The entire court stood as the door behind the throne opened and the king himself came through, standing atop the high platform overlooking the circular room. He was a man of great girth, wearing a large fur robe of purples and golds, with white beard, hair, and bushy white eyebrows. His eyes were bright blue, like those of his daughter. This was the first time Lucas had ever seen him.
Lucas took a breath, steading himself. How had made it here? He was standing in the center of the great open court, where rows of seats lead up the sides of the hall, holding senators and clergyman, and the king himself stood beside his great throne at the top of the hall, so that the area took the shape of an arena. And Lucas himself stood a raised platform in the center of the room with steps leading to the top, where he might be seen by the king and all the court at once. He knew that was he was doing was dangerous, but still he tried to remain calm. It was what had to be done.
“His Imminence King Roseline.” the guard to the King’s left announced in a booming voice, and the king sat upon the tall, gold and purple throne.
The king spoke, his voice deep and carrying around the large chamber, echoing clearly off the walls, “State your name for the court, young man.”
Lucas took another deep breath. “I am Lucas Ballanheim, Prince of the nation of Alexandria.”
“And why, Prince Ballanheim, have you come before my court today?” The king asked curiously.
“I have come to tell you of a plot to destroy my kingdom, and yours.” Lucas announced. There were murmurs from around the great hall, but the king remained silent, and placed his hands together thoughtfully, interlocking his fingers.
“This is a serious allegation, young Prince.” the King said. “Of what plot do you speak?”
“As you know, Your Imminence,” Lucas continued, “The royal family of Alexandria plays little part in the governing of the country itself. We are but figureheads, and our duty is mainly to help the people on a more personal basis, rather than to decide on their laws. You of course know why Alexandria is ruled by a Consulate, and not by her King.”
“I do,” the King spoke, “It is because of the legend of the Hell Child, who was born to the Alexandrian king of hundreds of years ago, and who had the terrible powers of a demon.”
“Indeed, Your Excellency,” Lucas agreed, “And it is said he had power over fire, over water, air, and earth, the great elements that make up our world. He was filled with the stubborn arrogance of a child of three years, and when his powers began to take form he could not control them, and so at a whim he burned the townspoeple and the houses, destroyed the castle around him, and even killed his own mother. The child became possessed by anger and rage, and ultimately had to be executed after he’d killed much of the Alexandrian population.”
“This is a tale known to me, and to my court,” the King spoke, “Why do you tell it now?”
“Because it is important that it be known that this is more than a legend, but historical truth, Your Excellency. The Hell Child was real, and there were many ideas as to what gave him this terrible power. Most among the court of that time believed him possessed of a demon, but in order to be sure that none of the Alexandrian royal family would ever be born with this power and use it to rule, it was decided by the people and agreed upon by the King of that time himself that Alexandria would be ruled by a democratic body made up of representatives, and the King himself would hold no power over the country.”
“Indeed, young Prince, as I have said, I know the tale,” the King’s voice had just a touch of impatience. “And again I ask what this has to do with any plot against my country, or your own?”
“Because, your Excellency,” and here Lucas paused, closed his eyes, and breathed deep again, steadying himself, “I am descended of the same line that bore the Hell Child, and I too have these powers over the elements.”
There were gasps among the court, more murmurs, and even a few loud objections. “This boy is mad!” One man shouted, and “Get him from the stand, we’ve more important matters to deal with!” from another. The King raised his hand and slowly silence fell once more over the court.
“This is an interesting claim to make, Prince Ballanheim,” the King said, “Particularly since anyone who truly did posses this power would be immediately perceived as an enemy of the state and too dangerous to be allowed to live. Have you proof of this claim?”
“If I would beg your indulgence, Excellency, “Lucas said, “I will demonstrate my power to you all. No harm will befall anyone, I promise.”
The King sat back in his throne and laid his crossed hands upon his lap. “You have my permission.”
Murmurs from the crowd began again, but Lucas turned to face those to his right. “Those of you who stand near the torches!” he shouted, “Take them from their positions on the walls and bring them forward, toward the dais.”
There were shouts of disapproval, but the King held up his hand again. “Do as he asks,” he said, “I would see this demonstration.”
