"...and that's exactly what happened?" the Kings voice echoed around the hall, I guess it matched a somber expression on his face, although, I couldn't be certain. From my kneeling position before the throne I could only see the Kings feet at the base of the throne, and the marble floors occasionally dotted black smudges where the Shadow-Knights had fallen.
'No, m'lord, she wasn't captured, she left of her own free will.'
"Yes, your Grace." I lied, trying impossibly to banish the terrible thoughts from the back of my head.
"Herezar! Come forth." the King bellowed. "Get up, Keth."
I stood, and watched the robed Wizard make his way up to the throne from his position at the side. He looked terrible, as if something was haunting his every moment and his normally ancient, powerful and confident eyes looked frail and worried.
"I know her location, sire." Herezar mumbled.
"Where?" I was surprised to here the kings voice echoing my own.
The old man looked downwards and whispered something into his beard.
"Speak up, Herezar." The King spoke with control, but it was obvious he was masking anger and fighting back impatience.
"C- Cigam, Lord."
A deadly quiet took the room, terrified whispers spreading like wildfire through the throne room. A maid dropped her tray of drinks, and two doormen exited quickly. Guards tightened their grips on their weapons, and looked around on alert as if the name would bring the monsters right from the stories into the very heart of Winteroaks.
The king stood slowly. "How do you know?" He asked quietly.
His hands shaking, Herezar reached into his robes and withdrew a locket. It was an old bronze with a clear, but reflective emerald set in it's center. Cast in it's reflection, clear as day, was the ruins of Cigam. Clasped inside the old artifact was a lock of Blonde Hair, Eve's.
"I took her hair as she slept, after Genar attacked the castle. I thought it would be helpful, being able to track her whereabouts-"
"Enough!" The king cut him off. "We march on Cigam of the dawn tomorrow. Have the banner-men called, and the rallies raised. Summon the standing army, and call the knights." The king faced his General, who saluted once, before turning to leave. "Tell them the crown rides with his armies, General."
The armored man turned back to face the king, wordlessly, he bowed low.
"Sir!" Herezar finally spoke up again, who'd been trying to regain the Kings attention since showing him the locket. "Juliaz is back. I can feel it."
The King looked him the eye, "That is no matter. We march on Cigam. You will accompany us, ready your things."
Herezar hurried from the Kings side, looking awfully disgruntled.
"Follow me, Keth." the King said quietly, before striding from the room.
I followed him, through various corridors and through doors I could only barely recall from my time exploring as a child. We crossed a bridge, high up in the keep, spanning from the main body to a separate tower. We climbed up through the separate tower before coming to a trap door.
The King knocked open the trap door with ease, then climbed up into the roof room of the tower. I followed him up, drawing my cloak in around me against the cold. A large double door on the far side of the room was thrust open, juxtaposed against the blinding white was the silhouette of the kings frame.
I stepped out beside him, wincing against the blinding light. As my vision adjusted, I was offered the most magnificent view up the valley. Great towering mountains rose up on either side. The First Queen's waterfall was visible, its torrents spilling out, under, around and through it's icy skeleton. The Northern forest, green poking through its blanket of snow could be seen at the limits of vision. Nearing the keep, houses and farms became more common, no crops growing in the winter, but come summer when the snows retreated from the valley's center they would be working.
"This place is called the Crowns view." The king said. "Only those of Royal blood are permitted in this particular tower attic, the Queen isn't even permitted here." He wasn't looking at me, and I felt suddenly out of place. On the roads, far below, the gates were opened, and several riders rode out, the Royal Blue Banners they carried flapping in the wind. "I haven't been here since Eve was taken from us, the first time. I was going to bring her here after the breakfast when she was taken back to Earth."
Almost on queue, the great horns of Winteroaks began to blow. They played in a single ascending tone of two tones, repeated. At first, one horn, then another, then another. From our perch the greatness of the noise made the air in our lungs tremble.
The call to war, a tone that hadn't been heard in over a decade and a half. From their farms, tiny figure ran out, pointing wildly at the keep. A cheer could be heard over the horns from the barracks. Young men began to pour through the keeps gates, from the town below, and the surrounding villages. Spears were being handed out, and shields past around.
As the horn quieted, the King spoke again. "I bring you here, because you are of Royal Blood. If not my own. The fiends of Cigam burned your country, and slew your parents. You are not my son, but you are a Prince of Winteroaks." He was still staring hard ahead. "You will sit on the War Council, closed and public." Finally he looked back at me, "Go, ready your equipment, I would stay up here alone for some time. Please, send some food if I do not join you for dinner tonight."
I turned and left the king on his porch, wondering if it was wrong to love another man as much as I did the king.