he shadow slid silently across the crevices of the room. It observed the man in bed. The man’s chest slowly rose and fell with rhythmic breaths, and his hands groped at imaginary breasts. The shadow moved closer to the eager dreamer, watching, and waiting. The man rolled to his side giving off a lusty laugh full of sour ale from the nights drink. The shadow watched with constraint mixed with disgust for the splayed figure before him. With a stealthy motion he began what he came to do. A few hours before dawn the man started from his slumber, feeling the constriction of his limbs. With great annoyance he opened his eyes, ready to lash out at whichever servant had had the misfortune of waking him, unless it be the busty chamber maid. To his dismay the man found that he could not move his arms. “What in the name of Elucien’s hoards!” He growled but before another word was spoken he felt the prick of a blade against his jugular. The Shadow stood over him, his face concealed in a hooded cloak as his arm gingerly raised the tip of his blade to touch his throat. The man fell silent at the dawning realization of his plight. “Perhaps you trusted in Elucion to protect you from your crimes?” asked the Shadow calmly. “You assumed that your treachery and poisonous tongue would win you favor with the dark Lord, hmm? That he could not afford to part with such a faithful servant perhaps?. You guessed wrong, and now you must answer for what you have done. I tell you that I will feed your corpse to the bloated half dead dogs of Avenon’s allies before this night is through.”
At this the bounded man began to jerk violently only to have the blade penetrate the first few layers of his flesh. “I would avoid moving too much,” said the shadow, “that is if you desire to cling to the last few moments of your pathetic life. You know what I am and why I have come? The treachery you would have caused would have left this kingdom wallowing in blood and shame.” At this the Shadow threw back his hood and looked at the man. “You!” the man hissed. His last word was cut short as a dark blade was thrust into his throat, forever freezing the look of shock on the man’s face. The Shadow carefully withdrew his blade, wiping it on rag from his cloak. He folded the man’s hands and closed his eyes. “May Andunai have mercy on your soul.” With that the Shadow silently retreated into the night whence he had come.
The moon stood at its zenith. It was shortly after dawn and a crowd was gathered in the great hall. The men were talking quietly amongst themselves staying within their circles. “He is dead then”, “Are you sure?”, “He was found as if resting but with one small detail.” The speculations continued through out the hall until the Emperor entered and the room fell in hushed silence. “Be seated” and gestured with his hand that they should sit around the great table. The men moved to their places solemnly.“I assume that most of you have heard the news of what has happened by now. Lord Ballack was found dead in his bed chamber. This matter must be kept discreet, not only was he my mother’s brother but an important man of this council.” With this the men in the room looked down in respect and uttered small noises of agreement. He turned to the High Sorcerer seated to his right. “I will seek council at the Inner Circle of Hemevah”. The Sorcerer sat quiet for a moment and nodded, “Yes, I will summon the Inner Circle at the appropriate time. Dark days are coming for the one who would dare assail the House of Ballack.” The Emperor nodded and looked at the man, waiting to hear his response. “I have ordered the Avenian Guard to search the entire city. You know of the rising tensions, there is no need for people to know of this matter. The assassin will indeed be hunted down, but with the utmost secrecy. No details of this shall leave these chambers, and if it does, then I shall know from whence it arose. I will consult The Inner Circle and will summon you here again after.” He nodded for the mage to go.
As the High Sorcerer rose to leave, the emperor looked at a quiet man with graying hair and said, “Lord SilverLake, I assume you will accompany him en route to the Silver Birch?”. “Of course your Majesty, today will be no different than any other, dark though it may be”, the Lord replied.Lord SilverLake walked next to the High Sorcerer in silence until they were out of ear shot of others. “Is he out of the city?” asked the mage. “Yes, my Lord. He reached Ninornon by night fall and continued North. He has his instructions.” replied the Lord of Silver Lake. “You have trained him well my friend, I have no doubts, yet it is best if he stays far within North for the time being. Though the Emperor will not be grieved much over Ballack, too much is at stake for him not to seek vengeance to appease the council. He should stay away till things settle.” “Yes, and he need not be idle in the North for I have heard strange news abroad. We will send further instructions when he reaches Etobran.”
“I am Phadran, the heir of SilverLake. I am the man, or rather the shadow, whom they speak of. My father is the ruling Lord of Silver Lake, a castle set among the Silver Birch trees of bordering the Great Tower. For centuries our house has served along side the Grand Sorcerers of Hemevah. The Lords of SilverLake have also served the emperors of Avenon, yet we are bound no none. We seek only to protect Avenon from the influence of the demon lords. Should such protection include the elimination of nobles ore even emperors who would be serve as their pawns, then so be it. The Lords of SilverLake do not live at court but are often summoned to council. We are known to be proud, wise, loyalists if the thrown. We are full of good humor when the occasion calls for it, but always somber at heart. Yet beneath this public veneer we bear a silent strength of will, a deep abiding malice for our former masters, that has allowed us to do the unthinkable.”
“For 2,000 years we have fought Ellucien from within the shadow, unknown to the world save for a to a trusted few. What sets our House apart is our unique blood line. Mixed with the race of men is the blood of elves. Long ago this alliance was formed. We walk among elves and men, summoning the strength of both races to free Eriond from the talons of Ellucien. Each generation a male is chosen. At birth he is marked by his father and the High Sorcerer to be trained to do what is required of him. Kings have fallen and Castles have burned at our hands and yet our secret has been guarded for centuries. I was trained by my father and his faithful servants. The men who serve him have been in our household for hundreds of years. An heir is chosen, as I was chosen, for their skill and unquestionable devotion. I was taught from birth how to walk between the shadows, to gain information, and to take life when necessary. We do not take it without cause. We take it from those who would destroy what we have come to love, from those who yet serve the powers of the dark. Our house brings forth killers.”
“I love the company of woman from all races, yet I am to wed from the Elvish line of Dwenin that I may produce an heir to replace me. This is how it is. This is how it has always been done.”
“Tonight, I took the life of Lord Ballack, brother to the Dowager Queen, mother to the Emperor. He would have sold his soul to Ellucien to usurp the throne and throw the empire into bloodshed for his own gain. We would not allow this. The High Sorcerer serves Andunai alone. My father is devoted to him and is his close friend and councilor. I love the Mage as I love my own father. Yet each of us knows that my life, like that of my father’s, is one that is dedicated to, and perhaps shall be sacrificed in the service of calling that higher than any earthly love. This calling has endured for two thousand years. Rumors are whispered about us in dark places, and we have been called by many names. Yet we remain now, as ever, only shadow and mystery to rest of the world.”
“Now I am in the North. After the assassination of Ballak I find that I have fallen into strange company. I was sent here for more than just my own safe keeping. Dark rumors have reached us in the South of an evil lurking in the frigid North. A host of dark wyrmm riders has been spotted alighting from Escalatharn, and I am to watch and listen. I have been traveling among small villages gathering what information I can. In my journeys I have been commissioned by the local governments to deal with small menaces. What ever may come, I will learn what I can of the coming storm. When the time is right, my father will send word. Until then I wait and watch…”