From both sides of the hall, the guards standing near the torches on the walls took them from their places in the stone and brought them forward, so that all light but the torches behind the king now glimmered at the bottom of the dais. Lucas closed his eyes. He had done this a thousand times with the candles in his room, it was his favorite trick, it always soothed him. He thought of those times alone in his room, and he felt a twitch in his hand and a tightening sensation inside his head.
He reached out from within himself to the flames in the torches, he felt their heat with his mind, and magnified it. There were gasps from the crowd but Lucas didn’t need to open his eyes to know why. The flames in the torches had exploded into brightly burning fires much larger than they had been. He felt with invisible fingers each flame and pulled on them all at once. There were screams from the crowd as the flames all left their places atop the torches and floated to the top of the dais, and gathered into one large fireball, hovering over Lucas’ palm. He reach out with his mind and felt the flame in the torches behind the throne, and they too exploded into larger fires, and he pulled them forward, past the king and they joined the fireball hovering in the air over Lucas’ hand. He opened his eyes.
The only light in the room was from the great ball of light and fire he held swirling in his hands, red and blue and orange. It’s heat was immense. Lucas held out his hand and the ball of fire rose a few feet into the air. He stared at it.
“Fire, your Excellency.” he spoke loudly. “Fire is the great power of man. The power to create fire lies with humankind alone. At times, fire is the light of hope and warmth in the darkness of the night, and at others, fire is the heat of burning homes and destroyed cities, a terrible power that consumes forests, animals, people, any who stand in it’s wake. The human will is like fire, it can be used for comfort and warmth, or for destruction.”
The King spoke slowly, “That is…” he took a breath, “An impressive trick, young Prince.”
“But it’s not a trick, your Excellency.” Lucas looked up at the King, and with his mind he grabbed hold of the fireball and it flew over his head, and fanned out into a flaming cage that surrounded him upon the dais, and then the flames withdrew into smaller fireballs that hovered around him, illuminating him and casting dim light on the hall and on the king overhead. “This is the power the Hell Child posessed, but as you can see I am not a child possessed of a demon, but a young man who can control it. I can control the elements of fire, water, earth and wind. And this is crucial to understand, because it is the basis of the plot that threatens both our kingdoms.”
The King spoke, “Young Prince, this is indeed a marvelous display. However this kind of power is dangerous for the reasons you already know. You bring it forth into my court and demonstrate this power for us, but there had best be a very good reason. Tell me now of this plot, I’ll not ask again.”
“Your Excellency,” Lucas spoke clearly so that the entire court could hear him, “The Consul of Alexandria, Lord Brais, seeks to gain this power that I possess. He would seek to use it rule over Alexandria, and your kingdom of Hephaestia, along with all the other kingdoms of the world, and make himself Lord Sovereign over all men.”
Shouts of outrage filled the hall, while other members of the court remained staring at the fireballs that circled Lucas in silent wonderment.
“This is a grievous accusation, Prince Ballanheim,” the King spoke, “You had best bring forth some evidence of such a plot. Alexandria and Hephaestia have been allies since the foundation of both kingdoms, and to imply that your Consul seeks to take power from us is treason toward your own nation, be you the Prince or not!”
“Indeed, it is treason, Your Excellency.” Lucas said, “And Consul Brais has betrayed his own nation and yours in his attempt to gain this power.”
“If indeed the Consul sought to use the power you possess, why has he not enlisted you to do his bidding, or why has he not sought some way to steal the power from you, could such a thing be possible?” the King asked.
“Because the Consul, like many of the members of the high court of Alexandria, know of my power and view me as a threat. Though this is the power the Consul seeks, he has attempted to have me killed several times now, and my deployment as an Ambassador was a ruse to exile me from my Kingdom. As you know men dressed in the armor of Hephaestian soldiers attacked my retinue.”
“But it was not Hephastia’s doing!” the King shouted angrily.
“Of course it wasn’t, your Excellency.” Lucas spoke calmly. “It was a mercenary band employed by the Consul, and wearing your uniforms. Though the Consul himself told you he believed Hephaestia to be innocent in this, he orchestrated by attempted murder so that the people of Alexandria would think Hephaestia an enemy, and support the inevitable war he will declare upon your Kingdom.”
“This is preposterous!” shouted on the courtsman. “Your Excellency, hear no more of this child’s fanciful tales!”
The King remained silent, his head bowed in silent contemplation.
