This is the story of a group of youths caught in the bloody streets of a dying city.
Ross, a fledgling theif and self-proclaimed master of the night, must fight to ascend the twisting social ladder in a dangerous world. Avelon struggles to overcome her unfortunate gender and make a name for herself as the world's youngest maga. Marcus, a new-made orphan, learns to provide for himself and live without the safety-net of his ancient family name.


4. The Fourth Son

Vareth castle was silent and cold, the wind the swept over the high hill and pushed its way through the corridors the only sound within the halls. It was a terrible silence, a mournfull silence. The silence of a newly made grave or one of the newly made dead. Or, in this case, it was the silence of a sick man, slowly drawing his last breaths into his fluid filled lungs. Julius Vareth, superstitious as he was, had refused all mystical help, and so he died, as all things must. Even if he hadn't been so adamant, he would have died eventually.

Still, the untimely passing of Marcus' father, the ruler of all of Tmar, Svilza, and Yym, was a tragic thing. And so the court grieved, even as he lay sick. Even as he lived, they mourned him. Marcus was as silent as the rest, watching out a window in his father's room as the world continued as it was, never noticing nor caring about the sick old man wasting away. Marcus, however, wished nothing more than for his father to hurry on his way. The weezing sounds of the dying man irritated him and, as the youngest son, Marcus was forced to remain with his father day and night. His brothers said it was for the king's comfort, but Marcus knew it was just a way to get rid of him while they made the important descisions.

The midday meal arrived, and Marcus waved away the food taster. After all, if someone wanted to poison the king at this point, they might as well. He was dead anyway. And Marcus himself was the fourth son, barely higher in status than his father's numerous bastards, so no one would ever bother poisoning him. His brothers were the lucky ones, the ones with the real inheritances. Augustus would be the next king, as well as lord of Tmar. Yym would go to Titus, naturally, and Serius would be duke of Svilza. It wouldn't take a genius to figure that out. Even the lowest of the street trash knew that Marcus would recieve nothing after his father's death.

Somewhere down in the city, Marcus felt the vague stirring of bloodmagic, one of the highest of the arts, and his eyes snapped east, toward the whipping court. Had one of the magi been blooded? That made no sense. No one would dare to harm a magus, especially if they planned to draw blood. No, this must have been something else, something benign in nature, Marcus was sure.

Still, the dirty feeling the magic left him with took away Marcus' appetite, leaving him nauseous, so he pushed the plate of breads and fruits away angrily. The king's meal also lay untouched, but more because Marcus did not have the patience to feed his father at the moment. All that would do was prolongue the man's suffering, and Marcus had no desire to help his father.

Unfortunately, that was the precise moment Marcus' mother, Rema, decided to enter, sending a frosty glance over to the prince as she picked up the spoon. The king made faint sounds of protest as his wife forced the thin broth down his throat, but was too weak to do any more. Marcus turned away in disgust and stormed from the room, too irritated to properly beg leave from his royal mother. He was sure she'd make him pay for that eventually, just as he would pay for every other slight and snub he'd given her over the years.

Queen Rema was not Marcus' birth mother, of course. The true queen, Silvana, had died in childbirth, trying to give an ungrateful husband another son to ignore. For that, Marcus had never forgiven his father, nor would he ever. The new, young queen was cold as ice and just as likely to break, except that, unlike the former queen, she'd never borne even a single child. Not one. Rumors in the court claimed she hired magae to terminate any pregnancies, killing the unborn children. Marcus, however, believed that his inept father had merely exerted all his manhood upon his previous wife, and so had lost the ability to father children. Or, perhaps, one of his many mistresses had finally managed to pass him some horrid disease. Either one worked for the prince.

Marcus' thoughts so consumed him that, as he stormed away, he was lost in his reverie. He didn't even notice the dark shape slipping into the closing doorway behind him.


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