00 Prologue

Michael John ran out the Filgore Valley, leaving the big, cat-like Dragoons behind him. It was the first time he’d encountered these predators but had somehow survived. Still in shock, he didn’t realize that saving one of their youngest, ensnared in a wire, had spared his life.

Running across the grove of trees, the boy made it to the clearing. He could see the burg called Cornor in the distance, but not his brother Nolan. Pausing for a moment, he held his side as he breathed heavily. His hand brushed the knife he had stolen from his father, tucked away inside his tunic.

Michael’s only thought was of catching his brother before he could confront Luka Dey. But what could he say to Nolan that would make everything right again? Luka had pierced the heart of Nolan’s bride-to-be with an arrow yesterday, and now his brother sought revenge.

Taking a cleansing breath, the boy picked up the pace, deciding to wait for his brother at Cornor Square. Finally making it to King’s road, he skirted around a few early risers heading out to the pier in Southport. The scent wafting out of the kitchens in Pub’s Row slowed him down. Wet from the early rain, and hungry, he ignored his rumbling stomach and pushed on toward the Square.

To his surprise, he found Nolan already there. Held by two men, his brother squirmed, trying to break free. The few people in the cobblestone Square hurried past the group, averting their eyes. Several weathered doors belonging to various pubs, remained slightly opened, held by the curious who valued their anonymity. In minutes, there was no one to witness what was about to happen.

Michael John was acquainted with the two men holding his brother, Hodius Green and Ludda Weik. They were Luka’s protectors and comrades. Pulling his knife out, the boy didn’t know what to do next—all he could think of was getting his brother to safety.

“I know you killed her!” Nolan shouted.

Facing Nolan was Luka Day, dressed in fine garments afforded by his father, the ruler of Casselberry. “You should have left me alone!” Luka responded.

“Why did you kill her?” pleaded Nolan, wanting to understand.

Drawing his sword, the young man looked at his edge. “Well, there are several reasons, but one served me well, something you don’t need to know.”

If there were words exchanged between Nolan and Luka, Michael never heard them. Luka plunged his sword into Nolan’s stomach with one fluid move. Michael John froze, watching in horror, as his brother died. The two men holding him released their grip and let him fall.

Grasping the knife, Michael ran with a guttural cry. It was his turn to avenge his brother. Luka watched with amusement as the boy got closer, and he unleashed a swift kick to the chest at the last moment. Michael dropped his knife as he hit the ground. He rolled to his side, searching, reaching for the knife.

Luka stood above the boy, then struck him with the hilt of the sword. Feeling the warm blood flowing down his right eye, Michael succumbed to his pain and grief. The would-be ruler smiled when he saw the imprint on the unconscious boy’s cheek. He instinctively rubbed the arrow emblem on the end of the pommel.

“Who is he?” asked Hodius, his massive size making the boy look insignificant.

“I believe he is Nolan’s brother, my lord.” Ludda grinned.

“Another Mayweather? This day can’t get any better!” Luka canvased the area and saw a few people staring at him before they walked away. “Ludda, kill the boy.”

“I-I can’t kill a boy,” Ludda, responded, recoiling at the thought.

Cursing under his breath, Luka turned to the big man. “Hodi you do it, while Ludda helps me get rid of the other brother.”

“I can’t do it.” Hodius stepped back as well. “You know I always do what you ask. But I can’t do this …”

“What’s the matter with you two? Those in Corner won’t challenge me. But the boy is a noble’s son and saw what we did! He can’t live to tell someone in Bon Abbi! They’ll listen to him!”

Ludda lifted his finger to his lips. “Wait. I have an idea. We may not have to kill him or hide the brother’s body.”

“What are you talking about?” Luka shouted as he grabbed Ludda’s tunic.

“Take the knife and cover it with blood — Nolan’s blood. Put some blood on the boy. Then drag him to one of the warehouses in Southport. A ship’s captain will take the boy as an indentured servant.”

Luka let the idea play through his mind, releasing his hold on Ludda. “We can say the young boy killed this noble.” He stepped toward Michael and kicked him.

Hodius looked confused. “W-why do you hate them so?”

“It’s not for you to know.” Luka tried to lift the young boy by his tunic, but then dropped him. “One of you put the boy onto my horse. Leave the other Mayweather where he lies.”

In minutes, Hodius draped Michael’s body across the saddle. Holding the reins, he followed the two young men toward Southport, leaving the other horses tied at the Square. As morning came, people in hushed, quiet voices would express surprise when they encountered Nolan’s body lying in Cornor Square.

“Ludda, this may be your first excellent idea. Once a captain takes the boy in as an indentured servant, he’s as good as dead!”

Realizing he needed assurance from his companions, Luka turned to the men. “No one knows what has happened this morning, or in Bon Abbi a few days ago. Keep it that way!” Luka shouted. “Stay true and I’ll make sure you never work in the stables again.” Hodius and Ludda nodded, enough to satisfy Luka. He turned toward Southport, the next burg over, then smiled. There was no one left to keep him from becoming the ruler of not just his city, but the entire island. Luka Dey would be king of Rylie Glen. Who could stop him now?

Written by Mike Arroyo

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