“Yes! Have the boy removed from the court this instant, and send him home to be tried for treason against his own country!” another courtsman shouted.
“I am not surprised as the outrage, your Excellency.” Lucas spoke calmly and clearly. “There are those among your court who are in league with the Consul, and wish you take you from your seat of power.”
Screams of outrage once again filled the hall. Lucas shouted over them, “The Consul has made empty promises of giving them wealth and power if they join him! He seeks to dethrone you and then to move on the other nations of the world!”
“Silence!” the King roared, and the protests subsided. “Silence all of you! Now, Young Prince, you are beginning to try my patience. You have implicated not only your own Lord Consul but also my senators and advisers in treason of both our Kingdoms, and still bring no proof of this plot. You have demonstrated only this remarkable ability, which I cannot know for certain is not some clever and well-demonstrated ruse.”
“I have evidence with me, Your Excellency.” From within his vest Lucas produced the small, leatherbound journal he’d read in the carriage, the journal he’d kept close to him at all times and let no one else see. He held it up for the court and the king to see. “This is the diary of the scientist Magnus Cornelius, member of the royal family of Hephaestia three generations ago.”
“Magnus was a traitor who was exiled from the Kingdom, a barbarous liar who sought to take the seat of power from my great-grandfather and make himself king of Hephaestia.” the King spoke.
“Yes, it is the very same Magnus who wrote this diary, your Excellency.” Lucas said, “And in it he chronicles his discovery of the Mage-Kin, those who posess my powers and the powers of the Hell Child of historical fame. He traced back his lineage and learned that from his mother, he had the same blood as the blood that flowed in the Hell Prince, and believed that he too had the power to use this ability, which he referred to as ‘magic.'”
Now there was silence among the hall, and all that could be heard was the flickering of the fireballs that very slowly orbited the dais upon which Lucas stood. He continued, “Magnus was unsuccessful in his attempts to harness the power of magic, but continued his research, and until he discovered a vampire.”
“A vampire!?” one of the courtsman shouted. “You would have us now believe fanciful tales of fairytale monsters?”
“Yes, sir.” Lucas shouted back, and then looked toward the king. “Magnus discovered a living vampire, and bound him within his laboratory, experimenting on his blood, and asking of the vampire questions. He experimented on human subjects as well, and finally when the vampire did manage to escape his imprisonment, he not only killed Magnus but made him into a vampire too.”
“This is foolishness, Young Prince.” the King spoke, “You would have me believe now in tales of magic, fairytale creatures, and implicate yourself, my court, my ancestor and your own Consul in these accusations. You are either mad, or very stupid.”
“I am neither, your Excellency.” Lucas spoke loudly. “It is my very existance and the knowledge of my power, coupled with the Consul’s discovery of this document, that has lead him on his quest to obtain the power of magic, and use it for his own ends. I’ve shown you that my power is real, and I can prove that this is the authentic journal of Magnus Cornelius.” He opened up the front cover of the leather binding. “He placed in the cover his seal, written in his own blood, as is sometimes the custom among Hephaestian royalty. Look now.” Lucas placed his finger to the round blood seal that bore the letter “M,” and it began to glow a blue light. “When touched by one who had the power of magic, it glows blue. It was the blood of Mage-Kin, the same blood that flows through my veins, and that of the Alexandrian royal family.”
“Lucas Ballanheim,” the King spoke again, “Your tales are fanciful indeed, but even if I were to believe them, what is it you would have me do? Even if the journal were penned by my ancestor, what lends truth to it’s tales, other than the trick which you have now performed for me? What is it you want from me?”
“Expose the truth to the people of both our nations, confront the Consul about his actions. He hasn’t yet found some way to use the power of the Mage-Kin, and since he is not of my blood he may never, but he is killing innocent people in his attempt to do it. He has destroyed villages on the other side of the world where native peoples claim to know the ways of magic, and he even now plots at war between our nations. If he does find some way to harness the Mage-Kin’s power, he will be unstoppable in a war, and will claim Hephaestia as his own. I have brought you proof, the diary of Magnus, written by the hand of Hephaestian royalty, be he an outcast or no, and I have shown you the power myself. Even if the Consul doesn’t gain this power, suppose there is someone else in the world whose blood is the same as mine, and who also possesses this power? He may find one such as this, and use them as his weapon of domination.”
