Chapter 1

«A fairy mafia exchanging souls for loafs of bread.» Improbable but not impossible.

«A rogue group of centaurs releasing tame horses into the wild.» Probable, plausible, not important enough for Henry to care.

«A village blaming the mages for a lightning strike.» Improbable, possible. Henry made a note to look into it.

«A boarding school specializing in problematic children rumoured to be abusive.» Henry tapped his fingers and sat up straighter. The place was relatively new, opened just four years ago. Private schools weren’t really a thing, not since the education reform in Year eight of Dalayla’s reign. This was the exception. It promised a safe place for problematic children before things got worse. It promised twenty-four-hour attention away from parents and guardians.

These were all mere rumours. A nice and orderly list composed for Henry by his men. Most would be ignored. But where children were involved Henry would rather not take any risks.

He highlighted the rumour before standing up from his desk.

He opened the door to his office; the light rudely invaded his eyes making him squint as he stepped into the hall locking the door behind him.

The two guards that stood outside his door nodded politely.

Henry nodded back, «keep up the good work,» he mumbled as he walked down the hall towards the throne room. He didn’t spare a glance for the guards on either side of the thick wooden doors, he didn’t knock, he pushed the doors open and entered at a fast pace.

On the very farthest end of the throne room, standing still and staring out the window at the palace ground was a man in regal clothing and a crown. The king with his dark brown hair and matching beard turned to look at Henry.

«Where’s the head of security?»

«What’s he done this time, Henry?»

Henry rolled his eyes, «nothing. I have a job for him.»

«Nothing? Your tone would lead any person to believe he assigned a known Corevire spy as my personal bodyguard.»

«Wouldn’t surprise me,» Henry snorted. «He should be here guarding you.»

«Free time is a rarity with you filling every waking moment with meetings, I told him to leave me be. Can a man not enjoy some alone time?» No answer was expected. None would be given.

Henry looked out the window at the new recruits who were training. «Anything promising?»

«They’re all promising. They made it this far after all.»

«I’m sure they will all go on to serve this Kingdom well…» Henry’s eyes moved through the garden, «there he is.» He turned on his heels and walked towards the door.

«Yes Henry, you’re excused. Goodbye. I hope you too have a lovely day.» Philip mumbled with his hands behind his back and eyes on the garden.

Henry walked through the garden in large strides, dodging a couple of distracted new recruits in the midst of a sword fight. «Frederick!» he called for the head of security and captain of the royal guard.

The man turned from his place, talking to Tristan who was managing this years apprentices.

Frederick was a large man; muscular, he had a military style haircut and a nasty scar just visible on his collarbone above his uniform. Intimidating to most. Not Henry. «There are rumours.»

Frederick raised a brow, «aren’t there always?» seeing Henry cross his arms he pursed his lips and tried to sound serious, «what can I do about it?»

«I want a full investigation on Oppida Institute for Reformation.»

He looked taken aback before tilting his head. «That private boarding school for rich spoilt kids?»

Henry was about to respond but lucky for Frederick Tristan stepped in, «troubled children.» Tristan was a good head shorter than Frederick; his golden hair was in a neat ponytail, but a few locks fell over his shoulder. He twirled the loose locks in his left hand. «It’s expensive, so it is true a lot of kids who go there must have well off parents, but at what cost? First sign of trouble and their parents send them away…» he shook his head, «a pity. Why is an investigation called for Henry?»

«Rumours,» Henry uncrossed his arms finally. «No evidence, probably nothing. But I want to be sure.»

Tristen nodded, «of course. You can never be too safe.»

Frederick didn’t look thrilled, «we are going to waste resources and time on rumours? Are there not more important things we should be attending?»

«More important than the safety of the kingdom’s children?» Henry stared Frederick dead in the eyes. Green eyes met grey. Daring him to say anything.

Frederick shrugged, «I’m here to follow your orders Sir.»

«Good. Remember that.» He turned to Tristan, «any promising new recruits?»

Tristan smiled, «many. The apprentices this year are all applied, relentlessly so. I have to force them to take breaks and even then I sometimes catch them studying protocol. Oh, you must come down one day to meet them, I am certain you will be pleased.»

Henry smiled and nodded, «good. I will have to find the time. Will you be able to place them all?»

«I’ll find a way, I must. They’re too good to lose. That was what me and Frederick were talking about before your arrival.»

Henry nodded, «of course. Well, I should leave you two to it then. I expect a report soon,» he warned Frederick before taking his leave.

«Eavesdropping?» Elizabeth crossed her arms.

Jack turned in one swift movement, so he was facing his fellow apprentice, «no.» But he was fooling nobody.

Elizabeth looked past Jack at the adults, Tristan, Frederick and a stranger. «Who’s he?»

«You don’t know?» Jack looked dumbfounded, «you’re kidding.»

Elizabeth raised a brow, «not all of us have parents who work in the palace.» She reminded, «tell me,» she ordered, her voice stern.

«Sir Henry Brown, he’s the king’s right-hand man, the second most powerful man in the kingdom.»

«Really?» Elizabeth scrunched up her nose, «he doesn’t look powerful.»

«He is,» Jack reaffirmed, «and he had high expectations. Let me make a recommendation, don’t draw his attention.»

Elizabeth grinned, «you see Jack, there’s the difference between you and me.»

The boy raised a brow.

«You’re scared of what that man can take from you, but what’s the point of being good if people of power don’t notice you?»

Jack looked down at his sword, small, a training sword. «Perhaps when I get better.»

Elizabeth pulled out her own training sword, «then what are you waiting for? Fight me.»

Before Jack could agree Elizabeth’s sword was swinging and he had to pull his sword out to block it. He mumbled something too low for her to hear.

«Say that to my face,» She stepped forward powerful and well-trained swing, «or better yet,» she blocked his strike, «to my sword.»

 

 

Author’s Note

This is a prequel series to my book Dear Dragon

Read the first 18 chapters (entire act 1) on my wattpad, I updated every Tuesday.