Prologue, Part 2
“Where are we?” he asked sleepily, climbing out of the carriage after his brother.
“The castle of Luna,” Gerard said proudly, attempting to show off. Their father nodded once in acknowledgment and walked into the castle’s great hall. Mikey looked around with wide eyes, taking in the bright colors he had rarely seen before. Their home in Cydonia was dark, a mix of black and deep purple. Happy, lilting music was playing in the background, and a cloud of chatter filled the room. Several kids ran past him, wielding wooden swords and clearly playing a game. He wanted to run after them, but knew better than to upset his father. He had already done so three times that day.
“What is the meaning of this intrusion?!” boomed a powerful voice. They all watched as a man approached them, and the entire room fell silent. Gerard instinctively moved in front of his brother, ready to protect Mikey if he had to. He hadn’t had much practice with the magic his father was teaching him, but he refused to let anyone hurt his little brother.
“I find it very rude that you did not invite my family to this celebration, Garith,” said their father.
“You are not welcome in my kingdom, Cruor. Now leave before I am forced to send for my soldiers,” the other man replied. Cruor was not deterred and walked past him, towards the other end of the huge, open room. Several women backed away as he passed by. Gerard deserted his brother and briskly walked after his father, trying to match the man's huge stride. Cruor realized he was being followed and slowed his pace so Gerard could catch up. They approached the single throne - and the cradle placed in front of it.
“This is Princess Orchid,” said Cruor. Gerard stood on the very edges of his toes and looked inside. He saw a baby’s round, pink face, surrounded with layers of blue and purple cloth and pillows. “You’re going to marry her one day, Gerard, and be King of all Cydonia,” Cruor continued. Gerard smiled, reaching a hand down to touch her. Mikey and his mother approached as well.
“I haven’t agreed to any such engagement!” Garith said sternly. Cruor turned to face him, a deceptively calm look in his eyes.
“That is precisely the reason for my visit. Perhaps we can talk elsewhere,” he offered in a quiet voice. The other man remained silent. “Please, I insist that you at least listen to my offer. My kingdom is a wealthy one, I can assure you.” Garith locked eyes with him and began to walk down a nearby hallway. Cruor smirked to himself and followed. Gerard smirked as well. His father had always been a skilled negotiator when the need arose.
The party resumed its previous lighthearted atmosphere, as if the family had never arrived and disrupted it. Mikey approached the cradle as well, but was far too short to see over the edge, even when he jumped up to see better. Gerard had no way to help him.
“Hey,” said a voice from nearby. Both of them looked toward it, seeing a group of three boys standing before them. They seemed to be closer to Gerard’s age than Mikey’s. He felt even smaller than usual and tried to hide behind his older brother.
“Where are you guys from?” the leader of the three asked, speaking in a strange accent. Gerard noticed the boy had black hair not much shorter than his own.
“Cydonia,” he responded. The other two boys burst out laughing.
“That place isn’t even real!” said the one with sandy blond hair. Gerard took a step closer to them, appearing intimidating in his entirely black clothing. Their laughter slowed to a stop. The other black-haired boy stared straight back at him with relaxed, unafraid eyes.
“What are your names?” Gerard asked darkly.
“I’m Matt, this is Chris, and the stupid one is Dom.”
“Hey!” cried Dom, shoving Matt without really meaning it. Gerard’s eyes traveled to each of their faces, and he said their names in turn.
“Christopher. Matthew. Dominic. I suggest you don’t insult my land or my family. I know magic. I can hurt you.” He spoke slowly and quietly, not wanting to attract unwanted attention. “My father is a king.”
“Well my dad’s a knight,” Dom taunted. “And someday I’ll be one, too.”
“Magic’s not real, anyway,” Matt added with a smirk. Gerard nearly growled at him as he and friends began to snicker, but managed to keep his dignity. His father wouldn’t have gotten upset. He wouldn’t, either.
“You’re just lucky I don’t use it on you,” he said simply, grabbing his brother by the hand and leading him off another direction. Matt ignored his threat and turned back to his friends, who were struggling to hide their laughter. He smiled. Magic. How ridiculous.
Suddenly, a loud bang of opening doors echoed throughout the great hall. A group of three men stormed into the room, all clothed in the black and midnight purple colors of Cydonian soldiers. Several women screamed and fainted as the men ran towards the cradle, roughly shoving the three boys aside, and tore the squealing baby from her place. The one holding the child ran for the doors, but a woman nearby blocked his way and stole the baby away from him, holding her close. Two men of Luna’s military wrestled the intruders to the ground, knocking two unconscious in the process and restraining the third.
“What is the meaning of this?!” boomed Garith, running into the room with Cruor at his heels. Both of them looked upon the scene with shock. Garith’s eyes darted back and forth between the soldiers and the woman holding the baby. She quickly returned the child to him, but as soon as the baby was safe in her crib once again, Garith slapped the woman across the face. Cruor rushed to his wife’s side, nearly returning the favor to the other king.
“Get out before I have you killed for attempting to kidnap my daughter!” Garith shouted.
“I had nothing to do with this!” Cruor shouted back.
“Do you think I’m blind?! Those men were clearly part of your army! Any engagement I might have accepted is canceled. Now get out.”
Silence fell across the room once again. Gerard and Mikey ran to their father’s side. He took a few deep breaths to calm himself.
“Mark my words, Garith, an engagement there will be. You cannot break a blood vow,” said Cruor. Several people gasped at this, expecting Garith to retaliate.
“If I ever see you in my kingdom again - or anyone in your family,” he added, glaring down at the young boys. Gerard glared back with equal emotion, while Mikey averted his gaze to the floor. “I will have them arrested and killed.”
Cruor narrowed his eyes and smirked, then turned and walked out without another word, closely followed by his family.
“Take those men to the dungeon,” Garith said to his soldiers. The two of them nodded, being joined by a third, and set forth following their orders. Matt, Chris, and Dom ran up to them.
“Can we see?” Matt begged his father. The other two men smiled in spite of the situation, and Matt’s father knelt down to his eye level.
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea. You shouldn’t be down there until you’re older.”
“How old?” Matt questioned, tilting his head to one side. His father laughed.
“But dad,” he whined. His father cut him off.
“Can I ask you to do something for me?” he said in a serious tone, keeping his voice low. Matt nodded, wide-eyed. “Since this little incident, we’re going to need some extra help guarding the princess. Do you think you and your friends could help us with that?”
“Of course!” Matt exclaimed, nodding vigorously. His father laughed and stood, ruffling his son’s dark hair, then took the prisoners down to their new cells. Matt turned around to face his friends and stood at attention.
“You heard him. We need to protect the princess.” Dom and Chris nodded, and they formed a triangle in front of the cradle. Matt tried not to get distracted. He couldn’t disappoint his father, or the other knights. They needed him.
Dom glanced inside the cradle, being a little taller for his age and thankful for it. Orchid had fallen back to sleep and was smiling peacefully, bringing a smile to his face as well. He would protect her. No matter what.