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“Damn it, Darius.” Arim glared as a blast scorched the stone archway above his head. High atop the battlements of the castle, Tanselm’s legendary sorcerer stood, an intimidating defence against the invading army. Normally safe from attack within the enchanted castle, Arim suddenly ducked to avoid another bolt of blue fire from the ground far below.
When he straightened, he noticed the oldest of the Royal Four, Prince Darius, returning a fiery storm of destruction upon the encroaching Netharat. A haze of heat surrounded the prince as he leaned over the stone wall and narrowed his eyes at the enemy. With outstretched hands he summoned his internal fire and directed its path to destruction through flaming fingertips.
Arim frowned and with a wave of his hand changed the Netharat attacking the castle gate into bodies of solid rock. He turned to Darius. “The shields will hold. Go and gather your brothers in my chamber, now!”
Darius turned to argue, but the red fury darkening Arim’s eyes told him he’d pushed as hard as the sorcerer would tolerate. Though it grated him to withdraw, he left Arim and the other spellcasters to fetch his brothers.
He found Marcus, Cadmus and Aerolus staking the eastern turret, raining deluges of water, rippling shocks of rock and powerful blasts of wind upon the enemy steadily approaching the castle’s defensive perimeter. Muttered spells and intent stares, stabbing hands and sweeping arms commanded the elements to do his brothers’ bidding. He watched them battle, impressed despite his familiarity with such sights. But Arim’s words recalled him to purpose.
“Cease your attacks and come with me,” he called to his brothers after torching one wraith bent on bridging the now frozen moat surrounding the castle. The creature shrieked and flailed trying to douse the flames. “Arim orders us to his chamber.”
“But—” Cadmus tried to protest.
“No buts.” Darius looked out over the castle wall and cursed as he spotted the dimensional gateway through which the enemy had entered. Far in the distance, the gateway looked like a molten pool of fire against the pale blue sky. Unfortunately, cascading down from that pool onto the ground came another wave of Netharat, a foul river of corruption staining the very land they touched.
“We have to go,” Aerolus agreed, his voice calm in contrast to the chaos surrounding them.
As one the four brothers raced through the castle to Arim’s chamber deep in the heart of their home. The moment they approached the hardy oak door, it swung open, allowing the brothers entry into a room teeming with magic.
Like the steady droning of bees, a subtle hum vibrated within the stone walls, making the air crackle with energy. A narrow bed lay along one wall while a nearby desk filled with parchment and quills graced the adjoining wall. Tables and flat workstations filled the rest of the spacious room. On every surface except the bed lay glass pitchers and clay bowls filled with the sorcerer’s spell castings.
“It took you long enough.” Darius nearly jumped as Queen Ravyn closed the door with a wave of her hand, stepping out from its shadow. She narrowed her eyes, lingering on Cadmus. “When Arim gives an order, you obey.”
Tall and stately, with the catlike eyes and dark black hair she’d passed to all her sons, Queen Ravyn watched the Royal Four like a bird of prey about to swoop. Her understated power seemed to thrive in Arim’s chamber, her cheeks flushed and her eyes blazing as she studied her sons.
“Mother,” Darius said, his body taut with the effort to contain the powerful energy seething around him. He noticed his brothers looking equally uneasy. “Shouldn’t you be in your tower under guard?”
She scoffed and motioned him and his brothers farther into the room. “You do take after your father, don’t you?” She smiled sadly, a grim reminder of his father’s recent passing. “I am just as strong as Faustus was, Darius. I may not command the winds, but there’s more to my strength than elemental magic.” Her eyes narrowed. “And not one word about my frail state of mind. I just lost my husband, but I’m not an invalid. And I’ve power enough to stop these invaders from taking my crown.”
Darius blinked at the reprimand. He glanced at his brothers to see what they made of the ’gentle‘ queen and saw them equally confused. Indeed, his mother certainly appeared more warrior than royal lady. Her green eyes were lit with an inner fierceness; her stance was both battle-ready and aggressive.