whichever you believe would be more useful or is free to see me." Dread responds studying the child and thinking to himself about the boy. He feels as he studies the boy that this boy is the right person to bring with him to Utopia.

Phoebus nods and rushes off to find Ares knowing through a vision that Hermes will refuse to come. He has learnt that the second leader does not find very many things to be worth his time and Phoebus understands that he does not have the time to try and convince the older man and so his only option is Ares who is famous for his temper.

Outside the room of the first leaders private study Phoebus takes a deep breath and tries to look into the future to see how the conversation will go but the vision is nothing but blackness. This has happened a couple of times in his short life and four or so years in which he has had the visions. When all he can see is darkness it tells him that there are some things that he is not meant to know and so he knocks three times on the door of the private study and waits for a response.

"Come in Phoebus and make sure to close the door." Ares calls out, from deep within the study.

Phoebus does as he is instructed and enters the room walking towards the desk but not even thinking about taking the seat in front of the desk.

"Dread is here correct and wants a member of the Prophets to go with him to Utopia. Does he need me to come and speak with him or are you asking for permission to go with him?" Ares asks, glancing up ever so slightly from the documents on his desk.

"I believe that he would like to speak with you Ares. Do you wish for me to go with him to Utopia? I have never been outside of this city but if those are your orders then I will follow the orders without question."

"You are though curious as to why you are the one being selected to go to Utopia. Unlike most members of the Prophets, you are aware of the rules when it comes to child members. Yes, before you say it, I know that you are a leader and not just a normal member. Phoebus you are though only ten years old and with your foster father dead and no mother to speak of you are my responsibility and Hermes if he would every bother to come to meeting that did not just revolve around him or are held by Chaos and Despair. Tell me honestly Phoebus why you think you have been chosen instead of an older member who under the laws of the city still has to obey Dread. This is not me telling you to annoy Dread as his temper will only remain in check for so long and while we might not believe him to be particularly useful, he does actually have many skills." Ares responds, gesturing with his hand for the boy to take a seat. He knows that Dread is waiting but his curiosity about what the boy is thinking is much stronger than any type of fear or respect he might have for Dread.

Phoebus though does not feel as safe about keeping Dread waiting for too long. Still, he knows better than to try and argue or point this out to Ares and so instead begins to speak. "Dread told me that Lord Agamemnon wants a Prophet to do a reading for his great grandchildren. From what I know about the Titan family the great grandchildren of Lord Agamemnon will be children and some of them will be incredibly young. Older members of the Prophets have an unfortunate tendency to snarl at children and with most children being snarled at tends to scare them. The great grandchildren of Lord Agamemnon are the group of children that nobody wants to upset even a member of the Prophets. Agamemnon is still in charge of all of us and so has the right to punish or even kill us if we upset members of his family. As a child I will not be seen as much of a threat and I will show the correct amount of fear when in the presence of Agamemnon."

Ares smiles, "I knew that you were the right person for the job. Go and pack a bag for the journey and your stay in Utopia. I will go and speak with Dread and inform him that a decision has been made that I feel will make Chaos and Despair happy."

Phoebus quickly gets to his feet and rushes to his room to pack. He had no idea how much he was meant to pack but did not want to risk packing too much. Whatever he packed he knew that he would have to carry and look after, more importantly keep whatever he took safe. Along with the essential of clothes and health products he knew that he would have to take books on prophecy and the empty books as well in order to record the prophecies of the great grandchildren of Agamemnon.

Dread moves away from the wall that he had been leaning against as soon as he spots Ares. If they had been each other's equals, he might have smiled as he had known Ares since they were both boys. He had never seen Ares as a friend but smiling he had heard was a way of greeting someone you had known for a long time. Ares it is good to see you even if it is far too early." Dread finally greets after what feels like hours of silence though it could only have been five minutes.

"Good morning, Dread. Phoebus is getting ready for the journey. He is the correct person for the job and will be able to see far further into the future than any other Prophet. While he is not perfect and will I have no doubt annoy you, there is still no one else that I believe will do the job in the same way. When do you believe that you will return Tomas to the Academy?" Ares asks, as he leads Dread to a more comfortable room that some would call the smaller of the three sitting rooms with the fire already alight and blazing in the fireplace. He takes a seat on the smaller sofa and indicates for Dread to take one of the empty seats available.

