In the midst of the dragon-realms, the Adamantine Palace sits, nestled among the foothills of the Purple Spur mountains, surrounded by the waters of the Mirror Lakes. In the summer sun it gleams like a jewel, and well it might, for it is a prize, a symbol of power. It is a place where marriages are made and alliances sealed, where Knights and Princes plot their paths to greatness, where friendships are born and where the villainous cast their schemes. Above all, it is a place where all eyes look to the skies, for among the Kings and Queens of the realms, only one thing means power.
Thirty tons of lightning-fast, fire-breathing winged terror. In the myths of ash from which the realms arose, they flew wild and untamed. They had the power to destroy armies, burn cities, render castles to dust. Nothing could stop them. Nothing at all.
Those days, though, are all but forgotten, for the dragons have been tamed. Kept dulled and pliant by the potions of the master alchemists, they remain the ultimate weapon, but now they are wielded by the Kings and Queens of men. They are flown for sport and bred for the brightness of their scales. A return to the wars of the past is unthinkable, for to unleash the dragons once more would be to unleash the end of the world.
Now it is a time of change. The stewardship of the Adamantine Palace shall pass from the old to the new. There will be love and joy, and one Prince will seek a path to greatnessâ€¦
- o O o -
In a long dark room, lit only by the embers of a hearth, Prince Jehal sits by his father’s bed and takes his father’s hand. He leans towards the old man’s ear.
“I know you can hear me,” he whispers, soft as silk. “I know your mind is still alive in there, even while your body wastes away. I’m going to kill Queen Aliphera. I’m sorry. I know you liked her. She has a daughter, too. Zafir. She squeals like a pig when we… Oh, I’m sorry.” Jehal gently wipes his father’s brow. “I suppose I shouldn’t speak of such things. Do the women I send to your bed still give you any pleasure? I hope so. I pick them myself.”
He pauses and squeezes his father’s hand, stretching his senses for any response. He thinks he feels a twitch, but that could simply be his father’s condition. It could be anything. Most likely it’s nothing.
He whispers again. “Hyram’s time as master of the Adamantine Palace is nearly done. You’re going to be my key to him, father. You and Zafir. He thinks he’ll appoint Queen Shezira to succeed him, but I’ll change his mind. I’ll do what you never could, and you’re going to help me. In fact, father, I couldn’t do it without you. All I ask, is that you be the pathetic, drooling, shaking, empty shell of man that you are. Let him see what time has in store for him. Let him fear it in his bones. Let the dread of it gnaw at him. Let the terror of age and impotence and helplessness eat his heart until he will do anything, anything, for the cure.”
Jehal rises and grins. “And please don’t tell him that it doesn’t exist.” He takes a step towards the door, then turns back and holds his father’s hand one last time. “I’m sorry, father, I really am, but I had to do what I’ve done. I know you understand, but I do wish you could tell me, just once, that you’re proud.”
With a skip in his step he walks away. He has a Queen to murder, a King to poison, a Princess to bed and another to wed, and his heart is singing with joy.
- o O o -
In the midst of the dragon-realms, the Adamantine Palace gleams, a prize and a poisoned chalice. It is a place where daughters are sold and alliances broken, where nests of vipers plot their paths to greatness, where the villainous dream designs of deceit and death. Friendships will be bartered and sold. There will be treachery and lust and betrayal. Kings and Queens will die.
There will be murder.
Above all, it is a place where all eyes should look to the skies, for amid the schemes and deceptions, one tiny flaw will go unnoticed. There will be the slightest of mistakes, and one dragon will slip the alchemists’ grasp.
It will remember.
And there will be fire.