Throught the Night

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A world on the edge of war. A boy who hosts a dormant evil on the brink of being unleashed. A tortured woman with a dark past. An ex-prisoner with an infinite stash of secrets. A blind assassin who knows nothing but bloodshed and darkness. All of these come together in an unlikely band to join the rebellion against the forces of hell itself. But when the skeletons in their closets come out to play, who will find themselves on heaven's side, and who will burn?

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1. Prologue

The night was cold. Yet Arkuros Restorvallé did not shiver as the frigid wind howled around him. He stood on the balcony overlooking the city of Sahelleve. His city. Capitol city of the land of Zaré. He surveyed his massive kingdom with satisfaction. The rich tapestries displaying all of his morbid victories hung behind him in his throne room. They kindled his pride until it was a raging inferno. He had done the impossible. He had risen above the One who thought himself to be lord and master. Arkuros had the world at his fingertips, and had declared himself god over all humankind. He decided who lived, who died, and who did not have the privilege of either.

Arkuros turned and strode to his throne. He sat in it and let his fingers glide along the stone armrests. The immense hall was lined with towering pillars of black stone, each engraved with Zarésian symbols and runes. There were two balconies on either side of the room, their doors unlatched and swinging wide, letting the winter air in. The heavy drapes that usually covered the doors were flapping about gently, free from their bonds.

Torch light flickered on the walls and cast strange shadows throughout the grand hall. The light did not reach the high ceiling, giving the already eerie room an even darker atmosphere. Starlight from the balconies left patches of silver beams on the stone carpet-covered floor, as if competing with the shadows that left the room in blackness.

The doors of the entrance to the throne room were closed; they would not be for long. Two black and gold clad guards were standing motionless on either side of the doors, waiting to fling them open at Arkuros’ command. Arkuros was waiting for someone. Another pawn in the twisted game that he was playing.

The room suddenly echoed faintly with the sound of approaching feet. Arkuros nodded to the stiff men beside the doors, and they reached forward to open them.

Two more men marched in, each gripping the arm of a small figure. The small figure was shoved to the crimson-carpeted floor.

“You may leave us.” Arkuros commanded. Each man in the room left before he had even finished. There was the slight sound behind him of various other servants that had been waiting on him rushing to follow suit.

Once everyone had left, the small boy of five years lying pitifully on the red plush carpet coughed and weakly tried to lift himself up. Arkuros got up from his throne and made his way to the boy, crossing the distance with a few strides.

He bent down to the boy’s level and whispered in his ear.

“Welcome back, prince.” His breath ruffled the hair around the boy’s ear. The boy looked up. His face was streaked with dirt and tears. There was dried blood on his lip and his red-rimmed eyes were both black and blue.

“Where did my father go?” The boy asked through angry tears. He tried to sound brave, but Arkuros could see the fear in his eyes.

"You are mistaken, child. That man was not your father. Besides, he left you, "Arkuros replied, assuming a look of pity and concern. "But you needn't worry, little bird.” He gripped the boy’s long black hair and jerked him up. He smiled at the stifled cry of pain. Despite the massive hand gripping him, he still met the king's eyes dead-on. He is a strong one, the king thought. "You are home now."

Arkuros laid a hand laden with priceless jewelry on his son's forehead. He felt a faint stirring of emotion within himself, something vaguely familiar. It took a moment for him to realize that he must be experiencing a slight bout of fatherly affection. It had been many years since he had felt such emotion.

 

"Long have I sought after you, my boy,” Arkuros let a tender note creep into his voice. "It is good to have you returned to me." The child merely glared at him, his amethyst eyes burning in defiance.

"I don't want to be here," he stated bravely. Though he was young, he carried a strange maturity.

"Why wouldn't you want to be?" the king asked gently. "As I told you, the man you called father left you here."

A flash of uncertainty flitted across the young boy's face. A moment of silence passed, the cherubic features struggling to retain control. After a second of effort to control the trembling lips and blink back the tears, he broke out into a sob.

"Do not cry, child," Arkuros released the boy and motioned to one of his sentries, who immediately opened the door to admit another figure - this time a young woman.

"My lord." She bowed. She was merely fifteen but appeared much older, both due to her height and fully matured figure, but also due to the demeanor in which she carried herself.

"Daughter," Arkuros nodded a greeting. "Your brother has been found. I release him into your care. See to it that his training commences immediately. There is no time to waste."

Sahra, Arkuros's daughter looked over serenely at the boy. "It is understood, father." She calmly swept the child up into her arms. She was strong and sturdily-built and it was no problem for her to bear him.

As they left the room, Arkuros let out a sigh of satisfaction. His greatest weapon had been returned to him.

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