The room is empty of people aside from Dread and Ares which is understandable considering the time of day.

Slowly Dread takes a seat near the fire in one of the armchairs to warm himself. It is not the coldest of days but even Dread knows that not taking the chance to warm yourself when you have the chance was just stupid. He did not think of himself as stupid and moved just slightly closer to the fire as an excuse to think about his answer before finally starting to speak. "Why will I need to return Tomas to the Academy? I was under the impression that the four boys in my care will eventually go on to be members of the Midnight Foxes. Patroclus will make an excellent spy as he can make himself almost completely invisible despite having no, actually gift. Something I am sure that you already know. Jason and Theseus when they can work together are actually an extremely well organised partnership. Tomas is deadly but he is rubbish at working with anyone. Even knowing this in order to form a group to become part of the Midnight Foxes you must have a group of four boys or girls. If I send Tomas back to the Academy then I will not have enough boys to send to take part in the test that could gain them the status of Midnight Fox. Personally, it does not bother me one way or the other but my brothers do expect me to do something with my life other than the jobs that I already do. Explain to me why exactly I would be sending him back and when you think that I should send him back?"

Ares smirks at the member of the Sparrow family as though he had expected Dread to have just said everything that he had just said. "I could tell you why you should send Tomas away and even when you should do so. The boy has an interesting future ahead of him and this future could be changed or even ruined if you know too much. That is not to say that I feel he is incredibly important. He is one of many boys that has an interesting future ahead of him. Speak with Eteocles when you return from Utopia and he might just be able to give you more information."

"You wish for me to willingly speak with Eteocles who is almost as annoying as Polynices." Dread grumbles mostly to himself. He wants to argue with Ares and ask why he is being told to speak with Eteocles when he has just been told that he cannot be told too much. Before he is able to ask this question, Phoebus walks into the room carrying one bag in his hands and the other slung over his back. He is dressed in a cloak with the hood up and covering his eyes.

"It seems Dread that you should get going if you wish to reach Utopia before the city begins to wake" Ares says as he stands and leaves the room.

Dread watches as he leaves but does not even try and attempt to go after him instead, he turns to Phoebus and tells him that he will meet him by the stables. The boy nods and leads the way out of the large house that holds the adults, members of the Prophets. Dread takes a detour and goes back home picking up his bags having decided that it is better if none of the boys in his house are part of his mission to leave the city to escort the prophet to Utopia.

Despair and Chaos watch from a window of the manor as Dread leaves the city in one of the nicer carriages. They had both expected their brother to be annoyed about having to leave the city with a prophet. It was not unusual for Dread to leave the city but it was rare for him to take on a mission that involved another person. Chaos smirks when Despair whispers that Dread was going to be in a mood for several weeks.

"When is Dread not in a mood?" Chaos answers, the smirk never leaving his face.

"I honestly cannot think of a time dear brother. Even so it will not affect us or our families. Let him sulk that it was him who was chosen to take Phoebus to Utopia. He is the best person for the job and more importantly he is the one that Agamemnon asked for." Despair says the certainty clear in his voice.

"How do you know that he did in fact take Phoebus with him to Utopia? Could he not have just taken a lower down member of the Prophets who he might be able to intimidate?" Chaos questions, glancing at his twin brother clearly confused.

"Polynices told me. He apparently saw them leaving together when he was leaving the Academy." Despair answers, his gaze still very much fixed on the disappearing carriage.

"Polynices was at the Academy. Are you sure that it was not Eteocles instead? You have never really bothered to figure out the difference between them. They are actually different from each other." Chaos says, glancing at his twin waiting for him to actually notice him. Normally they do not need to face each other to know that the other is still paying attention. This time Chaos feels that something is different.

"I am very aware that they are different from each other Chaos. Polynices is our advisor and one of the few within the city who respects us rather than just fears us. Eteocles is the head of the Academy and has the power to control ice and many believe him to be completely evil."

"Actually, brother the one with the gift is Polynices and Eteocles is the one who has no obvious gifts." Chaos corrects his brother something, he is not sure he has done since they were children. Even then it has been exceedingly rare for him to correct Despair or for Despair to correct him.

