Crown Prince Rugan Merripen paced his large room. His hands flitted through the air and his lips moved as if he were having an animated conversation with someone. But he was alone. He stopped momentarily before the window, studying the bars that kept him a prisoner. He no longer saw the beauty of the landscape beyond, the rolling grasslands, the far distant high mountain peaks that sparkled with first snow. His vision had been reduced to the thick iron bars that prevented him from leaving.
Still, something was different today. Something picked at him, set his nerves tingling, his anxiety soaring.
A knock at the door brought him around. "Go away!" he snapped.
The knock sounded again.
"I said, go away!"
Instead, the door opened, and a tall, slender man stepped into the room. Rugan regarded him through narrowed eyes.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"Your savior," the man answered.
Anger whipped through Rugan. "Cute. Now the who the hell are you?"
The man chuckled, and sketched a bow. "Count Vaalde Lerrak at your service, Your Highness."
Rugan studied him a moment, then turned away. "Another healer? Someone sent to examine the mad prince? You're wasting your time."
"Am I? Then you choose to remain here? Locked up? Away from your family? What's rightfully yours?'
The words intrigued Rugan, and he turned to face the man. "What are you talking about?"
"May I?" The man gestured toward a chair.
Rugan nodded, although his gaze shifted to the still-open door. He wondered why it had been left thus. Usually when a healer came to interrogate him, the door was firmly closed and guarded. The open door, and the lack of activity beyond, intrigued him as much as the visitor's words.
"Now then," Vaalde said, seating himself. "What if I told you I could remove you from this prison and return you to your rightful place? What if I told you that you would even have magic, your magic, at your disposal? And what if I told you that you could exact revenge on the meddling bastard child who usurped your rightful position as the Crown Prince of Lidgerwood?"
Rugan stared at him, stunned. Vaalde rose and came toward him.
"Do you feel that tingle, Rugan? In the air? That's magic, Rugan. Elfin magic. Your magic. Wouldn't you like to be able to command it as you were born to do?"
"I don't know how," Rugan said tightly.
"One needs only a teacher to learn," Vaalde said smoothly. "I am quite versed in magic. I could teach you much." He walked to the window, reached out and touched the bars. They disappeared in a flash of light.
Rugan's mouth dropped open, and he approached the window slowly. He waved one hand through the air to convince himself the bars really were gone. They were. His gaze swept to the door, sure that at any moment his elfin healers would come crashing into his room. But there was only silence. He brought his gaze back to Vaalde. "Where is everyone?"
"Everyone? Oh, you mean your wardens? They're gone. There's no one here but you and me."
Rugan hesitated a moment, then walked to the door. He reached out tentatively, but his hand made no contact with a WardSpell.
"It's gone," Vaalde said. "You're no longer a prisoner. Now, you can either leave here on your own, return home, continue to play second rate to your half brother, have your rightful magic denied you..."
"Or you can join forces with me."
"Forces? What do you mean?"
"Think about a few things here, Rugan. How many magics are there in the land?"
Rugan shrugged. He didn't know.
"Less than a dozen. Of those the two most powerful are elfin and sorcery. Now, if a man were to have control of both, think what that man could do."
"How could a man control both?" Rugan asked, his interest finally piqued.
"Simple. Sorcery magic has been banned for use here in Glede."
"Then what did you use there?" Rugan gestured to the window.
Vaalde laughed. "It's been banned for use, Rugan. I just don't happen to agree with that ban."
"So, you can use sorcery magic?"
"And you can use elfin magic. A perfect team, don't you think?"
Rugan paused, his gaze still on the window. "I don't know how to use elfin magic. No one would show me. They said my mind wasn't strong enough, that I wasn't capable of using the magic." He snorted his disdain at the mere thought. As if that half-elfin, half-brother of his was. And to make things worse, a Dresari elf was now king. The Dresari had no direct blood-ties to the elfin crown--none. It was only because of Kyel's close friendship with Fredek, now deceased, that the black elf had been elevated to such a position. A position that Treyas stood to inherit. Rugan had tried to deny Treyas' heritage, but the fact that the elf shared a strong heritance from their father would not allow such denial. Even now, Rugan could see the mis-matched blue and green eyes Treyas had inherited. It should have been me. I should have been the one to inherit that, not Treyas! Rugan scowled in rage, then started when Vaalde lightly touched him on the shoulder.
"I will help you, Rugan," the sorcerer said quietly. "But first we need to get you away from here, to someplace safe. We can't have those who would seek your power to try to keep you from it."
"Where will we go?"
"Leave that to me, Your Highness," Vaalde said smoothly.
Rugan regarded him suspiciously, then moved away. "Why do you want to help me? What's in it for you?"
Vaalde shrugged. "I already told you. Half. Half of the power, half of the glory, half of the lands."
Rugan pondered on the words for a moment, then asked the nagging question, "How? How do you propose to take control over the elfin magic?"
"With the Triskelion."
Rugan sucked in his breath, his thoughts spinning. He knew of the Triskelion. It was part of his family's legacy. Centuries ago, all elfin magic had been stored in the medallion, stripped from a land devastated by war. The theory was that without magic, things would be simpler, less violent. But it hadn't proved to be so. Just two years earlier, when another war threatened, the magic of the Triskelion had been freed. Two pieces had been re-joined by two people - the King of the North, and the Elfin Crown Prince. Only that prince hadn't been him. No, he'd been denied that right by the Triskelion itself. Anger gnawed at his gut, and his hands balled into fists, as he felt again the sting of rejection.
"Think, Rugan," Vaalde said softly, his words draping over Rugan like a comforting shroud. "Think what you could do with your magic."
Rugan did. He fairly trembled at the prospects. But...he half turned to face the man. "But I don't have the Triskelion," he pointed out, his tone surly. "Treyas does."
Vaalde smiled. "Come here."
Rugan did as told, sinking down in the chair opposite Vaalde. The sorcerer reached for his hands. Rugan allowed it, although his muscles tensed warily.
"Now, then," Vaalde said. "Think about the Triskelion, Rugan. Remember it. Picture it. At the moment, it's empty. Give it some magic, Rugan. Elfin magic. Your magic."
Rugan frowned. In his mind's eyes he could see the Triskelion. It glowed with an internal fire that called to him. It should have been his to carry. And he had never even touched it. His right, his legacy, had been stripped from him by his illegitimate half-brother, Treyas. And that cocky little bastard, King Jansson, had helped.
Rugan's anger increased. If he had the magic, he could get revenge. He would remove Treyas, send him packing back to the whorehouse he'd probably come from. And he would find a way to tear apart Jansson's life as well, to make the young king feel the pain of rejection and loneliness. Loneliness that he, Rugan, had grown up with, that had been his only companion these many years. Then he would follow his rightful path to the crown of the elfin empire. He would be King Rugan Merripen, King of the Elves. If only he had his magic!
He gasped and leapt to his feet as a jolt of energy shot through him. Vaalde looked up at him, smiling.
"Well done!" he cried, getting to his feet. "For someone who does not know how to handle magic, you did a splendid job!"
"What did I do?" Rugan asked.
"You just pulled elfin magic, my friend."
"I did? I pulled the magic?"
"Yes, and, as per your heritage as elfin royalty, you were also able to direct it straight into the Triskelion. And there it will remain until you, and only you, are ready to remove it. Ready to use it. Ready to reclaim your kingdom, and your magic."
Rugan stared at the man, excitement surging through him with as much intensity as the magic. Yes. He would reclaim his heritage! And no one, not Treyas, not even Kyel - no one would stop him. He looked at Vaalde, and smiled. "I think," he said, "this is the start of a wonderful and lucrative partnership."