“Lucas Ballanehim,” the King loudly said, “A diary and an impressive light show is not proof enough to bring allegations against an allied kingdom that would surely result in a war between us. I will not believe or do anything that you ask, and I have not even myself read this journal.”
“It will be yours if you will agree to what I ask.”
“I will not.” the King spoke angrily. “I have heard enough. You will be taken from my sight, and tried for treason in your own nation. Guards, have him taken away and placed in chains!”
Lucas held up his hand and the flames circling him burst into bright fireballs. “Wait! There is one another bargaining chip I’ve brought, your Excellency, and though it will surely make me an enemy to use it, you’ve given me no choice.” Lucas brought the flames behind him to make a wall across the steps of the dais, so that no one could come forth to seize him.
“And what, impetuous boy, is this ‘bargaining chip’?” The King roared.
“I know the location of your daughter, Cornelia.”
The King’s eyes widened and the court began to roar once again. “He is the Princesses kidnapper!” some screamed.
The King held his hand up for silence and shouted, “Where is my daughter!? Are you the one who has taken her!?”
“No one took her, my Lord.” Lucas said, “She attempted suicide from her window and was saved by a miracle. I know where she might be found. I will tell you her location and give you the journal if you will agree to what I ask. If nothing else, simply ask the Consul about these things, show him the diary, tell him you know the truth of the matter, I will come with you!”
“This is ludicrous, and I will know where my daughter is now!” the King shouted, “Tell me where she is and I may yet spare your life, for any thoughts of sending you home in chains are gone from my mind, knowing now that you are indeed my daughter’s kidnapper.”
“Kill me then!” Lucas shouted, “And play into Lord Brais’ hands! He’s already attempted to involve you in my death, and now you would willingly do it! The people will want a war with you for killing me!”
“My patience is gone from me, boy!” The King roared, “Tell me where my daughter is now!”
“Then you will not speak with the Consul, you will not listen to my plea, and you will do nothing to stop the impending war?” Lucas asked solemnly.
“No, boy, I will not.” The King spoke loudly. “And if you value your own life, you will tell me where my daughter can be found.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, your Excellency.” Lucas said, “Remember, when the Consul brings war to your country, that I brought you warning, and attempted to stop this all before it began.”
“You will be silent!” the King shouted. “Guards! I care not if he surrounds himself with fire, climb the very dais and take him into custody!”
“Goodbye, King Roseline.” Lucas spoke loudly. “I regret to know that a man as wise as yourself would decline reason, and the chance to save his country.”
With a flick of his mental fingers, Lucas extinguished the flames, and complete darkness fell upon the hall. The court began to cry out, and the King with them, shouting for his guardsmen to find the Prince and take him into custody. Lucas felt with his mind in the dark for the floors and walls and even without the sight of his eyes could see where he was and where the others were. Soldiers were running up the steps of the dais, their spears held out stupidly before them.
He jumped from the dais and with a gust of wind helped himself to land somewhat smoothly on the stone floor beneath. Atop the balcony torches were already being lit near the king and thrown down to the soldiers below.
“The doors will not open until we have captured the boy!” One of the soldiers near the walls of the hall announced, pushing back the throngs of people trying to rush out. Lucas sighed and casually walked past the soldiers and the people who could not see him in the dark, and slipped behind the soldiers guarding the doors leading into the hall, and through the doors themselves. He walked casually out into the hallway and turned to go down the steps, to where his companions waited outside the castle. No one would know what had happened inside in time to capture him, and he was safe for the moment as he headed toward one of the castle’s exits. People passed him and nodded pleasantly, unaware of the commotion in the great hall just yet, and eventually when he slipped outside and joined the others, hoisting himself up onto his horse, he sighed solemnly.
“He didn’t listen, did he?” Dexter asked.
“No, he didn’t.” Lucas replied as they began to ride toward the forests.
“You did all that you could, Lucas.” Jared encouraged.
“Still, when war comes, Hephaestia will be the first to fall.” Lucas cast a glance back at the gleaming castle towering overhead. “Who knows what will happen when word gets out that I’m Mage-Kin. They’ll think me another Hell Prince, and I’ll be hunted down.”
“We will protect you then,” Jared said from his seat on his horse.
“But I’m not the one who needs to be protected.” Lucas looked down and sighed again, “The world is in danger now.”