"My mistake." Despair says, moving away from the window and moving towards the round table in the very centre in the room. He does not seem upset in any way that he has made a mistake and this is mostly because of there is no one else in the room.

"Do you know why Polynices was inside the Academy when he is meant to hate Eteocles with a passion."

"I did not actually ask him what he was doing inside the Academy. When he arrives for our strategy meeting you are more than welcome to ask him. He might not fear us as much as almost everyone else in this city is but he will still be honest and tell us his reason." Despair answers looking up as the door to the war room opens and both Polynices and Eteocles walk into the room.

Chaos looks at his twin with a raised eyebrow. They had asked for Polynices to come to the strategy meeting but neither could remember asking for Eteocles to come as well. Once a strategy had been chosen, they planned to inform the heads of their armies and the members of their council and they were sure that no one would dare to question their orders and if they did, well the twins had their ways of dealing with troublemakers.

"My lords I realise that you were not expecting myself and Eteocles to come to this meeting. Dread did make it clear that you wanted to see me to discuss the best ways to attack Eden." Polynices starts, keeping his eyes looking down and trying to keep a distance between himself and Eteocles. He was still not a hundred percent happy with the plan but Eteocles had somehow convinced him that they would not be in trouble for his idea. In public Polynices had told Eteocles that he would have to act as though it was all down to Eteocles which they both knew was not completely true. While the idea had mostly been Eteocles idea there was no way that Polynices could completely deny that he had no say in the plan at all.

"We did invite you Polynices but neither Chaos nor myself invited Eteocles. He is intelligent there really is no denying that but he is the head of the Academy and not our advisor. So why don't you explain to us why you have invited someone else to a private meeting." Despair says, as he steps towards Polynices and watches out of the corner of his eyes that Eteocles steps forwards as if to get between them before hurriedly changing his mind.

"Eteocles believes that he can be helpful in which spies to activate within Eden and the other royal cities." Polynices starts still not daring to look at either Despair or Chaos.

"Why exactly would you be useful Eteocles? From what I understand from the female teachers who work in the Academy all you really do is flirt with the young female students. They also tell me that you do not spend time with the students and so do not actually know the name of a single student. More importantly you do not know which spies have been sent to which cities." Chaos states, the anger starting to slip into their voice. He did not feel the need to walk towards either of the men.

"The female teachers tend to lie my lord especially when it comes to me. Most of them are older than me and believe that they should have been given the position instead of me. It is the same with the male teachers, every single one of them thinks of themselves as better than me which is not true or you would have chosen a different leader for the Academy." Eteocles begins, pausing when he notices the way that Chaos and Despair are looking at him. It is a look that makes him extremely nervous and he does not like feeling nervous. Still, he does his absolute best to now allow his fear to show on his face as that is what has gotten previous heads of the Academy killed.

"So, what you are telling us, is that you do know the names of the children spies that we have sent into royal cities as well as Eden. Though I am guess that most of the children are now adults if they have survived to adulthood." Despair says with a shrug of his shoulders. Not feeling the need to step towards either of the other men. Instead, he turned to look at his twin instead.

"I know the name of every child who has ever entered the city. My notes can even tell you if that child is alive or dead. The previous heads of the Academy did not really care about doing their jobs. I do care about my job and my lord's information is particularly important. Currently you have five girls living in the city of Emeralds. From the reports they have sent to me I know for a fact they are close to the Princess." Eteocles starts but soon stops once he sees the identical twin smirks on Despair and Chaos's faces.

Over the next half an hour the four men start discussing strategies for attacking the royal families. By midday, the armies to the city of Death have been given their orders about the best ways to take out the threat of the royals. Spies within the four weaker royal cities are given their orders and begin to take down their targets.

For two bloody weeks the battle rages and in the end five cities fall of the six that were the target. During the two weeks Dread is forced to take the long route to Utopia in order to stay out of the fighting. By the end of the two weeks the only city left standing is Eden. A city that even by itself is strong enough to stand against the followers of Agamemnon Titan.

(The above is a much longer sample as it is actually a start that I enjoyed writing but not everyone agreed. Would be very grateful to receive some reviews about my writing and the story.)

Look forward to reading reviews and there may be more samples at some point.